Barcelona vs Atleti & the Milan Derby

This weekend we look at some big games across Europe.  In Spain, the top two meet in Barcelona with a place on top of the table up for grabs.  In Italy, it is the Milan Derby or the Derby of the San Siro. In France, the current champions take on the team with the most winners’ medals in the league.  In Germany, two teams from the top half of the table meet in Wolfsburg.  Lastly, one of England’s giants travels to a football Championship side.

  1. Barcelona vs. Atletico Madrid ~ Camp Nou, Barcelona

Saturday, January 30th at 10:00 am EST on beIN Sports

The best two defenses in La Liga meet this weekend when top of the table, Barcelona, face second place Atletico Madrid.  Barcelona has the second best defense in the league, conceding just 16 goals in 20 games.  Atletico Madrid, meanwhile, has conceded just 8.  Their defense has been amazing this season.  Barcelona comes into the game on a 13 game unbeaten run, including winning their last 3.  Atletico Madrid drew their last league game after winning four in a row.  Barcelona will get Gerard Pique back from suspension to partner with Javier Mascherano at the back.  Jordi Alba is a doubt, so Mathieu will most likely start.  Neymar should also come back into the side.  Angel Correa is suspended for Madrid, while Tiago and Fernando Torres will both be out injured.  Luciano Vietto should be preferred up front.  Look for Atletico to try to keep a clean sheet and set up very defensively.  Barcelona should have MSN up front and will look to cement themselves on top of the table.

Betting Odds

Match Result – Barcelona ½, Atletico Madrid 6/1, Draw 16/5

First Goalscorer – Neymar 11/4, Messi, 11/4, Suarez 7/2

Predictions

My Pick – Barcelona 2, Atletico 0: Goals by Messi and Suarez

James’ Pick – Barcelona 2, Atletico 1: Goals by Suarez, Messi, and Griezmann

  1. AC Milan vs. Inter Milan ~ Stadio Giuseppe Meazza, Milano

Sunday, January 31st at 2:45 pm EST on beIN Sports

The biggest rivalry in all of Italy takes place this weekend, as the two clubs from the San Siro meet.  Both teams are not exactly where they want to be in the table, as Inter has tumbled down from the top of the table and Milan is on the outside looking in for the European places.  Both teams have been a bit inconsistent lately; however Inter does have the best defense in the league.  This game could feature few chances on target.  AC Milan is without just Diego Lopez and Rodrigo Ely.  Balotelli will be on the bench, as it looks like Bacca and Niang will play up front.  Inter Milan is also very healthy with just Ivan Perisic in doubt.  Look for Perisic and Ljajic to play on the wings and try to create some chances.  Inter recently signed Eder and he may have an impact from the bench.  These two teams both need a win this weekend, but I think it will be hard to come by for them.

Betting Odds

Match Result – Milan 13/10, Inter 11/5, Draw 23/10

First Goalscorer – Icardi 5/1, Bacca 5/1, Adriano 6/1

Predictions

My Pick – Milan 1, Inter 1: Goals by Niang and Icardi

James’ Pick – Milan 1, Inter 2: Goals by Bacca, Icardi, Jovetic

  1. Saint-Etienne vs. Paris Saint-Germain ~ Stade Geoffroy-Guichard, Saint-Etienne

Sunday, January 31st at 3:00 pm EST on beIN Sports Connect

Saint-Etienne is the next team to try and end the unbeaten season for PSG.  They host the champions of France this weekend and will look to become the first team to take all 3 points off of them.  Saint-Etienne sits in 6th place in the table and are just 6 points from 2nd place.  However, their form is a little shaky lately as they have won just 2 of their last 6.  Meanwhile, PSG has now won 6 in a row and is out of sight in the league.  Their lead is currently 21 points.  Saint-Etienne is still without Beric, Assou-Ekotto, Clerc, Hamouma, Perrin, Polomat, Tannane, and Gavriel.  PSG is without Gergory Van der Wiel.  They also have many players who are in doubt.  Thiago Silva, Marco Verratti, Sirigu, David Luiz, and Javier Pastore are all doubtful.  This could be a close game, but PSG is a league above the rest of the Ligue 1.  Saint-Etienne rarely gets blown out, so it could be close.

Betting Odds

Match Result – St. Etienne 13/2, PSG 8/15, Draw 14/5

First Goalscorer – Ibrahimovic 10/3, Cavani 7/2, Moura 5/1

Predictions

My Pick – St. Etienne 1, PSG 4: Goals by Soderlund, Ibrahimovic, di Maria, Moura, and Aurier

James’ Pick – St. Etienne 1, PSG 3: Goals by Eysseric, Ibrahimovic (2), Cavani

  1. Wolfsburg vs. Koln ~ Volkswagen Arena, Wolfsburg

Sunday, January 31st at 9:30 am EST on Fox Soccer Plus

These two teams are right in the middle of the table in Germany.  Koln sits in 9th place with 24 points and Wolfsburg is in 8th place with 26 points.  While they might be in the middle of the table, Koln is just 5 points from a Champions League place.  A win for either team could go a long way.  Both teams have struggled to find their form recently, and they have both won only one game in their last six.  Wolfsburg was supposed to challenge for the title and will need to turn their form around quickly.  Koln has not won a game in their last 6 games against Wolfsburg.  Wolfsburg is without Bas Dost, Maximilian Arnold, and Carlos Ascues.  Luiz Gustavo is still a doubt for the game.  Koln has a mostly full strength squad.  Heintz has the flu and might miss the game.  Look for Wolfsburg to try and win for the first time in their last six games.  This game should be a tight match between two teams who will value a point.

Betting Odds

Match Result – Wolfsburg 8/13, Koln 9/2, Draw 3/1

First Goalscorer – Kruse 4/1, Bendtner 11/2, Schurrle 11/2

Predictions

My Pick – Wolfsburg 4, Koln 2: Goals by Schurrle, Draxler (2), Kruse, Bittencourt, and Modeste

James’ Pick – Wolfsburg 2, Koln 2: Goals by Schurrle, Kruse, Modeste, Zoller

  1. Milton Keynes Dons vs. Chelsea ~ Stadium mk, Milton Keynes

Sunday, January 31st at 11:00 am EST on Fox Sports 1

This weekend the EPL takes a break and the FA Cup Fourth Round Proper takes place.  Teams from the top four flights of English football face off and there are some good matchups.  The one that we are focusing on this weekend is MK Dons vs. Chelsea.  These are two teams that are looking to spark a late season run.  MK Dons has struggled this year as they have tumbled down the table.  Chelsea’s poor start looks like a thing of the past as they are on an 8 game unbeaten run.  However, they are still low in the table.  MK Dons is without Carl Baker for this match, so Karl Robinson should send out an unchanged side from the one that lost to Bolton.  Chelsea is also very healthy and we might see some players rotated in.  However, Hiddink might play his strongest side to make a run at trophy this year.  They are both struggling teams but look for the talent on Chelsea to win out in the end.

Betting Odds

Match Result – MK Dons 10/1, Chelsea 1/3, Draw 9/2

First Goalscorer – Costa 10/3, Remy 15/4, Hazard 4/1

Predictions

My Pick – MK Dons 1, Chelsea 2: Goals by Murphy, Willian, and Costa

James’ Pick – MK Dons 0, Chelsea 2: Goals by Costa and Willian

Other Games on TV This Weekend

Spain – La Liga

Getafe vs. Athletic Bilbao – Saturday at 12:15 pm EST on beIN Sports

Valencia vs. Sporting Gijon – Sunday at 10:00 am EST on beIN Sports

Las Palmas vs. Celta de Vigo – Sunday at 12:15 pm EST on beIN Sports

Italy – Serie A

Roma vs. Frosinone – Saturday at 2:45 pm EST on beIN Sports

Chievo vs. Juventus – Sunday at 6:30 am EST on beIN Sports

Napoli vs. Empoli – Sunday at 9:00 am EST on beIN Sports

Germany – Bundesliga

Borussia Dortmund vs. Ingolstadt – Saturday at 9:30 am EST on Fox Sports 2

Bayern Munchen vs. Hoffenheim – Sunday at 11:30 am EST on Fox Soccer Plus =

England – FA Cup

Colchester United vs. Tottenham Hotspur – Saturday at 7:45 am EST on Fox Sports 1

Arsenal vs. Burnley – Saturday at 10:00 am EST on Fox Sports 1

Nottingham Forest vs. Watford – Saturday at 10:00 am EST on Fox Soccer Plus

Liverpool vs. West Ham United – Saturday at 12:30 pm EST on Fox Sports 2

Carlisle United vs. Everton – Sunday at 8:30 am EST on Fox Sports 2

What a Weekend!!

Serie A – Juventus continues their winning streak, Napoli stay atop the league, and Inter and Fiorentina sway spots.

The top of the table in Italy saw two teams swap places as Inter Milan were only able to draw 1-1 with Carpi, and Fiorentina defeated Torino 2-0.  Rodrigo Palacio gave Inter the lead in the first half and it looked like they would get all three points when Lorenzo Pasciuti was sent off.  However, Kevin Lasagna scored the equalizer in the 92nd minute.  Fiorentina got goals from Ilicic and then Gonzalo Rodriquez.  The two teams are level on points, but Fiorentina has the better goal difference.  The top two remained the same as Napoli defeated Sampdoria 4-2.  Higuain scored his 21st goal of the season.  That is a strike rate of 1 goal per game, and he is scoring about every 85 minutes he plays.  Juventus won their 11th straight game thanks to Paulo Dybala.  The young striker finished off a nice pass from Pogba to give Juventus the win.  At the other end of the table, the bottom 3 remained the same, despite the bottom 2 each earning a point.  Verona remains in last place as they sit 6 points behind Frosinone and 13 from safety.   Carpi remains in the bottom 3.  Sampdoria and Palermo switched spots.  The race at the top continues to be fascinating and is one to watch with only 17 games to play.

Ligue 1 – PSG stays unbeaten, Angers drops out of top 3, Troyes wins first game of the season.   

PSG is now 22 games unbeaten as they defeated Angers 5-1.  Di Maria continued his great form and added a late brace.  Ibramhimovic, Lucas Moura, and Gregory van der Wiel also scored.  Their opponents, Angers, dropped out of the top 3 and now sit on the outside looking in.  Nice have jumped into the last Champions League spot following their 2-1 victory over Lorient.  At the bottom end of the table, the bottom 2 remained the same.  Troyes remains a long distance from safety, despite their first win of the season.  They are up to 11 points, but are still 11 points from safety.  Toulouse is the other team in the bottom 2 after their heavy defeat at Monaco 4-0.  They are two points from safety as Montpellier was jumped by both Stade Reims and Guingamp.   Montpellier lost 2-1 to Caen.  Stade Reims drew with Saint-Etienne 1-1.  Guingamp defeated Bastia 1-0.  Lyon and Marseille drew 1-1 in the historic showdown this weekend.  Look for the race to survive to really pick up pace in the next couple of weeks.

Bundesliga – The return of the league was good for the bottom half of the table as 5 teams in the bottom half won compared to 2 in the top half. 

This weekend was a great weekend for teams from 10 to 18.  Ingolstadt, Darmstadt, Eintracht Frankfurt, Stuttgart, and Werder Bremen all won this weekend.  The only two teams in the top half that won this weekend were Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund. Munich defeated Hamburger 2-1 on Friday.  Dortmund won big in the Borussia derby as they defeated Monchengladbach 3-1.  The big two increased their leads at the top.  Munich is 8 points clear of Dortmund, who is 8 points clear of Hertha Berlin.  The rest of the top 9 remained the same despite none of them winning.  At the bottom end of the table, Hoffenheim and Hannover switched places.  Hannover lost 2-1 to Darmstadt.  Hoffenheim earned a vital point against Bayer as they drew 1-1.   This point was enough to draw them level on points with Hannovere.  The two teams are four points from safety now thanks to Werder Bremen winning 3-1 over Schalke.  The league returned with a bang and these games get more and more entertaining to watch each weekend.

La Liga – Barcelona are the only big three team to win.

Coming into this weekend, Atletico Madrid was on top of the league and looking dominant.  They faced a tough Sevilla squad but struggled to find their attacking threat.  The game ended in a 0-0 draw.  Madrid would take 20 shots but only 3 went on target.  This was a slip up by Madrid and it opened the door for Barcelona to take the top spot.  Barcelona went on to defeat Malaga 2-1.  Munir El Haddadi opened the scoring in just 2 minutes.  Juanpi leveled the score in the 32nd minute.  Messi scored the winner in the second half.  Real Madrid stumbled as they traveled south to Real Betis.  Betis took the lead through a stunning goal by Alvaro Cejudo.  Benzema leveled the score with just under 20 minutes left in the game.  It means that Barcelona and Atletico Madrid are level on points and 4 points ahead of Real Madrid.  Athletic Club defeated Eibar 5-2.  Barcelona and Athletic Bilbao were the only two teams outside of the bottom 5 to win.  Granada defeated Getafe 3-2, Rayo Vallecano defeated Celta Vigo 3-0, Sporting Gijon defeated Real Sociedad 5-1, and Levante defeated Las Palmas 3-2.  Las Palmas was the only team in the bottom 5 not to win.  This means that the race is really tightening up.  The bottom 8 teams are separated by just 5 points.  Next week will be a big weekend as Atletico Madrid and Barcelona face off.

English Premier League – Arsenal stumble, Manchester United lose at home, Liverpool wins 9 goal thriller.

This weekend was a big one as London rivals faced off in the Emirates Stadium and Chelsea defeated Arsenal 1-0.  Chelsea has earned 6 points from Arsenal this season.  That accounts for 21% of Chelsea’s points.  The game was turned when Per Mertesacker was sent off for his tackle on Diego Costa.  Costa then went on to score the winner just 5 minutes later.  This also means that Arsenal is now level on points with Manchester City and 3 behind Leicester.  Manchester City drew 2-2 with West Ham United this weekend thanks to a late goal from Sergio Aguero.  Leicester City defeated Stoke City 3-0 to go top of the league.  Their title hopes are really starting to be taken seriously.  We could really see Leicester City take on Barcelona next year.  Think about it J  The weekend started with a 9 goal thriller between Norwich City and Liverpool.  Liverpool took a 1-0 lead before falling behind 3-1, and then went ahead 4-3 before the madness would begin.  Bassong scored in the 92nd minute to level the score.  It seemed like the game would end 4-4, but with almost the last kick of the game, Adam Lallana sent the ball over the defense and into the side netting.  All three points went to Liverpool in a great start to the weekend.

Pictures of the Week

I am going to go with two this weekend.

  1. When a celebration in Norwich leads to some broken glasses.
    IMG_5613
  2. What happens when you have to sit next to the reason you are not playing anymore?
    IMG_5621 (1)

Goals of the Week

James’ Pick – Probably the goal of the season, an absolute beauty from Dele Alli.

My Pick – I am going with the sweet volley that earned Real Betis a point.

Three Games to Watch This Week

  1. League Cup – Liverpool vs. Stoke City – The second leg of the semifinal is tomorrow. The winner will advance to the final. Liverpool won the first leg 1-0.
  2. Copa del Rey – Atletico Madrid vs. Celta Vigo – The first leg ended 0-0 so a place in the semifinals is on the line in Madrid on Wednesday.
  3. Coppa Italia – Juventus vs. Internazionale – Two of the top team in Italy square off in the semifinals of the Coppa Italia on Wednesday.

Weekend Preview

This weekend the Bundesliga returns to action after their winter break.  This weekend we are looking at a London derby, two giants meeting in Turin, a top half clash in Spain, and the surprise team in France traveling to the capital to face the Giants.

  1. Arsenal vs. Chelsea ~ Emirates Stadium, London

Sunday, January 24th at 11:00 am EST on NBCSN

Chelsea travel across London this weekend to face Arsenal in a London derby.  Many pundits thought this game would be a title race clash but instead is a must win for Chelsea as the get closer to the relegation zone.  Arsenal meanwhile sits on top of the table and will need to win to stay on top of the table.  Both teams enter on unbeaten streaks as Arsenal is unbeaten in their last 4 league games and Chelsea are unbeaten in their last 6.  Chelsea has looked better under Hiddink but are still a long way away from the team that sat atop the Premier League last year.  Arsenal should be bolstered by the returns of Ozil and Sanchez.  Francis Coquelin is back in training but will not be in the squad.  New signing Mohamed Elneny could be in line for his debut.  For Chelsea, Eden Hazard and Diego Costa should be in the lineup.  Matic may lose his place in the squad following a bad showing last time out.  This is a big game and look for both sides to play conservatively and look for a late winner.

Betting Odds

Match Result – Arsenal Evs, Chelsea 3/1, Draw 13/5

First Goalscorer – Giroud 15/4, Sanchez 5/1, Walcott 11/2

Predictions

My Pick – Arsenal 2, Chelsea 1: Goals by Giroud, Walcott, and Hazard

James’ Pick – Arsenal 2, Chelsea 1: Goals by Giroud (2) and Costa

  1. Juventus vs. Roma ~ Juventus Stadium, Torino

Sunday, January 24th at 2:45 pm EST on beIN Sports

This is the story of two teams traveling in different directions on the table.  Juventus have won 10 straight games.  They have climbed up the table and are now in second place.  Roma meanwhile have been sliding down the table as they are winless in the last 3 games.  They have sacked Rudi Garcia and replaced him with Luciano Spalletti.  Juventus are fairly fit right now with just Pereyra and Lemina out for this match.  Barzagli is doubtful but will probably start.  Evra and Alex Sandro will complete for the spot on the left side of midfield and Lichtsteiner should feature on the right.  Mandzukic and Dybala are both set to return to the lineup despite Morata featuring during the week.  For Roma, Spalletti is still learning the squad.  Leandro Castan is set to be dropped as he is on his way out of the club.  Radja Nainggolan will play in the number 10 role.  Roma need to stop the bleeding and try to get a vital 3 points.  Can Roma turn the tide around and get back into the Scudetto picture?

Betting Odds

Match Result – Juventus 4/6, Roma 9/2, Draw 14/5

First Goalscorer – Mandzukic 15/4, Dybala 9/2, Zaza 5/1

Predictions

My Pick – Juventus 2, Roma 1: Goals by Dybala, Mandzukic, and Nainggolan

James’ Pick – Juventus 1, Roma 1: Goals by Mandzukic and Dzeko

  1. Atletico Madrid vs. Sevilla ~ Estadio Vicente Calderon, Madrid

Sunday, January 24th at 10:00 am EST on beIN Sports

The top team in Spain right now hosts Sevilla.  Both teams come in on winning streaks as Atletico have won 4 straight in the league despite drawing in the Copa del Rey against Celta de Vigo.  Sevilla has won 5 straight in all competitions but only 2 straight in the league.  Sevilla have been woeful on the road this season as they have failed to win a game or score a goal on the road all season.  They will find it hard against Atletico who have the best defense in the league.  Atletico have no new injury concerns but will be without Torres and Tiago.  Sevilla will be without Iborra who is suspended and Pareja and Andreolli.  This game will feature one team that doesn’t score and one team that doesn’t concede goals.  This will be a tight affair but I only see one winner.  Atletico Madrid look set to stay atop the table.

Betting Odds

Match Result – Madrid 4/6, Sevilla 5/1, Draw 5/2

First Goalscorer – Griezmann 10/3, Martinez 5/1, Vietto 11/2

Predictions

My Pick – Atletico 2, Sevilla 0: Goals by Martinez and Griezmann

James’ Pick – Atletico 1, Sevilla 1: Goals by Griezmann and Gameiro

  1. PSG vs. Angers ~ Parc des Princes, Paris

Saturday, January 23nd at 11:00 am EST on beIN Sports

These two teams are separated by 2 spots in the table but 23 points.  PSG is far and away the top side in France despite not looking all that great.  They are unbeaten so far this season and could mathematically have the title wrapped up by the end of February.  Their focus now may be starting to shift towards other competitions.  They face the surprise team this season as Angers one of the three promoted sides has risen up the table to be in the top 3. Their form has started to slip a little but their defense has been strong this season.   PSG will return to Kevin Trapp in goal after he was rested in the French Cup.  Silva, Pastore, Marquinhos, and Verratti are all doubts but look for the last two to start the match.  Angers have a bigger injury list with Mangani, Auriac, Eudeline, and Dore all out.  Romain Saiss could also miss the match.  This will have an impact on the match.  There are two questions to watch for me.  Can Angers end the unbeaten season?  Can Angers hold PSG under 2 goals?

Betting Odds

Match Result – PSG 1/6, Angers 18/1, Draw 6/1

First Goalscorer – Ibrahimovic 5/2, Cavani 11/4, Moura 4/1

Predictions

My Pick – PSG 4, Angers 1: Goals by Ibrahimovic (2), Moura, Di Maria, and Ndoye

James’ Pick – PSG 3, Angers 0: Goals by Ibrahimovic (2), Cavani

  1. Schalke vs. Werder Bremen ~ Veltins-Arena, Gelsenkirchen

Sunday, January 24th at 11:30 am EST on Fox Sports 1

As the Germany Bundesliga returns, we take a look this weekend at two teams are hoping they can turn their fortunes around.  Schalke will hope they can climb up into the race for a Champions League spot and Werder Bremen will hope to climb out of the relegation battle.  Schalke enter the second half of the season in 6th place just 2 points off the Champions League places.  Werder Bremen meanwhile are in 16th place which in Germany is the playoff game spot.  The playoff game features the 16th place team in the Bundesliga and the third place team in the second division.  The winner plays in the Bundesliga next season.  They are level on points with Stutgartt, who is in 15th place, but only 2 points above the bottom of the table.  Bremen has failed to win in their last 5 Bundesliga games and has not beaten Schalke in their last 11 matches in all competitions.  Schalke has a long injury list as Uchinda, Mastasic, Giefer, Hoger, and Howedes are all out injured.  Roman Neustadter is most likely to replace Howedes at center-back.  Bremen might hand a debut to loan signing Papy Djilobodji a debut start.  Anthony Ujah should start up front alone for them with Claudio Pizarro on the bench.  This should be an exciting first game back for the Bundesliga.  Which team can get off to a fast start to the New Year?

Betting Odds

Match Result – Schalke 4/6, Bremen 4/1, Draw 3/1

First Goalscorer – Huntelaar 10/3, Di Santo 9/2, Choupo-Moting 9/2

Predictions

My Pick – Schalke 2, Bremen 1: Goals by Sane, Huntelaar, and Ujah

James’ Pick – Schalke 2, Bremen 1: Goals by Sane, Choupo, and Ujah

Other Games on TV This Weekend

England – Premier League

Norwich City vs. Liverpool – Saturday at 7:45 am EST on NBCSN

Manchester United vs. Southampton – Saturday at 10:00 am EST on NBCSN

Crystal Palace vs. Tottenham Hotspur – Saturday at 10:00 am EST on USA

West Ham United vs. Manchester City – Saturday at 12:30 pm EST on NBC

Everton vs. Swansea City – Sunday at 8:30 am EST on NBCSN

Spain – La Liga

Malaga vs. Barcelona – Saturday at 10:00 am EST on beIN Sports

Deportivo La Coruna vs. Valencia – Sunday at 12:15 pm EST on beIN Sports

Italy – Serie A

Empoli vs. Milan – Saturday at 2:45 pm EST on beIN Sports

Fiorentina vs. Torino – Sunday at 6:30 am EST on beIN Sports

Sampdoria vs. Napoli – Sunday at 9:00 am EST on beIN Sports

Germany – Bundesliga

Koln vs. Stuttgart – Saturday at 10:30 am EST on Fox Sports 2

Hertha BSC vs. Augsburg – Saturday at 10:30 am EST on Fox Soccer Plus

Hoffenheim vs. Bayer Leverkusen – Saturday at 10:30 am EST on Fox Sports 1

Borussia Monchengladbach vs. Borussia Dortmund – Saturday at 12:30 am EST on Fox Sports 2

Eintracht Frankfurt vs. Wolfsburg – Sunday at 9:30 am EST on Fox Sports 1

Weekend Recap

Ligue 1 – Saint Etienne get big win in derby, PSG remain unbeaten and send Toulouse into the relegation zone.

Starting this season, Ligue 1 has decided to only relegate the two teams to Ligue 2.  That means that 18 teams will remain in the top flight.  However, the table is very condensed towards the bottom end due to PSG and their unbeaten season.  Troyes has really struggled this season and looks set to be one of the two teams relegated.  They are yet to win a game and have totaled just 8 points this season.  That leaves just one more spot the relegation battle.  Currently, Toulouse is there with 20 points, but it is really tight at the bottom.  The following teams are all within 6 points of Toulouse: Guingamp (21), Reims (22), Montpellier (22), Bastia (25), Lille (25), Gazelec Ajaccio (26). In fact, Monaco in second place is just 16 points from safety and 21 points from the leaders PSG.  The relegation race should be fascinating since the whole bottom half of the table is involved.  In the top half of the table, Nice claimed a big 2-1 win over Angers to move themselves into a Europa League spot.  Saint-Etienne moved themselves closer with a big win over local rivals Lyon.  They are now just 1 point from the Europa League and 2 from the Champions League.

Serie A – Napoli and Juventus both win to stay on top.  Inter and Roma both drew, meanwhile, Milan defeated Fiorentina.

The top two in Italy put a little distance between themselves and the rest of the pack as Napoli went on to defeat Sassuolo 3-1 and Juventus defeated Udinese 4-0.  This means that both extended their winning streaks to 4 and 10, respectively.  Inter was held 1-1 against Atalanta.  Atalatna went ahead thanks to an own goal from Murillo but then just 8 minutes later, Toloi put the ball into his own net to level the score.  Fiorentina failed to capitalize and jump into the Champions League places as they lost 2-0 to Milan.  Bacca and Boateng had the goals.  At the bottom end of the table, Carpi was able to move up one place closer to safety with their 2-1 win over Sampdoria.  However, they are still 4 points behind Palermo.  Verona looks set to be relegated with just 9 points from 20 games, but they were able to draw with Roma.  Roma remains in 5th, but the distance between them and Milan is now just 3 points.  The whole table in Italy is fascinating and we will start to look at how it shapes up each week.

La Liga – All of the big three won big, and Villarreal missed its chance to stay close as the race for fourth gets more interesting.

This weekend saw  the top three teams all come away victorious as Barcelona defeated Athletic Club 6-0 but got help from an early red card to the goalie, Atletico Madrid defeated  Las Palmas 3-0, and Real Madrid defeated Sporting Gijon 5-1.  Villarreal faced a struggling Real Betis and could not find a goal but did earn a point.  However, this might have been 2 important points dropped as the next 3 teams in the table (Celta Vigo, Eibar, and Sevilla) all won.  Celta defeated Levante in a 7 goal thriller 4-3.  Sevilla defeated Malaga 2-1 in a game that saw both teams reduced to 10 men.  Eibar destroyed Granada today 5-1 and are becoming one of the more entertaining teams to watch this season.  They have won 4 in a row.  The bottom of the table is very tight as last place Levante and 13th place Espanyol are separated by just 7 points.  No team in the bottom half of the table won this weekend which makes it even tighter.  Rayo Vallecano did earn a vital point to see them go to 18th place and just 1 point from safety.  While the race at the top is heating up, so is the race for survival.

English Premier League – Rooney saves the day with only shot on goal, Arsenal fail to win again at Stoke, City run riot against Palace.

The two teams at the top of the table drew this weekend as Arsenal failed to score and failed to win in their last 6 trips to the Britannia.  Leicester City kept pace with Arsenal to stay level on points as they drew with Aston Villa 1-1.  Manchester City cut into the lead at the top so it is now 1 point.  City put four past Palace at the weekend, including two goals from Aguero.  Tottenham remained in fourth place with a 4-1 win over Sunderland.  They are now 5 points behind the leaders.  United got a 1-0 win over rivals Liverpool thanks to Wayne Rooney and their only shot on target in the game.  Fun fact, in the two games against Liverpool they have had 4 shots on target and 4 goals.  They jumped up to 5th place.  At the bottom of the table, Aston Villa earned a point but they are still 6 points behind Sunderland and 10 points from safety.  Newcastle earned a vital 3 points to move them within 1 point of Swansea, who defeated Watford 1-0 today.  Bournemouth got a vital win over Norwich to send them above their opponents in the table and 3 points from safety.  Chelsea earned a point as well thanks to a late John Terry goal.  This means they are 4 points above the relegation zone.  What a crazy world we live in.

What to Watch This Week

  1. Napoli vs. Inter Milan – Coppa Italia –Two teams challenging for the title in Italy meet in the quarterfinals of the Coppa Italia.
  2. Bolton Wanderers vs. Eastleigh – FA Cup – In the FA Cup third round replay, the only nonleague team left is Eastleigh. Can they keep the dream alive?
  3. Athletic Bilbao vs. Barcelona – Copa del Rey – In the 5th meeting between these two teams this season, look for Bilbao to try to exact some revenge on Barcelona following the heavy defeat at the weekend.
  4. Leicester City vs. Tottenham – FA Cup – This is the third meeting in the last week and a half, and last of the season between these two. What will they focus on the league or a cup trophy?
  5. Paris Saint-Germain vs. Toulouse – Coupe de France – PSG will look to defend their trophy as they face Toulouse in the round of 32 in the Coupe de France. They will look to keep their hope of 4 trophies alive this season.

Goals of the Weekend

My Pick – James Ward-Prowse opened the scoring in the 5th minute of Southampton’s game against West Bromwich Albion with this beauty…

Liverpool vs. Manchester United This Weekend!

This weekend, we have the two most successful teams in England face off, the Rhone-Alpes Derby in France, a look at the hottest team in Spain, the battle of the blues in London, and La Viola vs. the Old.

  1. Liverpool vs. Manchester United ~ Anfield, Liverpool

Sunday, January 17th at 9:05 am EST on NBCSN

This weekend sees the battle of the two most successful clubs in all of England. Manchester United has won the title 20 times, while Liverpool has won it 18 times. To put that in context, Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester City have combined to win it just 22 times between the 3 clubs. United has dominated the Premier League era and it has been 16 years since Liverpool last lifted the trophy in 1990. The rivalry is one of the best in the game and always must watch TV. Both teams have been up and down this season and both are coming off 3-3 draws against Arsenal and Newcastle. In terms of team news, this is Liverpool’s 12th match since the start of December. That means Jürgen Klopp will continue to make some squad rotations. New loanee Steven Caulker could be in line for his first start as Liverpool is without Sktrel and Lovren for the match. Firmino could lead the line after his great performance against Arsenal. James Milner is back and Daniel Sturridge might make the bench. For United, Carrick and Schweinsteiger are both likely out. Fellaini, Herrera, Mata, and Lingard are all fighting for two places with Fellaini or Herrara likely to partner Schneiderlin in front of the back four. Adnan Januzaj could make the bench. United has won 7 of the last 9 games between the two sides, but Klopp is unbeaten against last year’s top four.

Betting Odds

Match Result – Liverpool 13/10, Man Utd 5/2, Draw 9/4

First Goalscorer – Sturridge 9/2, Benteke 11/2, Martial 13/2

Predictions

My Pick – Liverpool 1, United 1: Goals by Firmino and Rooney

James’ Pick – Liverpool 1, United 1: Goals by Firmino and Rooney

  1. Saint-Etienne vs. Lyon ~ Stade Geoffroy-Guichard, Saint-Etienne

Sunday, January 17th at 3:00 pm EST

This weekend is the Rhone-Alpes Derby as St. Etienne and Lyon square off in southern France. St.-Etienne has been up and down lately. However, Les Verts won the last home meeting 3-0 against Lyon and has won six of their last nine at home and kept a clean sheet in 5 of them.   In fact, Les Verts are undefeated in 34 of their last 38 at home in Ligue 1. This is a match between two teams whose form has alluded them recently, and they find themselves on the outside of the European spots in 6th, Lyon, and 7th, Saint-Etienne. They are closer to the relegation zone than to the leaders and a loss could put them right in the middle of an 18-team relegation battle. Saint-Etienne has a long list on injured players as they are without Perrin, Beric, Karamoko, Assou-Ekotto, and Clerc. Hamouma, Bahebeck, and Sall are all doubtful. Tannane is suspended. Sall looks likely to play, but Hamouma is likely to miss the derby. Lyon is without Fekir, Rafael, Ganalons, and Fofana. Mathieu Valbuena faces a late fitness test to join Lacazette and Ghezzal in the attacking trio this weekend. Lyon was dominated in the reverse fixture. This should be a great watch. Too bad it is not on TV L

Betting Odds

Match Result – St-Etienne 15/8, Lyon 13/8, Draw 21/10

First Goalscorer – Beric 4/1, Lacazette 9/2, Soderland 11/2

Predictions

My Pick – St.-Etienne 2, Lyon 3: Goals by Roux, Clement, Lacazette (2), Grenier

James’ Pick – St.-Etienne 2, Lyon 2: Goals by Eysseric, Roux, Lacazette, Tolisso

  1. Villarreal vs. Real Betis ~ Camp EL Madrigal, Villarreal

Saturday, January 16th at 2:30 pm EST on beIN Sports Connect

These are two teams that are trending in different directions, as Villarreal sit on top of the form table having won their last 6 games. This has sent them up the table and within touching distance of the big 3. Betis, meanwhile, is winless in their last 6 matches having failed to score in each of them. If Villarreal is able to win on Saturday, they will, for the night, be level on points with Barcelona and just 2 points off the leaders Atletico. Betis, meanwhile, find themselves just five points from the relegation zone and 6 from the bottom spot on the table. They will need to turn their form around if they want to stay in the top flight. Villarreal has only two injury concerns ahead of this game as Jaume Costa has a bad ankle and Samuel is likely to miss. Bruno should be fit to start despite picking up a knock in the week. The same can be said for Betis as Heiko Westerman is the only one missing out. Vadillo and Gimenez are doubtful. This might be one sided, but it could lead to a four team race for the top spot if Villarreal can continue their impressive run.

Betting Odds

Match Result – Villarreal 9/20, Real Betis 7/1, Draw 10/3

First Goalscorer – Soldado 15/4, Bakambu 4/1, Baptistao 5/1

Predictions

My Pick – Villarreal 3, Betis 1: Goals by Bakambu, Suarez, Soldado, and Castro.

James’ Pick – Villarreal 2, Betis 0: Goals by Bakambu and Bruno

  1. Chelsea vs. Everton ~ Stamford Bridge, London

Saturday, January 16th at 10:00 am EST on USA Network

The battle of the Blues takes place this weekend as Everton travels down to London to face Chelsea. Both teams are in the bottom half of the table and this is not where they thought they would be. Chelsea has recovered some form since the arrival of Guus Hiddink, as they are unbeaten in 5 games. However, they have not really climbed up the table. Everton is winless in their last 3 games and is looking to turn around their form. In terms of team news, the big news is Eden Hazard is out still. Matic is healthy but may remain sidelined due to Obi Mikel’s great form. Roberto Martinez is without Hibbert, Coleman, and Browning in defense so Stones looks set to play right back again. Tom Cleverley is also in doubt for the game, which means Leon Osman should start or Arouna Kone depending on how Martinez wants to play. The game will be won and lost in the midfield. Everton loves to counter attack and if they can get some superiority in the midfield, then they will have the advantage.  Everton has lost by more than one goal in just one of the last nine meetings.

Betting Odds

Match Result – Chelsea 5/6, Everton 15/4, Draw 11/4

First Goalscorer – Costa 4/1, Remy 9/2, Lukaku 11/2

Predictions

My Pick – Chelsea 1, Everton 1: Goals by Oscar and Deulofeu

James’ Pick – Chelsea 2, Everton 2: Goals by Costa, Willian, Lukaku, and Barkley

  1. AC Milan vs. Fiorentina ~ Stadio Giuseppe Meazza, Milano

Sunday, January 17th at 2:45 pm EST on beIN Sports Connect

The title race in Italy has been the best so far. Fiorentina has been in and around the top spot all year, including 5 weeks atop the table. They have since slid to 4th and will look to climb back up the table. They are 3 points behind the leaders, Napoli, right now. Milan, meanwhile, has been in and around the middle of the table all season and will be hoping to close in on a European place this season. Currently they are 5 points off the Europa League spots. Mario Balotelli is back for Milan and will likely start on the bench. Kevin-Prince Boateng is showing good form as well for Milan, but Honda is likely to retain his spot in the lineup. Paulo Sousa will have to deal without Badelj and Radriguez due to injury and suspension, respectively. Bernardeschi is back from suspension as well. Look for Milan to show some improvement but probably fall just short of what they need to win the match.

Betting Odds

Match Result – Milan 7/5, Fiorentina 21/10, Draw 11/5

First Goalscorer – Kalinic 11/2, Bacca 11/2, Balotelli 6/1

Predictions

My Pick – Milan 1, Fiorentina 2: Goals by Niang, Kalinic, and Ilicic

James’ Pick – Milan 1, Fiorentina 2: Goals by Bacca, Kalinic, and Ilicic

Other Games on TV This Weekend

England – Premier League

Tottenham vs. Sunderland – Saturday at 7:45 am EST on NBCSN

Manchester City vs. Crystal Palace – Saturday at 10:00 am EST on NBCSN

Aston Villa vs. Leicester City – Saturday at 12:30 pm EST on NBC

Stoke City vs. Arsenal – Sunday at 11:15 am on NBCSN

Swansea City vs. Watford – Monday at 3:00 pm on NBCSN

Spain – La Liga

Real Madrid vs. Sporting Gijon – Sunday at 10:00 am EST on beIN Sports

Barcelona vs. Athletic Club – Sunday at 2:30 pm EST on beIN Sports

Eibar vs. Granada – Monday at 2:30 pm EST on beIN Sports

Italy – Serie A

Atalanta vs. internazionale – Saturday at 9:00 am EST on beIN Sports

Napoli vs. Sassuolo – Saturday at 2:45 pm EST on beIN Sports

Udinese vs. Juventus – Sunday at 9:00 am EST on beIN Sports

France – Ligue 1

Toulouse vs. PSG – Saturday at 11:00 am EST on beIN Sports

Headlines From This Weekend

La Liga – Zidane gets off to fast start but remains behind Barca and Atleti

In his first game as manager, Zinedine Zidane set up a very attacking lineup with Modric, Kroos, and Isco in midfield behind the big three of Ronaldo, Benzema, and Bale.  This paid off as his side jumped all over Deportivo La Coruna.  Bale would score a hattrick and Benzema would add a brace.  This was the start Zidane was hoping for as they won 5-0.  They remain in third place however as the rock solid defense of Atletico Madrid defeated Celta de Vigo 2-0.  Atleti have now conceded just 8 goals in 19 games.  Barcelona also won big this weekend when Ballon d’Or winner, Lionel Messi scored a hat trick.  Neymar would add the fourth goal in Barcelona’s 4-0 win over Granada.  Atleti remain on top of the table 2 points ahead of BArcelona and 4 ahead of Real Madrid.

Serie A – Napoli is top but look who is in second…

Napoli have won 3 games in a row and climbed of the Serie A table for the second time this season replacing Inter Milan.  Napoli jumped out to a lead 20 minutes into the game when Raul Albiol scored.  10 minutes later, Higuain added a spot kick.  In the second half, Hamsik, Higuain, and Gabbiadini all scored to put Napoli up 5-0.  Paolo Sammarco scored a late goal in the 81st minute to make it 5-1.  Napoli moved top thanks to Sassuolo.  Sassuolo handed Inter Milan their fourth loss of the season and third in the last 6 games.  Inter now sit in third place and trail Napoli by 2 points.  The team in second place is the defending champions Juventus.  Juve have now won 9 straight games to climb from 17th to 2nd place.  They are looking to win their fifth title in a row and it is really game on.  This will be a fascinating race to the finish line.

Ligue 1 – PSG is now 20 points clear on top of the Ligue 1 table.

The French league title is all sown up now.  With 18 games to go, the maximum number of points that Angers can get in second is 88 points and that is if they win every game from now to the end of the season.  PSG needs just 34 points to clinch the league.  This could happen by the end of March depending on results.  The French league is really only about how fast PSG can win the league.  The bigger story is that 2nd place Angers is closer to the relegation zone than the title.  The difference is just 14 points between 2nd and 18th. This will be an interesting storyline to follow as the season goes on.  There are 2 Champions League places, 1 Europa League place, and 13 other places in the league.  Troyes are all but relegated.  The other 18 teams will be the ones to watch for the rest of the season.

FA Cup – Arsenal, City, United, and Chelsea all advance but there are still many replays to come.

This weekend was the third round of the FA Cup.  In this round, the Premier League teams and the Championship teams join the competition and magic can really happen.  In England, this is considered one of the best footballing weekends of the calendar.  It is a weekend in which you can see a team from the fourth tier of English football face a team from the Premier League and possibly win or draw with them.  This year we had Oxford defeat Swansea City, Exeter drew Liverpool, and Wycombe drew Aston Villa.  Non-league football teams enter this tournament at an earlier stage and can eventually face a league team.  There is only one non-league team left this year.  This weekend, Eastleigh drew 1-1 with Bolton Wanderers of the Championship.   Arsenal, Manchester United, West Ham, Watford, Everton, Stoke City, Crystal Palace, Bournemouth, and Chelsea all advanced from the Premier League.  The following sides advanced from the Championship, Leeds United, Burnley, Derby County, Sheffield Wednesday, Nottingham Forest, and Hull City.  Peterborough United, Shrewsbury Town, and Colchester United all survived from League One.  Over the next week, we will see 11 replays to add to the busy schedule.  Besides the earlier mentioned draws we have Northampton Town vs. MK Dons, Tottenham vs Leicester, Ipswich Town vs. Portsmouth, Newport County vs. Blackburn Rovers, Carlisle United vs. Yeovil Town, Huddersfield Town vs. Reading, and West Brom vs. Bristol City.  It will be fascinating to see who can move on to the fourth round.

5 Games to Watch This Week

  1. Liverpool vs. Arsenal – English Premier League

Arsenal will look to stay on top of the Premier League as they travel to Liverpool.  Klopp has had success against some of the top clubs but his injury list is the longest in the league and this will be Liverpool’s fourth match of the New Year and they have at least four more this month.

  1. Sevilla vs. Real Betis – Copa Del Rey – Round of 16 Second Leg

The Sevilla derby will take place this week as Real Betis travel across town to Sevilla.  Sevilla won the first leg on the road 2-0 and will look to advance to the quarterfinals.

  1. Espanyol vs. Barcelona – Copa Del Rey – Round of 16 Second Leg

The third Barcelona derbi in 11 days will take place on Wednesday.  The first one in the league was a 0-0 draw.  The first leg finished 4-1 to Barcelona.  How will this one play out?

  1. PSG vs. Olympique Lyon – Coupe de la Ligue – Quarterfinal

While PSG has the league wrapped up they will look to add to their trophy cabinet and this could be the first piece of silverware.  Lyon will look to make up for their poor league campaign.

  1. Tottenham vs. Leicester City – Premier League

This is the middle of three games in 10 days between the clubs as they drew 2-2 in the FA Cup this weekend.  Look for some squad rotations on both sides as they both have three matches in the next 8 days.

Picture of the Week

The magic of the FA Cup!!!

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Goal of the Week

This was a bit of a howler but I am going for Lee Holmes goal for Exeter vs. Liverpool.

5 Games To Watch This Weekend

La Liga, Ligue 1, and Serie A are back and ready to go!  The English Premier League takes the weekend off for an exciting round of FA Cup matches.  This weekend we will look at a new manager, 5th vs 6th in Italy, an all Premier League top 4 affair in the FA Cup, 3 versus 4 in France, and the Basques versus the Andalusians in Spain.

  1. Real Madrid vs. Deportivo La Coruna ~ Estadio Santiago Bernabeu, Madrid

Saturday, January 9th at 2:30 pm EST on beIN Sports

The Zinedine Zidane era begins this weekend for Real Madrid after being appointed manager on Monday.  His tenure will start at home against a very tricky team in Deportivo.  Real Madrid starts the weekend in third place and is 4 points off the leaders.  He takes over the highest scoring team in the league but will need to sort out the egos of all the stars, and which stars to play when.  The problem this season for Real Madrid has been the big games in which they have struggled.  The question is, is Zidane the man to change the culture and the dressing room?  Their opponents come into this game having won just 2 of their last 6, sliding to 7th in the table.  Usually Deportivo keeps things fairly tight, but Real Madrid has scored 25 goals in their last four home games against Deportivo.  In team news, Kovacic is going to miss the game due to a straight red card he received against Valencia.  Everyone else is fit and available for Zidane.  Who he will pick should be a point of discussion all weekend.  For Depo, Cani, Cartabia, and Arribas all face late fitness tests.  Fabricio and Borges are out.  Look for Real Madrid to own possession.  Deportivo are good on the break which could make this a great watch.

Betting Odds

Match Result – Real Madrid 1/9, Deportivo 20/1, Draw 8/1

First Goalscorer – Rodriguez 10/3, Benzema 10/3, Jese 7/2

Predictions

My Pick – Real Madrid 4, Deportivo 2: Goals by Ronaldo, Benzema, Bale (2), and Perez (2)

James’ Pick – Real Madrid 3, Deportivo 1: Goals by Ronaldo, Benzema, Bale, and Perez

  1. Roma vs. Milan ~ Stadio Olimpico, Rome

Saturday, January 9th at 2:45 pm EST on beIN Sports CONNECT

This weekend, two teams battling for a spot in Europe take to the pitch in the Italian capital as Roma and AC Milan meet.  While they are only separated by 1 place in the table, the difference is 5 points.  Roma sits just 6 points off the top spot and 5 from a Champions League spot.  AC Milan spent a lot of money this summer and are in 6th place, 10 points from a spot in the Champions League.  This combined with both teams poor form lately has put a lot of pressure on both managers.  Roma has won 1 of their last 9 matches while Milan has only won 2 games of their last 7 matches.  Rudi Garcia and Sinisa Mihajlovic are both rumored to be on the way out.  Roma will be without Edin Dzeko and Seydou Keita due to red card suspensions.  Mohamed Salah and Daniele De Rossi face late fitness tests.  Umar Sadiq will most likely start up front after scoring two goals in two games.  For AC Milan, there could be a reshuffle at the back as Mexes and Alex missed training.  Kevin-Prince Boateng could make his return as well.  Look for this game to be very tight with both teams looking more not to lose than to win.

Betting Odds

Match Result – Roma 1/1, Milan 11/4, Draw 5/2

First Goalscorer – Gervinho 11/2, Dzeko 11/2, Soleri 6/1

Predictions

My Pick – Roma 2, Milan 1: Goals by Gervinho, Sadiq, and Niang

James’ Pick – Roma 1, Milan 1: Goals by Gervinho and Bacca

  1. Angers vs. Caen ~ Stade Jean Bouin, Angers

Saturday, January 9th at 2:00 pm EST on beIN Sports CONNECT

Two teams that have been the surprise stories in France meet in Angers this weekend.  Angers has climbed to third in the Ligue 1 table.  Caen is just one place and 1 point behind them.  Both teams will be looking to rebound following defeats in their last match.  On the line in this game is a Champions League spot and both teams will be fighting for that third spot the rest of the season.  This game might not be the highest scoring of the weekend, as Angers averages .895 goals per game and .579 goals against.  Caen, meanwhile, averages 1.105 goals per game and 1.158 goals against this season.  Both teams will look to rely on their strong defense to carry them this season.  Only PSG has a better defense than Angers.  Angers has a long injury list as they are without Dore, Bouka-Moutou, Mohsni, Sissoko, and Karanovic.  Mangani and Andreu face late fitness tests.  For Caen, Jeff Louis will miss with a suspension and Imorou and Da Silva will be game day decisions.  This game will be defensive and low scoring, look for both teams to try and stifle the other team’s attack.

Betting Odds

Match Result – Angers 6/4, Caen 11/5, Draw 2/1

First Goalscorer – No Goalscorer 11/2, Karanovic 13/2, Ketkeophomphone 7/1

Predictions

My Pick – Angers 0, Caen 0

James’ Pick – Angers 1, Caen 1: Goals by Ndoye and Delort

  1. Tottenham vs. Leicester City ~ White Hart Lane, London

Sunday, January 10th at 11:00 am EST on Fox Sports 1

The third round of the FA Cup takes place this weekend and while there are many Giant Killing matchups, there is one all EPL matchup that catches the eye.  Second place Leicester City travels to fourth place Tottenham.  Both teams will look to continue on their impressive starts to the season.  Tottenham has looked great recently and Leicester City is challenging for the title and a spot in Europe.  Tottenham has conceded just one goal in their last seven league games, while Leicester has been great away from home despite their loss at Liverpool.  They have also drawn their last two games.  Leicester will be without Jamie Vardy and both teams are likely to rest players with a round of EPL games Tuesday and Wednesday of next week.  This game could turn in to who wants to lose first, as dropping out will help them both in the chase for the title.  This should be a great game with lots of back and forth action.

Betting Odds

Match Result – Tottenham 13/20, Leicester 9/2, Draw 16/5

First Goalscorer – Harry Kane 10/3, Son Heung-Min 6/1, Eriksen 7/1

Predictions

My Pick – Tottenham 2, Leicester 1: Goals by Kane, Lamela, and Ulloa

James’ Pick – Tottenham 2, Leicester 1: Goals by Kane, Eriksen, Mahrez

  1. Sevilla vs. Athletic Bilbao ~ Estadio Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan, Sevilla

Saturday, January 9th at 12:15 pm EST on beIN Sports CONNECT

Two clubs that we thought would be battling for fourth place look to end the first half of the season on a high note.  This will mark the halfway point in the Spanish season and a win for either club will put them just on the outside of the Champions League spots and give them something to aim for this season.  A loss and it looks like they will be firmly in the middle of the table.  Both teams have been okay with 11 points each from their last 6 matches.  Sevilla are still without Pareja, Andreolli, and Beto.  Adil Rami will miss the game due to suspension.  Ibai Gomez is out and Boveda is doubtful for Athletic Club.  Laporte and Benat return from their suspensions.  Both teams need a win, so that usually means they both get a point.  Sevilla have lost just one of their last 10 competitive games.  Look for them to share a point each.

Betting Odds

Match Result – Sevilla 11/10, Bilbao 5/2, Draw 5/2

First Goalscorer – Gameiro 15/4, Aduriz 5/1, Llorente 11/2

Predictions

My Pick – Sevilla 2, Bilbao 2: Goals by Konoplyanka, Banega, Aduriz, and Williams

James’ Pick – Sevilla 2, Bilbao 1: Goals by Gameiro, Banega, and Aduriz

Other Games on TV This Weekend

Spain – La liga

Barcelona vs. Granada – Saturday at 10:00 am EST on beIN Sports

Italy – Serie A

Fiorentina vs. Lazio – Saturday at 12:00 pm EST on beIN Sports

Internazionale vs. Sassuolo – Sunday at 6:30 am EST on beIN Sports

Frosinone vs. Napoli – Sunday at 9:00 am EST on beIN Sports

Sampdoria vs. Juventus – Sunday at 2:45 pm EST on beIN Sports

France – Ligue 1

Lille vs. Nice – Sunday at 11:00 am EST on beIN Sports

England – FA Cup

Wycombe Wanderers vs. Aston Villa – Saturday at 7:45 am EST on Fox Sports 1

Arsenal vs. Sunderland – Saturday at 10:00 am EST on Fox Sports 1

Doncaster Rovers vs. Stoke City – Saturday at 10:00 am EST on Fox Sports 2

Manchester United vs. Sheffield United – Saturday at 12:30 pm EST on Fox Sports 2

Oxford United vs. Swansea City – Sunday at 7:00 am EST on Fox Sports 1

Chelsea vs. Scunthorpe United – Sunday at 9:00 am EST on Fox Sports 1

5 Observations from this Weekend

  1. Let the Zidane Era begin.

Real Madrid sacked their manager Rafa Bentiez following their 2-2 draw against Valencia.  Benzema opened the scoring but then Dani Parejo leveled the score in stoppage time.  The game changed in the 68th minute when Mateo Kovacic was sent off.  Gareth Bale put Madrid back on top with 8 minutes to play, but it did not last long.  Paco Alcacer leveled the score.  This result was apparently the tipping point for Fiorentino Perez.  Perez decided to make a change and put Zinedine Zidane in charge.  Yes that Zidane.  For the soccer fanatics, one of the all time greatest players.  For my World Cup fans, the one who headbutted Materazzi.  It will be interesting to see what he can bring to Madrid.

  1. Arsenal wins and remains on top.

This has to be Arsenal’s year.  Their biggest rivals are all stuttering and have been dropping points left and right.  Arsenal has just kept chugging along and is now on top of the Premier League.  Arsenal is now 2 points clear of Leicester, who slipped up again as they drew 0-0 with Bournemouth.  Arsenal is three points above Manchester City.  I think this will be the year for Arsene Wenger.  If they can keep it up and win these tough games, they will win the league.  Laurent Koscielny scored the game winning goal against Newcastle.

  1. Liverpool is still a work in progress.

Jurgen Klopp has shown some growth so far, but they are still far away from being a top contender in England.  He is still working to instill his philosophies.  He will need time and I think the Liverpool we see in a year will be much better.  They played well in spurts during their 2-0 loss at West Ham.  Andy Carroll scored the second goal, his first one against Liverpool since he left.  The first goal was a brilliant cross from Enner Valencia that was nicely headed in by Michail Antonio.  Dimitri Payet returned to action and now West Ham will hope to push up the table.

  1. Atletico Madrid is in the title race.

This weekend, the only team in the top 3 to get all three points was Atletico Madrid.  The “other” team from Madrid moved to the top of the table, 2 points clear of Barcelona.  They are 4 points above their crosstown rivals.  Atleti kept another clean sheet this weekend when they beat Levante 1-0.  Thomas scored the game winning goal in the 81st minute.  Barcelona was kept scoreless in a 0-0 draw against their crosstown rivals Espanyol.  This is looking like it might be a great title race this year.

  1. Aston Villa will play in the Championship next season.

They will not be the worst team ever, but they will be close.  With a must win game against Sunderland this weekend, Aston Villa lost 3-1.  Patrick van Aanholt opened the scoring 10 minutes in.  Carles Gil drew the score level in the second half.  Check out that finish later on.  But then Jermain Defoe would score two goals to seal the win.  This now means that Villa trail Sunderland by 7 points.  They are now 11 points from safety and the distance only keeps going.  The mission impossible will most likely not have a happy ending for Aston Villa.

3 Games to Watch This Week

  1. Stoke City vs. Liverpool – League Cup Semifinal First Leg – Tuesday
  2. Barcelona vs. Espanyol – Copa Del Rey – Wednesday
  3. Everton vs. Manchester City – League Cup Semifinal First Leg – Wednesday

Picture of the Week

The new manager of Real Madrid…

Real Madrid's new French coach Zinedine

Goals of the Week

My Pick – Carles Gil’s goal against Sunderland

James’ Pick – Wayne Rooney’s goal this weekend against Swansea.

First Weekend of the Year!!

Welcome to 2016!!  This weekend we have some games in England and Spain to take a look at.  We will look at the Derbi Barceloni, two clashes between the cities of Liverpool and London, Gary Neville’s first big clash, and a relegation battle in England.

  1. Espanyol vs. Barcelona ~ Power8 Stadium, Barcelona

Saturday, January 2nd at 10:00 am EST on beIN Sports

This weekend is the 162nd meeting between FC Barcelona and Espanyol.  The two clubs for Catalunya face off in what should be a fascinating game.  Barcelona has dominated this matchup, winning 57% of the games.  Espanyol has not beaten Barcelona since 2008-09 and has not won at home since 2006-07.  Espanyol is looking to move into the top half of the table.  They are currently in 11th place and have lost 3 of their last 5 games.  Barcelona is still on top of the table, despite having a game in hand on their rivals.  They have won four of their last six and are unbeaten in their last nine.  Both teams are fairly healthy.  Pape Diop is available for Espanyol after serving his suspension.  Enzo Roco should continue at the back with Alvaro.  Jordi Alba should return for Barcelona, but Jeremy Mathieu may push for a spot in the back four.  Arda Turan and Aleix Vidal are both close, but will most likely not play this weekend due to the LFP registration window not being open due to the public holiday and weekend. Look for Barcelona to dominate possession and look to open up the Espanyol defense.

Betting Odds

Match Result – Espanyol 14/1, Barcelona 1/5, Draw 11/2

First Goalscorer – Neymar 9/4, Messi 9/4, Suarez 9/4

Predictions

My Pick – Espanyol 1, Barcelona 3: Goals by Caicedo, Messi, Suarez (2)

James’ Pick – Espanyol 1, Barcelona 3: Goals by Perez, Neymar (2), Messi

  1. West Ham United vs. Liverpool ~ Boleyn Ground, London

Saturday, January 2nd at 7:45 am EST on NBCSN

This weekend in London, two teams will look to move just a little bit closer to the top 4.  Liverpool and West Ham sit in 7th and 8th place respectively.  They are separated by 1 point in the table.  A win for either side could move them up the table and into the top 4 battle.  West Ham is unbeaten in their last 6 games and Liverpool has won 2 in a row.  The biggest factor might be that Liverpool has 48 hours less than West Ham to recover from their last match and prepare for this game.  Liverpool will be looking to press high up the field and create mistakes.  West Ham could play the long ball and look to take away the high pressure.  Jordan Henderson and Daniel Sturridge are both likely out of the starting 11 and Martin Skrtel is still out injured, so Mamadou Sakho and Dejan Lovren should partner in the center of defense.  Jordan Ibe might also come into the lineup for Adam Lallana since he played quite a bit over the Christmas period.  For West Ham United, Dimitri Payet is back in training and could feature this weekend.  Manuel Lanzini should start again after returning during the week.  Look for Andy Carroll to start up front and make a difference.  West Ham looked great in Anfield earlier this season, but this game should be tighter.

Betting Odds

Match Result – West Ham 3/1, Liverpool 21/20, Draw 5/2

First Goalscorer – Sturridge 4/1, Benteke 5/1, Origi 11/2

Predictions

My Pick – West Ham 1, Liverpool 2: Goals by Carroll, Benteke, and Coutinho

James’ Pick – West Ham 1, Liverpool 1: Goals by Antonio and Coutinho

  1. Everton vs. Tottenham ~ Goodison Park, Liverpool

Sunday, January 3rd at 11:00 am EST on NBCSN

Tottenham has been one of the better teams in the country, recently going on a three game win streak that sent them into the top four and just 4 points off the top of the table.  Everton, meanwhile, has won just 1 of their last 6.  They are in the bottom half of the table and need to start turning some draws into wins. In the last six games between these two sides, Tottenham has won 3 and the other three have been draws.  Everton can play either possession football or counter-attacking football, but the same can be said about Tottenham.  Both of these teams are similar in the way that they play.  Everton will be without James McCarthy and Tom Cleverley in the midfield.  Phil Jagielka is a couple weeks out from his return.  Tottenham are without Mousa Dembele as he has an ankle problem and should miss the game this weekend.  Tom Carroll should be back in the lineup this weekend.  Everton will look to kick start their new year with a win as they face Tottenham.  Tottenham are looking to push for the title and a win will put them right in the mix.

Betting Odds

Match Result – Everton 9/5, Tottenham 13/8, Draw 6/2

First Goalscorer – Lukaku 4/1, Kane 9/2, Kone 15/2

Predictions

My Pick – Everton 1, Tottenham 2: Goals by Lukaku, and Kane (2)

James’ Pick – Everton 2, Tottenham 3: Goals by Barkley, Lukaku, Kane, Eriksen, Alli

  1. Valencia vs. Real Madrid ~ Estadio de Mestalla, Valencia

Sunday, January 3rd at 2:30 pm EST on beIN Sports

Gary Neville is still looking for his first win in the top flight of Spanish football.  Since he took over, they have drawn two games and lost one game.  This might not be the weekend that this happens, as they face Real Madrid this weekend at home.  Valencia is still working on their new style under Neville and will look to play aggressive and with width.  Their opponents sit in third place in the table but have won 2 straight games.  They will work to keep pace with Atletico and Barcelona.  Valencia is missing some of their creative players as Sofiane Feghouli, Zakaria Bakkali, and Rodrigo are all out injured.  Jose Gaya and Shkodran Mustafi are both doubts for the game.  Real Madrid is fully fit.  There are questions about which midfielders will get the nod.  Valencia has been stuttering since their new manager came in, but this could be an interesting one.  Real Madrid is on the border of a crisis with Rafa Benitez’s job on the line it seems each week.

Betting Odds

Match Result – Valencia 5/1, Real Madrid 8/15, Draw 10/3

First Goalscorer – Ronaldo 5/2, Benzema 4/1, Rodriquez 4/1

Predictions

My Pick – Valencia 2, Real Madrid 3: Goals by Alcacer, Parejo, Bale, Benzema, and Ronaldo

James’ Pick – Valencia 1, Real Madrid 2: Goals by Alcacer, Ronaldo (2)

  1. Sunderland vs. Aston Villa ~ Stadium of Light, Sunderland

Saturday, January 2nd at 10:00 am EST on NBC Sports Live Extra

This weekend we are taking a look at the bottom end of the table as Sunderland and Aston Villa face off.  Combined, these two teams have four wins and a total of 20 points.  The season might be off to a rough start, but a win here could start a great escape for either of these teams.  Sunderland is 7 points from safety and Aston Villa is 11.  Villa is winless in their last 18 games.  Sunderland has lost 5 games in a row.  Both teams have struggled to score.  Jack Rodwell and Seb Coates both went off with injuries in the midweek game so they are in doubt.  John O’Shea may be back in the defense.  Aston Villa will be without Jordan Ayew and Ashley Westwood due to red cards during their last game.  Jordan Amavi is still out injured.  Carlos Sanchez and Gabriel Agbonlahor are still a doubt for this game.  This will be a huge game for both sides and they both need the win.  A loss for Aston Villa would all but end their hopes of survival.

Betting Odds

Match Result – Sunderland 6/4, Aston Villa 11/5, Draw 9/4

First Goalscorer – Fletcher 13/2, Gestede 13/2, Defoe 13/2

Predictions

My Pick – Sunderland 2, Aston Villa 1: Goals by Borini, Defoe, and Gestede

James’ Pick – Sunderland 1, Aston Villa 1: Goals by Borini and Richards

 

England – Premier League

Arsenal vs. Newcastle United – Saturday at 10:00 am EST on NBCSN

Manchester United vs. Swansea City – Saturday at 10:00 am EST on USA

Watford vs. Manchester City – Saturday at 12:30 pm EST on NBC

Crystal Palace vs. Chelsea – Sunday at 8:30 am EST on NBCSN

Spain – La Liga

Atletico Madrid vs. Levante – Saturday at 2:30 pm EST on beIN Sports

Malaga vs. Celta de Vigo – Saturday at 4:05 pm EST on beIN Sports

Granada vs. Sevilla – Sunday at 10:00 am EST on beIN Sports

Athletic Club vs. Las Palmas – Sunday at 12:14 pm EST on beIN Sports

 

Happy New Year’s 2016!!!!

Happy New Year to everyone.  Thanks for all your time last year and we are looking forward to the new year and sharing the excitement of soccer with all of you.

Here are 10 things to look forward to in 2016…

  1. The 15th edition of the European Championships in France this summer.
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  2. Where in the world Pep Guardiola will end up?
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  3. The return of the Champions League knockout stages.
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  4. Where does Jose Mourinho move to next?
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  5. Messi vs. Ronaldo
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  6. Championship push in the Serie A
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  7. Summer move for Zlatan
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  8. Relegation Battles for each league.
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  9. West Ham United’s move to the Olympic Stadium
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  10. Who will be the next Jamie Vardy?
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Have a great New Year’s Day!!

Later today, we will post our preview of the weekend!!!