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.
- 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.
Match Result – Espanyol 14/1, Barcelona 1/5, Draw 11/2
First Goalscorer – Neymar 9/4, Messi 9/4, Suarez 9/4
My Pick – Espanyol 1, Barcelona 3: Goals by Caicedo, Messi, Suarez (2)
James’ Pick – Espanyol 1, Barcelona 3: Goals by Perez, Neymar (2), Messi
- 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.
Match Result – West Ham 3/1, Liverpool 21/20, Draw 5/2
First Goalscorer – Sturridge 4/1, Benteke 5/1, Origi 11/2
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
- 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.
Match Result – Everton 9/5, Tottenham 13/8, Draw 6/2
First Goalscorer – Lukaku 4/1, Kane 9/2, Kone 15/2
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
- 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.
Match Result – Valencia 5/1, Real Madrid 8/15, Draw 10/3
First Goalscorer – Ronaldo 5/2, Benzema 4/1, Rodriquez 4/1
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)
- 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.
Match Result – Sunderland 6/4, Aston Villa 11/5, Draw 9/4
First Goalscorer – Fletcher 13/2, Gestede 13/2, Defoe 13/2
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