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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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?
- 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.
- 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!!!
Goal of the Week
This was a bit of a howler but I am going for Lee Holmes goal for Exeter vs. Liverpool.