This is without a shadow of a doubt the biggest clash in club football, Spain remains the main attractions for the battle of two clubs that radiate varying political sentiments, but will the round leather game giving the victor the desired bragging rights and the necessary political will power. Many clashes hold varying importance in different countries, but none stands out like the clash between Real Madrid and Barcelona, this weekend gives us another installment of this colossal encounter.
This weekend we have big games, in Spain, England, France, Germany and Italy; we would as usual preview these games and also predict the likely outcome.
We start with the biggest game of the weekend with Spain our destination for this epic encounter:
Real Madrid v Barcelona:
Over the last four years or so; the El Classico has been mainly about the awesomeness of Lionel Messi and Cristano Ronaldo, everywhere you look, all you see is Ronaldo v Messi; however this clash is bigger that. Both teams are in imperious form going into this tie; Barcelona are yet to concede in La Liga, whilst Real Madrid are scoring for fun with Ronaldo in the form of his life and Messi is gunning for the record of La Liga’s all time leading scorer and we all know he loves to score against Real; he already has 21 goals against them. You will be forgiven if you expect this to be a training session of attack v defense; it will definitely be far from this.
Luis Enrique has made this Barcelona side stronger defensively, not by virtue of the defenders that have been brought in, but by the level of protection offered as well as the compact nature of the team. Enrique knows Real Madrid quite well, having played there for five years; he will be relishing the opportunity of defeating Real at the Bernabeu. This game has the makings of a screen play, as added to the plot is the return of Luis Saurez from his ban for biting, he would be like a Lion that has been caged, ready to be let loose on the entire football world.
From a tactical perspective, the major worry continues to be the work rate and defensive qualities of Luca Modric and Toni Kroos in the deep lying and pivot position for Carlo Ancelotti’s Real Madrid; on the basis of this; I wont be surprised if a changed is made to a 4-3-3; with Isco dropping back to play just in front of the aforementioned two; but a more expansive plan and approach that may aid a counter attacking approach may be to drop both Isco and James Rodriguez into midfield forming a midfield square or a flat four in midfield; this keeps Ronaldo and Benzema upfront available to pounce to catch Barcelona on the break, even though we are all aware that the Bernabeu would not like a counter attacking approach; but then expect Real to give as much as they get. Playing with the midfield square takes care of Messi dropping into space in midfield(in Barcelona’s 4-3-3) trying to create as preferably Isco would pick him up; asking Isco or James Rodriguez to do this may to far fetched, so we may have a surprise inclusion from Ancelotti.
Halftimeng Prediction: There will be goals, high score draw expected like a 2-2 or 3-3.
Manchester United v Chelsea
Some have labelled this the master v the apprentice, Louis Van Gaal has played that down stating that Jose Mourinho made his own success all by himself. I am sure this is the first time, Jose Mourinho would be going into a big game without some intense mind games in full glare, this time around it has been quite subtle, demonstrating the enormous respect between both managers.
To the game proper, Chelsea remain undefeated in the Premiership dating back to April last season and some section of the media have said this Chelsea team can go undefeated for the whole season, just like the Arsenal invincibles of 2004 did. As is with most records, they are set just to be broken, with no other team more poised and competent to end unbeaten runs than Manchester United; you may say the composition of the team is different today, it still doesn’t change the fact that this is Manchester United, who are also due a really big performance to announce its top four ambitions.
The core story in midweek for the game is the availability or otherwise of the Premier League’s top scorer, Diego Costa; believe me he will start for the blues. This Chelsea team can score goals a plenty,so also this Manchester United team, the only difference between both sides is the inability of Manchester United to not concede. Chelsea are undefeated in their last 6 games against Manchester United, this puts them in front has clear favorites. From a tactical perspective, the influence of Cesc Fabregas has been instant with 7 assist so far this season, meaning everything good about Chelsea’s play goes through him, so Van Gaal has to find formula to limit his influence as well as that of the likes of Oscar and Hazard.
Halftimeng Prediction: Chelsea win looks very likely, but do not discount United for any reason.
Borussia Monchengladbach v Bayern Munich
Gladbach are undefeated in the Bundesliga after a series of great showings this early in the season lying in second place to Bayern Munich, this is a game where they can prove their early season form is not a flash in the pan. Bayern Munich are scoring freely and are fresh from the resounding Champions League victory where they put seven past Roma in Rome.
Pep Guardiola is spoilt for choice in virtually every area as well as with his choice of what system to play; the calming influence of Xabi Alonso and the intelligence of Phillip Lahm continues to drive the team from midfield. You really cannot look beyond Bayern Munich for this one with only two goals conceded and 21 goals scored so far in the Bundesliga; Bayern are imperious.
Halftimeng Prediction: Bayern to win
Sampdoria v Roma
What better way to enter a Serie A game for Roma than an away fixture to get their minds off the football lesson received in mid week in the Champions League from Bayern Munich. Sampdoria under Sinisa Mihajlovic could not have wished for a better start to the season especially under their new ownership. Sampdoria have looked quite good this season rising to third so far, but in front of them lie a number of big games over the next couple of weeks, which would test their mettle.
Roma need to wake up and bounce back from the nightmare that was the Champions League, a game against Sampdoria, a team they have defeated in their last three encounters; however, Sampdoria are u defeated in their last three home games, so this should make for a feisty match.
Halftimeng Prediction: Score Draw
AC Milan v Fiorentina
The Viola have been greatly inconsistent this season with Five straight draws and a loss at home last week against Lazio in their last six games. Milan on the other hand have had a calm and steady start to the season; defeat to Juventus and unfortunately poor performances against Empoli and Cesena. Pippo Inzaghi has gotten Milan scoring goals, but defensively Milan continue to worry and capitulate.
Fiorentina continue to struggle with injuries and have had to convert Cuadrado to a striker to join youngster Babacar upfront, Montella has his work cut out to get a result at the San Siro, especially with the likes of Keisuke Honda showing great form for the Rossineri. Fiorentina have gotten the desired at the San Siro on their last three visits, so expect same of the same; although this may seem a difficult task in light of all the injuries and their inconsistent form thus far.
Halftimeng Prediction: Fiorentina to make it four wins on the bounce at the San Siro
Paris Saint Germain v Bordeaux
At the start of the season, Willy Sagnol along with Claude Makalele were singled out as new managers looking to earn their stripes on the big stage; Sagnol has done quite well keeping Bordeaux competitive and relevant in the title equation. Layrent Blanc welcomes his former side he led to a Ligue 1 title some years back without his two top strikers; Zlatan remains injured and Cavani is suspended for his Sniper like celebration.
Laurent Blanc might play without an out and out striker, but then has youngster Bahebeck available to lead the line with the likes of Pastore and Moura providing the necessary support. PSG have finally won two games back to back with their Champions League win, so confidence is definitely high and PSG have won their last five matches against Bordeaux.
Halftimeng Prediction: PSG Win
Lyon v Marseille
Call him what you like; Marcelo Biesla has gotten this Marseille side playing some good football and introduced some defensive solidity with the intense pressing game and style he has introduced with his 3-3-3-1 formation. Marseille look a different team from last season, moreso a lack of European distractions helps the team to focus on conquering the domestic terrain.
Lyon have been in good form lately, winning well and scoring goals, with Lacazette their stand out player thus far, two of Ligue 1’s in form teams go head to head in what promises to be an explosive encounter. Marseille have won 8 games in a row and Lyon also have won their last four games. Lyon are defeated in their last 9 games at home to Marseille, a very key stat.
Halftimeng Prediction: A score Draw
There goes my weekend preview, do not miss out on all the great action across Europe.