Wow!! What a way to bring back the Bundesliga, a huge defeat for defending champions Bayern Munich ushered in the resumption of the league of the World Champions. It was quite obvious that Bayern were still on holiday and Wolfsburg were all business like. As usual we will take a trip through Europe’s top leagues and preview the games that really matter.
Barcelona v Villareal
With all due respect to the yellow submarine; when talking about the inform team of La Liga, you more often than not would look at the top three of Real Madrid, Barcelona and Atletico Madrid; or worst still consider Sevilla or Valencia, however Villareal are surprisingly the in form team in La Liga with an undefeated streak currently at ten La Liga games with six clean sheets from their last eight games. This makes very impressive reading but they come against the potent force that is the trio of Lionel Messi, Neymar and Luis Saurez; who seem to be building a very good understanding of each other as each game passes bye, the intense pressure they put on defenses, pulling defenders all over the place should start been a worrying factor for many managers.
Barcelona came out of their two game Copa Del Rey battle with Atletico unscratched with their reputation enhanced considerably as they were able to cope with the physical battle that comes with games against Diego Simeone’s side. The Catalans have a great record against Villareal and should potentially win this comfortably; this is not to say Villareal would not put up a fight; but a record of seven wins out of their last eight matches makes Barcelona overwhelming favorites.
My Verdict: Barcelona to win comfortably
Chelsea v Manchester City
I think its important I make this clear for starters that the game between these two teams today will not decide the destination of the title. We are still in January, 16 more games still to play, points to drop along the way, injuries and suspensions to cater for and of cause the odd conspiracy theory to hatch; we are still some way from a title decider.
Chelsea have been imperious at home this season, the hallmark of Jose Mourinho’s teams with 10 straight wins at home this season in the league coupled with its defensive solidity; however the mid week 120 minutes game against Liverpool may take its toll on some Chelsea players as injuries to the likes of Cesc Fabregas and Ivanovic add to that the suspension of Chelsea; Top Scorer Diego Costa for three games should obviously have them worried. However, Man City just like Chelsea also got dumped out of the FA Cup last week and continue to look like a side that cannot survive without Yaya Toure, who seem to one personally driving the citizens forward and in his absence Manchester City have look lethargic and out of sorts.
Manchester City seemed to have Chelsea within their sights, all of a sudden the eight point gap disappeared; that can be attributed to Toure’s absence and a dramatic loss of form. Manchester City have an enviable away record as well, undefeated in their last six games. If City need to make a statement its now and of course can Frank Lampard do it again against his old club.
My Verdict: The game looks more like a draw to me
Monaco v Lyon
A lot of credit has to go to Hubert Fournier with the work he is doing with youngsters in Lyon; a major catalyst of this success is Ligue 1 Top Scorer; Alexandre Lacazette, who leads the charts with 21 goals this season. Lyon, use the youthful exuberance of their squad to full effect, playing with plenty of industry, efficiency and energy.
Monaco, on the other hand have turned the corner especially after a poor start and the loss of their top players in the summer. The team from the Principality have not played spectacularly but have been efficient in grinding out results with so many 0ne nil wins that has propelled them closer to the top of the table and just nine points off Lyon with defensive solidity the current hallmark of the team. Monaco have conceded less than three goals in the league since November and are also yet to concede in 2015 and you wouldn’t believe it if I told you Ricardo Carvalho marshals the defense.
Monaco look like the team capable of throwing a spanner to the Lyon title chasing wheel; especially as Lyon will be missing its top scorer; Lacazette; but Lyon have won their last seven matches keeping a clean sheet in their last five; showing that they can be solid defensively. Its all about the fine margins here; with Monaco edging it in the head to head between both sides
My Verdict: Leonardo Jardim has built a solid defensive unit in Monaco, this will get them the victory against Lyon.
Bayer Leverkusen v Borussia Dortmund
The Bundesliga is back to the delight of so many; but no one would have predicted that start. How did Bayern lose scandalously to Wolfsburg? Well that’s a topic for another day. If there ever was a team that needed that winter break so bad; it was Dortmund. The former champions were absolutely shambolic to say the least in the first half of the season and needed to badly recharge their batteries.
The same problems still persist with Dortmund despite the winter break; injuries to key players remain a problem and their top players are always in the news; linked to any of Europe’s bigger clubs. It is a big problem to have; but Klopp has gone into the market to freshen up his side; hopefully it would have the desired effect.
Bayer Leverkusen have a chance to reduce the gap between itself and the top two has Wolfsburg did the whole of Germany a huge favour with their victory over Bayern. Leverkusen must have focus on been difficult to beat as well as defensive solidity during the winter break; so we expect this to be an intense and highly competitive encounter between both sides.
Dortmund despite losing seven of their last eight away games; actually have a great record against Leverkusen away from home; without defeat in their last seven visits to the Bayer Arena. Leverkusen on the other hand, are undefeated in their last thirteen home games in the Bundesliga; the stats point to an absolute cracker of a game here.
My Verdict: A draw looks like the more likely outcome.
So there we go; expect some thrilling football and some potentially controversial decisions.