Its our first installment of the weekend’s preview of the top matches in Europe and across the world. I must say a Happy New Year to all readers of this column and the website as a whole; I wish you all the great things 2015 has to offer; may this be your best year yet.
As is customary, the English game has continued to keep millions of football fans entertained especially during the festive season as the rest of Europe remain on their usual winter break. This weekend, we have the Spanish La Liga making a return, whilst we have the F.A. Cup taking center stage in England.
Valencia v Real Madrid
I understand there was some form of compromise between Real Madrid and AC Milan to treat the result of their Dubai International friendly as irrelevant; however, you cannot take anything away from how “poor” Real were on the night. So with a winning streak currently at 22 still ongoing Real Madrid face an opponent that would love to halt their enviable record. This season, under the guidance of Nuno Espirito Santo and the financial backing of Peter Lim, Valencia look like top four contenders, playing some good attractive football; keeping touch with the top three of Real Madrid, Barcelona and Atletico Madrid. Unfortunately, Los Che come against a team they have recorded the most victories in La Liga against, although current form shows they have lost five times in a row against Real Madrid and are winless in 12 games.
The Mestalla used to be know as a fortress for a number of the big teams, but Real have found a way to win consistently against Valencia on their home turf well and comfortably at that; delivering high scoring games with regularity.
Halftimeng Prediction: Real Madrid to make it 23 wins on the spin and six wins in a row against Valencia
Real Sociedad v Barcelona
If there is a team that knows how to defeat Barcelona in recent times; its Real Sociedad; however this is a different and struggling Sociedad under the guidance of David Moyes. The Basque club have really struggled this season, winning only three of fourteen matches played so far this season, this makes for very worrying reading as they host a Barcelona side that has won five of their last six matches in La Liga.
With all these in context, the major issues has to be the ability of David Moyes being able to rally his team to continue their current great run of form against Barcelona; Sociedad are undefeated against last five home games against Barcelona dating back to 2007. Barcelona need to stay in touch with their rivals and cannot afford to drop valuable points at the Anoeta, especially as Real Madrid have already been defeated in the same stadium.
Halftimeng Prediction: Barcelona to end its horrific run of results at the Anoeta.
The oldest knock out tournament in the world makes its return with a number of intriguing fixtures and as its expected annually there will be upsets, giant killings and fairy tale runs with the likes of Gateshead, Yeovil Town and AFC Wimbledon getting mouth watering ties against some big names in the premier league. In another clash and potentially the tie of the round; there is a small matter of revenge on the cards at the Emirates as the repeat of last year’s F.A. Cup takes center stage with Hull visiting Arsenal as both teams had mixed fortunes in the New Year’s day fixtures.
Premier League Leaders, Chelsea have a small matter of a London derby with Watford to navigate, you can expect a number of changes in the Chelsea line up after the White Hart Lane humbling.