As the rest of Europe took time off to get used to the harsh winter conditions and to recharge their batteries; the English kept us company with football from the most exciting league in the world throughout the festive season, This weekend, the flood gates open once again with Serie A and La Liga making a welcome return to our television screens. We preview the few big games on offer and as usual stick our necks out to make our desired picks; hopefully we wont have a our faces covered with egg this time around.
As expected we continue with the English taking prime position in our preview with the romance of the F.A. Cup taking center stage; its a North London derby between Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspurs; who are under new management after taking a big gamble with largely inexperienced Tim Sherwood taking the reins of the White Hart Lane managerial hot seat.
Arsenal have serious injury worries especially in attack with their two recognized strikers currently sidelined by injuries; but then the gunners can take great delight that they are top of the Premiership and are undefeated domestically at the Emirates since the opening day of the season as enough confidence boost as to why they should progress to the next round. Tim Sherwood aims to be the first Spurs manager to defeat Arsenal at the first attempt in 20 years; in four games, he has two wins, a draw and a defeat to West Ham in the Capital one Cup; not an intimidating stat but a victory at Old Trafford makes facing this Spurs side a daunting task as they play with real freedom and confidence; it promises to be a great game.
Halftimeng Prediction : Tough one, should go to a replay.
The Iberia nation of Spain is our next port of call with the La Rosaleda playing host to joint top Athletico Madrid; who are playing fantastic football and scoring tonnes of goals as well. At home, its been a mixed bag for Malaga with 4 wins and 4 defeats at the La Rosaleda, but are on a pretty good run of form from last year and are undefeated at home to Athletico Madrid in their last two games. Diego Simeone’s side will be without Gabi and Mario Saurez; hence a loss of the physical strength in midfield that has characterized much of the achievements of the team this season.
Halftimeng Prediction : More Home misery for Malaga. 1-3 in favour of the away side.
Juventus mark a return to Serie A duties out of the champions league but 5points clear at the top as they welcome their closest rivals Roma to the Juventus Stadium. Roma are undefeated this season, second on the log and they welcome the hub of their midfield after suspension in Kevin Strootman and Daniel De Rossi back into the squad to continue their fine form so far this season. Roma have played some great football this season and have done quite well in the big games; so big game mentality is not a problem under Rudi Garcia; Juventus have won 9 straight Serie A Games and conceded a goal in the same period; hence defensively Juventus are solid, upfront the partnership between Tevez and Llorente is thriving; but it would be interesting to see how Juve’s back three cope with the wing play from Roma through Gervinho particularly. Juventus have the upper hand; winning 4 of the last 6 matches between both sides.
Halftimeng Prediction : A close encounter expected; should end 2-2.
Other games to look out for this weekend, include the return of Lionel Messi to face Elche; Sevilla also welcome Getafe and Fiorentina receive visiting Livorno to the Viola as well as the return of the ‘Baby Faced Assasin’ Ole Gunnar Solskajer to England to lead Cardiff.