This weekend, as we always do, we preview the big games across Europe basically and we will be making stops in England, Italy and Germany. Meanwhile, back home in Nigeria, action returns to the Premier League this weekend with Week 1 games holding across the federation.
We begin our trip from England where Chelsea has a good chance of extending her lead at the top of the log with their direct rivals not been involved in the Premier League this weekend. They welcome a decent Spurs side to Stamford Bridge in a london derby on Saturday evening. Tottenham haven’t won at Chelsea in 24 years and don’t look like ending that run just yet, with Chelsea boasting the only remaining unbeaten home record in the Premier League this season. However, Spurs have the best points tally on the road, and will come here looking to win rather than sit back and hope to snatch a draw. Chelsea on the other hand are undefeated in their last 16 home matches against Tottenham in all competitions. Eden Hazard looks like being fit for the game, while for Spurs Kyle Walker, Younes Kaboul and Zeki Fryers could all feature.
Halftimeng Prediction: It’s a home game for the Blues, doesn’t look like a game they will lose. Chelsea 2-1 Tottenham.
Still in England, a chance for a Wembley final continues this weekend as FA Cup quarter final games hold across the nation. It will be nine years without a trophy if the Gunners fail to succeed in the FA Cup, barring a miraculous Champions League turnaround or an unexpected comeback to take the league title, this sure looks like a competition they will be taking very serious and a win against Everton won’t be a tall dream for the Gunners. Though there might be a little matter of Manchester United visiting the Hawthorns in the league with both games kicking off at the same time but you can be rest assurred that more attention will be giving to the FA Cup match. Should they dispatch of the Toffees and progress to the last four, arguably only Manchester City could be classed as genuine opposition to stop them. The hosts may make changes though, while Everton are likely to name their strongest side available. The Gunners will be without England midfielder Jack Wilshere, while France defender Laurent Koscielny faces a fitness test on a hamstring problem with Thomas Vermaelen on standby to deputise. Everton goalie Joel Robles is set to continue his FA Cup run by replacing Tim Howard for the quarter-final but Phil Jagielka is unlikely to feature having missed last weekend’s win over West Ham and England’s midweek friendly with a hamstring problem.
Halftimeng Prediction: Will be an exciting game and it could go either way.
Our next stop is Italy, where we will be taking a look at two key games.
Firstly, we start from the home of the defending champions, Juventus who will be welcoming Fiorentina in the first of their three encounters this month. Fourth-placed Fiorentina are the only side to have beaten Antonio Conte’s men in the Italian top flight this season when they won 4-2 at Artemio Franchi back in October, so Juve will have a score to settle. This weekend’s clash at Juventus Stadium also gives the two sides an opportunity to size each other up ahead of their UEFA Europa League round-of-16 clash. The champions have recorded five consecutive wins in all competitions and not conceded a goal in their last four games while Fiorentina are without a win in three games in all competitions. Giorgio Chiellini is set to return following a three-week spell on the sidelines with a calf injury. They also welcome back key midfielder Arturo Vidal after he sat out the 2-0 win at Milan last weekend due to a one-match ban, but playmaker Andre Pirlo is unavailable as he serves a one-match
Halftimeng Prediction: A straight win for Juventus is being expected.
The other big game this weekend in Italy will see Napoli welcome Roma. Napoli again slipped up in their hunt for the top two by drawing at Livorno last time out, and now 17 points off Juventus and 6 points off Roma (who have one match in hand), that simply means that they can’t afford to settle for a draw should Juventus drop points, that will keep their Scudetto title win alive. The pair have met three times already this season with the hosts triumphing on each occasion and Napoli can take confidence from a 3-0 success over Roma in the Coppa Italia in February. Gonzalo Higuain and Raul Albiol are back from suspension and will be back in the starting XI. Goran Pandev and Dusan Zapata are therefore likely to drop to the bench, while Lorenzo Insigne is in contention to play. Jorginho is still the coach’s first option to play alongside Gokhan Inler in midfield. AS Roma’s De Rossi picked up a 3-match suspension in the match against Inter, and Radja Nainggolan is the man to cover for his absence. Maicon seems to be fully recovered, so Vasilis Torosidis may move to the left side of the defence.
Halftimeng Prediction: A score draw!!!
And finally, we stop in Germany where Wolfsburg welcome the mighty Bayern Munich to the Volkswagen Arena on Saturday. Bayern Munich sit comfortably in the top spot of the Bundesliga already 20 points ahead of the second placed Dortmund with 11 games remaining. Pep Guardiola’s men are still unbeaten in the league as they have won 21 games from 23 games drawing only 2 matches. So they will be playing this match just to extend their unbeaten streak rather than the 3 points. However, Wolfsburg will be more than happy if they managed to get anything from this match. Dieter Hecking’s will be looking to quallify for the year’s Champions League. If they manage to get all 3 points which is very unlikely to happen, they will see themselves rise to the 4th position, depending on results from other centres. Wolfsburg are currently in the 5th position with 39 points from 23 games played. Wolfsburg have only managed to find the net on three occasions in nine subsequent league meetings with Bayern, failing to score in the last five. Christian Träsch is suspended, meaning Patrick Ochs will start at right-back. Maximilian Arnold could replace the suspended Luiz Gustavo in central midfield, with Daniel Caligiuri filling in on the right-wing. Meanwhile, Bayern will be without the services of Muller (hamstring), who settled this fixture last time around.
Halftimeng Prediciton: Bayern to win comfortably.