Like we do every weekend, we take a trip all around Europe; picking the star matches to wet our appetites over and have us glued to our television sets or visit that pub or viewing center in our neighbourhood. The weekend starts with a visit to a country we have not visited on this pages; our first port of call is the Turkish Super Liga where the biggest game of the Turkish football Calendar as always is Fenerbahce vs Galatasaray. Both teams have had contrasting fortunes this season; Galatasaray are under new management in Roberto Mancini since the dismissal of Fatih Terim and Fenerbahce have faired better; even though with corruption charges dangling over their heads. Surprisingly, Galatasaray lost to FC Copenhengen in the Champions League in mid week to record their first loss in their last five games. Fenerbahce will go into this one the in form team with a draw and four wins in their last four and European distractions with a four point lead at the top of the table and six points clear of their opponents in fourth place; the signs are ominous and they all point to a Fenerbahce win; but it looks more like a draw will be the ideal outcome; it promises to be a feisty encounter.
We visit Holland for the first time this season with a top of the table clash on the cards; its Feyenoord v AZ Alkmaar, another fourth versus first battle just like in Turkey; Alkmaar are the form team with four wins from the last five games and the only blemish from a perfect record was a draw in the Europa League. Feyenoord have had a rather bumpy season with consistency been the issue with a loss and defeat in their last five outings. Dick Advocaat takes on a former prodigy in Ronald Koeman; since the coming of Advocaat; Alkmaar have won three straight and are looking poised to make it 4 wins in a row; but this is the biggest test for Alkmaar so far this season and I expect a victory at De Kuip for the visitors.
Players to watch out for : Jordy Claise (DM, Feyenoord) and Jeffrey Gouweleeuw (Def. AZ Alkmaar)
We touch down at the land of the Azurri, where on Sunday dinner will be served in Turin with Juventus v Napoli on the menu. Third versus Second, Antonio Conte v Rafa Benitez; up on till the arrival of Benitez, you would be forgiven if you said both teams play the same formation with the foundation based on a three man defensive line. However, a lot has changed about Napoli since the departure of Mazarri and arrival of Benitez; if not for anything, this season Napoli are considered as proper title contenders. This is a game Napoli needs to win to reflect their true championship credentials. Already, Napoli have lost to a major title rival Roma; a win is more than essential against the Old Lady of Turin. In Europe, both teams had different types of results with Juventus coming off the worst and looking like an exit from the group stages of the Champions League is inevitable. I expect Conte to maintain his back four approach from mid week; as Napoli poses identical threats as Real Madrid especially in the wide areas; with Chiellini returning to the side after his suspension in mid week. If you ask me or if I were a betting man; I will say a draw looks most likely. In terms of head to head encounters; Juve have won three of the last six games over Napoli; however the game still has all the makings of a draw.
Our final stop is at the English Premier League for a rivalry for all ages as Manchester United welcome Arsenal to Old Trafford. Interestingy, this rivalry has lost its feistiness since it became clear that Arsenal were not in the business of wining trophies over the last eight years. Arsenal seem like a team with a lot of balance, poise and can finally smash and grab. Arsenal snapped up a big win at Borussia Dortmund against all odds. United on the other hand have had a really tough start to life under David Moyes; but with the team’s performance over the last two or three matches; United seem to be heading in the right direction with three wins in their last four EPL games. This may just be the year for the Arsenal, but they really have to sort out their squad depth; it really is no where near the other title contenders in terms of quality and strength. United have however won 4 of the six games against Arsenal with 01/05/2011 the last time United lost to Arsenal at a time when United was enroute to winning another title. A High scoring draw is very much on the cards here.
Sure banker of the week:
Roma to bounce back emphatically against Sassuolo
Surprise of the Week
Sunderland to get a draw against Manchester City
Game to watch
Manchester United v Arsenal