We start from Italy where the Milan Derby looks to be the biggest fixture this weekend as INTER MILAN host AC MILAN at the Sansiro on Sunday. Although both sides haven’t been so convincing this season, the glitz and glamour that surrounds the derby will definitely make it a “Must-Watch”.
Fifth-place Inter has a chance to show some conviction in pursuit of the Scudetto title after suffering their first defeat in 9 matches in the previous round, while all top-four teams scored points and pulled away from the Nerazzurri. Inter will miss the services of their most creative player on the night – Ricardo Alvarez and their stand will be closed on Sunday due to territorial-discriminating chants in Napoli by their fans though the rival supporters have announced a strike to fraternise with their cross-town colleagues, so there is a chance that the derby will have little atmosphere in the stands and the stadium will be partly empty.
Looks like Mazzari will adopt a 3-5-1-1 formation, Ricardo Alvarez is suspended and Walter Mazzarri will most likely cope with his absence by fielding both Mateo Kovacic and Saphir Taider in midfield.
Fredy Guarin will therefore be deployed behind the lone striker, which will likely be Rodrigo Palacio.
For AC Milan, they were the first team to score at least two against Roma and showed some improvements in their organisation last week. Still, the lack of wins will push them to aim for all 3 points here.
Christian Abbiati should be back in goal after being replace by Gabriel at half time against Roma. Massimilano Allegri will have to do without playmaker Riccardo Montolivo as he is suspended. The consequence will likely be a change of lineup, from the 4-3-2-1 of the previous match to two strikers in front of Kakà. A different option would be retaining the typical 4-3-3 with Balotelli playing wide and Kakà closer to the midfield.
PREDICTION: It should be too close to call but Inter might edge this one. INTER MILAN-1 AC MILAN.
Away from Italy, we make a quick stop in Spain where VALENCIA will welcome REAL MADRID to the Mestalla.
Valencia have not had the ideal lead up to such a big game after the decided to relieve Miroslav Djukic of his post and Nico Estevez has come in his place. It remains to be seen just what effect this will have on the side and against Real Madrid.
The only worry for the new young tactician is that Ricardo Costa could miss this one after straining his hamstring last weekend.
For Real Madrid, every win is crucial now considering their position on the log in order to keep their La Liga hopes alive. They will be hungry to return to winning ways after their frustrating and controversial draw away at Osasuna.
Carlo Ancelotti will have to play Nacho at centre half given the absences of Pepe and Raphael Varane and his inexperience is something Valencia will try to exploit. Sergio Ramos, it is hoped, will be fit enough to play though there are minor doubts about his fitness. During the week there were also concerns over Cristiano Ronaldo’s fitness. but the Portuguese is available.
There has been 24 goals scored in the last four meetings between these two sides at the Mestalla – goals are certain. Valencia has been very inconsistent this year but it sure looks like Real Madrid will come out tops.
PREDICTION: VALENCIA 1-3 REAL MADRID
Over in France, Vincent Enyeama’s Lille will travel down to Paris to tackle league leaders, PSG. It’s a battle between 1st and 3rd with just four (4) points seperating both sides.
Paris Saint-Germain played a match that dragged into extra-time in midweek, so fatigue may plague a few of their players. Another news emerging from the PSG camp is that Edinson Cavani has gone to Uruguay to deal with personal issues and he may not be back in time to play. Otherwise, Laurent Blanc has a full squad to choose from.
For Lille, they did not play in midweek so they will be fresh for this game. Lille bounced back from a rare loss to Bordeaux to beat Bastia 2-1 last time out. Ryan Mendes remains sidelined as he continues to nurse a heel contusion.
John Jairo Ruiz has a hamstring niggle and could miss out. Simon Kjaer and Idrissa Gueye have not trained due to muscle injuries, but should feature.
These two teams have very talented midfields but Paris Saint-Germain should have enough in attack to slip past Lille at the Parc Des Princes.
PREDICTION: PSG 2-1 LILLE
Liverpool will climb to the top of the Barclays Premier League table if they continue their winning run against Cardiff City on Saturday and ahead of the match they were boosted by the news that leading goalscorer Luis Suarez has signed a new “long-term” deal to stay at Anfield. The two sides have only met twice in the last 50 years, each time in the League Cup, with Liverpool prevailing on both occasions.
PREDICTION: LIVERPOOL 4-1 CARDIFF CITY
Tottenham Hotspur will hope to bounce back from consecutive home defeats when they travel to Southampton on Sunday. A 5-0 defeat in the Barclays Premier League by Liverpool at White Hart Lane on Sunday led to the exit of head coach Andre Villas-Boas the following day, with his caretaker Tim Sherwood overseeing a 2-1 home loss to West Ham United in the Capital One Cup quarter-finals on Wednesday. Spurs are seventh in the English top flight but will hope to take advantage of Southampton’s poor run of form, in which they have failed to win any of their last five matches.
PREDICTION: SOUTHAMPTON 1-1 TOTTENHAM
West Ham United will head to Old Trafford in a positive mood after their midweek heroics as they look to inflict a third straight home Barclays Premier League on Manchester United.
The champions have lost their last two top-flight fixtures at Old Trafford 1-0, against Everton and Newcastle United respectively, although they won their most recent League match, coasting to a 3-0 success at Aston Villa last week.
Manager David Moyes will be concerned by the fitness of Wayne Rooney as the England striker missed Wednesday’s 2-0 win at Stoke with a groin injury and with fellow striker Robin van Persie (thigh) on the sidelines, Moyes will be counting on the former Everton man.
PREDICTION: MANCHESTER UNITED 2-1 WEST HAM UNITED
Free-scoring Manchester City will be hoping to extend their eight-match unbeaten streak when they take on Fulham at Craven Cottage. Manuel Pellegrini’s side have charged to fourth in the Barclays Premier League table on the back of a run of form that has seen them defeat European champions Bayern Munich in Germany and League leaders Arsenal. City have scored 29 goals in that run and although Sergio Aguero (calf) is sidelined for the foreseeable future, Pellegrini can still call on the likes of Edin Dzeko,Alvaro Negredo and Stevan Jovetic to play up front.
PREDICTION: FULHAM 0-2 MANCHESTER CITY