Following an exciting Uefa champions league week, league action resumes across major centres. Like you all know, nothing beats the thrill of club football and we all cannot wait. As is our tradition on Halftimeng.com; we take a trip across Europe and take a look at THREE(3) key fixtures.
BARCELONA VS REAL MADRID
All eyes will be in Spain this weekend as the 167th El-clasico takes centre stage at the Noucamp when Barcelona files out against rivals, Real Madrid. An exciting story is the fact that the two coaches will be having their first feel of the El- clasico, Tata Marino and Carlo Ancelotti.
Barcelona will aim to beat arch-rivals Real Madrid in La Liga for the first time in almost two years in Saturday’s much-anticipated El Clasico.
The Catalan giants last won a league fixture against Real Madrid in December 2011, as they came from behind to win 3-1 in the Spanish capital.
And although Copa del Rey and Spanish Super Cup wins have since followed, Barca will be determined to end a run that has seen them take just one point from their last three league meetings with Real.
Gerardo Martino’s table-toppers are the only side to avoid defeat in La Liga this term, having recorded eight wins and one draw.
They were held to a goalless stalemate at Osasuna last week but will hope a return to the Camp Nou – where they have won their last 19 Liga matches – helps them return to winning ways.
Real Madrid sit third in La Liga, three points adrift of Barca, with their only loss of the season coming against neighbours Atletico Madrid last month.
Both sides have new stars determined to make an impact in their first Clasico – Neymar in Barca’s case, and Gareth Bale in Real’s. Brazilian Neymar has scored three goals in 13 appearances since moving from Santos and has claimed the fixture is the biggest in club football.
While much attention will focus on the impact of Neymar and Bale – the latter having returned from a back injury against Malaga on Saturday – Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi are more than likely to steal the show.
Widely regarded as the two best players on the planet, both have made an outstanding start to the current campaign, with Ronaldo’s brace in a 2-1 UEFA Champions League win over Juventus on Wednesday taking him to 15 goals from 12 appearances this season.
Four-time world player of the year Messi, meanwhile, has 12 goals in nine outings.
My Take: Going by current form, Real Madrid looks like they will be having an edge considering Barcelona’s defensive frailties. I think a score-draw will be a fair result.
CHELSEA VS MANCHESTER CITY
In England, two coaches will continue their “rivalry” from La liga, Jose Mourinho and Manuel Pellegrini when they present their teams on sunday with Chelsea hosting Manchester City at Stamford Bridge.
Jose Mourinho’s side have won all four of their top-flight games at Stamford Bridge this term, scoring 10 goals in the process.
However, 2011-12 champions City are unbeaten in their last five games in against the London club in all competitions, winning four of those encounters.
Former Real Madrid boss Mourinho avoided a touchline ban this week, but was fined by the Football Association for improper conduct during Chelsea’s 4-1 victory over Cardiff City last weekend.
Chelsea have lost just one of their eight Premier League matches so far this season – last month’s 1-0 reverse at Everton – and go into this clash having won their last four in all competitions.
This form has helped Mourinho’s side to joint second in the table, just two points behind leaders Arsenal and one better off than City.
The hosts will be boosted by the return of England left-back Ashley Cole following a rib injury, with long-term absentee Marco van Ginkel (knee) their only sidelined player.
Fernando Torres will be hoping to have done enough to keep his place in Mourinho’s starting team after scoring twice in Tuesday night’s 3-0 UEFA Champions League win at Schalke, although fellow forward Samuel Eto’o could be in line for a recall after bagging his first Chelsea goal against Cardiff.
City, meanwhile, head to Stamford Bridge on the back of a 2-1 Champions League victory against CSKA Moscow in the Russian capital on Wednesday.
That victory was overshadowed by midfielder Yaya Toure allegedly being the subject of racist abuse, and UEFA have launched an investigation into the matter.
Manuel Pellegrini’s side – who are the Premier League’s top scorers with 20 goals in eight games – have won their last three fixtures in all competitions.
City skipper Vincent Kompany is not yet available to return to the squad due to the thigh injury he picked up in the 3-1 win over Everton earlier this month, but Pellegrini has no other absences to contend with.
Argentine striker Sergio Aguero is in fine form ahead of the game, having scored five goals in his last three games.
My Take: It’s too hard to call.
UDINESE VS ROMA
In Italy, Can Roma make it 9 out of 9? I say a BIG YES; especially against an unconvincing Udinese side. The big teams have tested Roma this season already, they have lived up to expectation so Udinese shouldn’t be a worry because they just look “too good to lose”.
Roma manager Rudi Garcia says the team are fully equipped to cope with the absence of captain Francesco Totti when they travel to Udinese.
My Take: This is definitely the wrong week for Roma to fall.Nothing Udinese have done thus far suggests they’re anything more than a midtable side. Sure, that’ll change sometime after January, but for now, the Roma win is inevitable.