Premier League (England)
It’s Match Week 12 in England, just about a third of the way into the season. The two Manchester clubs remain atop the table, but our main focus this weekend goes south to London where it’s another edition of the North London Derby to get things started on Saturday. Tottenham travels to The Emirates to take on their bitter rivals, with the clubs sitting third and sixth in the table respectively. Let’s look at all the matches that caught our eye this weekend, including table-leaders City visiting Leicester:
Arsenal vs. Tottenham: It was a lackluster run of form going into the last international break for Arsenal, whose fans saw an unconvincing draw in the Europa League and a 1-3 loss to City. The Jekyll & Hyde season continues for Arsene Wenger’s Gunners, and the first test coming out of the break is no picnic. They welcome their North London rivals Tottenham to The Emirates with the first kickoff of the day Saturday. Spurs have won four of their last five league matches, conceding only twice in that span. Spurs striker Harry Kane has scored in every match he’s played against Arsenal in the league, though both he and Dele Alli will have to brush aside concerns over some lingering injury woes to see the pitch. For Arsenal, Mesut Özil, Alexis Sánchez, and Alexandre Lacazette should all feature.
Leicester City vs. Manchester City: The positive for Leicester is that they have taken points from their last five matches in all competitions, including two wins in the league. Further good news is that they find themselves at home this Saturday. The bad news is that they welcome perhaps the deadliest-looking team in world football at the moment to the King Power Stadium in the form of Manchester City. Pep Guardiola’s men visit Leicester having won 15 straight matches in all competitions. City have more than double Leicester’s goal output and have only conceded seven in the league, their Achilles heel last season. Sergio Agüero, Raheem Sterling, veteran Fernandinho, and others will give Leicester all it can handle.
Manchester United vs. Newcastle: Mighty Manchester United have been treading water amid a slew of injury problems, but expect to see some pivotal players return when they welcome Newcastle United to Old Trafford. Chief among them is Paul Pogba, who hasn’t played since September 9 and will serve as a key reinforcement to a United midfield that has been lacking since his injury. Zlatan Ibrahimovic also makes his triumphant return from last season’s ligament tear. However, Ibra will likely begin on the bench behind striker Romelu Lukaku, who hasn’t scored an EPL goal since September after opening with seven in his first seven matches. The Red Devils still sit second in the table, but a loss along with wins from Spurs and Chelsea would see them drop to fourth. As for Newcastle, losers of two straight, they desperately need to string points together if they hope to avoid another relegation battle.
La Liga (Spain)
Leganes vs. Barcelona: Manager Ernesto Valverde has FC Barcelona stomping through La Liga after falling flat in their league title pursuit last season, and the train rolls through to face Leganes at the weekend. Barca have only dropped two points through eleven matches in league play, four points ahead of second-placed Valencia and perhaps most importantly, a comfortable eight points clear of Real Madrid. Lionel Messi has been at his best; his 12 league goals are three more than any other La Liga player and nine more than any teammate. Leganes have begun their second-ever season in top flight football brilliantly, coming into this matchup in ninth place with 17 points. But getting anything out of their hosting of the Spanish giants would be pretty miraculous.
Atlético Madrid vs. Real Madrid: Probably the most pivotal match of the entire European slate this weekend takes place in Madrid, as Atlético and Real clash in a Madrid Derby that features massive implications both ways. The clubs are tied in the table with 23 points apiece, and a potential loser from this bout could slip eleven points below league-leading Barcelona before the match day concludes. Grabbing three points in a hostile environment is a must for Real Madrid, who have lost two out of three in all competitions coming in and will hope that the international break gives Cristiano Ronaldo a chance to get going after he’s slotted just one league goal this season. Stars on both sides of the pitch, Antoine Griezmann for Atlético and Gareth Bale for Real, will have to plug their ears to incessant transfer rumors and find a way to make a winning contribution.
Serie A (Italy)
Roma vs. Lazio: AS Roma will be the de facto home team on Saturday, but there will be no clear advantage for either side in the Stadio Olimpico in Rome for the first edition of this season’s derby della Capitale or Rome derby. One of the fiercest local derbies in football, Rome’s two major clubs clashing always means an intense affair, and for this edition, they sit a mere point apart in the table, in fourth and fifth respectively. Roma have won four straight in the league and five straight overall in all competitions, including a 3-0 thrashing of Chelsea in the Champions League. Lazio have won five straight in the league, including over reigning champions Juventus a month ago. Only Napoli and Juventus have scored more goals than Lazio, while no Serie A club has allowed fewer than Roma’s seven. Saturday’s match has all the ingredients for a memorable affair in Rome.