The month-long break for the World Cup is fastly approaching. With that said, Europe’s top domestic soccer leagues are just getting into the thick of their season. As we move into the final few matchday’s before the World Cup, let’s take a look at some of the most anticipated and intriguing matchups of the weekend. Many of which, already hold title implications.
Ligue 1 (France):
Ligue 1 boasts a Top-4 matchup on its match schedule this weekend as 3rd place RC Lens visits the Orange Veladrome to take on 4th placed Marseille.
Lens, one of the many surprises in European soccer after being promoted back to the highest level of French football in 2020, have only lost one match through their Ligue 1 schedule thus far. A 1-0 loss to Lille two weeks ago contributed to their 3 game winless streak in away matches this season.
With that said, the northern side have found a way to earn points through the first third of the year despite not scoring more than one goal in each of their last six matches. Led by Florian Socota (6 goals and 2 assists through 11 games) and 22 year old budding Belgian star, Lois Openda (4 goals through 11 games), Lens will look to continue to fight for the top of the table in Marseille on Saturday.
Marseille enters the fixture looking to right the ship after losing their only two matches of the Ligue 1 season, consecutively, to Paris Saint Germain and AC Ajaccio.
Chilean International Alexis Sanchez, who has 4 goals in 9 games played for Les Olympiens, will lead the charge at home.
The match will kickoff at 3pm est on Saturday.
2nd place Bayern Munich heads to Rhein-Neckar-Arena on Saturday to take on Top-4 hopefuls, TSG 1899 Hoffenheim.
Julian Nagelsmann will lead his men into yet another crucial Bundesliga matchup before the World Cup break that could see the winner take or keep hold of second place.
Bayern should expect to see first-choice Goalkeeper Manuel Neuer fit to play for the first time in a few matches. But they will have a couple of their stars missing as Leroy Sane and Thomas Muller, two regulars in Bayern starting 11, will not be in the squad as they recover from injury and illness, respectively.
Although these two missing out will hurt Die Bayern, Sane and Muller are just two of the 13 different players who have scored for their side this season, the highest number of any club in
For 5th placed Hoffenheim, a win would see them leapfrog multiple teams in the standings.
They will approach this tall task still without one of their top players, Croatian striker Andrej Kramaric. As Israeli International Munas Dubbar (4 goals in 9 game played) will look to continue his good form, while the hosts welcome back the only gaffer to ever lead them to a Champions League appearance, now- Bayern manager Julian Nagelsmann.
The game will kickoff from Hoffenheim, Sinsheim, Germany, Saturday at 9:30 am est.
La Liga (Spain):
Estadio Benito Villamarin and 5th placed Real Betis welcome 4th placed Atletico Madrid to Seville, Spain on Sunday.
Real Betis have been one of the most impressive teams at home in Europe this year. They are undefeated in their stadium as Los Verdiblancos will look to continue their recent home success without some of the clubs top names.
Striker Juanmi, as well as attacking midfielders, Nabil Fekir and Sergio Canales, will all miss out on this weekend’s fixture. This is not good news for Real Betis as they already post only 1 win in 19 tries against Atletico Madrid since Manager Diego Simeone took over the red and white.
Atletico Madrid is unbeaten against Betis in their last 6 matchups and will need to continue this record if they wish to at least try to stay in the title race with favorites Real Madrid.
Diego Simeone will be without multiple players for the matchup as many top first team options are sidelined with injury. Koke, Thomas Lemar and Marcos Llorente are all unfit to play for Colchoneros and first team, world class keeper Jan Oblak may miss out as well.
For Real Betis’ Spanish International Borjas Iglesias (7 goals and 2 assists through 10 La Liga games), this may be just the boost he is looking for to continue his fiery form.
Kickoff will be at 10:15 am est on Sunday.
Premier League (England):
There are two highly-anticipated fixtures in England this weekend, but only one claims two teams in the Top-5 of the Premier League Standings.
5th placed Manchester United will head to London Saturday afternoon to take on 4th placed Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.
The two all time English clubs are separated by just one point near the top of the table and both sides are entering the matchup with problems inside the club.
For Manchester United, Saturday’s fixture will be their second straight matchup against a top-4 team and this time, it will be without Cristiano Ronaldo. The Red Devils manager, Erik Ten Hag, cut Ronaldo from the squad almost immediately following his early exit from Wednesday’s match against Tottenham.
Meanwhile, the Blues have many top choice players out due to injury. Defensive midfielder N’Golo Kante, and Defenders Reece James and Wesley Fofana will all miss the fixture as they look to regain fitness before the World Cup in less than a month. New manager Graham Potter has decisions to make in his backline as Chelsea have had much larger goals expected against them than anticipated.
Even with their somewhat underperforming defense as of late, Chelsea has not been defeated in the Premier League since a 2-1 defeat to Southampton on August 30th.
With that said, Chelsea are winless in their last 9 premier league fixtures against Man United.
Manchester’s Red men have only been defeated one time in their previous 8 matches, which can only mean Stamford Bridge will be rocking for the men in blue on Saturday.
Serie A (Italy):
The top Italian league undoubtedly has the most important fixtures of its season thus far, this Sunday.
Firstly, on Sunday we will see 5th place Lazio travel to Bergamo to take on 2nd place Atalanta.
Atalanta who is still unbeaten in Serie A through 10 games, has continued its peak even with the absence of some of the clubs biggest names.
They have been and will continue to be without three of their top defenders, Jose Luis Palomino, Davide Zappacosta and skipper Rafael Toloi. The absence of these three have cleared the path for two young Italy U-21ers to step into the spotlight. Caleb Okoli and Giorgio Scalvini have both been crucial to the teams winning form.
For the visiting Lazio, manager Maurizio Sarri will be without his top-scorer Ciro Immobile, who had 6 goals in 10 games before picking up an injury. It will be a joint effort to try and fill the hole that he leaves.
And, while Atlanta has only one defeat to Lazio in its last 10 matches, Atalanta manager Gian Piero Gasparini has conceded more goals to Lazio than any other Serie A side since being appointed. We will see if this trend continues into Sunday’s fixture.
The second matchup of the highly-anticipated Sunday slate is Napoli and Roma.
The first place and still unbeaten SSC Napoli will travel to Rome’s Stadio Olimpico to take on Jose Mourinho’s Roma in the “Derby del Sole”.
The “Southern Derby” as it is also known, highlights the two top teams in Serie A that do not reside in Northern Italy.
Visiting Napoli have won 10 straight games in all competitions and appear to be one of the top clubs in the world at the moment. The Blues (of Italy) will travel with an almost fully fit squad after top-striker, Nigerian-international Victor Osimhen, returns from injury.
Osimhen is expected to start in attack alongside Lautaro Martinez and one of the brightest names in world football at the moment, Khvicha Kvaratskhelia. The 21 year old Georgian-international has 13 goal contributions through 14 total games this campaign.
For Mourinho’s Roma, a win against Napoli Sunday would snap a 12 game home losing streak against top-four placed teams in Italy.
Roma will be short-handed again for this fixture as the likes of Paulo Dybala, Zeki Celik, Marash Kumbulla and Georginio Wijnaldum will all miss out on the match.
Kickoff will be at 2:45 est on Sunday.
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