5 Soccer Matches You Shouldn't Miss This Weekend
Get the best email in soccer.
All eyes are on Spain this Saturday as Diego Godin, Atletico Madrid and the staunchest defense in Europe face Barcelona in a battle of one versus two in the Spanish table.
In England, the FA Cup resumes while league play dominates the rest of Europe and the Western Hemisphere.
Before we get to the best five matches of the weekend, I must shamefully admit that I missed all but one game last weekend (thank God for Juventus!!!). Hopefully, I have more clairvoyance this week.
1. Barcelona vs. Atletico Madrid, Saturday 10 a.m. EST beIN Sports
Barca’s goal scoring trio of Messi, Suarez and Neymar are incredible. Suarez is La Liga’s leading scorer with 18 goals, Neymar has 16 while the Brazilian leads the league with nine assists. Messi’s cumulative statistics are less impressive but he did miss two months of play…and he is still Messi.
Neymar is nursing a foot injury, but according to Barca manager Luis Enrique, he is going to play.
Atletico is impressive for other reasons. They have conceded a paltry eight goals in 21 league matches and have recorded five clean sheets in a row.
Team captain Godin along with Juanfran and Filipe Luis anchor a defensive wall in front of Slovenian youngster Jan Oblak. Keeper Oblak has started every game, leads the league with 14 clean sheets but is 16th in the league with 44 saves. Basically, the Atletico defenders rarely let the ball get passed them for Oblak to handle.
Returning to Barca, they own two of the goals conceded by Atletico after Neymar and Messi scored during their 2-1 victory in Madrid on September 12, 2015. If Barcelona matches that output on Saturday, it will fall to Antoine Griezmann to find the back of the net for Atletico’s manager Diego Simeone. Griezmann leads Madrid with 12 goals. The second highest? Yannick Ferreira-Carrasco with three.
Prediction: Messi shines and Barcelona scores two more, 2-0.
2. AC Milan v. Inter Milan, Sunday 2:45 p.m. EST, beIN Sports
The Derby della Madonnina is Sunday in Milan! The San Siro will host arguably the biggest rivalry in all of Italy as the two Milan clubs face off in a critical midseason match. Inter, who dropped points last week after an injury time goal by 10-men Carpi knotted the score at 1-1 will be looking for their first win in four league games.
Inter is level with Fiorentina at 41 points for the last Champions League spot and would love a repeat performance of the last Milan Derby that took place during the third week in September. Inter walked away with all three points that day behind a Fredy Guarin second half goal in a physical 1-0 win.
AC Milan enters the derby two points behind Roma for the last Europa League spot.
Manager Sinisa Mihajlovic will look to leading scorer Carlos Bacca to score in his third straight league match but may be tempted to turn to mercurial striker Mario Balotelli, who notched home a penalty in the mid-week to give Milan the 1-0 advantage after the first leg of the Coppa Italia semifinal. Balotelli, a former Inter player, could play but don’t expect him to start as he has only two starts (and one goal) in Serie A this season.
If you want more information on this match, a fantastic pre-match report can be found here.
Prediction: Inter handles Milan again, 1-0.
3. Tigres v. Leon, Saturday 8:00 p.m. EST, Univision Deportes
LEON!!!! Manager Juan Antonio Pizzi’s led squad has decisively won each of their first three league matches. The Emeralds have shined and have scored multiple goals in each contest.
German Cano, a recent transfer from Pachuca has found the back of the net three times in the early season. Leon will lean on Luis Montes (the other “Chapo”) to lead the squad when they travel to Monterrey to face league champions Tigres on Saturday night. Montes is a threat on any set piece but can also pick out strikers in the 18 yard box during the run of play. Watch him if you want to see how midfield should be played.
Tigres hope to have striker Andre-Pierre Gignac back after the Frenchmen missed last weekend’s 2-2 tie with Chivas due to a stomach ailment. If Gignac has yet to recover, Manager Tuca Ferretti will turn to Fernando Fernandez and lean on midfielder Javier Aquino to push the pace.
Prediction: With or without Gignac, goals aplenty (and probably at least one red card) as Tigres knocks Leon down a notch, 3-2.
4. Liverpool v. West Ham United, Saturday, 12:30 p.m. EST, Fox Sports 2
Liverpool Manager Jurgen Klopp had a good week. After surviving a 5-4 goalfest last weekend against Norwich, the Reds slid past Stoke City in the League Cup semifinals on penalties and will face Manchester City in the finals on February 28th at Wembley.
If Klopp can beat the Citizens, the Reds will celebrate their first trophy in ten years. What the German manager must protect against is his side dreaming of the podium while a tough West Ham side travels to Anfield for a fourth round FA Cup match on Saturday.
It is unclear what kind of side Klopp will field after their strenuous 120-minute affair with Stoke on Tuesday. In addition, injuries still plague Liverpool so the starting eleven could look quite unfamiliar.
West Ham manager Slaven Bilic will look to Midfielder Dimitri Payet to motor the Hammers offense.
The Frenchman Payet, just back from injury, has six goals in 15 matches but was the Man of the Match in last weekends 2-2 tie with Man City. Payet, who also leads the Iron with four assists, will look to pick out striker Enner Valencia in the box while super sub, Andy Carroll, is always an aerial threat.
Liverpool has dominated the Hammers in past FA competitions, beating them in all six meetings but West Ham has won three of the last four matches against the Reds, including both of the Prem games this season.
Prediction: Schedule the replay as the sides tie, 1-1.
5. Real Madrid v. Espanyol Sunday, 2:30 p.m. EST, beIN Sports Espanol
The time is critical for Real after dropping more points last weekend in a 1-1 tie at Real Betis.
Madrid is four points behind cross-town rival Atletico and Barcelona (Barca has played one last match, too) and will be watching the Saturday match from Nou Camp and hoping for a tie to keep those sides within striking distance.
Real Madrid must then take care of business Sunday when Espanyol pays a visit to the Spanish capital. Manager Zidane must get a win and will look to Ronaldo and crew to score bunches of goals against an Espanyol side that only has one win in their last nine league matches.
Prediction: Real finds its stride, 5-1.