By NICK IUELE
Manchester United suffered a scare a week ago before disposing of a feisty Reading side a week ago and Sir Alex Ferguson surely knows that the Red Devils will need to be much better if they are going to avoid defeat on the road against arch-rival Manchester City.
Only three points separate the heated rivals and City has yet to drop a match this season. The match is at the Etihad, where City has won six and tied twice. Two of the three losses that the Red Devils have suffered so far have been on the road, so that could be a sign of things to come.
In Italy, Napoli and Inter Milan battle it out for second place in Serie A. Napoli has not lost in five matches, while Inter has only won once since downing Juventus over a month ago. The reason Inter has not dropped is the up-and-down form of Fiorentina and Lazio, but all three points at home could be a statement to the top 10 that Inter is for real.
Barcelona will try to keep their undefeated season in tact again fourth-place Real Betis. Barca’s only blemish on the season is a draw against Real Madrid on Oct. 7 and have pretty much dominated everyone else. Betis has been a surprise top five inclusion this season and it will be interesting to see how long they can hang on.
Here’s a look at this weekend’s action in Europe’s top leagues:
Everton will continue to go through the EPL gauntlet on Sunday when they host Tottenham Hotspur. The Toffees have earned hard-fought draws with Manchester City and Arsenal the past two weekends and Spurs is just another challenge for David Moyes’ side. Spurs are currently in fourth, while Everton sits on sixth, with only three points separating the clubs.
Chelsea looks to shake bad form against Sunderland on Saturday. The defending UCL champs have not won since Oct. 20 against Spurs and are coming off an bad loss to West Ham United. New boss Rafa Benitez has not had the best first couple weeks, but Sunderland is a good club to turn things around against.
Here are this weekend’s English Premier League matches:
Arsenal v West Bromwich Albion
Aston Villa v Stoke City
Southampton v Reading
Sunderland v Chelsea
Swansea City v Norwich City
Wigan Athletic v Queens Park Rangers
Manchester City v Manchester United
Everton v Tottenham Hotspur
West Ham United v Liverpool
Fulham v Newcastle United
Roma can push themselves into the Europe conversation with all three points against Fiorentina. I Lupi is in the midst of their best run of good form this term, having won four of their last five matches. Fiorentina remains in the fourth position in the table, but have settled for draw more times than not. Three points is crucial to either side.
AC Milan can continue their pursuit of the top five with a win over Torino this weekend. I Rossoneri and red-hot striker Stephan El Shaarawy have found their way after a rough start to the season, having only lost once in their last seven matches. Milan finds themselves in seventh and threatening for a further climb.
Here are this weekend’s Serie A matches:
Atalanta v Parma
AS Roma v Fiorentina
Cagliari v Chievo Verona
Palermo v Juventus
Siena v Catania
Torino v AC Milan
US Pescara v Genoa
Inter Milan v Napoli
Sampdoria v Udinese
Bologna v Lazio
Real Madrid can make up come ground on the top two with a win over Real Valladolid on Saturday. Despite being in very good form, Real is still five points back of Atletico for second place. They will need all three points and some help to inch closer.
Malaga has lost three of their last five league matches and look to turn things around against Granada this weekend. Malaga started the season off hot, but has cooled down significantly since then are just looking to hang on to the top six.
Here are this weekend’s La Liga matches:
Espanyol v Sevilla FC
Real Sociedad v Getafe
Malaga v Granada
Real Valladolid v Real Madrid
Osasuna v Valencia
Levante v Mallorca
Athletic Bilbao v Celta Vigo
Atletico Madrid v Deportivo La Coruna
Real Betis v Barcelona
Rayo Vallecano v Real Zaragoza
Title holders Borussia Dortmund have their sights set on second place and can get it with all three points over Wolfsberg on Saturday. Dortmund has found good form after somewhat of a slow start to the term, but are not performing quite well in all competitions.
Schalke can potentially move back into the top three with a win over Stutttgart. Schalke is only two points out of the final UCL automatic qualifying spot. The club has had an up-and-down few weeks, but Stuttgart should not present much of a challenge.
Here are this weekend’s Bundesliga matches:
Hamburg SV v TSG Hoffenheim
Borussia Dortmund v VfL Wolfsberg
FC Augsburg v Bayern Munich
Nurnberg v Fortuna Dusseldorf
SC Freiburg v SpVgg Greuther Furth
VfB Stuttgart v Schalke 04
Eintracht Frankfurt v Werder Bermen
Borussia Monchengladbach v Mainz
Hannover 96 v Bayer Leverkusen
Current table topper Lyon will find keeping their perch a bit difficult this weekend as they take on third-place St. Etienne. Lyon has lost and regain first place in the last couple weeks and the schedule did not exactly do them any favors with this match. Given the last couple weeks, a another shuffle at the top is almost guaranteed.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Paris-Saint Germain will try to take back first with all three points against Evian Thonon Gaillard on Saturday.
Here are this weekend’s Ligue 1 matches:
Toulouse v Bastia
Paris St.-Germain v Evian Thonon Gaillard
AS Nancy Lorraine v Valenciennes
Montpellier v AC Ajaccio
Sochaux v Lille
Stade Rennes v Brest
Troyes v Nice
Stade de Reims v Bordeaux
Marseille v Lorient
St. Etienne v Lyon