By JUSTIN FERGUSON
When fourth-place Manchester City hosts first-place Arsenal this Saturday, something will have to give.
Manchester City has been devastating at home this season, sporting a perfect 7-0-0 record while outscoring opponents 29-2. The Citizens, coming off a 3-2 comeback victory against defending champions of Europe Bayern Munich, have scored 16 of those goals in their last three league matches at Ethiad Stadium and kept clean sheets in each of those matches. The league’s highest-scoring offense will be led by forward Sergio Aguero, who has scored in 10 of his last 12 appearances for Man City across all competitions.
On the other side, Arsenal will enter the Ethiad with the league’s top defense in goals allowed and the best record away from home. Arsenal has only allowed 11 goals in league play and has not lost an EPL road match since the opening day of the season. The Gunners will have to overcome the disappointment of their 2-0 loss at Napoli earlier this week and try to maintain their five-point lead before third-place Chelsea visits next weekend.
Another high-profile clash this weekend takes place in Barcelona, where the defending La Liga champions host fifth-place Villarreal, which has been a tough matchup for top teams in their triumphant return to Spain’s first division. Barcelona has rebounded from back-to-back losses to Ajax and Athletic Bilbao with a pair of blowout victories, the latest a 6-1 rout of Celtic that featured Neymar’s first hat trick with the club. Villarreal will look to become the first league team this season to take a point away from Barcelona at Camp Nou and stay in the hunt for a coveted Top-4 spot.
Here is a closer look at the weekend’s action from the top leagues in Europe:
Sunday’s top match in the EPL will be sixth-place Tottenham Hotspur’s meeting with second-place Liverpool at White Hart Lane. Both teams have posted back-to-back wins in league play, but Liverpool will be looking to end some road woes as it hasn’t won away from Anfield in its last four road trips. The Reds will be looking for more magic from in-form striker Luis Suarez, who scored six goals in Liverpool’s previous two home wins, against one of the league’s stingiest defenses.
After last weekend’s shocking road loss at Stoke City, third-place Chelsea returns to the fortress at Stamford Bridge to take on 19th-place Crystal Palace, winners of three of their last four matches. Palace’s defense has been rock solid in recent weeks, but Chelsea boasts the third-best scoring offense in the league and an undefeated record at home. Unlike fellow newcomers Hull City and Cardiff City, Crystal Palace has not yet had its first big upset of the season, but it will be an extremely tough task to knock off Jose Mourinho’s squad at the Bridge and get that victory.
Here are this weekend’s matches in the English Premier League:
Manchester City vs. Arsenal
Cardiff City vs. West Bromwich Albion
Chelsea vs. Crystal Palace
Everton vs. Fulham
Newcastle United vs. Southampton
West Ham United vs. Sunderland
Hull City vs. Stoke City
Aston Villa vs. Manchester United
Norwich City vs. Swansea City
Tottenham Hotspur vs. Liverpool
Second-place Atletico Madrid will put its perfect home record on the line this weekend when ninth-place Valencia comes to visit. Not only have opponents found it difficult to get a result at the Vicente Calderon this season, they have had a hard time even finding the back of the net as Atletico’s defense has not allowed a goal at home since a 2-1 win against Celta Vigo on Oct. 6. Valencia is starting to get back into form in La Liga play, and will hope to follow up a Europa League win against Kuban Krasnodar with a result at one of the toughest places to play in Europe this season.
Third-place Real Madrid has been on a tear since an October loss to rivals Barcelona, and hits the road this weekend in search of another victory. Madrid’s opponents, 16th-place Osasuna, held Barcelona to a scoreless draw at the Estadio El Sadar, and Real will be looking to move past its 0-0 Copa del Rey result with third-tier Olimpic last weekend — a fixture that will be replayed at the Bernabeu next week. With both Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale healthy and in goal-scoring form, Los Blancos will have a great chance at ending their three-match road trip with a victory.
Here are this weekend’s matches in La Liga:
Levante vs. Elche
Osasuna vs. Real Madrid
Rayo Vallecano vs. Granada
Barcelona vs. Villarreal
Malaga vs. Getafe
Almeria vs. Espanyol
Real Sociedad vs. Real Betis
Sevilla vs. Athletic Bilbao
Atletico Madrid vs. Valencia
Bayern Munich’s lengthy unbeaten run came to an end after blowing a two-goal lead to Manchester City earlier this week, and the defending champions will look to start a new streak against struggling Hamburg. Before losing to Man City, league-leading Bayern was riding high, outscoring its previous five opponents 17-1. Bayern will look to have similar offensive success against 13th-place Hamburg, which have allowed 13 goals against the three remaining teams in the league’s top four and the third-most goals in the Bundesliga this season.
Since a devastating 5-0 home loss to Manchester United two weeks ago, Bayer Leverkusen has strung together four consecutive wins, enough to push it into second place in the Bundesliga and the knockout stage of the Champions League. This weekend, Leverkusen hosts Eintracht Frankfurt, a Europa League-qualifying team from last season that has not won in 10 straight Bundesliga matches this season. Leverkusen is unbeaten in league matches at the BayArena this season, and another win this weekend could create a greater distance between themselves and the Borussia clubs.
Here are this weekend’s matches in the Bundesliga:
Hertha Berlin vs. Werder Bremen
Bayern Munich vs. Hamburg
Augsburg vs. Eintracht Braunschweig
Hannover 96 vs. Nurnberg
Mainz vs. Borussia Monchengladbach
Hoffenheim vs. Borussia Dortmund
Wolfsburg vs. Stuttgart
Schalke 04 vs. Freiburg
Bayer Leverkusen vs. Eintracht Frankfurt
The weekend’s top matchup in Italy will pit two of the most high-powered offenses in Serie A — third-place Napoli and fourth-place Inter Milan. Although they did not qualify for the Champions League knockout round, Napoli defeated EPL-leading Arsenal 2-0 at home Wednesday and have a +11 goal differential at the San Paolo this season. Inter, looking for extra momentum ahead of next weekend’s Milan Derby against its struggling city rivals, is on an eight-match unbeaten run in Serie A play, but five of those matches have ended in draws.
First-place Juventus is out of the Champions League following a snow-delayed loss to Galatasaray, but must overcome the disappointment this weekend against 17th-place Sassuolo. While Sassuolo sits just above the drop zone in Serie A, they have not been easy competition away from home this season and will enter Juventus Stadium on a four-match unbeaten road run. But Juve has not allowed a goal in seven straight Serie A matches and sports a perfect 7-0-0 record at home this season, making this trip the toughest one yet for league newcomers Sassuolo.
Here are this weekend’s matches in Serie A:
Catania vs. Hellas Verona
Juventus vs. Sassuolo
Chievo Verona vs. Sampdoria
Fiorentina vs. Bologna
Genoa vs. Atalanta
Lazio vs. Livorno
Parma vs. Cagliari
Udinese vs. Torino
Napoli vs. Inter Milan
First-place Paris Saint-Germain hits the road this weekend to take on Stade Rennes, currently on a four-match unbeaten streak at home. PSG failed to go through the Champions League group stage without a loss, but their ticket to the final 16 was punched before their 2-1 loss at Benfica. However, the defending champions would love to get all three points this weekend at Stade Rennes before next weekend’s home matchup with a tough third-place Lille squad.
AS Monaco is back into second place in Ligue 1, and will look to keep it that way following a trip to ninth-place Guingamp. Five of Guingamp’s six victories this season have come at Stade Municipal de Roudourou, but their last home match was a 1-0 loss to Bordeaux. After a brief slide in form, Monaco has stormed back to within two points of Paris Saint-Germain with four consecutive shutout victories.
Here are this weekend’s matches in Ligue 1:
Montpellier vs. Saint Etienne
Stade Rennes vs. Paris Saint-Germain
Ajaccio vs. Lorient
Evian Thonon Gaillard vs. Stade de Reims
Guingamp vs. AS Monaco
Nantes vs. Toulouse
Nice vs. Sochaux
Bordeaux vs. Valenciennes
Lille vs. Bastia
Lyon vs. Marseille
Which European matches are you looking forward to the most this weekend? Which side do you see prevailing in the Manchester City-Arsenal match? Think Villarreal can get a result at Camp Nou? See any potential upsets?
Share your thoughts below.