The one-month World Cup break is fast approaching. That being said, Europe’s best domestic football leagues are just getting into full season. As we head into the final days before the World Cup, let’s take a look at some of the most anticipated and exciting matches of the weekend. Many of them already have title implications.
Ligue 1 (France):
Ligue 1 boasts a Top-4 clash in its fixture list this weekend as 3rd place RC Lens visit Orange veladrome to take 4th place in Marseille.
Lens, one of the many surprises in European football after being promoted back to the top tier of French football in 2020, have lost just one game in their Ligue 1 schedule so far. A 1-0 defeat at Lille behind two weeks ago contributed to a 3-game winless streak in away games this season.
That said, the northern side have found a way to pick up points in the first third of the year, despite not scoring more than one goal in each of their last six games. Led by Florian Socota (6 goals and 2 assists in 11 games) and 22-year-old rising Belgian star Lois Openda (4 goals in 11 games), Lens will look to continue their fight for top spot in Marseille on Saturday.
Marseille go into the match looking to right the ship after losing their only two games of the Ligue 1 season back-to-back to Paris Saint Germain and AC Ajaccio.
Chile international Alexis Sanchez, who has 4 goals in 9 games played for Les Olympiens, will lead the team home.
The match will start on Saturday at 15.00.
2nd placed Bayern Munich head to the Rhein-Neckar-Arena on Saturday to face Top-4 hope TSG 1899 Hoffenheim.
Julian Nagelsmann will lead his men in another crucial Bundesliga game before the World Cup break, which could see the winner take or retain second place.
Bayern should expect to see first-choice goalkeeper Manuel Neuer fit for the first time in a few games. But they will be missing a few of their stars as Leroy Sane and Thomas Muller, two regulars at Bayern since 11, will not be in the squad as they recover from injury and illness respectively.
While those two misses will hurt Die Bayern, Sane and Muller are just two of 13 different players to have scored for their side this season, the most of any club in
For Hoffenheim, in 5th place, a win would see them move above several teams in the standings.
They will tackle this tall task still without one of their top players, Croatian forward Andrej Kramaric. As Israel international Munas Dubbar (4 goals in 9 games 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 begin at Hoffenheim, Sinsheim, Germany on Saturday at 9:30 am Eastern.
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 home teams in Europe this year. They are unbeaten at their home stadium as Los Verdiblancos will look to continue their recent success on home soil without some of the clubs biggest names.
Striker Juanmi, as well as attacking midfielders Nabil Fekir and Sergio Canales, will all miss this weekend’s game. This is not good news for Real Betis as they have already registered just one win in 19 attempts against Atletico Madrid since manager Diego Simeone took over.
Atletico Madrid are unbeaten against Betis in their last 6 games and will need to continue this run if they want to even try to stay in the title race with favorites Real Madrid.
Diego Simeone will be without several players for the match as many top first team options are ruled out through injury. Koke, Thomas Lemar and Marcos Llorente are not fit to play for the Colchoneros and the first team, world-class goalkeeper Jan Oblak could also miss out.
For Real Betis’ Spanish International Borjas Iglesias (7 goals and 2 assists in 10 La Liga games), this may be just the boost he’s looking for to continue his torrid form.
The start will take place on Sunday at 10:15.
Premier League (England):
There are two highly anticipated fixtures in England this weekend, but only one claims two teams in the Premier League’s Top-5.
5th-placed Manchester United travel to London on Saturday afternoon to face 4th-placed Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.
The two English clubs of all time are separated by just one point near the top of the table and both sides go into the game with problems within the club.
For Manchester United, Saturday’s game will be their second game in a row against a top 4 team and this time, it will be without Cristiano Ronaldo. Red Devils manager Erik Ten Hag withdrew Ronaldo from the squad almost immediately after his early exit from Wednesday’s game against Tottenham.
Meanwhile, the Blues have many top players out through injury. Defensive midfielder N’Golo Kante and defenders Reece James and Wesley Fofana will all miss the game as they look to regain fitness ahead of the World Cup in less than a month. New manager Graham Potter has decisions to make behind him as Chelsea have had far more goals expected against them than anticipated.
Even with their somewhat poor defense of late, Chelsea are unbeaten in the Premier League since a 2-1 defeat at Southampton on August 30.
That said, Chelsea are winless in their last 9 Premier League games against Man United.
The Reds of Manchester have been beaten just once in their last 8 games, which only means that Stamford Bridge will be playing for the men in blue on Saturday.
Serie A (Italy):
Italy’s top league has arguably the most important games of its season so far this Sunday.
First, on Sunday, 5th-placed Lazio will travel to Bergamo to take on 2nd-placed Atalanta.
Atalanta, who are still unbeaten in Serie A in 10 games, continued their run of form even with the absence of some of the clubs biggest names.
They were and will be without three of their top defenders, Jose Luis Palomino, Davide Zappacosta and skipper Rafael Toloi. The absence of these three paved the way for two Italian U-21 youngsters to step into the limelight. Caleb Okoli and Giorgio Scalvini were both crucial to the teams winning form.
For visiting Lazio, manager Maurizio Sarri will be without top scorer Ciro Immobile, who scored 6 goals in 10 games before picking up an injury. It will be a joint effort to try to fill the hole it leaves.
And while Atalanta have just one defeat against Lazio in their last 10 games, Atalanta manager Gian Piero Gasparini has conceded more goals at Lazio than any other Serie A team since he was appointed. We will see if this trend continues in Sunday’s game.
The second match in Sunday’s highly anticipated fixture is Napoli and Roma.
First place and still unbeaten SSC Napoli will travel to Rome Stadio Olimpico to face 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 who do not reside in northern Italy.
Visitors Napoli have won 10 consecutive matches in all competitions and look to be one of the best clubs in the world at the moment. The Blues (of Italy) will travel with an almost fully fit squad after top striker Nigeria 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 Georgia international has 13 goal contributions in a total of 14 games this campaign.
For Mourinho’s Roma, a win against Napoli on Sunday would end a 12-game losing streak at home against teams in Italy’s top four.
Roma will once again be missing for this match as the likes of Paulo Dybala, Zeki Celik, Marash Kumbulla and Georginio Wijnaldum will all miss the game.
Kickoff will take place on Sunday at 2:45 Eastern.
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