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World Football: 5 Upsets to Watch for This Coming Weekend

Michael CummingsWorld Football Lead WriterDecember 29, 2016

World Football: 5 Upsets to Watch for This Coming Weekend

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    After an exciting midweek Champions League diversion, domestic leagues return to the spotlight this weekend.

    As always, some of Europe's biggest teams are at risk of falling victim to European hangovers. Some, however, are just in trouble after slow starts.

    Which teams are on upset alert this weekend? Keep reading to find out.

Liverpool vs. Manchester United

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    Details: English Premier League, Sunday, 8:30 a.m. ET (all times Eastern), Anfield

    This is a rivalry—easily England's fiercest and most famous—and that means a victory by the lesser-fancied side isn't always considered an upset.

    This season, it would be.

    Liverpool have endured a miserable start to the league campaign with two losses and two draws in the opening four games. First-year manager Brendan Rodgers and his team sit just above the relegation zone thanks only to goal difference.

    And now, big, bad Manchester United come to town.

    Last season, this fixture produced high drama after the match as Liverpool's Luis Suarez received an eight-match ban for racially abusing Manchester United's Patrice Evra.

    Liverpool, however, have a few factors working in their favor. First, the club, players and supporters are riding their emotions after a new report finally cleared Liverpool fans of any wrongdoing in the 1989 Hillsborough disaster.

    Second, United played a tough Champions League match against Galatasaray on Wednesday. United could therefore suffer from a post-European letdown.

    On the other hand, Liverpool have a Europa League match Thursday in Switzerland. So…

    Will it happen? Liverpool probably won't win—with only three goals this season on more than 70 shots, they just haven't scored enough—but a draw is certainly possible.

Udinese vs. AC Milan

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    Details: Serie A, Saturday, 9 a.m., Stadio Friuli

    When it comes to miserable starts, Liverpool have company in AC Milan. The Rossoneri—who finished second in Italy's Serie A last season—have started the current campaign with two losses and a win.

    One of those losses came last weekend at home against modest Atalanta. Milan dominated possession 64 percent to 36 and out-shot Atalanta 17-10 (including 7-4 in shots on target), but couldn't produce an equalizer after Luca Cigarini's 64th-minute strike.

    Milan manager Massimiliano Allegri is already feeling pressure, and this week's scoreless Champions League draw against Anderlecht hardly helped.

    Will it happen? Actually, probably not. Both of Milan's losses this season have come at home, and this game is in Udine. Plus, Udinese have fared just as badly this season, losing both of their matches.

    But if Antonio Di Natale can find the net…

Rayo Vallecano vs. Real Madrid

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    Details: La Liga, Sunday, 3:30 p.m., Campo de Futbol de Vallecas

    This is a Madrid derby, but that's not why it's an upset candidate. Like Liverpool and AC Milan, Real Madrid have suffered a slow start to their league campaign.

    Jose Mourinho's team has already lost twice in Spain's La Liga, both times away from home. Last weekend, Real fell behind Sevilla early and never found an equalizer in a 1-0 loss.

    This week they face Rayo Vallecano, a team that very nearly erased a four-goal deficit last week against free-scoring Atletico Madrid (Rayo lost the match 4-3).

    Will it happen? It just doesn't seem possible Mourinho will let his team fall farther behind Barcelona… right? But with that said, Real are coming off an emotionally draining 3-2 win over Manchester City in a midweek Champions League showdown.

    Can Real Madrid work up the necessary motivation again?

Schalke vs. Bayern Munich

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    Details: Bundesliga, Saturday, 9:30 a.m., Veltins-Arena

    Even if Schalke win this match, it admittedly would be a stretch to call it an upset. The Gelsenkirchen-based club are fourth in the German Bundesliga with seven points from three matches, and they're fresh off a 2-1 road victory over Olympiakos in a midweek Champions League game.

    With that said, Bayern Munich are the biggest, most famous, most historically successful club in Germany. They haven't won the league in a few years, but they've started the season by mowing down three straight opponents by a combined score of 12-1.

    This season, Bayern have realistic expectations of winning not only the Bundesliga but the Champions League as well. Their fearsome attacking options and hot start to the season make them the favorite in this match.

    Besides, if Bayern really belong in Europe's super-elite, they need to win this match.

    Will it happen? Both teams are coming off midweek Champions League matches and both have played well early in the season. Schalke's only home match this season ended in a 3-1 win over Augsburg, and last season they won 13 of their 17 home games.

    All in all, that sounds like a high-scoring draw waiting to happen.

Tottenham Hotspur vs. Queens Park Rangers

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    Details: English Premier League, Sunday, 11 a.m., White Hart Lane

    Last weekend Tottenham claimed their first Premier League victory of the new season, defeating Reading 3-1 away. This week Spurs and new manager Andre Villas-Boas return to White Hart Lane to host Queens Park Rangers in a potentially tricky London derby.

    QPR held league-leading Chelsea to a scoreless draw last weekend, a match notable in that QPR dominated the midfield. In particular, central midfielders Esteban Granero and Alejandro Faurlin are forging a strong—and improving—partnership.

    The Spurs are riding a high after winning for the first time, but they're susceptible to a letdown after playing Thursday in the Europa League.

    Will it happen? Tottenham have developed a nasty habit of conceding late goals. If QPR's midfield can keep the match scoreless until late in the second half, an upset is not only possible, it's likely.

     

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