5 World Football Games to Watch This Weekend
With Europe's top leagues all back in action and the January transfer window blown open to eternal possibilities, there will be no shortage of storylines to watch for this weekend.
The Bundesliga returns with Bayern Munich having achieved the coup of securing Pep Guardiola as their manager-in-waiting. Will Guardiola dare to show his face? Will his future Bayern players begin staking their claim?
In Italy, Napoli have moved closer to the top without playing—their two-point deduction for alleged match-fixing having been overturned (full report: Fox). Are they are genuine title threat? Or are we about to see a show of strength from reigning champions Juventus?
The game of the weekend in France will feature everybody's favorite ponytailed assassin, Zlatan Ibrahimovic. His Paris Saint-Germain team desperately need three points to stay in touch with Ligue 1 leaders Lyon.
In Spain, Real Madrid and Valencia will meet for the second of three meetings in the space of eight days, while the game of the weekend in England is arguably the clash of two London sides with a point to prove.
Here are my five games to watch this weekend.
5. Bayern Munich vs. Greuther Furth
When: Saturday, 9.30 a.m. ET
Where to watch in the U.S.: Gol TV USA
The Bundesliga is back from its winter break and, having agreed a deal with Pep Guardiola to take over from Jupp Heynckes in July, leaders Bayern Munich are the focus of the football world.
Bayern should have no trouble putting away bottom club Greuther Furth, who they beat 3-0 away in August. They haven't lost since October and went into the break nine points clear at the top of the table.
This one will be one-sided, but Bayern running riot has been a joy to watch this season and the added layer of Guardiola's pending arrival makes this one an intriguing proposition.
4. Bordeaux vs. PSG
When: Sunday, 3 p.m. ET
Where to watch in the U.S.: beIN Sport USA (delayed at 11.30 p.m. ET)
PSG were held to a 0-0 draw by Bordeaux when these teams met in August. That simply won't do this time around for Carlo Ancelotti's men, who are two points back from Lyon at the top of Ligue 1 and have Marseille breathing down their neck.
PSG need three points, but it won't be easy. Bordeaux haven't lost at home in the league since March last year and have only conceded once in their last five Ligue 1 games.
Last time out, PSG were held 0-0 at home by lowly Ajaccio, after losing Thiago Motta to a red card. The pressure is on for the cash-rich capital club of French football to make a statement of intent this weekend.
Thank goodness Zlatan Ibrahimovic has been working on his golazos in training (101 Great Goals).
3. Valencia vs. Real Madrid
When: Sunday, 3 p.m. ET
Where to watch in the U.S.: beIN Sport
Real Madrid's La Liga trip to Valencia is sandwiched between the two legs of their Copa del Rey quarterfinal, so these teams are about to get really familiar.
The first of three meetings in eight days went to Madrid, who won 2-0 at the Bernabeu but survived plenty of good chances for the visitors, who have won four of their last five in the league.
Valencia will be at home on Sunday and looking to striker Roberto Soldado to make up for his misses in midweek and heap further pain on Madrid. Jose Mourinho's team were held to a goalless draw by Osasuna in their last Liga match and can barely afford another slip if they are to avoid the embarrassment of finishing behind both Barcelona and Atletico this season.
Defeat is unthinkable for Madrid. Valencia will fully believe they make it happen.
2. Juventus vs. Udinese
When: Saturday, 2.45 p.m. ET
Where to watch in the U.S.: beIN Sport USA
Udinese and Antonio Di Natale are on a roll. The striker has scored four goals in his last two games and seen his team to wins against Inter Milan and Fiorentina.
Juventus, meanwhile, have taken just one point from their last two Serie A matches—suffering a home loss to Sampdoria and being held to a 1-1 draw at Parma. Their lead at the top of Serie A has been cut to three points, and both Napoli and Lazio will fancy their chances of applying more pressure with wins at the weekend.
Juve need a win, but there's every reason to believe this game won't be as straightforward as their 4-1 victory at Udinese in September.
1. Chelsea vs. Arsenal
When: Sunday, 8.30 a.m. ET
Where to watch in the U.S.: Fox Soccer
Chelsea's home form under Rafa Benitez has not been pretty. The Blues failed to score and were beaten by both QPR and Swansea under Benitez at Stamford Bridge, with their most recent disappointment coming in a 2-2 draw against lowly Southampton midweek.
Benitez is struggling to win over the fans and has been unable to consistently get the best out of the vast riches at his disposal. He desperately needs to turn things around and Sunday's meeting with London rivals Arsenal is the perfect opportunity to start.
Arsenal will come buoyed by memories of their 5-3 win at Stamford Bridge last season. Arsene Wenger's team are unbeaten in their last five Premier League away games, but their frail confidence was not helped by the manner in which Manchester City overpowered them at the Emirates recently.
Chelsea's January signing Demba Ba is looking a bargain at £7 million and has already scored twice against Arsenal in the colours of Newcastle this season (albeit in a 7-3 loss). Arsenal will need to be at their very best defensively to stop him.
The pressure is on both teams to perform. Expect goals and expect controversy.