International football might have been the talk of the town for the past two weeks, but domestic action is once again set to grace football's stage this weekend.
And what a weekend it promises to be!
From the Premier League to the Bundesliga and right across Europe, all the big-name players and teams will be in action as they look to consolidate their domestic seasons. They'll be keeping one eye on their UEFA Champions League matches scheduled in the middle of next week, but they'll also be desperate to pick up the points on offer and keep the hunt for their respective titles alive.
Read on for a full breakdown of the top matches across Europe's five major leagues this weekend, including all the need-to-know details and predictions.
|English Premier League|
|Manchester United vs. Southampton||Saturday, October 19||3 p.m. BST|
|Aston Villa vs. Tottenham Hotspur||Sunday, October 20||4 p.m. BST|
|Spanish La Liga|
|Espanyol vs. Atletico Madrid||Saturday, October 19||9 p.m. BST|
|Italian Serie A|
|AS Roma vs. SSC Napoli||Friday, October 18||7:45 p.m. BST|
|Fiorentina vs. Juventus||Sunday, October 20||2 p.m. BST|
|Borussia Dortmund vs. Hannover 96||Saturday, October 19||2:30 p.m. BST|
|Hertha BSC vs. Borussia Moenchengladbach||Saturday, October 19||5:30 p.m. BST|
|French Ligue 1|
|OGC Nice vs. Olympique Marseille||Friday, October 18||7:30 p.m. BST|
(Note: Full fixtures list, dates and times provided via BBC Sport)
Saturday, October 19, 3 p.m. BST at Old Trafford
Few would have expected that after seven weeks of the English Premier League, Manchester United would have lost three times the number of games that Southampton had. Perhaps that's a testament to the harsh draw that the Red Devils have had, but it's also highlighted their inability to win close games—a hallmark of their title-winning season last year and something that they dearly miss this year.
The fourth-place Saints have been solid this year, and the biggest question remains as to whether they can play as well on the road as they have at home.
Bleacher Report's Nick Miller highlighted in his most recent column that such a task might be a tall order at Old Trafford, but given the talent they have on hand and the solid performances they've delivered this season, Southampton are certainly stronger than is perhaps recognised.
With a potentially incredibly potent attacking lineup along with a strong defence, solidified by the summer recruitment of Dejan Lovren, Pochettino's side look like they will not only avoid relegation with some ease but could push on further. While it's obviously unlikely they will maintain their current fourth-place form, a top-10 finish looks not only likely but possible.
United obviously have plenty of firepower—even just in youngster Adnan Januzaj—but they'll meet their match in the Saints, who have only conceded two goals all season. Still, even with that and the pressure on them at the moment, I think the defending champions should come out strong here and show exactly why they cannot be dismissed in the title race this season despite being ninth now.
David Moyes' men have only won one home game this year, and that came against lowly Crystal Palace. They'll be keen to make it two here, and they should have too much through the middle for the Saints to handle—even with their defense doing everything they can to keep another clean sheet.
Prediction: Manchester United 2-1 Southampton
Sunday, October 20, 4 p.m. BST at Villa Park
On paper, traveling to Aston Villa might not seem like the hardest fixture this season, but it's one that's certainly capable of causing several teams a bit of trouble.
Villa already have Arsenal away and Manchester City home as scalps this season, and they will be looking to add Tottenham to the list this week. The sixth-place side hasn't won in their last two Premier League games, but they'll be boosted by the fact that they've only conceded one goal on the road all year.
Christian Benteke's probable return off the bench will be a huge boost for Paul Lambert's side as they seek to topple Spurs' defense, but you've got to wonder if they have the firepower required.
West Ham brought Tottenham down last week with a dominant showing in midfield, but Villa don't quite have the same talent and tenacity in that area of the field. They certainly have the counterattacking strength, but do they have the solidity and patience required to hold out Spurs?
That still remains to be seen, but I'm not sure that they do. I think Tottenham will grab the lead early and then look to play Villa out of the fixture, with a couple of late goals adding some spice to the scoreline but not doing anything to affect the final result of this one.
Prediction: Aston Villa 1-2 Tottenham Hotspur
Saturday, October 19, 9 p.m. BST at Estadi Cornella-El Prat
Espanyol surprised many teams this year with their strong start—going undefeated in their first four fixtures and registering home wins over Valencia and Athletic Bilbao. Since then, though, the eighth-place club has lost its last three games (including a poor 2-1 loss to Elche last week) and will be desperately looking to bounce back with a strong performance in front of their home fans.
However, Atletico Madrid isn't exactly the team to try and bounce back against. The second-place club (on goal differential) has won an incredible eight from eight this year and will certainly fancy their chances at making it nine from nine.
In attack, Diego Costa and Koke have formed a fabulous relationship that oozes confidence all the way to their back four. That confidence allowed Thibaut Courtois to recently state, via Goal, that he felt he was "among the five best goalkeepers in the world," and he'll surely look to prove that in this fixture.
Look for the away team to frustrate their opponents by not allowing them any real attacking chances and then punishing them in the second half to take all three points.
Prediction: Espanyol 0-2 Atletico Madrid
Friday, October 18, 7:45 p.m. BST at Stadio Olimpico
Without doubt, the biggest fixture across Europe's major leagues comes from Italy this weekend, where two undefeated teams in Roma and Napoli will do battle. The home team is top with 21 points, while Napoli are second on goal differential over Juventus.
Few expected Roma—having sold the likes of Erik Lamela over the summer window—to be as competitive as they have been so far, yet they have proven everyone wrong. Roma have won all seven of their Serie A games to date and have done so with just one goal against.
Given that they've scored 20 at the other end, that is a staggering number, and it's one that Bleacher Report's Matteo Bonetti thinks could be the start of a very impressive season indeed—labeling Roma as a genuine Scudetto contender in Serie A this year.
Napoli have won six from seven with a draw, but they are a perfect 3-for-3 on the road this year. They've conceded just three goals away from home this season, and with a commanding victory over Milan at the San Siro still fresh in their minds, they'll certainly fancy their chances at getting the job done here and extending their unbeaten domestic streak.
Breaking apart these two teams isn't easy, and perhaps there's something in that. Both have shown proficiency in all areas of the field this season and have richly talented squads to choose from—lending all signs to point to the points being shared in this top-of-the-table clash.
A result that neither will mind all too much.
Prediction: AS Roma 1-1 Napoli
Sunday, October 20, 2 p.m. BST at Stadio Artemio Franchi
Fiorentina started out with such promise this season, but were seemingly undone by the injury to former Bayern Munich striker Mario Gomez—leaving them vulnerable in attack and without the X-factor that they so desperately need. It's little surprise, really, that Fiorentina have only won one of their last five domestic fixtures while picking up just two points in their last two home games.
Yet despite the problems for Fiorentina, there's still a great array of talent at the sixth-place club, and their recent 0-0 draw away from home with Lazio will give them great confidence.
Confidence that they'll most certainly need if they're to beat Juventus.
The Old Lady hasn't been as cohesive and clinical as they were last season, but slowly they are starting to hit their straps. A huge 3-2 win at home over AC Milan on October 6 confirmed that they are definitely capable of defending their Italian crown this year, but they will know they need to win games like this to do so.
Juve were very good against the top teams in Italy last year, and as they've shown similar signs again this year, you'd back them to get the job done against Fiorentina. Playing on the road (where they've scored substantially fewer goals this year) won't be easy, but given that the home team have scored just five times this year in front of their home fans, Juventus should have enough to get the three points here.
Prediction: Fiorentina 0-1 Juventus
Saturday, October 19, 2:30 p.m. BST at Westfalenstadion
Changing pace to Germany: An intriguing fixture pops up between European giants Borussia Dortmund and Hannover 96.
Playing at home and in the form that they're in, many would simply assume Dortmund to take complete control of this one and chalk up a thumping victory over their opponents, and you'd have to think that such a result is likely to be forthcoming.
Second-place Dortmund have won all four of their domestic games at the Westfalenstadion this year, scoring 14 goals and conceding just three. Fifth-place Hannover have lost all three of their road games. They haven't scored a single goal away from home, but they have conceded seven.
The difference could not be greater.
Some might have thought that Dortmund—like many other European teams—could be exposed this weekend given that they have Champions League commitments ahead. In the case here, the thinking that Dortmund (wanting to focus on beating Arsenal on Tuesday) may rest a lot of players.
Yet even if Jurgen Klopp does do that, it's hard to see them doing anything other than thrashing Hannover here. Dortmund have great depth, and Hannover don't travel well.
Prediction: Borussia Dortmund 4-0 Hannover 96
Saturday, October 19, 5:30 p.m. BST at Olympic Stadium
Borussia Moenchengladbach will travel to the nation's capital this weekend to take on Hertha BSC in a match that many might not give them all that much hope of winning. After all, they haven't won in any of their four road Bundesliga games this year, and Hertha Berlin are 3-1 at home this season.
However, fourth-place Moenchengladbach have been deceptively strong in all four of those results, and it's worth noting as well that those games came against good teams.
Bayern Munich. Bayer Leverkusen. Hoffenheim. Augsburg.
Other than a road game to Hannover (where they drew 1-1), Hertha Berlin have yet to be tested this year. They've played a number of poor teams, and that's helped them get up to sixth on the Bundesliga ladder. However, it's also partly led to them being overrated in the minds of many as to just how strong they are this year, and I think they might just come crashing down to earth this weekend.
Moenchengladbach are undefeated in their last three games and are fresh off an incredible 2-0 victory over Borussia Dortmund.
Prediction: Hertha BSC 1-3 Borussia Moenchengladbach
Friday, October 18, 7:30 p.m. BST at Allianz Riviera
Having started the season in relatively sound form, OGC Nice have seemingly struggled to find their way in recent weeks. The sixth-place side suffered defeats to Nantes and Toulouse in the past three weeks, but with a home record that still shows they're undefeated, things won't be easy for fourth-place Marseille this weekend.
Marseille were beaten 2-1 by Paris Saint-Germain in their most recent match—they were perhaps unlucky not to take a point away from that fixture. They suffered a similar scoreline in their home loss to AS Monaco, but Nice similarly have an away record that says they, too, are undefeated.
The question is whether Marseille can show the same solidity against top-class opposition on the road as they have against the likes of Lorient and Bastia this year.
At home, Nice have only conceded three goals this year, while Marseille have only conceded two on the road. As a result, it's hard to see the goals flowing in this one, and I think we're likely to see a pretty tight and cagey affair—something which will be reflected in the final scoreline.
The difference-maker for me is the fact that Marseille have a huge Champions League match to focus on in less than a week. They cannot afford to lose that fixture if they want to keep their European dream alive, and they may be willing to sacrifice some of their focus for this match in order to do just that.
Their defense should keep them in it, but perhaps not enough to get all three points on the night.
Prediction: OGC Nice 1-0 Olympique Marseille
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