The draw for the 2014 FIFA World Cup might seem like the biggest news in world football this weekend, but with a number of top-drawer domestic matches scheduled to take place, it seems that there's a bit of competition for the most important moment of the weekend.
Manchester City will be in action once more as they look to rectify their road woes this season; Bayer 04 Leverkusen also face a tough road trip to the Westfalenstadion.
Throw in plenty more intriguing matches in Serie A and Ligue 1 alike and you've got yourself a pretty spectacular weekend of world football ahead. Read on for all the key details as well as predictions for every major club match in Europe.
Saturday, December 7, 2013
Borussia Monchengladbach vs. FC Schalke 04—2:30 p.m. GMT
Southampton vs. Manchester City—3 p.m. GMT
Borussia Dortmund vs. Bayer 04 Leverkusen—5:30 p.m. GMT
Sunday, December 8, 2013
AS Roma vs. Fiorentina—11:30 a.m. GMT
Bordeaux vs. Lille OSC—1 p.m. GMT
Arsenal vs. Everton—4 p.m. GMT
Southampton were good without being spectacular against both Arsenal and Chelsea—they are coming into this one with three straight defeats and seemingly distancing themselves from the league's elite. That's not to say, however, that Mauricio Pochettino's men are not capable of causing an upset, with the Saints possessing the defensive strength required to frustrate most teams in the league.
The only problem is that Manchester City aren't most teams.
The Citizens have been absolutely on fire in recent weeks and with a rested Alvaro Negredo will no doubt be ready to fire at St. Mary's Stadium.
The 2012 champions have been poor away from home this year and this certainly won't be helped by making the long trip down south, but even with the journey they should get the job done here. I expect them to extend their three-game winning streak.
Prediction: Southampton 1-2 Manchester City
No team is in better form in the Premier League than Arsenal.
They've extended their lead on top of the table now to four points over second-placed Chelsea and six points over third-placed Manchester City, and if they can get through this week without any issues they will move one week closer to some very elusive silverware.
But can they get through this week unscathed?
The Toffees have been very prolific at home this year and not quite as much away from home, but notched up a huge win during the week against Manchester United at Old Trafford. That result will certainly give them plenty of confidence travelling to the Emirates—especially given that the Gunners will no doubt have one eye on their Champions League clash against Napoli next week.
In spite all of that, though, I'm going with Arsenal. They are not to be underestimated and second-guessed this year, and until there's a good reason to suggest otherwise, they should be expected to win at home.
Prediction: Arsenal 1-0 Everton
Having started the year in sensational fashion the tide has certainly turned for AS Roma. They're still undefeated, yes, but with four consecutive draws (against some opponents that they really should be beating) the question must be asked as to whether the capital club are finally starting to slow down or not.
This week's match, at home to Fiorentina, will be a good test of that.
Fiorentina have been very good in front of goal this year (even without Mario Gomez) and have been particularly good playing away from home as well.
They've beaten Genoa and AC Milan on the road and have kept Lazio scoreless as well, which will no doubt give them plenty of confidence coming into this one.
But can they beat AS Roma?
Despite their supposed struggles, the home team are still playing very good football in midfield; their only concern has been of a defensive nature. That tends to suggest that Fiorentina will grab a goal or two here, but given that the visitors themselves don't possess the greatest defensive record this year, Roma should be expected to have no troubles finding the back of the net themselves.
I think Roma will bounce back into the winners' circle this week. This is a good matchup for them and their attack will thrive against Fiorentina's defence.
Prediction: AS Roma 3-1 Fiorentina
It seems like every game at the moment is a big match for Schalke 04, but such is the pressure that the club have put on themselves with a slow start. Their recent form, however, suggests that they might finally be heading back in the right direction with a four-game undefeated streak in the Bundesliga.
That run will no doubt be tested away from home this week against Borussia Monchengladbach, who have been extremely clinical in front of goal this season, along with owning a very tight defensive record.
Their seven home games (including one against Borussia Dortmund) have seen them walk away with seven wins, 21 goals for and just four against, and while Schalke 04 might certainly be on the up, there's simply no way for them to contend with that form. Especially not when they have the Champions League next week.
Prediction: Borussia Monchengladbach 2-0 Schalke 04
Big matches everywhere for Borussia Dortmund at the moment.
Dortmund head into this week knowing that they need to win here at home to keep pace with Bayern Munich in the title race, but also knowing that winning in the Champions League is even more crucial.
Their league form has just started to drop of late (losing to Wolfsburg and Bayern before delivering an unconvincing win against FSV Mainz 05) but at home they are simply a different opponent altogether. The atmosphere at the Westfalenstadion is like few other venues in Europe and the home fans will know just how important it is to get a result against a very good Leverkusen outfit.
Bayer 04 will certainly come prepared for this one and should offer plenty of resistance in midfield—winning plenty of turnovers and poor passes from Dortmund. However, it's hard to see them walking away with all three points here at the expense of Jurgen Klopp's men.
Even with a 3-0 home defeat to Bayern, Dortmund have only dropped three points at home all year and conceded just seven goals against in that time also.
Leverkusen are good, but I'm not sure that they're miracle-workers.
Prediction: Borussia Dortmund 1-0 Bayer 04 Leverkusen
Don't look now but Lille OSC are just one point off the top of Ligue 1.
All of the attention this year might have been on Paris Saint-Germain and the emergence of AS Monaco as a potential superpower, but Lille have proven that they are just as capable of mixing it with the big boys—keeping clean sheets against the likes of Monaco, Marseille, Saint-Etienne and Nantes.
In fact, Lille have kept a clean sheet in all but two games this year.
The question is whether they are as capable of doing the same on the road as they are at home. Lille have won four from eight (drawing three) on the road this year and have beaten just one team inside the top 15 in the league—meaning that Bordeaux will be a deceptively tough match this week.
Perhaps more alarming for Lille is the fact that they've scored just two goals away from home this year against teams inside the top 15 (a total of five games).
Bordeaux haven't beaten a team inside the top six this year (and have scored just one goal against those teams as well), but have lost just one of their past five home matches. They've been a touch inconsistent—which makes it hard to choose them here—so even though I think Lille won't be as prolific as their incredible defensive run suggests, they should walk away with the points this weekend.
And their streak will live on for another week.
Prediction: Bordeaux 0-1 Lille OSC
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