For football fans, it was a pretty special week, with the Champions League moving through the final group stage matches and the Europa League also taking the stage on Thursday night. But as good as all of that might have been, nothing compares to the football that comes at the end of the week.
Domestic action will dominate the headlines once more, as several high-profile matches play out across the Premier League, La Liga and other top-class leagues.
We've got all the key information and predictions you need right here!
Saturday, December 14, 2013
Manchester City vs. Arsenal—12:45 p.m. BST
FC Barcelona vs. Villarreal—7:00 p.m. BST
Sunday, December 15, 2013
Tottenham Hotspur vs. Liverpool—4:00 p.m. BST
Napoli vs. Internazionale—7:45 p.m. BST
Monday, December 16, 2013
Milan vs. AS Roma—7:45 p.m. BST
Manchester City vs. Arsenal—Saturday, 12:45 p.m. BST
We kick of proceedings from the Premier League with the title favourites at the start of the year against the title front-runners at the moment—something that few predicted at the beginning of the season.
Arsenal took a hit in Napoli during the week while Manchester City chalked up a huge win over Bayern Munich (psychologically more than anything else), and it'll be interesting to see how that affects the two clubs here.
Arsene Wenger spoke after the match saying that his players were tired in the second half which, if true, makes it very difficult for them to back-up perfectly against City.
Manuel Pellegrini suggested during the week (per AFP) that their sole focus was on playing well against Arsenal and that could lead to a lack of focus against Bayern. Yet after defeating the Bavarians, you've got to wonder just how potent the home team will be here.
For it seems that it's not a matter of if but just how much.
The 2012 league champions have been nothing short of astonishing at home this season, and with Alvaro Negredo and Sergio Aguero rested, I'd expect them to fire against the Londoners this weekend.
Prediction: Manchester City 3-0 Arsenal
Tottenham Hotspur vs. Liverpool—Sunday, 4:00 p.m. BST
A deceptively big game for both clubs.
Tottenham need to win to keep their top-four aspirations alive but also to prove to themselves and their fans that they are capable of mixing it with the best clubs.
Liverpool need a win to ensure that they end their away slump (which has seen them win just one of their past five away matches), and with Arsenal facing City, Brendan Rodgers will know that this week stands as one of their better chances to close the gap at the top of the table.
What will be most interesting is how Tottenham perform having played in the Europa League during the week.
Spurs are notoriously bad following a European match (with an abysmal record over the past few seasons in back-up matches) but their win during the week would have done their confidence and especially Roberto Soldado's confidence a world of good.
I think that'll be enough for them to grab the first goal at home, and while Luis Suarez's brilliance will likely hurt them at some point, I think they're good for a draw.
Liverpool's midfield is not strengthened or hindered in any real way by the loss of Steven Gerrard (who is out for four to six weeks per Sky Sports), but they will miss the psychological advantage that their inspirational leader provides.
That might just reduce the effectiveness of the Reds somewhat, and allow Andre Villas-Boas' side to chalk up a mentally huge point on the day.
Prediction: Tottenham Hotspur 1-1 Liverpool
FC Barcelona vs. Villarreal—Saturday, 7:00 p.m. BST
Any doubts about FC Barcelona struggling without Lionel Messi or tiki-taka being dead were abolished during the week as La Blaugrana cruised past Celtic.
The Catalan club will no doubt relish being back home again in La Liga—where they've won all seven of their games this year—and will be expected to get back in the winners' circle against a Villarreal team that's rapidly improving, but still well off the pace in terms of overall talent.
Villarreal are up to fifth on the table courtesy of a four-game undefeated streak, but this is simply the wrong time to face Barcelona.
The home side will be out on a mission to restore confidence amongst the fans and will again look to rack up more goals in their impressive home tally so far this year—something which Neymar and Alexis Sanchez will almost certainly do.
Prediction: FC Barcelona 4-1 Villarreal
Napoli vs. Internazionale—Sunday, 7:45 p.m. BST
Napoli will no doubt be devastated by their elimination from the UEFA Champions League, but they'll also gain plenty of confidence from their good performance and victory over the Premier League leaders.
Rafa Benitez's side have struggled lately—winning just one of their past four league matches—and were seemingly in dire need of a positive result to give them their confidence back.
Perhaps that's exactly what the Arsenal victory will do.
Inter Milan have quietly worked their way up to fourth in the league with just one defeat all season, and present an interesting challenge here given that they've never lost away from home this year.
Having said that, though, they have won just one of their past five, and have drawn five of their last eight games in total.
They'll likely play tight at the back here and compress through the middle, but while that might have worked earlier in the year, I'm not sure it'll be as effective against Napoli here.
Napoli's biggest prize this year is now the league—no offense to any Europa League fans out there—and I expect they'll be too clinical here as a result of that.
Prediction: Napoli 2-0 Internazionale
Milan vs. AS Roma—Monday, 7:45 p.m. BST
It's not been the greatest year for Milan.
They've won just one of their last seven games and constant tinkering with the team has left them far from the effective squad that they were last year—which is why they're now languishing in ninth place and 22 points off Juventus.
Yet times aren't exactly wondering for AS Roma either at the moment, despite the fact that they are still yet to be beaten by anyone in Serie A this season.
Roma have won just one of their past five games and their winning streak is simply a thing of past, leading to plenty of pressure on the away team here.
Their goal-scoring ways have dried up, and their defense now stands as the biggest asset in any title hopes.
Milan will lift playing at the San Siro; Roma will lift from the confidence gained from last week's win.
That points to a pretty even match for mine, and one that I think will end in equal points for both in the end.
Prediction: Milan 0-0 AS Roma
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