Christmas, Boxing Day and New Year's might be relaxing times for many, but for football fans, there's certainly no time to rest with a plethora of fixtures on.
Multiple Premier League games during the week means that we break this weekend for the FA Cup (where there's certainly no shortage of top matches), and we also have the likes of La Liga and Serie A returning from their break this weekend with some top contests as well—including a top of the table duel in Italy!
How will the weekend unfold? Which teams will be left in the winners' circle and who will not? Read on and find out with previews and predictions for all the big games.
Saturday, 4th January, 2014
Malaga vs. Atletico Madrid, 3 p.m. BST
Arsenal vs. Tottenham Hotspur, 5:15 p.m. BST
Sunday, 5th January, 2014
Derby Country vs. Chelsea, 2:15 p.m. BST
Manchester United vs. Swansea City, 4:30 p.m. BST
Real Sociedad vs. Athletic Bilbao, 7 p.m. BST
Juventus vs. AS Roma, 7:45 p.m. BST
Malaga vs. Atletico Madrid, 3 p.m. BST, Saturday (La Liga)
Atletico Madrid will look to move to the top of the table when they take on Malaga this weekend, as only goal difference currently keeps them off the top spot.
The Atleti have been simply stunning this season, but could find some problems away from home this week. In their eight away games this year, Diego Simeone's side have only suffered one defeat but have also only chalked up two wins that were more than one-goal victories.
Their last four road games, in particular, have seen them post a loss, a draw and two relatively close wins, while Malaga have not lost since November, 2012.
But even still, it's hard to see them defeating Atletico here.
Diego Costa has led this team in style this year, with his 19 goals equal to that of what Malaga have scored all season. And against perhaps the best back five in Spanish football, it's hard to see the home team turning all of that around and keeping pace with Atletico's attack in this one.
Prediction: Malaga 0-2 Atletico Madrid
Arsenal vs. Tottenham Hotspur, 5:15 p.m. BST, Saturday (FA Cup)
Having conquered Manchester United at Old Trafford on the weekend, Tim Sherwood's Tottenham Hotspur will turn their attention to Arsenal now in the FA Cup.
It won't quite carry the same importance as a typical EPL North London Derby, but there's still no love lost between these two teams and it should be in for a cracking match—especially if both teams look to use their strongest teams rather than playing some of their reserves.
The Telegraph has already suggested that Wenger will name an unusual starting team indeed, and it's here where I think Spurs can record a huge upset.
It was no secret that Tottenham spent big over the summer transfer window to boost their squad, and they've now got one of the strongest team lists (on paper, anyway) in the Premier League. And as both Sherwood and Arsene Wenger will no doubt rest some players from their starting teams, I think the stronger side on the day may just fall the way of the visitors.
Obviously it's hard to pick against the title-contending Gunners, but this is all about depth. Tottenham simply have more and they'll ride the wave of the momentum that comes with "new manager" to their second incredible result in as many weeks. An Emmanuel Adebayor-inspired Spurs might not win at the Emirates, but they will force a very important replay back at White Hart Lane.
Prediction: Arsenal 2-2 Tottenham Hotspur
Derby Country vs. Chelsea, 2:15 p.m. BST, Sunday (FA Cup)
Up until their performance against Southampton on the weekend, you might have not been all that confident taking Chelsea against Derby County.
Their opponents have lost just two fixtures in the Championship since late September and will definitely fancy their chances in front of their home fans, but the Blues seemingly turned a corner away from home last week in their title chase with a comprehensive 3-0 win.
The depth of the Blues' squad is really starting to come to the fore, and with Jose Mourinho's ruthlessness firmly embedded in their minds, there's no way they'll be taking it easy this weekend. And with that, it should be another relatively simple win for the Londoners.
Prediction: Derby County 1-4 Chelsea
Manchester United vs. Swansea City, 4:30 p.m. BST, Sunday (FA Cup)
I'll be honest: I cannot read Manchester United at the moment.
The Red Devils looked to turn the corner leading into Christmas with some impressive results back-to-back but seemingly undid all of that with a 2-1 loss at home to Tottenham during the week. United dominated possession but simply couldn't turn that into attacking chances, with several of their big-guns either playing injured or going missing in the embarrassing loss.
Where that leaves them, then is tough to read, with some (such as The Independent) stating that the Cup might be their best chance at silverware.
Eleven points off the pace in the Premier League, Moyes may well be looking to the domestic cups as their best chance of delivering silverware this season.
United have been very good in their Cup and Champions League games this year, but Swansea too are good in Cup games (as shown by their success in the Capital One Cup last season where they emerged as champions) and will certainly fancy their chances at dumping more hurt on United and their fans.
The Red Devils do have plenty of players out, but Danny Welbeck and Shinji Kagawa could strike an interesting partnership up top for the home team, and at Old Trafford, that could be enough to see the home team over the line with a close win. Swansea will be tight—especially in central defense and midfield—but I think the home will sneak over the line in this one.
Prediction: Manchester United 1-0 Swansea City
Real Sociedad vs. Athletic Bilbao, 7:00 p.m. BST, Sunday (La Liga)
Don't look now, but Athletic Bilbao have quietly become one of the most surprising teams in La Liga courtesy of a run that's seen them lose just one of their past 10 league fixtures, and they'll certainly fancy their chances away from home this weekend to Real Sociedad.
Sociedad haven't quite been as good as they were last year, but they have won four in a row heading into this one and have lost just one at home all season (a close 2-1 defeat to Atletico Madrid in September).
The home team have conceded just seven goals at home this season in eight games, while Bilbao have scored almost half the goals away from home as they have at home. And while it won't be a big margin in the end, playing away from Basque country might just be the difference here for Ernesto Valverde's men as Sociedad keep pace in the run for Champions League qualification next season.
Prediction: Real Sociedad 2-0 Athletic Bilbao
Juventus vs. AS Roma, 7:45 p.m. BST, Sunday (Serie A)
Between them, Juventus and AS Roma have lost just one league game all year. Neither have been defeated at home and combined they've scored 74 goals.
Talk about a top-of-the-table clash.
The defending champions will certainly benefit being back in Turin this week, where they've won eight from eight this year—conceding just four goals as well.
Roma might technically be undefeated, but their recent form hasn't been great (particularly away from home) and that could be the difference here. The visitors have won just two of their seven games and have not won any of their last three away games, which haven't exactly been against the strongest opponents either in AC Milan, Atalanta and Torino.
All in all, Juventus are starting to really roll right now and I don't think they'll be beaten at home this year. Even by an AS Roma team that looked simply unbeatable at the start of the season, look for the hosts to make it nine home wins in as many games with a dominating performance indeed.
Prediction: Juventus 3-0 AS Roma
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