10 Issues to Watch out for in World Football This Weekend
We've got a world football weekend packed with talking points, issues to watch and events to consider despite the Bundesliga and Eredivisie continuing their respective winter breaks.
Ligue 1 starts again, so Radamel Falcao and company will return to action, while Manchester United face Swansea City for the second time in six days and Milan look dangerously close to doing the unthinkable—winning two whole games in a row.
What are you waiting for? Get stuck in!
Ligue 1 reconvened after a Christmas break on Wednesday as Saint-Etienne beat Evian 1-0.
On Friday, Monaco will resume action away to Montpellier, who have just loaned Milan forward M'Baye Niang.
On Saturday and Sunday, every team will return to action.
Paris Saint-Germain travel to Ajaccio, Lille host Reims, while Saint-Etienne and Evian will go again just three days after playing each other.
It's a full slate of French action, and with Radamel Falcao back fit, what's not to love?
Back on Track Against Managerless West Brom?
After a brilliant start, Southampton have tailed off in alarming fashion and won just once in their last six games.
They've been playing well and not getting results, and while Mauricio Pochettino continues to put a brave face on things, he knows as well as anyone that his troops need to start winning more games.
Managerless West Bromwich Albion travel to town on Saturday, and in truth they present the perfect antidote-in-waiting for the Saints.
The Baggies may have won against Newcastle United in their last Premier League game, but man-for-man and from a tactical standpoint, Southampton are superior.
Two in a Row?
Hold onto your hats, folks.
Milan are facing a golden opportunity to win two Serie A games in a row for the first time this season.
It's a sad indictment of the Italian club's state of affairs, but in travelling to Sassuolo on Sunday, they can secure successive three-point hauls and look longingly, hopefully up the table.
Meanwhile, Sassuolo have lost four in a row, halting November's mini-resurgence.
The Rossoneri remain 17 points off the third and final Champions League spot and nine behind fierce rivals Internazionale.
Manchester United vs. Swansea, Part 2
In an odd quirk of the fixture list, Manchester United will take on Swansea City at Old Trafford on Saturday despite playing them just six days before.
Courtesy of a last-minute Wilfried Bony header, the Swans won the first encounter—an FA Cup clash—2-1. David Moyes was greeted by a chorus of boos when the final whistle sounded.
January is an important month on and off the pitch for the Red Devils. Despite the obvious need for new signings, more poor performances could see them well and truly left behind.
Can lightning strike twice for Michael Laudrup?
Verona to Continue Stellar Run?
The fairy tale story that is Hellas Verona just keeps on giving.
Serie A resumed last weekend and the Gialloblu beat Udinese 3-1 at the Stadio Friuli, with Luca Toni grabbing a brace and wunderkind Juan Iturbe slamming home a third.
Having been promoted to the division just this season, Verona's immense campaign to date has the whole footballing world buzzing. Now in fifth place and above Internazionale in the table, they host Napoli in the pick of Sunday's games.
Should they win, they'd pull to within four points of their opponents in the race for a Champions League spot.
Perhaps the biggest game of the Premier League weekend is Cardiff vs. West Ham United.
Forget "Super Sunday"—on Saturday, at 3 p.m., the Bluebirds have a golden chance to pull six points clear of the Hammers and bury them inside the relegation zone.
Sam Allardyce's troops, who have conceded back-to-back five-goal hauls in FA Cup and Capital One Cup action, appear there for the taking on paper.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's first home game in charge can't go wrong...can it?
The Athletic-La Real-Villarreal Brawl
La Liga's top three this season has essentially been rubber-stamped in the form of Barcelona, Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid.
The fourth and final Champions League spot, however, is well and truly up for grabs.
Athletic Club, Real Sociedad and Villarreal battle for it. Even Sevilla cannot be discounted at this point.
La Real beat Athletic last weekend in a fierce Basque derby, and on Monday they must face El Submarino Amarillo in another testing encounter.
Los Leones, meanwhile, host Almeria at their formidable new stadium, the San Mames. Plenty of twists and turns to come here.
Can Leeds Reshuffle the Playoff Outlook?
It's very, very tight in the top half of the Championship, with just six points separating sixth from 15th place.
Leeds are right in the thick of a playoff chase that's gone a little stale over the past few weeks, with goals hard to come by and clean sheets even more so.
They face Sheffield Wednesday, who are languishing in 20th place, in the early kick-off for the Football League. Winning there would not only send them into sixth (in place of Ipswich, albeit temporarily perhaps), but also rekindle belief in the squad that they can continue their promotion charge.
Can Roma Re-Calibrate?
Losing 3-0 to Juventus is not the ideal way to start the second half of your campaign.
Roma were carrying a 17-game unbeaten streak into the contest and had conceded just seven goals all season, but Antonio Conte's men bested them in convincing fashion and showed them just how far they have to go before they can consider themselves title challengers.
With all the draws the Giallorossi have mixed into their run after 10 consecutive wins to start the season, Napoli have been able to pull within two points of them.
Rudi Garcia's men now face Genoa on Sunday—a stingy outfit themselves, tied for third-least conceded in Serie A with 20.
Lose again, and the entire season falls under crisis review.
Shaping of the Champions?
Lionel Messi's return to fitness has set up a mouth-watering encounter between Atletico Madrid and Barcelona this weekend.
The duel at the Vicente Calderon could well shape up a title favourite in a tightly contested Liga season, and with the Argentine schemer returning, there is no clear-cut winner on paper.
After the two-legged encounter earlier this season for the Supercopa de España, we know how well-matched these sides can be. It's set to be the game of the weekend, and while it might not promise excitement, it's set to serve as a tactical playground for analysts and fans alike.