Predicting the Biggest EPL, Liga, Serie A Matches: Key Weekend in Spain

Daniel Edwards@@DanEdwardsGoalFeatured ColumnistFebruary 20, 2014

Barcelona's Daniel Alves, right, celebrates with teammate Jordi Alba, left, after he scored the second goal of the game for his side during their Champions League Round of 16 soccer match against Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium in Manchester, England, Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2014. (AP Photo/Clint Hughes)
Clint Hughes/Associated Press

While we are not quite in the home straights for Europe's top leagues, the end of the season is moving ever nearer. In Spain particularly, the Liga race looks set to be closer than ever. 

Only goal difference separates leaders Barcelona from the two Madrid clubs, with Real followed by Atletico. All three teams are on 60 points after 24 games, and Round 26 sees Madrid visit Atletico in one of the most keenly anticipated capital derbies in recent memory. 

For that reason, it is imperative for all three challengers to pick up maximum points in the coming weekend. 

While Spain has the most fascinating fixtures, the title race is still open in England and Italy, and this weekend's clashes will be key for those involved to avoid losing ground at this key stage of the campaign. 


La Liga: Real Sociedad vs. Barcelona (Saturday, February 22) 

Jon Super/Associated Press

It is a repeat of the Copa del Rey semi-final, which was won comfortably on aggregate by Gerardo Martino's men. Sixth-placed Sociedad, however, will take hope from their performance in the second leg as they look to spring an upset. 

The Basque team held Barca to an encouraging 1-1 draw in the return match, and proved in that encounter they have the tools to make Saturday's opponents sweat. The form of Mexican striker Carlos Vela will be key if they hope to make a dent in the back-line. 

Prediction: Real Sociedad 1-2 Barcelona


La Liga: Real Madrid vs. Elche (Saturday, February 22)

Gabriel Pecot/Associated Press

None of the teams at the top of the Primera Division can afford to drop points, least of all Real Madrid. The Merengue will remember their humbling defeat at the hands of Atletico in the first half of the season, and it is imperative to go in to the return fixture in optimum form and with three points from Elche. 

Elche have held their own well in La Liga so far, lying a respectable 13th in the standings. It is hard to see, however, any other result than a comfortable Madrid triumph. 

Prediction: Real Madrid 3-0 Elche


La Liga: Osasuna vs. Atletico Madrid (Sunday, February 23)

Antonio Calanni/Associated Press

Diego Simeone's Atletico team will have the advantage, or perhaps added pressure, of knowing how their title rivals played prior to taking the field against Osasuna. Fighting on two fronts could start to take its toll on the Colchoneros, however, and there is no room for a continental hangover this weekend. 

Atletico took a tense 1-0 win away from the San Siro against Milan on Wednesday, and on paper should have enough in the tank to see off La Liga's 14th-placed team. With the Madrid derby just a week away though, nerves and anxiety could start to take their effect. 

Prediction: Osasuna 1-1 Atletico Madrid


Premier League: Chelsea vs. Everton (Saturday, February 22)

Rui Vieira/Associated Press

Regalvanised by Jose Mourinho's return to Stamford Bridge, Chelsea find themselves at the top of the Premier League. They will need to be on form to keep a slender one-point margin over Arsenal intact against the unpredictable, dangerous Everton. 

The Toffees reacted admirably to the loss of manager David Moyes and are in touching distance of a Champions League place at sixth. Expect a tense game with few thrills and lots of defending from both sides that could fall either way. 

Prediction: Chelsea 1-0 Everton


Premier League: Arsenal vs. Sunderland (Saturday, February 22)

Alastair Grant/Associated Press

Kicking off almost immediately after the final whistle blows in Stamford Bridge on the other side of London, Arsenal will know what they have to do in order to take back the top spot. Arsene Wenger's team continues to keep pace at the summit despite criticisms of their transfer policy, but now is the true test of a small squad. 

Having experienced a bruising Champions League defeat at home to Bayern midweek, Wenger must rally tired legs to bounce back just three days later. They should be able to do so against a lukewarm Sunderland that still is in the bottom three, but questions still remain over how long they can fight on three different fronts (with the FA Cup being the other). 

Prediction: Arsenal 2-0 Sunderland


Serie A: Juventus vs. Torino (Sunday, February 23)

Massimo Pinca/Associated Press

The Turin derby comes to Juventus Stadium this weekend, with the home team in a familiar position. Antonio Conte's men are nine points clear of Roma at the top of Serie A and closing in on a third straight Scudetto for 2013/14. 

This is why in Italy, Juve's game is the only one that counts; if they slip up, Roma and, further back, Napoli, have an outside chance. The good news for their rivals is that seventh-placed Torino, fired by the goals of Ciro Immobile and Alessio Cerci, will make their city neighbours work without rest if they are to take three points. 

Prediction: Juventus 2-2 Torino


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