By Jeremiah Paschke-Wood
This weekend is a little strange, because, unlike most, there aren’t a lot of exceptional matches going on involving the major leagues in Europe, except for England. In Spain, Real Madrid travels to Real Zaragoza for what should be a relatively easy game, and Barcelona hosts Real Sociedad, another one they should win without too much fuss. Italian table-toppers AC Milan travel to Bologna on Sunday as well. In Germany, league leaders Borussia Dortmund host Bremen, who have been struggling recently, and Bayern hosts St. Pauli. At the Club World Cup, they’re still in the preliminary stages, and Internacional makes the first appearance of the “big boys” on Tuesday. Here are other games to watch this weekend:
Newcastle United v Liverpool. (English Premier League) This match is interesting because it’ll be the first one with Newcastle being managed by Alan Pardew (above), who was appointed after the popular Chris Hughton was sacked. Several Newcastle players have spoken out publicly against the change, so it’ll be interesting to see how the team performs. Will it be “new manager syndrome” or will Newcastle start a slide down the table? Liverpool has been better recently, though they’ll need to win matches like this to keep Roy Hodgson in his job.
Prediction: Newcastle 1, Liverpool 2
Tottenham Hotspur v Chelsea. (English Premier League) If Spurs have truly have aspirations of challenging for the title, this match is a perfect opportunity for them to make their claim against a faltering Blues side who have only won one of their last six in all competitions, scoring only three goals in the process. Tottenham recently broke their long, long duck against Top 4 sides by beating Arsenal. This is their chance to show it isn’t a fluke.
Prediction: Chelsea has to break out of their slump at some point, don’t they? Spurs 1, Chelsea 1
Juventus v Lazio. (Italian Serie A) Amazingly, the Old Lady haven’t lost in their last 15 matches in all competitions, though seven of those have been draws. They’re facing a Lazio side who showed with a 3-1 thrashing of Inter Milan last week that they aim to stay in the title hunt all season long. Midfield signing Hernanes in particular has been inspirational for the Biancocelesti. With AC Milan visiting Bologna, Lazio is hoping a win and a Milan loss will put them back level on points.
Prediction: Juventus 1, Lazio 1
Mainz v Schalke 04. (German Bundesliga) After a dream start of eight wins in their first nine matches, Mainz has faltered a bit, winning only two of their last six. Enter Schalke, the ultimate Jekyll-Hyde team. They have surprised their way to winning their group easily in the Champions League, but they have struggled mightily in the Bundesliga, getting hammered by Kaiserslautern before somehow beating Bayern 2-0 in one of the most one-sided displays you’ll ever see by a team on the losing side. Mainz has to win to even contemplate closing the gap on Dortmund.
Prediction: Mainz 3, Schalke 1
Estudiantes La Plata v Arsenal de Sarandi; Racing Club v Velez Sarsfield (Argentinian Primera Division) You can’t really dream up a better final weekend of the Primera Division, which features all of the top four involved in two matches on Sunday. Estudiantes needs just to beat Arsenal to win the title, but Arsenal is no slouch, undefeated in their last three and third in the table. Velez Sarsfield, undefeated in nine straight in which they’ve only conceded three goals, will win the title if they win and Estudiantes loses. They visit Racing Club, who is currently in fourth place and undefeated in their last eight.
Prediction: Estudiantes 2, Arsenal 0; Racing Club 0, Velez 2
Manchester United v Arsenal. (English Premier League) Yeah, I know, another English game, how boring. Sorry, I didn’t make the schedule. It seems like every year there is much hand-wringing and debate over whether this will finally be Arsenal’s year. Usually matches like this are the ones where you find out that, oops, it’s not. Well, this year, Manchester United look as shaky as they’re probably ever going to look, so it’s an opportunity for Arsenal to move four points — you heard me right, four points — in front with a win. Will it happen? Ehh…well…let’s say yes, for once.
Prediction: Manchester United 1, Arsenal 2