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The dreaded international break is finally dealt with, and players have returned to their respective clubs. Some have picked up a knock and some have recovered during the break — the final stretch of the year promises new dynamics and breathless football.
With that thought in mind, today, we’ll take a look at five European fixtures that demand to be engorged this extended weekend.
#5 Monaco vs PSG ( Ligue 1, Friday)
Paris Saint-Germain may have struggled to hit the ground running in the Champions League, but the defending champions have been at their ruthless best in the domestic competition. Led by Neymar, the Parisians have been scoring for fun and would fancy themselves to get on the scoresheet on Friday.
While PSG have settled at the summit, Monaco are trying their best to climb to a respectable position. They currently sit at sixth with 17 points — seven points adrift of PSG. Their fluent counters cannot be ruled out, however, and we believe we’ll see a few of those in this pre-weekend fixture.
#4 Tottenham Hotspur vs Manchester City (Premier League, Saturday)
Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola have defined football for over a decade. Flaunting contrasting footballing ideologies, they’ve always managed to add a dash of spark to even the most “mundane” of affairs.
This week, the two goliaths of the footballing world will add another chapter to their illustrious rivalry when Tottenham play hosts to the 2018/19 Premier League winners.
This season, Tottenham have enjoyed a decent run of form — picking up 17 points from eight fixtures. City, on the other hand, have struggled for consistency, fetching only 12 points from seven rounds.
A win on Saturday could really lift Manchester City from mediocrity, but the task would be far from straightforward.
#3 Liverpool vs Leicester City (Premier League, Sunday)
Last season, Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool showed impossible consistency to win the 2019/20 Premier League title. The triumph ended their embarrassing Premier League run, of course, and now, they are being tipped to do the double.
Liverpool haven’t exactly managed to extend their last-season heroics, but they haven’t been poor either. They currently sit at third place with 17 points.
2015/16 Premier League winners, Leicester City, have surprised everyone with their fine run this season. They hammered Manchester City 2-5 at the Etihad Stadium and would fancy themselves to get a positive result out of their trip to Anfield.
And considering the injury concerns Liverpool have to deal with, no one can afford to write the Foxes off.
#2 Napoli vs AC Milan (Serie A, Sunday)
Defending Serie A champions, Juventus, haven’t been at their best in the opening seven rounds of fixtures. Former Italian heavyweights, AC Milan, have been. Led by the evergreen and ever-passionate Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Milan have been soaring to great heights and don’t look like coming down.
With five wins, two draws, and 17 points, Milan sit at the summit after seven Matchdays.
Their hosts for Sunday, Napoli, haven’t been as explosive as the Rossoneri, but they have racked up the same number of wins as the current league leaders. They are excellent at pressing and carry a serious threat on the break. At home, they are a force to be reckoned with, and it’d be interesting to see if Milan manage to rise up to the task.
#1 Atletico Madrid vs Barcelona (La Liga, Saturday)
Before Diego Simeone decided to take charge of his old club, La Liga used to be deemed as a two-horse race between Real Madrid and Barcelona. Yes, the two teams remain the most competitive of the lot, but Atletico Madrid have earned the right to sit at the same table as the two illustrious teams.
This season, Los Rojiblancos have emerged as strong title contenders, and remain the only unbeaten team in the division. With five wins and two draws, they sit at third with 17 points but have played two games fewer than the leaders, Real Sociedad.
Lionel Messi’s Barcelona, on the other hand, have struggled for consistency, limiting themselves to sporadic bursts of brilliance. They currently trail Atletico by six points after seven games and would need something really special to reduce the deficit on Saturday night.