After a brief predictions hiatus – brought on by a ridiculously hectic fixture schedule and last weekend’s FA Cup action – we’re back in the land of guesswork…..and it’s all set to be another corking weekend of action.
Tottenham vs Liverpool and Real Madrid vs Atletico Madrid headline the festivities, but there’s plenty of other games you should be keeping your eye on; the trials and tribulations of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s Manchester United against Norwich and the progress of Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal against Crystal Palace to name just two.
So with plenty to play for, it’s time to see which of the 90min editorial knows their onions most this week.
Crystal Palace vs Arsenal
Saturday 11/1 – 12:30
By Jude Summerfield
Arsenal are back. Say no more.
Actually, maybe we should expand. The Gunners have picked up two wins since Mikel Arteta took over as manager, beating a bad Manchester United and edging past Leeds in the FA Cup. They’ve also drawn with Bournemouth and lost to Chelsea.
Palace don’t have the strongest record at home this season but are unbeaten in their last three Premier League games at Selhurst Park, and have given Arsenal problems in Croydon before.
Expect this to be an open game with the shares to be spoiled.
General Consensus: Arsenal Win/Draw
Manchester United vs Norwich
By Toby Cudworth
I grew up in a time when Manchester United and Arsenal were the two heavyweight forces in English football, with the Red Devils the standard bearers for the majority of that time.
Now, it’s a rather different story – with United’s fall from grace showing no signs of letting up, particularly under the guidance of the 19th best manager in the Premier League, OGS. So what better pick me up could United ask for – following their Carabao Cup whooping at the hands of rivals City – than a home game against basement boys Norwich?
The Canaries are without star striker Teemu Pukki, and despite Todd Cantwell’s best efforts, are plum bottom after a rotten run of results. United may have problems but this may be a well received stroll in the Old Trafford park.
General Consensus: Unanimous Manchester United Win
By Jude Summerfield
Napoli are having a rotten time of it, with just one win in their last six games.
Lazio, on the other hand, are six points behind Juventus and Inter and are very much the form team in Serie A, with Ciro Immobile banging the goals in for fun.
An entertaining spectacle is on the cards, but expect Lazio to slap a Kalidou Koulibaly-less Napoli around and win by a few on Saturday night.
General Consensus: Unanimous Lazio Win
Tottenham vs Liverpool
Jose Mourinho’s been in charge of Tottenham for under two months but this feels like the 41st time I’ve had to crack open the ‘Tough game for Spurs on Saturday – football’ gag since his arrival.
Liverpool’s first visit to Tottenham Hotspur Stadium shouldn’t daunt them, coming up against a side who’ve endured a miserable festive period and have been hamstrung by Harry Kane’s hamstring.
For all the talk that Mourinho loves getting one over the Reds, there’s such little evidence during the last few years to suggest that he’ll be able to get one over the best team in the world.
Inter vs Atalanta
The good thing for Inter is that they’re really, really good right now. The problem is that, well, so are Atalanta.
The Bergamo side have scored 17 goals in their last five games (and conceded four) as they’ve risen to fifth in the table, with five players already hitting at least five goals in the league. That’s a lot.
On the other hand, Inter haven’t lost in 11 in the league. And they’re top. And they went to Napoli on Monday and won 3-1. And they’re really good. So…there’s that.
Aston Villa vs Manchester City
Normally we’d be saying that Manchester City’s trip to Aston Villa holds significant weight in deciding which way the Premier League title will go.
But alas, City are out of the running after a pretty average (by Pep Guardiola’s standards) season so far, leaving the Cityzens to focus on wrestling second place away from Leicester and finally conquering the Champions League.
Villa are struggling, as you’d expect from a newly promoted side, despite playing well in patches. Injuries, poor decision making and an element of tactical naivety have contributed to a number of defeats, but Jack Grealish’s form has been a real positive for the hosts.
The Villans skipper will need to be at his absolute best, dragging others along with him, for Dean Smith’s side to get anything out of this one – but it won’t be easy for the visitors.
Real Madrid vs Atletico Madrid
Spain’s most pointless, long-winded and far-flung competition draws to a close on Sunday with a, to be fair, tasty looking Madrid derby.
Any sensible person would assume the Supercopa de España final would be being played at a neutral Spanish ground, such as Valencia’s Mestalla or Camp Nou in Barcelona. Maybe even it being played between the cup and league winners, rather than…erm, neither of those.
Instead, a Madrid derby will be played out more than 2,500 miles away in the Saudi city of Jeddah. Go figure. In terms of what actually happens on the pitch (if you care), expect a tight affair, but Real to edge it.
Roma vs Juventus
Roma are startlingly good this season, and they’ve got themselves right in a two-horse race for the final Champions League place with a run of just one defeat in 12 league games before the winter break.
Then they came back and lost 2-0 at home to Torino, which was weird. If the team they were playing was anybody except Juventus, some of that might matter one way or another.
However, they are playing Juventus and they’re going to lose. It’s just science.
General Consensus: Juventus Win