Friday 2nd December
7.45pm GMT – Napoli v Inter Milan (Serie A)
Kicking off the weekend’s football in style is a massive game in Italy between two of the biggest teams in Italy – both of whom haven’t quite reached the level they would want to . Both teams played games on Monday, so may not be fully fit for this game.
With Inter performing very well in their first home game under Pioli on Monday (even if they did nearly throw away a 3 goal lead in that game), it will be interesting to see how they perform against another tough opponent in Napoli- who will be especially frustrated after dropping valuable points against a poor Sassuolo outfit despite being utterly dominant in that game.
Both of these teams are good at scoring goals – Napoli average around 2 a game whilst at home, and Inter have scored at least 2 goals in their previous 3 games – but are poor at keeping them out (keeping 2 clean sheets in the past 16 games between them).
Be sure to expect a high scoring game to start the weekend, one I would back Napoli to win to prove they can still challenge Juventus for the title.
Prediction: Napoli 3-2 Inter Milan
Saturday 3rd December
12.30pm GMT – Man City v Chelsea (English Premier League)
Chelsea’s tough run continues with a trip to Pep’s strong City side, who lay just 1 point behind them in the table. If they thought that Spurs gave them a tough test last week, their defence will get an even tougher examination against one of the best attacking units in the league.
Much has been made of City’s struggles offensively, with the squad failing to produce the mesmeric form Pep’s sides have been known to show – as shown in their fairly lucky 2-1 wins at Palace and Burnley recently. At home however, City are a different proposition – with an average of 62% possession, something Chelsea won’t be used to since their switch to the 3-4-3 system that Conte traditionally employs.
The key battle here will most likely be out wide – Chelsea’s wing backs (especially Moses) love to get forward to support the attack, which could leave space to be exploited by Sterling if he fully recovers in time for the game. On the other hand, Pep likes his full backs to step inside and play as centre midfielders when City have the ball – which could be a problem when Chelsea try to counter, as Hazard, Pedro and Costa have the pace to expose the limited defensive options City will have left.
With both sides being so similar and the top few teams being so close, I can only really see this ending in a draw.
Prediction: Man City 1-1 Chelsea
3.15pm GMT – Barcelona vs Real Madrid (La Liga)
The first El Clasico of the season sees both sides who are failing to hit their peak due to injury problems, and Barcelona are really suffering as a result. They might still be second, but that’s not the whole story – they’ve had some unconvincing performances, and are already 6 points behind Real! A defeat at home to their arch rivals could be catastrophic to their title chances, as a 9 point deficit would be a big ask.
Whilst both teams have injury problems to deal with, Real Madrid’s may be the more damaging to their chances as they have two of their key players under the Zidane regime ruled out of long periods – Casemiro, and recent absentee Gareth Bale. With the Club World Cup approaching for Real, Zidane may choose not to risk any more players with slight niggles – especially with the 6 point cushion to sit on.
A win for Barcelona would send out a big statement that they’re not done yet – and I can see them getting it.
Prediction: Barcelona 2-1 Real Madrid
5.30pm GMT – Leipzig vs Schalke (Bundesliga)
This game might just be surprise Bundesliga leader’s RB Leipzig’s undoing, as the world is beginning to take notice of their great form – still unbeaten after 12 games, making them the first ever newly promoted side to do so. But, it is worth noting that they haven’t faced Bayern yet, and took on Dortmund quite early on in the season. Also, being at home, they keep their games quite tight – with just 14 goals scored by either side at the Red Bull Arena.
After a horrible start, Schalke are beginning to look like a team who are expecting to be in the running for European spots – with an unbeaten run of 12 games in all competitions taking them up to 8th in the table. The reason for this change of form is anyone’s guess but like Chelsea, Schalke appear to have a new lease of life from their new 3 at the back formation. This enables them to be pretty good as an attacking unit, meaning they should be able to cause the defensively frail Leipzig side some issues.
However this is a very tough game to call – both sides are in such great form that I feel they will cancel each other out, but it should be a great game!
Prediction: Leipzig 2-2 Schalke
Sunday 4th December
2.00pm GMT – Lazio vs Roma (Serie A)
The Rome Derby is usually one of the most hotly contested derbies in the world, and with so much at stake I wouldn’t expect this one to be any different. Juventus should be the best team in Serie A by a long way, but as recent performances have shown; they are looking a bit jaded this season – meaning it represents one of the best chances in recent seasons for a team such as Roma to take the title away from Turin.
Roma and Lazio are both in good form, and part of a 6 team group (which also includes the likes of Napoli and AC Milan) that are fighting fiercely to catch Juve – currently Roma are 4 points behind the leaders, and Lazio are just a point further back.
Roma have the better record in this derby (with 18 more wins), and crucially they have more recent experience of how to win tough games like this to keep fighting at the top for a whole season, which is why I think Roma should be able to claim this derby and keep on chasing Juventus.
Prediction: Lazio 1-3 Roma