European Leagues preview
The French programme boasts arguably the biggest game of the European weekend when Bordeaux entertain Marseille, although fans of La Liga will be equally excited about the grudge meeting between Barcelona and Sevilla, who sent the Catalans tumbling out of the cup in midweek.
Chelsea, Bayer Leverkusen and Inter, who lead in England, Germany and Italy, will all expect to pick up maximum points against humbler opponents. FIFA.com previews the weekend action around the continent.
Premier League: Winnable fixtures for big guns
Leaders Chelsea and second-placed Manchester United look to have manageable tasks on paper. The Londoners entertain Sunderland, who sit a reasonably comfortable 11th in the standings, while the Red Devils take on promoted Burnley, three places below the Black Cats and with new manager Brian Laws in charge for the first time. Third-placed Arsenal will hope to keep up the pressure with a win away to struggling Bolton (18th).
Fourth-placed Manchester City, with four straight league wins under their belts, travel to face Everton, marooned in the no-man’s land of 12th spot. Second-to-last Hull City are deep in the Premier League relegation mire and will need a better-than-average performance to take anything from the trip to European hopefuls Tottenham, who are fifth.
The question: Can Liverpool recover from the low point of their wretched season so far, the midweek FA Cup exit to second-tier Reading, and fashion a result on their travels to Stoke City – even without long-term injury victim Fernando Torres?
The big game: Everton–Manchester City, Saturday, 16 January, 18:30, Goodison Park
The quote: "We've not had a settled squad. It has been an injury-disrupted season. We are still in touch though, and that is all we could ask for." Darren Fletcher, Manchester United
Serie A: Milan duo keen for points
Jose Mourinho’s Inter Milan travel to face Bari on Saturday evening. The promoted side lie a comfortable tenth and have very little to lose against the runaway Serie A leaders. Chief pursuers AC Milan need a win at home to last-placed Siena as they seek to make inroads into their city rivals’ eight-point lead.
Third-placed Juventus have only taken three points from their last four games and urgently need a win away to mid-table Chievo if they are not to lose touch completely with the leaders. The Turin side are without injured trio Mauro Camoranesi, Vincenzo Iaquinta and David Trezeguet. Of the chasing pack, Napoli face sixth-placed Palermo and Roma, who last lost a competitive match in late October last year, face eleventh-placed Genoa. Fifth-placed Fiorentina are at home to relegation-threatened Bologna (17th).
The question: Can Roma extend their impressive streak of 13 games without defeat?
The big game: Napoli–Palermo, Sunday, 17 January, 20:45, Stadio San Paolo
The quote: "We’re going to have to enter the transfer market. A number of players have left or are injured, so we need to bring in replacements." Ciro Ferrara, Juventus coach
Ligue 1: Marseille take aim at Bordeaux
The big game in the French top flight is on Sunday evening, when leaders Girondins Bordeaux face fourth-placed Olympique Marseille. A win would take the champions a further step towards retaining the title. Second-placed Lille cross swords with Paris Saint-Germain (8th) on Saturday, with the men from the capital far from out of the race for the European places. Surprise package Montpellier are a sensational third and will expect a result against struggling Nice (16th).
The question: Can promoted Montpellier continue where they left off in the first half of the campaign and continue to thrive at the Ligue 1 summit?
The big game: Bordeaux–Olympique Marseille, Sunday 17 January, 21:00, Stade Jacques-Chaban-Delmas
The quote: "It's never easy against Marseille. We also lack match practice, and some of my players were late back from the mid-season break, so it could be problematic for us." Laurent Blanc, Girondins coach
Bundesliga: Crunch clash in Munich
The second half of the season in the German top flight opens on Friday evening with the meeting between the teams in third and seventh, Bayern Munich and Hoffenheim. Coach Louis van Gaal’s side won their last six games before the mid-season break and will be aiming to extend that series when hostilities resume.
Leaders Bayer Leverkusen entertain the best of the promoted clubs. Mainz have performed with distinction to reach ninth spot, but Jupp Heynckes’ side are still unbeaten and have their eyes on the title. Second-placed Schalke, who have signed seven new players in the current transfer period, are at home to second-from-bottom Nuremberg.
The question: Can Bayer Leverkusen keep up their proud record of not losing in 17 league matches so far this term?
The big game: Bayern–Hoffenheim, Friday 15 January, 20:30, Allianz Arena
The quote: "We can confirm the form we showed at the end of last year. That would be important psychologically. We could spread some fear among our rivals." Louis van Gaal, Bayern coach
La Liga: Barcelona out for revenge
Barcelona’s meeting with Sevilla on Saturday evening is not just the showdown between the leaders and the side in fifth, it is a revenge mission for Pep Guardiola’s wounded team, who were knocked out of the Spanish cup by the men from Seville last Wednesday on away goals.
Second-placed Real Madrid will hope the mission fails, as they themselves have a tricky trip to eighth-placed Bilbao. Valencia in third meet Villarreal, who lie a modest tenth but last lost in the league as long ago as 28 November last year.
The question: Can Barcelona exact swift revenge for their Copa del Rey exit to Sevilla?
The big game: Barcelona-Sevilla, Saturday 16 January, 22:00, Camp Nou
The quote: "It’s always tough when you go to Bilbao. The fans get right behind their team and roar like lions, but at the end of the day it’s about the 22 players on the pitch, who are all aiming at the same thing." Iker Casillas, Real Madrid
In Belgium, the champions meet the leaders. Standard Liege are a disappointing seventh in the Jupiler League standings, but will be determined to send out a signal by beating Anderlecht on Sunday. Second-placed Club Brugge are at home to tenth-placed Westerlo on Saturday.
Birkirkara are top of the pile in Malta and entertain fourth-placed Hibernians Paola at the weekend. Quormi, second in the BOV Premier League on goal difference alone, travel to third-placed Valletta.