We start this preview with the welcome return of the Bundesliga after an unprecedented 10 week break. And being clever, the league have pushed Bayern’s trip to RB Leipzig as the first game of the re-start. That’s first vs. third, albeit there is currently a six-point gap between Leipzig and the leaders.
Bayern come in to the game in the midst of an injury crisis – eased, in part, by the signing of Gladbach keeper Yann Sommer in the aftermath of Manuel Neuer’s skiing accident.
A youthful Bayern side rallied to draw 4-4 in a training ground friendly with Leipzig’s Austrian cousins from Salzburg last week but we suspect it’ll be a different sort of line-up for this one.
Leipzig do themselves have a long list of injuries to key players but they’ll be hoping to start strongly and continue the 13 game unbeaten run that they took in to the extended winter break.
In England, we’ll be visiting our partners at Sheffield United as the Championship title race takes centre-stage on Friday night. The Blades, who sit second in the league, host Hull City looking to keep the pressure on leaders Burnley. Kicking off just 15 minutes later, Vincent Kompany’s Clarets take on West Brom who have risen to sixth on the back of an impressive change in fortunes following the appointment of Spanish coach Carlos Corberán.
🇦🇷 Argentine giants Boca Juniors and Racing Club are set to clash in the Supercopa, the country’s traditional curtain raiser. League officials might be hoping a chance of scenery keeps the lid on this one with the game taking place in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi – the last domestic meeting between these two ended with 10 red cards being shown in the final minutes of a very heated encounter!
There are some heavyweight ties in the Premier League this weekend and they start with the lunchtime kick-off between Liverpool and Chelsea – two big clubs currently struggling for form. Sat level on points but down in ninth and tenth in the league both Jürgen Klopp and Graham Potter will be looking for a statement result that can energise their respective teams as we head in to the second half of the season.
Brighton, who’s win over Liverpool moved them above the Reds last weekend now face a Leicester City side who are on a five game losing run in the league.
And later in the day, Newcastle go to Crystal Palace hoping to better Manchester United’s draw there on Wednesday night – a result that will enable them to re-take third place for at least 24 hours. Only five sides in the division have scored less goals than Palace this season so the Magpies may be confident of extending their league high record of 11 clean sheets.
🇮🇹 In Serie A, it’s been a strange week for Salernitana. Having suffered a whopping 8-2 defeat at Atalanta, the club decided to sack coach Davide Nicola only to change their minds and re-hire him two days later. Nicola was hailed as a hero for keeping the club up last season, their first in the top flight for over 20 years, but the first game of his new spell in charge will be a tough one – the great southern derby against league leaders Napoli. The Partenopei will no doubt still be riding the high of last week’s 5-1 humiliation of Juventus.
The Bundesliga restart continues with games for two of this season’s surprise packages. Freiburg currently sit second and boast the second best defensive record in the league, something they’ll test as they go to seventh placed Wolfsburg.
Union Berlin were the early pacesetters but defeat – at Freiburg – just before the winter break saw them drop down to fifth. However, an impressive run of six straight wins in recent friendlies should have restored the fan’s faith that they can maintain a challenge for the European places – they start the second half of the campaign at home to mid-table Hoffenheim.
With the top two not in action until Sunday, the sides just behind them are the biggest draw in tomorrow’s games in LaLiga. Real Sociedad can make it 10 games unbeaten with a positive result at Rayo Vallecano and a win would would put them level on points with Real Madrid.
Atlético Madrid currently sit seven points behind the Basque side, in fourth, and Diego Simeone will be hoping that his side’s habit of dropping points in winnable looking matches isn’t in evidence again as they take on Real Valladolid.
The battle between Cairo giants Zamalek and Al Ahly, arguably African football’s biggest club rivalry, is another game to watch out for on Saturday. The hosts are the two-time defending champions but find themselves off the pace despite having lost only one of their 13 games while Egypt’s most successful club, Al Ahly, remain unbeaten and sit top of the table.
🇪🇸 Fresh from a successful week that saw them tour the world; lifting the Supercopa against Madrid in Saudi Arabia before thrashing third tier AD Ceuta, in the Spanish enclave on the northern coast of Africa, Barcelona will be enjoying home comforts on Sunday. There, they face Getafe looking to maintain their three point advantage in the title race.
It looked like it was going to take Madrid a little time to recover from the disappointment of losing last weekend’s clásico as they went 2-0 down at Villarreal in the Copa Del Rey on Thursday evening but Carlo Ancelotti’s side recovered to win that tie with three second half goals. They face another stiff test this weekend though as they go to eighth placed Athletic Club where they never enjoy a warm welcome from the Basque locals.
The headline clash back in the Premier League is leaders Arsenal against old rivals Manchester United. After the recent dominance of Manchester City and Liverpool its somewhat refreshing to see these two once again battling it out towards the top of the table!
Heading into the weekend Arsenal boast a five point advantage over City with United a further three points back. United missed the chance to cut that deficit due to a last minute Palace equaliser on Wednesday night, a result which ended their run of nine straight wins, while the Gunners have had the week off to bask in their Derby Day heroics at Spurs last Sunday.
Elsewhere, Manchester City entertain Wolves just 72 hours after Thursday’s dramatic 4-2 comeback win over Spurs and Leeds United face Brentford.
Borussia Dortmund must wait until Sunday to get their season back underway and they do so at home, against Augsburg. The Black and Yellows currently sit outside the top five but they are faring better than fellow giants Gladbach (8th) and Leverkusen (12th), who face each other in the day’s other game.
It’s de Klassieker time in Dutch football! Feyenoord take on Ajax in what looks like being an even more crucial than usual match-up between the Eredivisie’s two fiercest rivals. Three-time defending champions Ajax are in relative crisis(!) having drawn each of their last four games in the league – two of which have come since the turn of the year. Meanwhile, Feyenoord have looked strong and remain unbeaten since a 4-3 defeat to PSV way back in September.
Ajax have however won the last six meetings between these two, but could we be seeing a changing of the guard – both in the league, and this game?