Top ten things to watch in the soccer world: Jan. 17-19
Serie A: Palermo vs. Roma (Saturday, 2:45 p.m. ET)
Francesco Totti caused a social media sensation during last week’s 2-2 draw with Lazio when he took a selfie after scoring a goal. However, the Roma skipper may not get the chance to repeat the trick because he is struggling with flu. Roma, three points behind leaders and defending champions Juventus, will once again look to Mattia Destro, who has been strongly linked with a move to AC Milan. Palermo have a player of their own that has been linked with a high-profile move. All eyes will be on Paulo Dybala, one of the most prolific scores in Serie A this season.
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Serie A: Lazio vs. Napoli (Sunday, 6:30 a.m. ET)
Lazio and Napoli were both in action against the top two teams last weekend and now the respective third and fourth placed clubs in Serie A go head to head in a crucial match. The heat is on to secure that vital third spot and Lazio, who threw away a two-goal lead to draw 2-2 against city rivals Roma last weekend, are in the box seat as things stand. Should they lose it will be Napoli in the Champions League place. Should be tense.
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La Liga: Atletico Madrid vs. Granada (Sunday, 11 a.m. ET)
Defending champions Atletico are having a mixed time of it lately. They followed up a dispiriting 3-1 defeat at Barcelona with a stirring 2-2 draw at Real Madrid this week securing their place in the quarterfinals of the Copa del Rey. The game was significant for another reason, too. Fernando Torres scored! Not once ... But twice! OK, he got lucky with his second, which Keylor Navas should have kept out, but this could be the start of Torres’ renaissance. The star of the show was Antoine Griezmann, who set up both goals. Basement dwellers Granada are on a hiding to nothing and sacked their coach Joaquin Capparos two days before the game. This could get messy.
Real Madrid via Getty ImagesElisa Estrada
La Liga: Deportivo vs. Barcelona (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)
Is everything finally well and good at Barcelona? Rumors about Messi’s future seem to have been put to bed - for now – and Barca’s title aspirations look to be back on track following the 3-1 win against defending champions Atletico. Luis Suarez seems to be finding his feet with two goals in his last three games. We fear the worst for Deportivo, who have scored just three goals in their last 10 games in La Liga.
AFP/Getty ImagesLLUIS GENE
La Liga: Getafe vs. Real Madrid (Sunday, 6 a.m. ET)
Real Madrid lead the table by one point from fierce rivals Barcelona, but they will have the bit between their teeth as they look to atone for their Copa del Rey exit at the hands of La Liga champions Atletico Madrid. Is all well at the Bernabeu? Real Madrid fans have been getting on Gareth Bale’s back ever since he ‘failed’ to pass to Ronaldo during the 3-0 win against Espanyol. Fans noticed CR7’s reaction to this gross dereliction of duty and have been giving Bale a hard time ever since. However, the Ballon d’Or winner has told supporters to treat Bale nicely from now on. Let’s see how things transpire against local rivals Getafe.
AFP/Getty ImagesGERARD JULIEN
Serie A: Empoli vs. Inter Milan (Saturday, 12 p.m. ET)
Enter Xherdan Shaqiri. The question on everyone’s lips is whether the former Bayern Munich winger will make his debut at Empoli. The Switzerland international seems to think so and admits he “feels good” ahead of the game. The feel-good factor seems to be back at the San Siro under Roberto Mancini, who recently signed Lukas Podolski on loan from Arsenal. They take on an Empoli side without a win in five games.
Getty ImagesClaudio Villa - Inter
Premier League: Tottenham vs. Sunderland (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET)
This game is about one man – Jermain Defoe. The England international joined Sunderland in time to face his former club Tottenham as part of a swap deal that saw United States striker Jozy Altidore sign for Toronto FC. Defoe scored 91 goals for Spurs in three separate spells – one of which was a loan spell from Toronto – so how will the home fans react to seeing him in a Sunderland shirt? We think he’ll get a welcoming reception.
Colin McConnell/Getty ImagesColin McConnell
Premier League: Swansea vs. Chelsea (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET)
Chelsea top the Premier League by two points from defending champions Manchester City, but have been given an added bonus ahead of the Swansea clash. Jose Mourinho’s men will not have to face Wilfried Bony following his $42 million move to City this week. Mourinho suggested in his Friday press conference that City are not playing by the Financial Fair Play rules with this transfer. Expect more fun and games from Mourinho, who has been severely critical of referees recently.
AFP/Getty ImagesIAN KINGTON
Premier League: QPR vs. Manchester United (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET)
The big question is whether Falcao makes United’s starting lineup. The Colombia striker, on loan at United from Monaco, was left out of the squad that failed to register a single shot on target during the 1-0 home defeat to Southampton. What’s more, speculation suggests he could leave the club at the end of the season. Van Gaal has urged Falcao to prove he is worth signing permanently in the summer, something that’s hard to do if you’re not in the match-day squad.
Man Utd via Getty ImagesJohn Peters
Manchester City vs. Arsenal (Sunday, 11 a.m. ET)
Second-placed City host Arsenal, who are in fifth spot, in one of the games of the weekend. The Citizens signed Wilfried Bony from Swansea this week, but the Cote d’Ivoire striker joins Yaya Toure on international duty at the African Nations Cup, meaning both men are unavailable. That’s good for Arsenal. Or is it? Sergio Aguero, one of the most lethal strikers in the Premier League, and Vincent Kompany, one of the best defenders, are both fit. But Arsenal have the form player at the moment in the shape of Alexis Sanchez. Expect fireworks in this one.