- The weekend is here, and there are great match-ups set to take place
- Manchester City host Arsenal in the FA Cup at the Etihad on Friday night
- On Saturday, Union Berlin and Hertha Berlin are set to clash in the Berlin derby
The two teams presently leading the fight for the Premier League title, Manchester City and Arsenal, will face off in a titanic matchup to open the FA Cup’s fourth round tonight. Although this is a different tournament, Guardiola and Arteta’s teams haven’t actually faced off for a full calendar year because of cancellations and odd fixture arrangements.
The class of 2022–23 from City and Arsenal will be put to the test in this match before more league matches in February and April.
Lorient and Rennes’ Friday night Ligue 1 matchup, an all-Breton derby, provides the intrigue. Although Lorient may present a greater threat to Rennes’ prospects of placing in the European qualification spots this season than Nantes, whom Rennes supporters may view as their main regional rival, Nantes.
Since the beginning of the year, Lorient has only had one league victory, dropping them to eighth place while Rennes, who beat PSG two weekends ago, moved up to fifth place, five points above them. However, Lorient defeated lower league competition on penalties in their penultimate match (against Marseille) to advance in the Coupe de France.
After the massive 10-week gap in the league schedule caused by the World Cup and the winter break, several sides in Germany’s top division will play their third match in just over a week on Saturday!
Leaders Bayern, who have lost their last two matches against FC Köln and Leipzig, must now host fourth-placed Eintracht Frankfurt.
The greatest game of the day may seem to be first vs fourth, but that’s before you learn that second-placed Union will face fierce city rivals Hertha in the Berlin Derby. In their previous five encounters, Union has never lost. They also defeated Hertha 4-1 in the equivalent game last season. The second-worst home team, the struggling Union, will look to avenge that loss.
Front-runners in La Liga Barcelona are the main attraction in Spain on Saturday because they have the chance to increase their advantage over Real Madrid to six points by travelling to Girona.
With a goal by Ousmane Dembélé, they defeated Real Sociedad 1-0 on Wednesday in the Copa del Rey to extend their current unbeaten streak to 12 games. While Girona has been solid since making a comeback to the top division, they now hold the 11th spot in the standings despite losing to Villarreal the previous week.
Back in the FA Cup, Saturday’s matches will feature Premier League teams playing in Championship competition. While Spurs travel to Preston North End and Fulham take on Sunderland, Manchester United plays Reading, who former United midfielder Paul Ince coaches. Both of these traditional English teams are known as the Lilywhites.
Accrington Stanley of League One, who defeated non-league Boreham Wood in extra time on a penalty, only officially confirmed their position in the fourth round late on Tuesday night. Due to the late start time versus Premier League Leeds United, they have had little time to prepare.
On Saturday night, Marseille (3rd) and Monaco (4th), two of the biggest names in French football, square off. The team from the principality had not suffered a loss in eight away matches coming into this match, but Marseille had only allowed three goals in their previous six competitive matches following the restart. They have triumphed in each of those.
When the teams previously squared off before the World Cup break, Marseille prevailed in a five-goal thriller thanks to a goal from Sead Kolainac in the 98th minute.
When West Ham visits the fallen giants Derby County on Sunday, the FA Cup action actually carries over into Monday. Returning to the weekend, Liverpool will face off against Brighton, where they were defeated 3-0 just two weekends prior in the Premier League. Will Jürgen Klopp’s team exact revenge against England’s top six or will Roberto De Zerbi’s hot-shot Seagulls maintain their hot streak?
The only non-league (and non-English) team left in the competition, Wrexham, is also playing. They take on Sheffield United, a hot Championship team. After recently winning the fifth-tier National League, promotion to the EFL remains the club’s ultimate aim, but this matchup against an unbeaten Blades team will be a good test.
With four of the top five teams playing on Sunday and Juventus, who would be in the top five if not for their recent points deduction, the Italian fixture schedule appears to be packed.
Runaway Scudetto contenders In the week of José Mourinho’s 60th birthday, Napoli takes on Roma. And how he would adore being the first coach to defeat them at home since April 2022, ruining the current upbeat atmosphere in Naples.
In other news, Atlético Madrid travels to seventh-placed Osasuna amid rumours that coach Diego Simeone is getting set to resign his post in the wake of Thursday’s Copa exit—rumours that the man himself has denied.
PSG could find themselves requiring a victory to reopen the gap between themselves and Lens at the top of the standings if they play last in Ligue 1 this weekend. They appear more than a bit vulnerable as a result of their post-World Cup losses to Lens and Rennes. In addition, a star-studded lineup was stymied for over 30 minutes by sixth-tier amateur team Pays de Cassel in last week’s Coupe de France match until the floodgates finally opened, allowing Kylian Mbappé to score five of the game’s subsequent seven unanswered goals.
Therefore, a sound league victory at home against Stade Reims should help calm an always agitated supporter base.
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