The month-long break for the World Cup is fast approaching. That said, Europe’s top domestic football leagues are just entering the thick of their season. As we enter the final matchdays before the World Cup, let’s take a look at some of the most anticipated and intriguing clashes of the weekend. Many of them already have title implications.
Ligue 1 (France):
Ligue 1 offers a Top 4 game on its fixture list this weekend as 3rd-placed RC Lens visit the Orange Velodrome to face Marseille, 4th.
Lens, one of many surprises in European football after being promoted to the top tier of French football in 2020, have lost just one game in their Ligue 1 schedule so far. A 1-0 loss to Lille two weeks ago contributed to their 3-game away winless streak this season.
That said, the Northern side have found a way to earn points in the first third of the year despite not scoring more than one goal in each of their last six matches. Led by Florian Socota (6 goals and 2 assists in 11 games) and 22-year-old budding Belgian star Lois Openda (4 goals in 11 games), Lens will look to continue fighting for the top spot in Marseille on Saturday. .
Marseille come into the game looking to right the ship after losing their only two Ligue 1 games of the season, back-to-back, to Paris Saint Germain and AC Ajaccio.
The Chilean international Alexis Sanchez, author of 4 goals in 9 games played with the Olympians, will lead the charge at home.
The game kicks off at 3:00 p.m. EST on Saturday.
Second-placed Bayern Munich travel to Rhein-Neckar-Arena on Saturday to take on Top 4 hopefuls TSG 1899 Hoffenheim.
Julian Nagelsmann will lead his men into another crucial Bundesliga fixture ahead of the World Cup break which could see the winner take or retain second place.
Bayern should expect to see first-choice goalkeeper Manuel Neuer fit for the first time in a few matches. But they will be missing some stars as Leroy Sane and Thomas Muller, two Bayern regulars from 11, will not be in the squad as they recover from injury and illness respectively.
Although those two absentees hurt Die Bayern, Sane and Muller are just two of 13 different players to score for their side this season, the most of any club in
For 5th-placed Hoffenheim, a win would see them overtake several teams in the standings.
They will tackle this big task still without one of their best players, Croatian striker Andrej Kramaric. While Israel international Munas Dubbar (4 goals in 9 games played) will look to continue his good form, while the hosts welcome the only blunder to lead them to a Champions League appearance, current Bayern manager Julian Nagelsmann.
The match kicks off in Hoffenheim, Sinsheim, Germany on Saturday at 9:30 a.m.
La Liga (Spain):
Estadio Benito Villamarin and 5th-placed Real Betis host 4th-placed Atletico Madrid in Seville, Spain on Sunday.
Real Betis have been one of the most impressive home teams in Europe this year. They are unbeaten at home as Los Verdiblancos will look to continue their recent success at home without some of the club’s biggest names.
Striker Juanmi, as well as attacking midfielders Nabil Fekir and Sergio Canales, will all be absent from this weekend’s game. It’s not good news for Real Betis as they already have just one win in 19 tries against Atletico Madrid since coach Diego Simeone took over the red and white.
Atletico Madrid are unbeaten against Betis in their last 6 clashes and will need to continue that record if they are to at least try to stay in title contention with favorites Real Madrid.
Diego Simeone will be without several players for the game as many first-team options are ruled out due to injury. Koke, Thomas Lemar and Marcos Llorente are all unfit to play for the Colchoneros and first-team world-class goalkeeper Jan Oblak could also miss out.
For Real Betis’ Spanish international Borjas Iglesias (7 goals and 2 assists in 10 La Liga games), it might just be the boost he’s looking for to continue his spirited form.
Kickoff will be Sunday at 10:15 a.m. EST.
Premier League (England):
There are two highly anticipated fixtures in England this weekend, but only one boasts two teams in the Top 5 of the Premier League table.
5th-placed Manchester United travel to London on Saturday afternoon to take on 4th-placed Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.
The two all-time English clubs are separated by a single point near the top of the table and both teams go into the game with problems inside the club.
For Manchester United, Saturday’s game will be their second game in a row against a top 4 side and this time it will be without Cristiano Ronaldo. Red Devils manager Erik Ten Hag knocked Ronaldo out of the squad almost immediately after his early exit from Wednesday’s game against Tottenham.
Meanwhile, the Blues have many first-choice players out through injury. Defensive midfielder N’Golo Kante and defenders Reece James and Wesley Fofana will all miss the game as they look to get back into shape ahead of the World Cup in less than a month. New manager Graham Potter has some decisions to make in his backline as Chelsea have set up far bigger goals than expected.
Even with their somewhat underperforming defense of late, Chelsea have not been defeated in the Premier League since a 2-1 loss to Southampton on August 30.
That said, Chelsea are winless in their last 9 Premier League games against Man United.
Manchester’s red men have been beaten just once in their last 8 matches which can only mean Stamford Bridge will switch for the men in blue on Saturday.
Series A (Italy):
Italy’s top league has arguably the most important fixtures of its season so far, this Sunday.
First, on Sunday we will see 5th-placed Lazio travel to Bergamo to take on 2nd-placed Atalanta.
Atalanta, who are still unbeaten in Serie A for 10 games, have continued their peak even in the absence of some of the clubs biggest names.
They have been and will continue to be without three of their best defenders, Jose Luis Palomino, Davide Zappacosta and skipper Rafael Toloi. The absence of these three allowed two young Italian U-21s to step into the spotlight. Caleb Okoli and Giorgio Scalvini have both been crucial in the teams’ winning form.
For visiting Lazio, manager Maurizio Sarri will be without top scorer Ciro Immobile, who scored 6 goals in 10 games before picking up an injury. It will be a joint effort to try to fill the void he leaves.
And, while Atlanta have suffered just one loss to Lazio in their last 10 games, Atalanta coach Gian Piero Gasparini has conceded more goals for Lazio than any other team. of Serie A since his appointment. We’ll see if this trend continues in Sunday’s game.
The second game on Sunday’s highly anticipated list is Napoli and Roma.
First and still undefeated SSC Napoli will travel to Rome Olympic Stadium to face José Mourinho’s Roma in the “Derby del Sole”.
The ‘Southern Derby’, as it’s also known, spotlights the top two teams in Serie A that don’t reside in northern Italy.
Visitors Napoli have won 10 consecutive games in all competitions and look to be one of the best clubs in the world at the moment. Les Bleus (from Italy) will travel with a side that is almost fully fit after top striker Nigeria international Victor Osimhen returned from injury.
Osimhen is set to start in attack alongside Lautaro Martinez and one of the brightest names in world football right now, Khvicha Kvaratskhelia. The 21-year-old Georgia international has 13 goal contributions in 14 total games this campaign.
For Mourinho’s Roma, a win against Napoli on Sunday would end a 12-game losing streak at home to Italy’s top four sides.
Roma will again be shorthanded for this game as Paulo Dybala, Zeki Celik, Marash Kumbulla and Georginio Wijnaldum will all miss the game.
Kickoff will be at 2:45 a.m. EST Sunday.
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