European Look Ahead: Manchester clubs continue rivalry in FA Cup and more

CityUnited (Reuters Pictures)

By JOHN BOSCHINI

FA Cup ties are the major draw in England this weekend, while Italian and Spanish sides return to action for the first time in nearly a month as winter breaks draw to a close.

Manchester United and Manchester City are still the heavy favorites to take home the Premier League title this year, but it's the FA Cup that provides another exhibition of one of the most heated rivalries in the world. Manchester United is on a two-match losing streak that featured embarrassing losses to Blackburn and Newcastle, while City will be without striker Mario Balotelli. Police at the Etihad have been ordered to wear full riot gear as precaution in case this emotional fixture boils over.

Inter Milan is steadily working its way back up the table after a disastrous start to the season and will try to get 2012 off on the right foot. Inter is six points off a UEFA Champions League spot and only eight points behind AC Milan and Juventus at the top of the table. All of the title contenders in Italy take on lower-quality opposition upon their return to action.

La Liga is back in action as well, while leagues in Germany, France and the Netherlands have a few more weeks off.

Here is a look ahead to the weekend's fixtures in Europe:

ENGLAND

Aside from the Manchester Derby, the highlight of the FA Cup third-round slate may come Monday, when Thierry Henry is eligible to make his return in an Arsenal uniform. The Gunners take on Leeds United in a game Arsene Wenger won't want to take lightly as he searches for an elusive piece of silverware. Newcastle takes on under-fire Steve Kean and Blackburn in the only other Premier League matchup of the FA Cup's third round.

Friday

Liverpool vs. Oldham Athletic, 3 p.m.

Saturday

Birmingham vs. Wolverhampton Wanderers, 7:30 a.m.
Dagenham & Redbridge vs. Milwall, 8 a.m.
Barnsley vs. Swansea City, 10 a.m.
Brighton vs. Wrexham, 10 a.m.
Coventry City vs. Southhampton, 10 a.m.
Crawley Town vs. Bristol City, 10 a.m.
Derby County vs. Crystal Palace, 10 a.m.
Doncaster Rovers vs. Notts County, 10 a.m.
Everton vs, Tamworth, 10 a.m.
Fleetwood Town vs. Blackpool, 10 a.m.
Fulham vs. Charlton Athletic, 10 a.m.
Gillingham vs. Stoke City, 10 a.m.
Hull City vs. Ipswich Town, 10 a.m.
Macclesfield Town vs. Bolton Wanderers, 10 a.m.
Middlesborough vs. Shrewsbury Town, 10 a.m.
MK Dons vs. Queens Park Rangers, 10 a.m.
Newcastle United vs. Blackburn Rovers, 10 a.m.
Norwich City vs. Burnley, 10 a.m.
Nottingham Forest vs. Leicester City, 10 a.m.
Reading vs. Stevenage, 10 a.m.
Sheffield United vs. Salisbury City, 10 a.m.
Swindon Town vs. Wigan 10 a.m.
Tottenham Hotspur vs. Cheltenham Town, 10 a.m.
Watford vs. Bradford City, 10 a.m.
West Brom vs. Cardiff City, 10 a.m.
Bristol Rovers vs. Aston Villa, 12:30 p.m.

Sunday

Manchester City vs. Manchester United, 8 a.m.
Chelsea vs. Portsmouth, 10 a.m.
Sheffield Wednesday vs. West Ham, 10 a.m.
Petersborough United vs. Sunderland, 10:30 a.m.

Monday

Arsenal vs. Leeds United, 2:45 p.m.

SPAIN

Real Madrid will try and hold on to its slim, three-point advantage at the top of the table as the second half of the La Liga season kicks off. Common sense dictates Madrid should have no trouble with Granada and Barcelona should breeze by Espanyol. Last season, Villareal vs. Valencia would have been a battle between two Champions League contenders, but now the Yellow Submarine is just hoping to stave off relegation.

Saturday

Levante vs. Mallorca, 12 p.m.
Racing Santander vs. Real Zaragoza, 12 p.m.
Real Sociedad vs. Osasuna, 12 p.m.
Real Madrid vs. Granada, 2 p.m.
Malaga vs. Athletico Madrid, 4 p.m.

Sunday

Rayo Vallecano vs. Sevilla, 6 a.m.
Getafe vs. Athletic Bilbao, 10 a.m.
Villareal vs. Valencia, 12 p.m.
Real Betis vs. Sporting Gijon, 1:45 p.m.
Espanyol vs. Barcelona, 3:30 p.m.

ITALY

Juventus and AC Milan are tied at the top of the Serie A table, and the next few months will prove crucial in their title chase. AC Milan does not have to worry about Champions League play until February and will try to pick up three points on the road at Atalanta. The same goes for Juventus when it travels to bottom-dwelling Leece.

Saturday

Siena vs. Lazio, 12 p.m.
Inter Milan vs. Parma, 2:45 p.m.

Sunday

Udinese vs. Cesena, 6:30 a.m.
AS Roma vs. Chievo Verona, 9 a.m.
Atalanta vs. AC Milan, 9 a.m.
Bologna vs. Catania, 9 a.m.
Cagliari vs. Genoa, 9 a.m.
Leece vs. Juventus, 9 a.m.
Novara vs. Fiorentina, 9 a.m.
Palermo vs. Napoli, 9 a.m.

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What do you think of this weekend's games? Who comes out on top in the Manchester Derby? Do you see any upsets brewing in Italy or Spain?

Share your thoughts below.

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14 Responses to European Look Ahead: Manchester clubs continue rivalry in FA Cup and more

  1. K Bone says:

    Poor Mancini, he won’t be able to buy replacements for Barry, the Toures, and Balotelli before the FA Cup. How much does his life suck? Seriously though, I actually hope they continue to accrue ridiculously overpriced players that they don’t need (De Rossi, Hazard, etc.) so that it will ultimately be their undoing. I can’t even imagine if they got Sneijder. Nasri must feel like an idiot…

  2. chris says:

    Speaking as a city fan I acknowledge Mancini comes off as spoiled sometimes, but I don’t get the second point you made. De Rossi and Hazard are world class, any team would benefit by having them in it. Nasri is a different case, I didn’t like that signing from week 1.

  3. K Bone says:

    My main point is that City won’t necessarily benefit from getting them. Seriously, how do you think City will manage having a midfield with Barry, De Jong (whose days are number anyway), Nasri, Milner, Yaya, Silva, and Johnson (whose talent is already wasted), and then adding De Rossi and Hazard? City don’t need those players, and with the amount of money they would be paying De Rossi, he’d pretty much be starting every game. So you have to figure out how to satisfy everyone when Yaya, De Rossi, and Silva should be automatic starters. Explain how that works out for everyone, especially with City being so lucky with injuries…

  4. Will says:

    Agree. De Rossi would be a huge upgrade over Barry.

  5. Emay264 says:

    Its not that Man City wouldn’t benefit from De Rossi, Hazard, and others. It’s that they try to buy success instead of focusing on the players they have. It’s a waste of a transfer to buy an expensive player and bench another expensive buy.

  6. K Bone says:

    Exactly, and the problem is that they don’t care if it’s a waste of money, because they have endless money. I think in the long wrong it’ll get the point they have too many players making too much money and they all think they deserve to play all the time. It’s not like Barca where everyone understands their role to play, or United where you never hear about any players complaining about playing time. Of course they have so many injuries everyone does get to play…

  7. OC says:

    I doubt ANYONE on City’s wage bill feels like an idiot. Sometimes players would rather be bit-part for a title winner than a star for an also-ran. I disagree with it but that’s the way sport is heading these days, no matter which sport you look to.

  8. OC says:

    You know what?

    I would love to see Spurs, Arsenal, etc try and buy Adam Johnson. It’s probably WAY expensive (and I believe he’s a Manchester boy, maybe I’m wrong?), but I seriously think he would light it up almost anywhere in the EPL. Been a fan of this kid for a while now, and as a Tottenham fan I think he could near-seamlessly replace Aaron Lennon while he’s hurt, and offer a nice change of pace even when Lennon is back in the fold.

  9. K Bone says:

    Certainly in terms of money City’s players are doing great, but when I called Nasri an idiot I mainly meant he must think his choice is foolish now. One would think that City told him they had big plans for him and he’d be a starring player for them. Now they want to bring in even more midfielders, which is the one area they are completely stocked in. I don’t think Nasri went to play for City with the intention of being a bit-part player in his first season after a breakout year with Arsenal…

  10. K Bone says:

    Also one of my points. Johnson is a great player but City have bought so much talent that he has been wasted. I really think one of their strategies is to buy so many players just so other teams can’t have them. If they buy De Rossi and pay him what I’ve heard they would pay him, I don’t see how Financial Fair Play can allow that to happen…

  11. chris says:

    I would assume that if De Rossi came in someone would leave, probably De Jong. Besides yaya nobody in our center midfield is on the same level as him, we would absolutely benefit from signing him. As for Hazard, he’s great already and only like 20 so you could kiss Johnson or quite possibly Nasri goodbye. I think from now on if you saw signings as major as these, somebody would have to leave. Like you said, you can’t possibly manage that many talented players in one team.

  12. chris says:

    Worked for Chelsea and Real in the last decade. I became a city fan before they got rich and I still don’t know how I really feel about it, but I’m def not criticizing them for using what they have available. I just think now that we’re stockpiled you’re gonna see a player or two leaving for every huge signing we make.

  13. chris says:

    I would too. Besides the Sunderland game he’s shown well every time he’s been called upon this season. If I were the manager I’d play him before Nasri honestly, but since Mancini doesn’t feel the same way I want to see him succeed as a starter elsewhere.

  14. Artie says:

    Hey, no hands allowed!