European Weekend Preview: Manchester United host first-place Arsenal; Napoli face Juventus; and more

Robin van Persie of Manchester United and Bacary Sagna of Arsenal

Photo by Matt West/ISIPhotos.com

By JUSTIN FERGUSON

After posting back-to-back home shutout wins against early-season English Premier League title contender Liverpool and defending Champions League runners-up Borussia Dortmund, Arsenal will wrap up their tough stretch of matches at Old Trafford, the home of Manchester United and former star striker Robin van Persie.

Sunday’s battle in Manchester will be an intriguing matchup — the Red Devils have only lost once in their last nine league meetings with the Gunners, but Arsenal have shown much more quality through the first 10 matches of the EPL season. While eighth-place Man United have won three of their last four league fixtures, Arsenal have not lost in the league since their season-opening shocker against Aston Villa.

Van Persie will welcome his old Arsenal teammates during the middle of a good run of goalscoring form. The Dutch striker has found the back of the net in three straight EPL matches, and his attack partnership with Wayne Rooney has steadily improved with his squad’s form. That partnership will surely be put to the test Sunday as it faces a stingy Arsenal defense that has allowed multiple goals only three times in 18 matches across all competitions.

Later on Sunday, two powerhouses in Italy will collide when Juventus host Napoli in a major top-three Serie A showdown. Juve and Napoli, both tied in points, trail AS Roma by three in the standings and are riding three-match league winning streaks heading into Sunday’s showdown. After their 3-2 victory against Marseille in Champions League play earlier this week, Napoli will have slightly more momentum than Juventus as they aim for their first league victory against the defending champions since January 2011.

Here is a closer look at the weekend’s action from the top leagues in Europe:

ENGLAND

Second-place Chelsea rebounded from last weekend’s loss against Newcastle United with a Champions League victory against Schalke 04. This weekend, the Blues welcome West Bromwich Albion, a side that has beaten Chelsea in two of their last three league meetings. However, both of those West Brom wins were at The Hawthorns, and Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho has a 65-match unbeaten run going at the site of this weekend’s clash, Stamford Bridge.

Third-place Liverpool were also handed a defeat in last weekend’s EPL action, and the Reds return to Anfield this weekend to take on a Fulham outfit that has lost three straight matches across all competitions. The Cottagers have had trouble defending in the first half recently, as all three of Manchester United’s goals last weekend and both of Southampton’s the weekend before were all scored before the halftime whistle. Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge will be itching to set the record straight after last weekend’s shutout loss at the Emirates Stadium, so another early deficit might be in the cards for 17th-place Fulham.

Here are this weekend’s matches in the English Premier League:

Saturday:
Aston Villa vs. Cardiff City
Chelsea vs. West Bromwich Albion
Crystal Palace vs. Everton
Liverpool vs. Fulham
Southampton vs. Hull City
Norwich City vs. West Ham United

Sunday:
Tottenham Hotspur vs. Newcastle United
Sunderland vs. Manchester City
Manchester United vs. Arsenal
Swansea City vs. Stoke City

————

SPAIN

The biggest matchup in La Liga this weekend does not involve giants Barcelona or Real Madrid — instead, second-place Atletico Madrid’s trip to fourth-place Villarreal takes top billing in Spain. While last season’s second-division champions have cooled off after their blazing start to the campaign, Villarreal have only lost once at home this season. Unfortunately for Villarreal, they will be without top goalscorer Giovani Dos Santos ahead of the visit from Atletico, who have outscored opponents 16-1 in the five matches following their first loss of the season.

With Lionel Messi finding his way back on the scoresheet earlier this week, first-place Barcelona look to keep up their undefeated start to the season in their trip to struggling 18th-place Real Betis. Although Betis have maintained an unbeaten record in Europa League play, last season’s sixth-place club is winless in its last five La Liga matches. Barcelona have posted four straight clean sheets away from home, and the defending champions will have a great chance at posting another against a team that is averaging less than one goal per match this season.

Here are this weekend’s matches in La Liga:

Friday:
Osasuna vs. Almeria
Granada vs. Malaga

Saturday:
Real Madrid vs. Real Sociedad
Getafe vs. Elche
Athletic Bilbao vs. Levante
Celta Vigo vs. Rayo Vallecano

Sunday:
Espanyol vs. Sevilla
Valencia vs. Real Valladolid
Villarreal vs. Atletico Madrid
Real Betis vs. Barcelona

————

GERMANY

After a hard-fought 1-0 Champions League victory at Viktoria Plzen that assured them a place in the tournament’s knockout stages, Bayern Munich return to Allianz Arena this weekend to face Augsburg. First-place Bayern are still unbeaten in Bundesliga play this season, and they will face an Augsburg side Saturday that ended its five-match winless skid with a 2-1 victory against Mainz. With the exception of their 4-1 win against Mainz, Bayern’s recent league matches have been tense affairs, and Pep Guardiola’s squad will want to head into the international break with a strong showing in front of their home fans.

Second-place Borussia Dortmund were on the opposite end of a 1-0 scoreline in Champions League play this week, and they must rebound ahead of their trip to Wolfsburg. The fifth-place Wolves are currently riding a three-match winning streak, and they remain the only side in Germany without a draw this season. Dortmund’s offense has been rolling in recent Bundesliga matches — will Jurgen Klopp see more goals from his high-powered attack, or will it be held in check against one of the league’s top defenses?

Here are this weekend’s matches in the Bundesliga:

Friday:
Hannover 96 vs. Eintracht Braunschweig

Saturday:
Bayer Leverkusen vs. Hamburg
Bayern Munich vs. Augsburg
Schalke 04 vs. Werder Bremen
Hoffenheim vs. Hertha Berlin
Wolfsburg vs. Borussia Dortmund
Borussia Monchengladbach vs. Nurnberg

Sunday:
Mainz vs. Eintracht Frankfurt
Freiburg vs. Stuttgart

————

ITALY

First-place AS Roma return to the Stadio Olimpico after last weekend’s 1-1 draw at Torino, their first match of the season that did not result in a win. Roma now prepare for 18th-place Sassuolo, who won a wild 4-3 match last weekend against Sampdoria but have given up a league-leading 27 goals this season. With Roma scoring just one goal in each of their last three matches, Sunday’s home match will be a perfect chance for Rudi Garcia’s men to get their offense rolling again.

Fourth-place Inter Milan are unbeaten in their last four matches and host Livorno, another newly promoted club that has shown signs of promise in the first part of the Serie A season. Livorno shut down Atalanta 1-0 at home last weekend, but they will have to work hard to avoid their fourth straight road loss in league play. Inter have scored 11 goals in their last four matches and will be looking to build off of last week’s convincing 3-0 victory at Udinese.

Here are this weekend’s matches in Serie A:

Saturday:
Catania vs. Udinese
Inter Milan vs. Livorno

Sunday:
Genoa vs. Hellas Verona
AS Roma vs. Sassuolo
Atalanta vs. Bologna
Cagliari vs. Torino
Chievo Verona vs. AC Milan
Parma vs. Lazio
Fiorentina vs. Sampdoria
Juventus vs. Napoli

————

FRANCE

First-place Paris Saint-Germain wrap up a three-match homestand Saturday against 11th-place Nice, and the Parisians will want to improve on their 1-1 draw with Anderlecht in Champions League play earlier in the week. Zlatan Ibrahimovic was once again the star for the PSG offense, which has scored 16 goals in the defending champions’ last five Ligue 1 matches. Nice have hit a bump in the road after a good stretch of form, as last weekend’s 2-1 loss to Bordeaux was their first match in over a month that did not finish 1-0.

AS Monaco surrendered a share of first place and control of second place in one fatal swoop last weekend. With new second-place club Lille traveling to top-half Guingamp this weekend, Monaco can put pressure on last week’s victors in their Friday match against Evian Thonon Gaillard. Monaco are unbeaten at the Stade Louis II this season, and a return to their fortress will be a welcome sight after the loss to Lille in Ligue 1 and another loss to Stade de Reims in cup action last week.

Here are this weekend’s matches in Ligue 1:

Friday:
AS Monaco vs. Evian Thonon Gaillard

Saturday:
Paris Saint-Germain vs. Nice
Bastia vs. Stade Rennes
Guingamp vs. Lille
Lorient vs. Stade de Reims
Toulouse vs. Ajaccio
Valenciennes vs. Montpellier

Sunday:
Bordeaux vs. Nantes
Marseille vs. Sochaux
Saint Etienne vs. Lyon

————

Which European matches are you looking forward to the most this weekend? Think Arsenal win at Old Trafford? Who do you see taking control of second place in Serie A? See any potential upsets?

Share your thoughts below.

This entry was posted in European Soccer, Featured. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to European Weekend Preview: Manchester United host first-place Arsenal; Napoli face Juventus; and more

  1. slowleftarm says:

    Is Wolfsburg’s nickname actually the Wolves?