By JUSTIN FERGUSON
After impressive shutout victories earlier in the week, two of the hottest teams in the English Premier League will clash in North London this Sunday.
First-place Arsenal kept their fifth clean sheet in their last six matches Wednesday against Hull City, who were fresh off a stunning victory against Liverpool. Despite their growing injury list, the Gunners have continued their run atop the EPL table and have recorded six consecutive league victories at Emirates Stadium, the site of this weekend’s meeting with fifth-place Everton.
Everton sit just one point back from third-place Manchester City and three points back from second-place Chelsea after defeating former manager David Moyes’ Manchester United squad at Old Trafford. The Toffees are unbeaten in their last seven EPL matches, but they have not defeated Arsenal in their last dozen league matchups. Like Arsenal, Everton have kept opposing offenses from getting on the scoreboard in five of their last six matches, setting up a faceoff between two of the league’s top defenses.
Before Arsenal host Everton in England, Bayer Leverkusen will visit Borussia Dortmund in a top German clash. Following their humiliating 3-0 loss to rivals Bayern Munich, third-place Dortmund have recorded three straight wins across all competitions and held a perfect home record before the defending champions’ visit two weekends ago. Second-place Bayer Leverkusen have also rebounded from their 5-0 loss to Manchester United in Champions League play, shutting out Nurnberg and knocking out Freiburg from the DFB-Pokal competition earlier this week.
Here is a closer look at the weekend’s action from the top leagues in Europe:
Eighth-place Southampton look to avoid their fourth consecutive league defeat Saturday at the end of what has been a brutal stretch of matches for the Saints. They welcome a third-place Manchester City side that has struggled away from home this season but will enter St. Mary’s Stadium on a strong four-match winning streak. While several Southampton players will be sidelined with injury for Saturday’s match, Manchester City captain Vincent Kompany is expected to make his first start in his return from injury.
Fourth-place Liverpool and Luis Suarez are at Anfield this Saturday to face West Ham United, a team that has scored fewer goals as a whole than Suarez has scored this season. Suarez, who is coming off a four-goal midweek performance at Norwich, will go up against a West Ham defense that has only allowed five road goals. However, the Hammers have only won one road match and fell to newly promoted Crystal Palace earlier in the week.
Here are this weekend’s matches in the English Premier League:
Manchester United vs. Newcastle United
Crystal Palace vs. Cardiff City
Liverpool vs. West Ham United
Southampton vs. Manchester City
Stoke City vs. Chelsea
West Bromwich Albion vs. Norwich City
Sunderland vs. Tottenham Hotspur
Fulham vs. Aston Villa
Arsenal vs. Everton
In addition to a No. 2 vs. No. 3 matchup, Saturday in the Bundesliga will include an intriguing No. 4 vs. No. 5 fixture — Borussia Monchengladbach and Schalke 04. Monchengladbach, who trail third-place Borussia Dortmund by just three points, enter Saturday’s matchup on a five-match winning streak that has included three clean sheets. Fifth-place Schalke, on the other hand, are coming off a 3-1 home loss in the DFB-Pokal to Hoffenheim that ended their four-match unbeaten run against domestic competition.
After learning that star winger Arjen Robben may miss up to six weeks due to an injury suffered in a midweek DFB-Pokal match, first-place Bayern Munich hit the road this weekend to face slumping Werder Bremen. While Bayern are still unbeaten in Bundesliga play this season, hosts Werder Bremen have only won once in their last six matches. Werder Bremen have shown tremendous fight at the end of their last two matches, but they have a tough task ahead of them as they face a Bayern squad firing on all cylinders at the moment.
Here are this weekend’s matches in the Bundesliga:
Nurnberg vs. Mainz
Borussia Monchengladbach vs. Schalke 04
Eintracht Frankfurt vs. Hoffenheim
Hamburg vs. Augsburg
Stuttgart vs. Hannover 96
Werder Bremen vs. Bayern Munich
Borussia Dortmund vs. Bayer Leverkusen
Freiburg vs. Wolfsburg
Eintracht Braunschweig vs. Hertha Berlin
USMNT midfielder Michael Bradley second-place AS Roma still have not lost this season, but they have lost their lead in the Serie A table with four consecutive draws. Roma look to get back to their winning ways against fifth-place Fiorentina, who are coming off a wild 4-3 shootout with sixth-place Hellas Verona. Roma’s offense has not scored more than one goal since mid-October, but the defense has come through for Rudi Garcia’s squad — the capital club has only allowed four goals this season.
Third-place Napoli ended their two-match Serie A losing skid last weekend with a 4-2 win against Lazio, and now they turn their attention to struggling Udinese, who have been held scoreless in three of their last four matches. With the exception of their 1-0 loss to Parma two weeks ago, Napoli have been strong at San Paolo, outscoring opponents 13-2 in their six other home matches. Road matches have been a struggle for Udinese, as last year’s fifth-place club has recorded only one win and six losses away from home this season.
Here are this weekend’s matches in Serie A:
Bologna vs. Juventus
Livorno vs. AC Milan
Napoli vs. Udinese
AS Roma vs. Fiorentina
Cagliari vs. Genoa
Hellas Verona vs. Atalanta
Sampdoria vs. Catania
Sassuolo vs. Chievo Verona
Torino vs. Lazio
Inter Milan vs. Parma
First-place Paris Saint-Germain’s 26-match unbeaten run in Ligue 1 came to a stunning end earlier this week in a 2-0 loss at Evian Thonon Gaillard. This weekend, the defending champions return to the Parc des Princes to face last-place Sochaux, who have allowed a league-leading 22 goals in road matches this season. Saturday’s match will be a perfect opportunity for PSG to get back on track ahead of their Champions League trip to Portugal’s Benfica.
Second-place Lille were able to close the gap between themselves and the league leaders to one point after another shutout victory against Marseille. On Sunday, Lyon travel to seventh-place Bordeaux, who are on a three-match unbeaten run in Ligue 1 play. Lille have not allowed a goal since September 15′s match at Nice, but they will go toe-to-toe this weekend with an offense that is fifth-best in France this season.
Here are this weekend’s matches in Ligue 1:
Marseille vs. Nantes
Paris Saint-Germain vs. Sochaux
Lorient vs. Stade Rennes
Saint Etienne vs. Evian Thonon Gaillard
Stade de Reims vs. Nice
Valenciennes vs. Guingamp
Bordeaux vs. Lille
Bastia vs. Lyon
Toulouse vs. Montpellier
AS Monaco vs. Ajaccio
Which European matches are you looking forward to the most this weekend? See Arsenal posting their seventh straight home victory in EPL play? Think Dortmund can level with Leverkusen on points this weekend? Which other European league matchups from this weekend catch your eye?
Share your thoughts below.