Despite midweek fixtures in the English Premier League, the European soccer schedule is packed for Presidents’ Day weekend. Here are a couple of games that you might want to keep an extra eye on.
FC Bayern Munich – Hamburg SV (Bundesliga Gameweek 21)
Bayern’s dominance in the Bundesliga continues, and Pep Guardiola’s squad is looking to keep that 8 point gap down to Wolfsburg in second place. Bayern are topping the league on 49 points after 20 games. Hamburg on the other hand, struggled in the early parts of the season and found themselves towards the bottom of the league for a long time. But with a recent run of better results, HSV now find themselves on safer ground (12th place, 23 points). The difference between the clubs are huge, Bayern has scored 45 goals and only allowed 9, and Hamburg scoring only 14 and allowing 22. With that in mind, this could be a blowout win by Bayern.
Real Madrid – Deportivo (La Liga Gameweek 23)
Real are looking to get back on the winning track after last weeks defeat to Atletico Madrid in the derby. The Meringues needs a win to keep Barcelona behind them in the table, as Real is currently just a single point ahead of Barcelona, who plays Levante on Sunday. Cristiano Rolando has been a scoring machine all season. The Portuguese superstar has 28 goals in 22 games so far this season and if he keeps this up, he might break 40 goals before the season ends. Deportivo currently sits in 11th place, 30 points behind Madrid. As a smaller club, Deportivo fans might be satisfied with a mid-table finish, and that makes the games against Real, Barcelona and Atletico the highlights of the season.
Palermo – Napoli (Serie A Gameweek 23)
It’s always fun to see Palermo play at home in their very distinct light-pink jerseys. They are desperately trying to get in the mix for the European spots, and are currently in 9th with 30 points, four points behind Lazio in 6th who occupy that final spot which means play in the Euro League. Napoli sits in 3rd, with 42 points, four behind Roma in 2nd and 11 behind Juventus in first.
Although Juventus might be impossible to catch up, Napoli could challenge Roma for the 2nd place and a higher seeding in the Champions League drawing. This game will be a battle of two great Argentinian goal scorers. For Palermo you have 21-year old Paulo Dybala, who has had his breakthrough season in Serie A and currently has 11 goals on the season.
Dybala has been linked to bigger clubs, and it might just be a matter of time before he takes the next step. In Napoli we find Gonzalo Higuain. The former Real Madrid striker has had a good start to his career in Napoli, scoring 17 league goals in his first season last year, and 12 so far this season.
Arsenal – Middlesbrough (FA Cup 5th Round)
Both clubs are in fine form coming into this cup tie. Middlesbrough shocked everyone when they grabbed a 2-0 victory of Manchester City in the 4th round of the FA Cup. The Championship club is riding high on a 10-game unbeaten streak in all competitions and are currently sitting atop the Championship table with 59 points in 30 games. Midfielder Grant Leadbitter leads the team in scoring with 12 goals in all competitions. Arsenal has won six out of the last seven games and bounced back with a 2-1 win over Leicester on Tuesday after suffering defeat in the London derby against Tottenham last weekend. Alexis Sanchez leads the way for Arsenal in scoring with 12 goals so far. It will be interesting if Arsenal fields a stronger side than they usual would in a cup game seeing that Boro knocked out Man City in the previous round.
Preston North End – Manchester United (FA Cup 5th Round)
You can celebrate Presidents’ Day by watching more FA Cup soccer as Preston host Man United at Deepdale stadium. The Lilywhites are currently 4th in League One (English third tier), and has opened up February with three straight wins, including a 3-1 win over Sheffield United in the FA Cup 4th round. The Red Devils from Manchester are coming off a 3-1 victory over Burnley on Wednesday. United beat Cambridge United 3-0 in the 4th round of the FA Cup in the replay fixture after the first meeting ended 0-0. Look for Louis van Gaal to give a couple of the fringe players a chance in this game as United are clearly the stronger side. One talented United youngster who might be in the starting 11 is James Wilson.