It’s Christmas time and for many this involves over indulging in too much Turkey, Ham, watching uncles and aunts get a bit tipsy and helping yourself to another serving of Christmas pudding.
This weekend’s football matches across the three major European leagues – the Premiership, Serie A and La Liga in Spain – give any sports fan, let alone any football fan, at least three great excuses to see some of the best teams on the planet too.
Watching our featured games this weekend can only improve your appetite for more football in what’s become a busy time of the year for some of the game’s great stars. Each league throws up a top of the table clash of mouth watering quality and where else could we begin other than the daddy of all rivalries – el Clasico.
Real Madrid Vs Barcelona Saturday evening (check local press for exact time)
It’s been Barca’s year thus far in La Liga. They currently sit 11 points ahead of their bitterest rivals albeit having played one game more than Real. They could put an end to Real’s title hopes with a victory at Santiago Bernabéu this weekend. Madrid had the best of their early season clash in the Supercopa, the match up of 2016/7 cup and league winners in Spain, but since then it’s mainly been draws that have held up Real’s progress – unexpected draws against Valencia, Levante and Bilboa contributing to their lowly fourth position in the league
In terms of this particular match up, the trends have been very definitely in Barca’s favour for some time. Consider the following key stats in advance of Saturday nights feast;
Pep Guardiola (now with Manchester City) took over the manager position at Barca just before the start of the 2008/9 season and they haven’t looked back since – Barca have won 11 of the Clasicos played since that appointment drawing three and losing four.
They also won the 2010-11 Champions League semi-final between the two clubs
Lional Messi, Barca’s gifted Argentinian striker is also winning his personal dual with Cristino Ronaldo in this fixture. Messi is the most prolific player in Clasico history, with 24 goals in all competitions from just 36 appearances. That exceptional rate beats the 17 in 28 Ronaldo has managed since arriving in Spain from Manchester United in 2009.
Ronaldo’s win percentage of 28.5% in these clashes is also is significantly lower than Messi’s 44.4% (16 wins in 36 meetings. He has lost 12 and drawn eight)
Most of Messi’s goals have come in La Liga clashes between the two teams, with 16 strikes in 22 appearances. He’s already surpassed every other striker in the history of fixtures between the two teams.
With Barca in red hot form it’s worth pointing out that three times in the past 33 years they’ve managed to put 5 past Real – in Feb 1974, January 1994 and November 2010, the win in the 1970’s coming away from home. Real hit back with a 5-0 win in the season after the 1994 result.
There are two other games in the Premiership and Serie A that could produce fireworks too. In the Premiership Jurgen Klopp takes his free scoring Liverpool to Arsenal’s Emirates stadium on Friday evening. The two teams are already too far off the pace to consider winning the Premiership title in 2017/8, but both will be there or thereabouts when it comes to chasing one of the four Champion League qualification spots available from the Premiership.
Arsene Wenger will be fuming at the 4-0 victory earlier the year for Liverpool in the reverse fixture. In fact this has been a very good game for those that like a lot of goals – there’s has been an average of 5.25 goals in the last four match ups between the two clubs.
Liverpool have won three of the last four league games against Arsenal, with the other being a draw, since the 0-0 draw between the two clubs in August 2015. Attack minded Klopp took over the manager’s hotseat at Anfield on 8 October that year
Mohamed ‘Mo’ Salah has been Liverpool‘s big find this year. The Egyptian, after his transfer from Roma in the summer has scored six in the last seven league fixtures for Liverpool to move to first in the Premiership scoring table on 14, two ahead of Harry Kane
Salah also has the best rate of goals per minutes played at 97, four ahead of Manchester City striker Sergio Agüero
Italian fixture compilers haven’t totally disappointed either throwing up an intriguing clash between Juve and AC Roma
Roma managed to win seven of their first ten games this season to nil.
They have gone slightly off the boil since but in 16 games only Fiorentina have scored twice in 2017/8 Serie A fixtures against them
Their opponents Juve have been scoring goals for fun. Their average goals per game in the league this season has been 3.41..over 0.5 goals per game ahead of the next most prolific scorers in the league
Narrowing this down they seem to have the hex over opponents in the last half hour of games in particular
Roma have won their last 5 homes games but will they be able to be organised enough to keep Juve out? Juve have outscored opponents 10-1 this season so far in the 16-30 minute period of games. Only Inter have a comparable record recording cumulative scorelines of 8-0 in the same portion of their games.
Juve and Roma are both in the bottom half of one table – in less than 50% of both club’s games both teams have scored this season, whereas Lazio top that table. 81% of their league matches this season have resulted in both teams scoring. Atlanta are next on 71%.