Saturday, January 28
England FA Cup, Liverpool-Manchester United (7:30amET FSC): The most heated of English rivalries? Which has become even more fraught with the Evra-Suarez controversy–due to which the essential Uruguayan striker is still sidelined for this one. Liverpool has been relying on Craig Bellamy up front–leaving a £35 elephant on the sideline. Man U continues to lose players to injury–Phil Jones being the latest–but after some mid-season wobbles somehow seems to keep winning.
African Cup, Ghana-Mali(2pmET Al Jazeera Sports USA): The one African Cup of Nations group stage match that we’d circled to watch. Ghana is one of the co-favorites to win the whole thing (along with the Ivory Coast), with largely the same squad that went to the quarterfinals of the World Cup in South Africa (and would have made the semifinals if not for the goal line stand of the aforementioned Luis Suarez). Mali looks like they’ve got a decent squad, based just on the fact that the majority of the Malian squad play in Ligue 1–and their captain is Barcelona’s Seydou Keita. SI has a match preview–and in fact Jonathan Wilson (who’s down in Gabon and Equatorial Guinea covering this firsthand) penned a tournament preview for them.
Italy, Juventus-Udinese(2:30pmET FSC, ESPN3.com): Big game in Turin, 1st v 3rd in Serie A. Actually Udinese can pull even with Juve if they can manage a win, but that will be a tall order. Remarkably, I Bianconeri are still undefeated in the league: 11W, 8D, 0L for 41pts, with AC Milan just a point behind and Udinese next with 38. For Udinese, any goals are likely to come from di Natale–but watch for Colombian winger Armero to create chaos on the flanks with his speed. Udinese will be missing Ghanaian holding midfielder Kwadwo Asamoah, who’s down with his national team, playing in that aforementioned match vs Mali today.
Sunday, January 29
Netherlands, Feyenoord-Ajax (6:30amET – ESPN Deportes, ESPN3.com): The most heated rivalry in Holland–De Klassieker.
England FA Cup, Arsenal-Aston Villa (11amET – FSC): Any Arsenal match is of interest to the CultFootball crew. And after last Sunday, it’ll be interesting to see how the Emirates responds to Arsene’s squad.
Spain, Malaga-Sevilla (4pmET GolTV): Since we like to look at La Liga beyond the Big Two, and these are two southern sides that aim to join (or rejoin, in Sevilla’s case) Valencia as the primary alternatives to Madrid and Barcelona.