It’s Super Sunday due to the two big EPL North London-Manchester games, but there’s also a couple interesting La Liga matchups and an relevant Eredivisie matchup today:
Super Sunday, Jan 22
Netherlands, Alkmaar-Ajax (8:30amET ESPN Deportes, ESPN3.com): A league meeting between two teams in contention for the Eredivisie title (AZ Alkmaar). This will be the 3rd meeting between the two sides in just over a month–first there was the already-infamous pitch invasion at Amsterdam Arena in December, and then the replay in front of 20,000 Dutch schoolchildren last week.
Most eyes, however, will be on England, with the two North London teams taking on the two Manchester teams (“a tale of two cities” if you will):
England, Manchester City-Spurs (8:30amET FSC): 1st vs 3rd, with City still atop the table and Spurs hot on their heels in 3rd. We liberally excerpt from our man John Lally’s PoliticalFootballs preview post:
Manchester City still have their 100% home record in the league, having won all 10 of their fixtures at the
City of ManchesterI mean massively overpriced sponsorship with financial shenanigans definitely going onEtihad Stadium – but their last two games there have ended in defeat – against United in the FA Cup, and Liverpool in the Carling Cup. The absence of Yaya Toure, who is representing the Cote D’Ivoire at the Africa Cup of Nations, has weakened the City midfield, giving Tottenham an opportunity to dominate in the middle of the park. However, Spurs will be without Emanuel Adebayor up front – he is on loan from Manchester City and thus is ineligible to play against his parent club. Harry Redknapp, who tax evasion case goes to trial the day after the match, will be hoping that Rafael Van der Vaart and Jermain Defoe will be able to join forces and lead the line, having been competing with each other for a single place in the starting lineup all season. If Bale on the left and Lennon on the right-wing can get behind the City full backs – Micah Richards and Gael Clichy – then Tottenham will have a great chance at putting the home team under pressure – but they will need to be less wasteful with their chances than they were in the draw with Wolves last week.
England, Arsenal-Manchester United (10:30amET Fox main network, tape at 5pmET on FSC): Despite Arsenal slipping back down the table over the past few weeks, out of contention for the title, this is still a marquee matchup. There’s the history of course–the recent history that Arsenal will seek to avenge today; and before that, the acrimonious clashes of the past two decades.
Finally, if that’s not enough footy for you, and if you don’t have Barcelona/Madrid fatigue (don’t forget the 2nd leg of their Copa del Rey tie is this coming Wednesday, back at the Camp Nou), the Big Two in Spain actually have potentially tricky fixtures today:
Spain, Malaga-Barcelona (12pmET GolTV): Yet another non-trivial away fixture for Barça. The Qatari-funded Malaga project hasn’t been entirely successful so far, although they did threaten to knock off Real Madrid a couple weeks ago, before a goalkeeper howler doomed them. The player to watch for Malaga is Spanish international midfielder Santi Cazorla.
Spain, Real Madrid-Athletic Bilbao (3:30pmET ESPN3.com, tape at 7 p.m. on ESPN Deportes): We are fascinated by the Bielsa-Bilbao project. Will they press Madrid at the Bernabeu? How will Madrid respond after last Wednesday’s demoralizing loss? Players to watch for Athletic–if we might be so solipsistic as to blockquote ourselves (from our preview of November’s fantastic Bilbao-Barcelona match):
Fernando Llorente up front, at “la punta” of the attack, a player who has won 19 caps playing for Spain (including an appearance in South Africa for the World Cup-winning side); “the highly exciting 18-year-old Iker Muniain,” who seems to play in an attacking midfield role; and behind him in central midfield the 23-year old Javi Martinez
And if you’re a lover of the Italian game, here’s a Serie A match for good measure:
Italy, Inter Milan-Lazio (2:30pmET. FSC, ESPN3.com)