African Cup of Nations (Group C), Gabon vs Tunisia (1pmET, Al-Jazeera Sports / Eurosport International):Tunisia and tournament co-host Gabon both won their first two group games and hence will advance to the final eight (while the other two teams in the group, Niger and disappointing Morocco, will go home). So might as well take a look at two teams that we’ll see in the quarterfinals, as they play for top of the group:
- Gabon will win the group if they do not lose to Tunisia.
- Tunisia will win the group if they defeat Gabon.
[Update: this match has been postponed due to heavy snow!] Italy (Serie A), Parma vs Juventus (2:45pmET, ESPN3.com or foxsoccer.tv in US): Juventus still topping the table, in pole position as the race for the Scudetto enters the home stretch. We wrote this last month re La Vecchia Signora (The Grand Old Lady, as Juve is called in Italy) ahead of their match with Udinese [with annotations in brackets]:
Juventus is perhaps even more surprising [than Udinese]–still undefeated in the league (9W 6D 0L) [in fact, still undefeated! 12W 8D 0L]. We finally got to watch Juve play (thanks to the fact we flew cross-country on JetBlue, and so were captive with GolTV for 10 hours), specifically the rather dramatic Coppa Italia match they played against Bologna. Players to watch on Juve: holding midfielder and Milan transplant Andrea Pirlo, Claudio Marchisio, Paraguayan Marcelo Estigarribia, ageless trequartista Alessandro del Piero; we also like to see Dutchman Eljero Elia, whose been somewhat lost in the shuffle since coming over from Hamburg in August.
We don’t know much about Parma, who are mid-table (11th place); here’s what livesoccertv’s preview has to say:
Parma are likely to be stiff opposition, as since their humiliating 5-0 defeat to Inter Milan at the San Siro in early January they have gone unbeaten in three successive league games, with a 3-1 home victory over Siena and two away draws against Bologna and Catania, respectively.
Furthermore, their home record is quite impressive, with five wins, three draws and a mere two losses in ten games. But in order for Parma to obtain a positive result, much depends on the form of former Juve striker Sebastian Giovinco.
The diminutive 25-year-old has scored four goals in his last three games against his former club and will be hoping to convert once again in order to boost his teams chances of causing an upset.
“Giovinco is the star and we know him well,” Giorgio Chiellini, the wary Juve defender, stated in reference to the talented striker, who incidentally scored Parma’s only goal in the 4-1 defeat to Juventus in September.
England (Premier League), Everton vs Manchester City (3pmET, Fox Deportes and FSC in US) or Manchester United vs Stoke City (also 3pET, ESPN Deportes, ESPN2, ESPN3.com in US): It’s come down to the two Manchester teams at the top of the Premier League table–City on top with 58pts, ManU on 51. With the results a week ago Sunday, they’ve put some distance between them and the rest of the pack (Tottenham is 3rd with 46, Chelsea 5th with 41).
Pick whichever Mancunian side you prefer to watch. The Everton-ManCity match (which like Parma-Juve is a case of the league-leaders going playing away against an erractic mid-table side) has the added attraction of American Landon Donovan, who’s not long on loan and on display in the Premier League. –Everton are 14th in the league, but they’re coming off a big 2-1 win Friday against Fulham in the FA Cup (with Donovan assisting both goals from his right wing position).
MU-Stoke is a closer matchup in terms of the table–Stoke sits in 8th, just 4 points behind Liverpool (and 5pts behind Newcastle and Arsenal, both of whom have 36pts). But we really don’t have anything to say about what to watch w.r.t. Stoke.
Spain (Copa del Rey semifinal – 1st leg), CD Mirandés vs Athletic Bilbao (4pmET, no US TV): The Spanish clubs turn right around after playing out their quarterfinal ties last week for semifinal first legs this week. The more high-profile match is tomorrow (Valencia vs Barcelona), and given this is a mismatch on paper–Mirandés plays in Segunda División B (i.e., 3rd division, below La Liga and Segunda División A), and so Athletic, one of the great clubs of Spain, is heavily favored to advance to the final. Nevertheless, we try to watch Bilbao play whenever possible, given their Bielsan philosophy. Here is what we wrote in November, ahead of their match against Barcelona:
Athletic Bilbao–the Basque team which aspires to be one of the “alternatives” to the Barcelona/Madrid axis of hegemony in La Liga, which is newly managed by a crazy genius Argentine whom Pep Guardiola considers one of his managerial inspirations–to whose house in Argentina Guardiola made a pilgrimage when he was considering a career as a manager.
His name is Marcelo Bielsa, his arrival in Bilbao was highly anticipated, and his tenure there started terribly: two draws and three losses in their first five league matches. But they started to turn it around at the beginning of October, which prompted both of the Guardian’s cerebral football columnists Sid Lowe and Jonathan Wilson to devote columns to Bilbao under Bielsa.