BY APESIN ADEMOLA.
Across top European football leagues, the fans have great expectations as their clubs get involved in derby clashes or matches they never would like to lose. In England, for instance, Premier League leaders Liverpool visit the team that gave them their first setback just three days earlier, while Madrid’s top teams have an early head-to-head fixture.
A “grudge match” is the appropriate tag for the last fixture of this Matchday in the EPL. On Wednesday night right in front of their fans at Anfield, Chelsea cancelled a deficit and eventually expelled Liverpool from the League Cup at the first time of asking. It marked the first defeat for high-riding Jürgen Klopp’s side this season.
On top of the table with two points clear of Manchester City and Chelsea, Liverpool need to return to winning way to stay in charge of the league, else they fall below second place for the first time this term.
For City, it’s been all systems go since their setback six matches ago when Wolves snatched a point. Against promoted Brighton, Pep Guardiola must however be wary of a team determined to win, having not tasted victory in five straight matches.
Fourth placed Watford visit Arsenal on the heels of their exit from the English League Cup midweek via penalty shootout. The Gunners have been in ascendancy winning all matches since their first two defeats at the beginning of the season, while Watford are yet to triumph in three fixtures.
Tottenham recovered from three straight losses in all competitions to win their last two matches and will try to add last placed Huddersfield to their list of victims to improve on their standing.
In the Spanish LaLiga, the Madrid derby is upon us again! And it comes at a time Julen Lopetegui has just suffered his first defeat as manager of the Whites, in contrast with their city rivals who posted three wins in as many matches.
The last meeting of both teams ended in Atleti lifting the UEFA SuperCup 4-2 after extra time last month, while their fixtures last season in the league produced no winners.
Barcelona, who also got bashed for the first time in the season in their last match, this time by CD Leganés, then at the foot of the table. A quick recovery is required if Barca are not to surrender their top spot to the winners of the Madrid clash.
In Serie A, Napoli in recent years have provided the biggest challenge to the untiring dominance of Juventus on Italian football. But they have not been able to stop the Old Lady from lifting their seventh Scudetto to make a record 34 topflight titles. But Napoli remain a present danger to Juve. Last season, their head-to-head ended with each of the sides losing by a lone goal at home.
Juventus have won seven matches in all competitions this season, while Napoli were humiliated 3-0 by Sampdoria, which leaves them three points adrift of their rivals who top the table.
In the French Ligue 1, PSG may welcome Kylian Mbappe back from a three-match suspension as they march on to what appears a record-extending 11th domestic league title. Mbappe, the 19-year-old second most-prized player in the world, got his first-career red card in a last second incident at Nîmes but PSG didn’t appear to have missed him as they smashed all opposition since then, losing only to Liverpool in the Champions League.
PSG have a six-point cushion, which may be extended as second placed AS Saint-Étienne had played their own match Friday night.
Dortmund, in the Bundesliga, should be set to take advantage of Bayern’s slip up last night to assume leadership. But they face a desperate Leverkusen who have incurred the wrath of their fans having garnered only three points from five games.
Werder Bremen are also in a position to go ahead of the field. But they have to win at Stuttgart, where another team in the bottom three await.
2018/19 English Premier League (Week 7):
- West Ham United v Manchester United (12:30pm),
- Arsenal v Watford (3pm)
- Everton v Fulham (3pm)
- Huddersfield Town v Tottenham Hotspur (3pm)
- Manchester City v Brighton & Hove Albion (3pm)
- Newcastle United v Leicester City (3pm)
- Wolverhampton Wanderers v Southampton (3pm)
- (Chelsea v Liverpool (5:30pm)
Spanish LaLiga (Week 7):
- Real Sociedad v Valencia (Noon)
- Barcelona v Athletic Club (3:15pm)
- SD Eibar v Sevilla (5:30pm)
- Real Madrid v Atlético Madrid (7:45pm)
German Bundesliga (Week 6):
- Schalke 04 v Mainz 05, 1899 (2:30pm)
- Hoffenheim v RB Leipzig (2:30pm)
- VfB Stuttgart v Werder Bremen (2:30pm)
- VfL Wolfsburg v Borussia Mönchengladbach (2:30pm)
- FC Nürnberg v FC Fortuna Düsseldorf (2:30pm)
- Bayer Leverkusen v Borussia Dortmund (5:30pm)
Italy Serie A (Week 7):
- AS Roma v Lazio (2pm)
- Juventus v Napoli (5pm)
- Internazionale Milano v Cagliari Calcio (7:30pm)
French Ligue 1 (Week 8):
- Nice v Paris Saint-Germain (4:15pm)
- Angers SCO v EA Guingamp
- Caen v Amiens SC
- Olympique Lyonnais v FC Nantes
- Stade de Reims v Bordeaux
- RC Strasbourg v Dijon (7pm)