Preview: Fiorentina hoping to take advantage of Roma’s dip in form
After winning ten straight matches in La Liga, Roma’s season was dealt with a twist with La Maggica drawing all of their four subsequent matches. Their antics have allowed Juventus to leapfrog them for the first place and if Roma lose out to their counterparts on Sunday they will be six points adrift of the top of the table.
Roma have uncharacteristically failed to pick up all three points against much weaker opponents, whom they were expected to do very well against. Despite not having managed a victory in the last four matches they have played, Roma are still undefeated this season a feat they share with German giants Bayern Munich.
Preview: Real Madrid up for tricky challenge
Los Blancos will be hoping to snatch a resounding victory in their first domestic cup game of the 2013/14 season. The two biggest exclusions for this fixture are Cristiano Ronaldo and Xabi Alonso. The former has resumed training but will only return to action next Tuesday against Copenhagen in the UEFA Champions League. The latter, meanwhile, is not totally fit and thus will not be risked to play on Xativa’s artificial turf.
Carlo Ancelotti otherwise named his strongest squad available but Gareth Bale had to pull out hours before the game "due to a mild case of flu" as reporters. Youngsters Jese and Morata have also been called up and may earn enough playing time to continue their progress at senior level.
Preview: Tata Martino will want his players to put in a solid performance, after two straight defeats
Having lost to Ajax in Amsterdam, and then against Athletic Bilbao at the San Mamés, Barcelona has not enjoyed their last few weeks. On Friday, they will get a chance to set things straight, although their opposition may not provide much of a test.
The Blaugrana will be up against a Cartagena side that is currently in Segunda Division B, which is two leagues beneath La Liga.
A lopsided victory is expected for Tata Martino's squad, but what if they do not actually beat the hosts comfortably? How will the fans, players, manager and the press react to that?
Preview: Barcelona will want to bounce back after their mid-week defeat
It is not often that Barcelona lose, and when they do, fans will sit and pick apart that defeat, in order to figure out what caused it. The Blaugrana's mid-week match against Ajax did not go well, as the Spanish side came up short, but the defeat was well deserved.
That defeat can come as somewhat of a wake-up call for Tata Martino's men.
Preview: Bianconeri aiming to end the week on a high
Antonio Conte is one happy coach. Unlike Rafael Benitez and Max Allegri, his squad has been getting good and consistent results on all fronts since back to back defeats in late October—to Fiorientina in the Serie A and Real Madrid in the UEFA Champions League.
The Old Lady jumped a big hurdle in midweek by beating Copenhagen. They eventually finished the night above losers Galatasaray. In Europe, Juventus hold their destiny in their own hands. A draw on Matchday 6 could be enough to see them join Group B winners Real Madrid into the Round of 16.
Preview: Pressure still on for Allegri after five winless Serie A matches
The last time AC Milan won a Serie A match seems so long ago. A 1-0 victory over Udinese at the San Siro on October 19 was the last time the Rossoneri claimed three points in the domestic campaign.
With pressure mounting on Allegri and Galliani's departure, Milan are almost forced to emerge victorious on Sunday, when they take on last placed Catania.
Preview: Another chance for Real to improve without Ronaldo
Cristiano Ronaldo will not play, Ancelotti has confirmed. According to the Real Madrid manager, the Portuguese talisman has recovered from last weekend’s thigh injury against Almeria but remains uncomfortable. As a result, Angel Di Maria will be given a rare start in the starting XI. The Argentine winger is reportedly feeling ousted by impressive summer signing Gareth Bale.
In Ronaldo’s absence, Los Blancos will aim to build on the great performance they put in against Galatasaray in the UEFA Champions League in midweek. Team effort, marked by the brilliance of Isco, Bale and Arbeloa, proved that Real Madrid have strength in depth and can cope without their number 7 superstar.
Preview: Roma looking to return to winning ways
After starting the season in impeccable fashion which saw them winning all of their opening ten matches Roma have dropped points in consecutive games drawing against bottom table teams Sassuolo and Torino which has narrowed the gap between them and second placed Juventus. Roma will now be looking to make amends against a Cagliari side which has lost thrice in the last five matches.
Despite of their performances in the last two fixtures La Maggica are the only side unbeaten in Italy’s top tier league and will be hoping to maintain their record when they face the Rossoblu.
Roma fans are likely to take manager Rudi Garcia’s recent comments on his side’s title aspirations with a pinch of salt. The Frenchman has stated that his side is not as good as Juventus and that it would be an achievement for Roma to finish in the top five.
Preview: Old Lady looking to leapfrog Serie A leaders Roma
The Turin based club will be hoping to take advantage of Roma’s dip in form by taking the top spot in Serie A. A win for the Old Lady, coupled with a draw or loss for Roma will see Juventus finish the week on top.
The bianconeri put up an impressive showing in their last Serie A encounter when they thrashed Napoli 3-0 in a very dominant display, in doing so Juventus maintained their perfect home record and ensured that the gap between them and league leaders Roma was narrowed down.
Preview: Scudetto chase continues for Rafael Benitez
Napoli are looking at clinching their 11th victory in 12 home games in the Italian Serie A. Records favour the Blues who have won five of their last 6 meetings against the Crusaders.
A massive wall of 15 points separate third-placed Napoli from eleventh-placed Parma. These two teams are having a very different season.
Rafael Benitez will be hoping to correct the mistakes that condemned his men to a cruel 3-0 loss away to Juventus before the international break. With a crucial UEFA Champions League clash against Borussia Dortmund coming up next Tuesday, Rafa must protect the confidence that his squad has built since the beginning of the season.
Preview: Los Blancos hunting for points in Andalusia
Almeria’s league form of late is rather remarkable with three successive wins to end a five-game losing streak which extended itself from September 24 to October 27. The fight for survival is already on for the Andalusia-based club. Competition is fierce with Rayo Vallecano, Real Valladolid and Celta Vigo all counting 12 points like Almeria after 13 games.
As the half-point of the Primera Division campaign draws closer, blunders become less tolerable. Francisco Rodriguez’s men have not conceded a goal in over 180 minutes and this encouraging record will be put to the test by Real Madrid’s flamboyant Ronaldo.
Preview: Injuries could play a big part in this match for the hosts
A number of injury concerns will have Tata Martino somewhat worried heading into Saturday's match against Granada. With eight players in doubt, at least four of them will definitely miss this match.
Lionel Messi is obviously the big name on that injury list, which is also made up of Jordi Alba, Dani Alves and most recently Victor Valdes. Along with those four top players, Martino could be without Cesc Fabregas, Gerard Pique, Xavi and Cristian Tello, who are all in doubt, but have yet to be ruled out for this weekend's match.
Having so many injuries could be problematic, but fortunately Barcelona has good enough talent on their bench who can fill in.
Preview: Uruguay to get the job done in front of home fans
Uruguay will be full of confidence and buoyed by their performance in the first leg when they ran riot scoring five goals in the process. Maxi Pereira opened the scoring for the visitors, before Stuani, Lodeiron and Cristian Rodríguez added goal apiece. Their dominant performance was rounded off by a well taken free kick from Edison Cavani who added a fifth in added time making a comeback for the Middle Eastern side far from achievable.
There is a growing notion that Uruguay’s appearance in the second leg will only be a mere formality with the two time World Champions already having sealed a place in the last 32. However all such claims have been put to rest by coach Oscar Tabarez who has urged his players not to not get ahead of themselves and not lose their focus till the final whistle.
Preview: World Cup qualifying battle for the last African spot
Algeria ended a 24-year wait by qualifying for the 2010 FIFA World Cup. The country is hoping to follow up on this achievement by making their fourth appearance at the tournament next summer.
History is against the Stallions of Burkina Faso who have never played at a World Cup. They will be up against Algeria’s remarkable record of 19 matches unbeaten in Blida, which stretches all the way back to 2002.
However, the advantage is the Stallions’ ahead of the second leg. After amazing the public at the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations by grabbing silver, Burkina Faso are poised to complete the year on a high.
Preview: Blacks Stars and Pharaohs both going for the kill
The first leg of this CAF World Cup Qualifying playoff match staged in Kumasi produced a surprise with seven goals split 6-1 in favour of the hosts. What sort of show will the public witness in the second leg? The Egyptians are facing a daunting task to reverse this humiliating score line. If hopes of reaching Brazil 2014 are almost all gone, the desire to restore pride is very much alive for the Pharaohs.
The home crowd will be expecting an acceptable performance from Bob Bradley’s men whereas the visitors will do everything to delight away supporters as well as fans back home. Last Friday, Egypt warmed up for their upcoming clash with a 2-0 win over Zambia. A repeat of that score line would still deny them a spot at the World Cup but interestingly damage Ghana’s momentum.
Preview: Argentina hoping to get the job done in the absence of Leo Messi
The Barcelona man has been ruled out for up to six weeks with a hamstring injury and will not be able to take part in Argentina’s tricky fixture against Bosnia-Herzegovina. Javier Mascherano who will be the stand in captain in the absence of the mercurial number 10 has lamented the loss of the most important player of the team, but has insisted that the injury is not very severe and that Messi is focused on getting back as early as possible.
“Not having Messi in the team is never a positive thing,” he said.
“Leo is fine now. He has passed the stage of logical bitterness that you get when you are injured and is now focused on getting better. It is just a muscle injury, so nothing too severe.”
Preview: The Azzurri and the Super Eagles – two confident sides
These are the sort of games that Nigeria must win. Regardless of the fact that this clash is not a competitive one, playing four-time World Cup champions Italy is always big. It is an opportunity for the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations titleholders to test their metal following their short adventure at the FIFA Confederations Cup earlier this summer.
As the first African team to book tickets to Brazil 2014, the Super Eagles feel proud and have set their eyes on lifting the golden trophy next year. Lille-based Nigerian veteran goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama was quoted by BBC Sport as saying:
Preview: Seleção poised to stretch winning streak to five games
Luiz Felipe Scolari’s men take on Honduras in Miami this Saturday as they continue making preparations for the first ever FIFA World Cup to be held in their country in 64 years.
The Samba giants are on a good run having won all of their last four matches. The 2002 World Cup winners have revelled under the second coming of coach Luiz Felipe Scolari and upon his arrival in November last year, Brazil have just lost twice in the 17 matches they have played.
Preview: Drogba, Yaya Toure, Gervinho a game away from Brazil 2014
Côte d’Ivoire should have killed this tie in the first leg. Out of the number of chances that fell to them, the Elephants managed to convert three while they failed to keep a clean sheet. They largely dominated the game. However, they were also quite wasteful with AS Roma’s Gervinho squandering a one-on-one opportunity and unmarked Yaya Toure skying a shot from inside the penalty area.
Will the Senegalese make the Ivoirians pay for that? In the previous encounter, the Lions of Teranga capitalized on their opponents' complacent display during the final 20 minutes. Their pressing finally paid off with Papiss Cisse scoring in the 94th minute. It is on this away goal that Senegal are putting their hopes, ahead of the second leg on Saturday.
Preview: World Cup qualification achieved; now it's time to experiment
Ecuador will take on Alejandro Sabella's squad in a friendly match that will likely get a lot of attention in on the east coast in the USA. With both countries having already guaranteed their place in next year's World Cup, both managers will have a chance to test out some new options.
Argentina will first take on Ecuador, and they will then take on Bosnia-Herzegovina. That will give the Albiceleste a chance to see some of their options, but they will be without Lionel Messi for both.