Game of the Week:
Chelsea vs. Arsenal: Sunday, Jan. 20, 5:30 a.m. PST, Stamford Bridge
The London derby will headline the upcoming weekend's fixtures. Chelsea, sitting in third on 41 points, look to bring their away form home against their northern London rivals. While both sides have encountered adversity and internal turmoil, Arsenal's form may be the most scrutinized of any "Big Four" team this season. A side that prides themselves on finishing in the top four and qualifying for the Champions League, Arsenal unfavorably sit in sixth and have yet to find a clear talisman with the departure of Dutch striker Robin van Persie. To make matters worse, Arsenal's esteemed leader Arsene Wenger has deemed his players as "timid."
Under Rafa Benitez's guidance, Chelsea has seen an astonishing spell away from home. The Blues walked to a 4-0 victory over a resolute Stoke City this past weekend (in part to Jonathan Walters' two own goals) and have made it seven victories out of their past nine away games. Rafa Benitez's interim status will only remain interim unless Chelsea maintain their ascension up the table.
Fans may be entitled to goals galore in this encounter as both sides have been firing on all cylinders. Arsenal capped 2012 with a 7-3 victory over Newcastle and Chelsea has been finding the net at an alarmingly similar rate. While the clash will draw international attention, a developing subplot is the short-term future of Chelsea's tenured box-to-box midfielder Frank Lampard. Frequently linked with an MLS side, Lampard may truly be in the winter of a once electric career.
Tottenham vs. Manchester United: Sunday, Jan. 20, 8:00 a.m. PST, White Hart Lane
As appetizing as Chelsea vs. Arsenal is for fans, north London's White Hart Lane may produce a matchup just as mouthwatering. A battle between first-place Manchester United and third-place Tottenham, Sir Alex Ferguson's United will be seeking revenge for the 3-2 defeat at the hands of Spurs on Sept. 29. Tottenham's summer signing Clint Dempsey found the net in the match and pacey Welsh winger Gareth Bale was a handful for a typically fortified United backline.
Tottenham will be without their lanky Togolese striker, Emmanuel Adebayor, who has opted to play for his country in the upcoming African Cup of Nations. Andre Villas-Boas side, though, won't be without their offensive weapons. Striker Jermaine Defoe has netted 10 goals on the year while Bale has added nine more.
League leaders, Manchester United, are expecting three points from the affair. The Red Devils are unbeaten in their past nine Premier League matches, including eight victories. Robin van Persie leads his side with 17 goals in 22 matches played and, based on his form from the past year, is hungry for more.
Valencia vs. Real Madrid: Tuesday, Jan. 15, 12:00 p.m. PST, Estadio Mestalla
In the first leg of this home and home Copa del Rey matchup, Real Madrid look to the non-league match to rebound to winning ways. A media firestorm has surrounded the most illustrious and accomplished European club. Real's manager, Jose Mourinho, is no stranger to the media's spotlight but a departure from the club appears imminent for the self-described "Special One." Real Madrid sit in third-place with 37 points after tying La Liga bottom-dwellers Osasuna 0-0 over the weekend. Although Los Merengues were without defender Sergio Ramos and the oft-polarizing Cristiano Ronaldo to suspensions, Madrid sit 18 points behind archrivals F.C. Barcelona; a near insurmountable lead.
To keep their trophy ambitions alive (and Mourinho's career), Madrid's matchup against historic rival Valencia may be the turning point that the side needs.