Game of the Week:
Manchester United vs. Liverpool FC: Sun. Jan. 13, 5:30 a.m. PST, Old Trafford
Bay Area faithful may have their eyes set on the 49ers’ playoff matchup against the Green Bay Packers on Saturday, but the palpable drama will resurface some 12 hours later in Manchester, England.
Manchester United face their bitter northeastern rivals Liverpool in what looks to be a mouthwatering encounter. United looks to stay at the summit of the Premier League and move up to 55 points off of their 22nd match. Liverpool, whose season has not reached their newly elevated expectations under the guidance of first-year manager Brendan Rodgers, simply seeks points. Qualification for a spot in European competition next season may just appease the Kop faithful.
United’s blistering start to the season has been pinpointed to the arrival of Dutchman, and former Arsenal striker, Robin van Persie. The talisman’s prolific goal-scoring run has seen him net 16 league goals in 21 league games so far. Yet, Liverpool’s much-maligned and divisive Luis Suarez has also re-discovered his goal-scoring abilities. The Uruguayan has bagged 15 league goals, including braces in his previous two Premier League matches.
While a 21 point gap displaces Liverpool from Manchester United, the magnitude of the match will draw on decades of competitive battle. Liverpool’s recent rich vein of form has seen the Merseysiders win their previous four matches. Similarly, United is undefeated in their past nine matches from all competitions. With two short-tempered squads, fans will be the greatest beneficiaries of Sunday’s excitement.
Manchester City vs. Arsenal: Sun. Jan. 13, 8:30 a.m. PST, Emirates
Sunday’s drama continues an hour after the conclusion of the Old Trafford battle. Arsenal’s Emirates will play host to Man City in a matchup between the sixth and second sides in the Premier League. To the unrest of Gunner’s fans, Arsenal’s current position would not allow for Champions League qualification and may lead to the termination of Arsene Wenger’s tenure. To make matters worse, Arsenal’s leading goal-scorer, Theo Walcott, has yet to agree upon a new contract despite netting an audacious hat-trick against Newcastle last week.
City is in pursuit of its second consecutive Premier League title despite a seven point discrepancy behind neighbors Manchester United. The recently financed club is led by a three-pronged attack in Edin Dzeko, Sergio Aguero, and Carlos Tevez.
Last season’s matchup at Emirates left the City faithful in a state of bewilderment. Spaniard Mikel Arteta hit an 87th minute wonder strike to give Arsenal the three points in a 1-0 win.
Arsene Wenger has built his well-deserved reputation on earning points from hard-fought matchups and the Frenchman may field a tactically-astute side ready to seize the given opportunity.
Malaga vs. FC Barcelona: Sun. Jan. 13, 12:00 p.m. PST, Estadio La Rosaleda
First-place Barcelona will travel to the Estadio La Rosaleda in a matchup against fourth place Malaga. Barcelona recorded four first-half goals against Espanyol to stroll to victory this past weekend. The Andalusian side, though, may prove more formidable to the Catalonians. Malaga’s combination of a veteran attack supplemented with a young nucleus has catapulted the once overlooked side into fourth place.
Barcelona is expected to secure three points from the match but away games can prove difficult for even the best of sides. Messi has netted an astonishing 27 league goals in 18 league games and Malaga may fall prey to the predatory diminutive Argentine.
Juventus vs. Parma: Sun. Jan. 13, 6:00 a.m. PST, Stadio Ennio Tardini
A multi-faceted Juventus attack will look to maintain its first place position against the eighth-spot Parma. Juventus leads Serie A with 44 points from 19 matches and is ready to gather three more off of the upcoming away game. Parma’s attack is led by Ishak Belfodil’s six strikes. The 20-year-old Algerian and former French youth national team member has embraced his first season with Parma. He may be the catalyst the side needs to climb up the Serie A ladder.
The Turin side should grab three points but fans may be entitled to goals galore in this encounter.