And there are some crunch fixtures all across Europe straight off the bat, with some top-of-the-table clashes in each of Europe’s top five leagues.
Here’s a look at some of the biggest games coming up this weekend.
MATCH: Arsenal vs Chelsea
WHERE: Emirates Stadium
WHEN: 9:30PM, 19th January, Saturday
This is always a fiercely-contested derby, with genuine bad blood between the two sides. Throw in the factArsenal are six points behind fourth-placed Chelsea in the race for a Champions League qualifying spot and the tension will be even greater.
Unai Emery’s Arsenal side are sliding, having won just two of their last six league games, and though Maurizio Sarri’s Chelsea have fared better recently they’ve also dropped four points during the same spell, with both clubs’ slip-ups allowing a resurgent Manchester United back into the top four race.
This match could feature a poignant moment if Emery chooses to start Petr Cech in goal, although that’s unlikely. The Arsenal goalkeeper, who became a legend during an 11-year spell with Chelsea, announced this week that he is retiring at the end of the season.
MATCH: Napoli vs Lazio
WHERE: Stadio San Paolo
WHEN: 11:30PM, 20th January, Sunday
A 12-point gap separates second-placed Napoli and fourth-place Lazio in the Serie A table, with the latter locked in a tight race for the Champions League qualifying spots.
They’re only one point ahead of Milan and two in front of bitter rivals Roma, with teams all the way down to 12th-placed Parma within seven points of that coveted fourth-placed spot.
For Napoli, most games are simply a chance to keep within touching distance of Juventus in top spot, though the nine-point gap between the two looks insurmountable. But should the champions suffer a dip in form, Napoli will want to be right there to pile on the pressure – not to mention, make sure the five-point lead over third-place Inter Milan doesn’t get any smaller.
MATCH: Real Madrid vs Sevilla
WHERE: Santiago Bernabeu
WHEN: 7:15PM, 19th January, Saturday
Sevilla and Madrid head into this fixture level on points, in yet another battle for Champions League qualification. Alaves are only one point behind in fifth and would be in position to take advantage of any dropped points – indeed, a draw at the Bernabeu could see the Basque side leapfrog both of these storied clubs and into fourth place.
For Madrid, memories of their 3-0 loss away to Sevilla earlier in the season will be fresh on the players’ minds, so there will be no chance of taking their opponents lightly.
Santiago Solari’s Madrid have been struggling of late, and the manager’s job security is in doubt even after they managed to pull out a 2-1 win over Real Betis in their last La Liga fixture. Another loss here and the whispers of Jose Mourinho’s return will grow louder.
MATCH: RB Leipzig vs Borussia Dortmund
WHERE: Red Bull Arena
WHEN: 9:30PM, 19th January, Sunday
It’s been an excellent season for Dortmund, and the winter break would have given them the chance to recharge while feeling good about their six-point lead atop the Bundesliga table.
But now it’s down to serious business as they know they can’t afford any mistakes with Bayern Munich, who have won the last six league titles in a row, chasing them down. A visit to fourth-placed Leipzig is a daunting task. They’ll have to be switched on right from the start of the second half of the season to stay in charge of the title race.
For Leipzig, it’s all about finishing in the top four. A loss here could see Wolfsburg draw level with them on points in fourth place, and the gap to 12th-place Mainz is only 10 points, a sign of how tight the race is for European spots in Germany.
MATCH: St-Etienne vs Lyon
WHERE: Stade Geoffrey-Guichard
WHEN: 12AM, 21st January, Monday
One of France’s biggest derby rivalries is back, as St-Etienne host Lyon late on Sunday night.
This is always a hotly contested match, but the ramifications are even bigger as both sides chase the all-important final qualification spot for the Champions League. Lyon headed into the schedule in third, with St-Etienne level on points in fourth, and a large chasing pack behind them.
But more than anything, this game matters for the bragging rights. Lyon won the first meeting between the two sides this season, with Jason Denayer’s goal clinching a nervy victory, but on home soil St-Etienne will be looking for revenge.
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