The UEFA Champions League may have signed off until February next year but worry not, this week has a lot more football action in store. We know the fans are going to be tuning in to one of the most anticipated games but before that, let’s discuss the other stuff.
The Bundesliga witnesses a top of the table (well, almost) clash as RB Leipzig and Borussia Dortmund lock horns. The former sits at the top of the table but Dortmund are just four points and two places behind them.
The ISL takes a break for a couple of days before matchday nine begins. NorthEast United take on Bengaluru FC, Jamshedpur FC host Mumbai City FC, the south-Indian derby version 2.0 where Chennaiyin FC play Kerala Blasters while ATK and Hyderabad faceoff at the end of the week.
However, the first of those clashes is what really catches our attention.
NorthEast United FC vs Bengaluru FC
There is no doubt as to who goes into this Indian Super League clash as favourites. Bengaluru FC are the only unbeaten side in the ISL this season and lie third with 13 points from seven games. NorthEast are fifth with 10 points in as many games, but their past clashes make for interesting reading.
The duo have already faced each other in the league earlier, playing out a 0-0 draw. Bengaluru and NorthEast have alternated between wins in their previous five games, with a draw after each round of wins. It has always been a closely fought encounter, with most games won by a single goal margin, the only exception being Bengaluru’s 3-0 win last season.
Bengaluru have won four out of the six games against NorthEast United, with the latter winning one and drawing the other but the Guwahati-based side can grind out a win while their rivals haven’t been able to do the same.
Watch out for:
Asamoah Gyan: The Ghanian striker came into the ISL as the star signing of the season and has largely lived up to that reputation. He has three goals and an assist in seven matches, and still has the intelligence and skills, as evidenced by his goal against Mumbai City FC, to unlock any defence. If there’s anyone who can contribute to inflicting a first defeat on Bengaluru, it has to be Gyan.
Barcelona vs Real Madrid
The most awaited game of the season? By all means. Protests over Catalonia saw the game delayed by a couple of months but it is here finally, and everyone is rightly talking about it.
Real Madrid are back to their best and are on a 10-game unbeaten streak, stretching back to October when they lost to Mallorca, having scored 28 goals in this period. Barcelona are themselves on a nine game unbeaten streak and have overcome tougher opponents like Borussia Dortmund and Atletico Madrid during the run. Their defence is a bit shaky though, conceding the odd goal now and then. It all makes for a very spicy clash between the La Liga’s top two.
Real Madrid last won an El Clasico in La Liga back in 2016, so the Catalan side may have the edge, but everyone knows better than to write this ruthless Madrid team off.
Watch out for:
Lionel Messi: Was there anyone else really? The Argentine genius has 12 goals and six assists in 11 La Liga games this season and has scored five goals and assisted a further three in his last four games. He usually is also at his best when playing Real Madrid, scoring 26 goals and assisting 14 in 41 games against them. Can he have the final say in yet another big game? We certainly think so.
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Feature image courtesy: AFP / Josep Lago