Arsenal vs Chelsea
Arsene Wenger’s best chance to end that unsavoury jinx against Jose Mourinho is here, and he should be able to take it this once if only he can get his charges to execute without fear.
Mourinho will get his tactics right one should expect, and there will perhaps even be a disguised but all the same impassioned plea for his charges to help keep the run against Wenger going. And of course they would end the league as race.
But it might not and should not be enough to keep it tight defensively, punish mistakes in open play and devour set pieces, unless he completely frees Hazard, Oscar, Fabregas and Willian from expected shackles.
Allowed territorial domination, Arsenal should be good enough to triumph this time, but only if the ‘three wise men’ – Sanchez, Ozil and Carzola – operate to their full potential.
There is better defending and goalkeeping these days, good cover from Coquelin and Ramsey, and goals from Giroud, so why not? Mental blocks are hard to overcome granted, but momentum and the law of averages should count for something too. Finally, really.
Everton vs Man United
Everton did the double over Man United last season and finished above them, but the shoe is firmly on the other foot now. Roberto Martinez thinks out games like these with admirable meticulousness, and his team is in a good moment now after a topsy-turvy season.
But Marouane Fellaini, Wayne Rooney and company have an axe to grind, which they should, as long as they help keep David De Gea a lot less busy than he was in the reverse fixture at Old Trafford.
Man City vs Aston Villa
Any slip-ups from Arsenal and Man United, and Man City will edge closer to a return to second which they probably feel is the least they should have. Their blip is over I believe, and even if Aston Villa are riding the crest of a wave, they are bound to be returned to earth with a thud at the Etihad.
Espanyol vs Barcelona
The derby of Catalunya has been skewed for some time now, and the only thing working for Espanyol this weekend is some the element of combined fatigue through the Barca ranks from their midweek exertions. That front trio however does not slow down entirely, individuals just take turns applying the final touch to their collective effort. And for late starter Suarez there is making up for lost time. Away win
Celta Vigo vs Real Madrid
Injuries to the key trio of Bale, Benzema and Modric only serve to grant more playing time to some quality fringe players, and one would expect Jesse, Isco, Illarramendi and James Rodriguez to pick up the slack. This is a very tough one against a decent side, but if they dig deep they should just about prevail. Away win
Atletico vs Elche
The disappointment of dropping out of the Champions League will still weigh heavily. But the motivation should come from the desire to qualify again, which is not a foregone conclusion with Valencia and Sevilla close. Home win
Sevilla vs Rayo Vallecano
Valencia vs Granada
Torino vs Juventus
At a mental level even more than the physical, it was hard work keeping Monaco at bay on Wednesday night and hanging onto such a slim lead.
But because there is local pride at stake in this Turin derby, Juventus should lift themselves up again. The fans will demand it. Away win
Inter Milan vs Roma
Inter were unlucky not to win the Milan derby last weekend after one or two questionable refereeing calls, and they should expect yet another tough one right away from a better drilled team with more confidence. But they can still be good for something. Draw
Udinese vs AC Milan
Lazio vs Chievo
Napoli vs Sampdoria
Bayern vs Hertha Berlin
The demolition job on Porto will only have served to whet the appetite of the star-studded Bayern ensemble.
Thiago and Lahm are back hungry, Gotze was missing from the scoresheet, Lewandowski is after the golden boot, Muller always wants more, and youngsters like Rode, Weisler and Gaudino eager for their chance. Home win
Monchengladbach vs Wolfsburg
Mainz vs Schalke
Dortmund vs Frankfurt
Home win & Over
Cologne vs Leverkusen
Reims vs Lyon
PSG vs Lille
Marseille vs Lorient
Lens vs Monaco
St Etienne vs Montpellier
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