What you need to know:
Newcastle have come good after a dodgy start to the season, and were really unlucky not to get something out of their highly billed home clash with Arsenal a fortnight ago.
Hull vs Chelsea
Jose Mourinho’s team has started to get into a real rhythm after some listless performances a couple of months ago, and the last two Premier League wins against Liverpool and Southampton were particularly impressive. It is the kind of momentum that I find hard to contemplate Hull can disrupt, even in their backyard. Away win
Newcastle vs Man City
Newcastle have come good after a dodgy start to the season, and were really unlucky not to get something out of their highly billed home clash with Arsenal a fortnight ago. But then they were beaten by Cardiff in the FA Cup last weekend, and I see them losing a third straight game at St James’ Park despite Man City’s travel sickness. Away win
Aston Villa vs Arsenal
Having to play on Monday, Arsenal have been granted way too much time to recharge their batteries after the FA Cup derby joy against Spurs.
Theo Walcott’s pace, directness and finishing will be missed for this one and the rest to come, but the refreshed group of little technicians should still have too much for Villa.
Man United vs Swansea
When Swansea visited Old Trafford, they had been through a rough patch of results despite some aesthetic displays, and were due a good one which they got.
Now the boot is on the other foot, with United perhaps undeserving of the losses to Spurs, Swansea and Sunderland after improved play from previous poor games.
They are due some luck, but confidence remains a big issue. Draw
Stoke vs Liverpool
Liverpool are in fine fettle again after the big blip that saw them lose back-to-back games against Man City and Chelsea in December.
And it looks set to only get better now that early season hero Daniel Sturridge is returning from a long layoff.
Yet for some reason I see the inconsistent Stoke putting in a battling performance and getting something at the Britannia. Draw
Spanish La Liga
Atletico Madrid vs Barcelona
The potential thriller everyone has been waiting for is finally upon us. The two frontrunners in La Liga come face to face in a game that arguably promises more fireworks than even the El Classico, at least this once. There has been nothing to separate the two, but that man Lionel Messi is back just in time. Rather than commit to an outright winner however, I will go for the ‘Over’.
Espanyol vs Real Madrid
There will be thrills of their own in this one too, for Espanyol are no slouches when playing at home in Catalunya. Real Madrid will be playing this on Sunday with the result of the Atletico-Barca clash from the previous day known to them and will be eager to make up ground on one or both, and so they will go for goal. ‘Over’
Villarreal vs Sociedad
They looked decidedly lightweight in the Champions League group stages, but Sociedad cannot be bullied in La Liga by any means. Since dropping out of Europe they have actually climbed up the table and are now above the entertaining Villarreal, so this too should be a cracker. ‘Over’
Bilbao vs Almeria
Elche vs Sevilla
Celta Vigo vs Valencia
Montpellier vs Monaco
Should be a very close hard fought game this, but I fancy Monaco’s chances of snatching victory. Away win
Ajaccio vs PSG
Every once in a while PSG have surprisingly slipped up in their quest for a second straight Ligue One title, but at the very least they should guarantee goals. ‘Over’
Lyon vs Sochaux
Guingamp vs St Etienne
Braga vs Guimaraes
Estoril vs Sporting Lisbon
Benfica vs Porto
Hellas Verona vs Napoli
They beat Sampdoria 2-0 in their last game, but Rafa Benitez is still demanding that his Napoli team get more clinical. They will need to do exactly that when they visit Hellas Verona, the newcomers who have outdone themselves and are not goal shy in the least bit. ‘Over’
Cagliari vs Juventus
My apologies to the Old Lady for supposing that she would return from Christmas a little rusty, for she proved me wrong by strolling over Roma with the same swagger she had had before the break. There is no stopping her from this determined march towards the Scudetto by the look of things, and Cagliari should be summarily brushed out of the way. Away win
Torino vs Fiorentina
Fiorentina have lost leading scorer Guiseppe Rossi to a knee injury, and are still waiting for former Bayern marksman Mario Gomez to return from a long layoff of his own. In Alberto Aquilani, David Pizzaro, Javier Rodriguez and the Spaniard Joaquin they have a strong midfield, but goals might be hard to come by now. Draw
Roma vs Genoa
After that embarrassment in Turin, Roma should return to winning ways back in the capital. Having started the season in record-setting fashion, the Romans have found it hard to keep up with the frenetic pace set by Juventus, but the slim hopes of catching the champions in this race have to be retained with victories in this kind of game. Home win
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