International football has taken a back seat until the spring of 2022, as club football takes center stage again.
Let’s have a look at the three most intriguing match-ups to watch out for this weekend.
Liverpool vs Arsenal
Anfield is the venue as Liverpool and Arsenal go head-to-head in a handsomely-looking Premier League showdown on Saturday afternoon.
A 3-2 away defeat to West Ham United on the eve of the international break knocked Liverpool down from an eye-catching 20-game unbeaten Premier League run.
Yet, after winning their last five top-flight home matches against Arsenal by an aggregate score of 18-4, the Reds will be confident of returning to winning ways.
That might be easier said than done, at least based on the Gunners’ recent showings in the Premier League.
Mikel Arteta’s men have picked themselves up from a horrendous three-match losing start to this Premier League campaign, going unbeaten in their last eight consecutive league fixtures (W6, D2).
Though they’ve often been criticized for their lackluster performances over the past few seasons, Arsenal defenders have found their feet of late, defying all expectations.
They have kept a clean sheet in their last three Premier League away games and could make it four road shutouts in a row in the competition for the first time since May 2005.
Inter Milan vs Napoli
Defending Serie A champions Inter Milan and current league leaders Napoli will trade tackles at the Stadio Giuseppe Meazza in a mouth-watering clash on Sunday.
Simone Inzaghi’s men have delivered a bag of mixed displays this season and face the risk of falling out of the early Serie A title race.
Trailing Napoli by seven points ahead of this round, the Nerazzurri can ill-afford to drop the points here if they are to maintain their hopes of winning back-to-back Serie A titles in over a decade alive.
Inter can draw confidence from their imperious recent H2H form on home soil, having beaten Napoli in their last three top-flight meetings here without conceding.
However, the Partenopei are unlikely to surrender without a fight this time around, especially following an outrageous start to the new domestic campaign under Luciano Spalletti.
Alongside AC Milan, Napoli are the only side in Europe’s top-five divisions yet to taste a bite of league defeat this season.
Spalletti’s men have won ten of their opening 12 Serie A matches this term, drawing the other two.
Barcelona vs Espanyol
An extended period of suffering could be coming to a close at Camp Nou as club legend Xavi Hernandez prepares to make his managerial debut against city rivals Espanyol.
Xavi couldn’t have asked for a better opposition to launch his coaching career at Barcelona, with the Blaugrana going unbeaten in their last 22 La Liga meetings with Espanyol.
Hopeful of marking his first managerial fixture at Barca with a bang, the former deep-lying midfielder will be aiming to extend his employers’ 11-match winning league streak at home against this opposition.
That will require the Catalan powerhouse to snap a two-game winless La Liga run at Camp Nou (D1, L1), during which they only managed to score twice.
Despite going into this encounter as underdogs, Espanyol will hardly roll over and let Xavi paint his Nou Camp return with flying colors, especially after defeating Barca’s fierce rivals Real Madrid in October.
But after failing to win any of their six La Liga away games this season (D3, L3), the visitors will have to produce something nothing short of miraculous to upset the fellow Catalan rivals.