Five football games to watch this weekend
There’s loads of football to choose from this weekend – here are our top picks
With the Premier League returning on Wednesday and the rest of Europe’s top-flights in full flow, football fans are spoiled for choice this weekend.
We’ve picked out the five games we have our eye on, as teams return to action – some playing for the first time since March and some having played just a few days prior.
It seems like such a long time ago now, but the second to last game Watford played before the league was put on hiatus saw them run out 3-0 winners over Liverpool at Anfield.
For a team who have twice changed managers already this season, that’s quite the feat.
Although they followed that victory with a narrow defeat to Crystal Palace, Watford’s players may now have the confidence to drag themselves out of the relegation battle. If they can beat the league’s best side so comprehensively, Nigel Pearson must be looking at the Leicester game as an opportunity for his side to get more points on the board.
Leicester on the other hand, will be content with their season so far. Sitting in third place, they’re eight points clear of Man Utd in fifth (prior to Friday night’s game), and barring a total collapse, very likely to qualify for next year’s Champions League.
They do however have a tough run-in, facing Arsenal, Sheffield United, Tottenham and Chelsea before the season ends. That could mean Brendan Rogers will want to focus on the ties which look easier on paper to secure their qualification – and the Watford game definitely falls into that bracket.
Another team very much in a relegation battle, West Ham need to hit the ground running here, before facing London rivals Tottenham and Chelsea in their next two games. With just 1 point separating them from 19th place Aston Villa, they could quite easily find themselves in a relegation position after all three ties are played.
They really need summer signing Sebastien Haller to step up and start scoring – he had just ended an eight-game goal drought before the league was put on pause and they’ll hope he can push on from there. On the positive side, they welcome Andriy Yarmolenko, Jack Wilshere and Ryan Fredericks back from injury, giving a boost to the depth of their bench, if not the starting-11.
Their opponents Wolves are being tipped by some for a run at Champions League qualification, despite being in seventh, and on their day they are a talented, unpredictable side – none more so than speed merchant Adama Traore, who should return to the side after a shoulder injury.
Wolves’ main challenge could lie in the depth of their squad, with Nuno Espirito Santo fielding a league-low 20 players during their Premier League campaign so far, despite a deep run in the Europa League. With fixtures tightly packed and with five substitutions allowed, their small-squad size doesn’t quite allow them the flexibility of some of their opponents.
Newcastle fans would have hoped the matter of their ownership had been settled by now, but with delays and checks on their potential Saudi buyers, Mike Ashley remains at the helm, much to their chagrin.
Positives come in the form of two wins in friendly games prior to the restart, with struggling £40 million striker Joelinton even managing to score twice, including the winner in a 3-2 victory over Middlesbrough.
In truth, Newcastle may find motivation hard to come by, not just because of the uncertainty surrounding their ownership (and potentially Steve Bruce’s role at the club, if a deal does go through). They also find themselves sat in the relative safety of 13th, with an eight-point gap to the relegation zone. Without 50,000 Geordies screaming them on, will they struggle to put points on the board? The odds certainly seem to suggest so.
Their opponents Sheffield United still have plenty to play for and may be in the mood to punish a side who haven’t played a competitive game in more than 100 days. Their 0-0 draw with Aston Villa on Wednesday night must have been hugely frustrating for Chris Wilder’s team, after officials failed to award them a goal, despite the ball clearly crossing the line in the hands of Villa keeper Orjan Nyland.
With European competition still within their reach and one of the league’s best defences keeping another clean sheet last time out, they’ll be looking to continue their excellent form, which sees them unbeaten in seven games in all competitions.
While the atmosphere won’t be the same, a Merseyside derby as the first game back should pack plenty of spectacle.
Though much of the conversation in recent weeks has been of Liverpool’s procession to the title and where exactly they’ll win it, it’s worth remembering their poor form prior to the break. Back to back losses to Watford and Chelsea prior to a tight win over Bournemouth were followed by a Champions League exit at the hands of Atletico Madrid.
Jurgen Klopp will be hoping that the break acted as a reset, giving tired legs a rest and letting the anticipation of winning that elusive title light a fire under his players. You’d expect them to come into this tie strong, motivated and more than ready to finish what they started.
Much like Newcastle, Everton are safely mid-table and should be insulated against relegation, with a 10-point gap between them and 18th-placed Bournemouth. While European football isn’t completely out of the question, it looks unlikely for Carlo Ancelotti’s side.
Everton’s form in the Merseyside derby is dire as well – they haven’t beaten Liverpool in the league in their last 18 meetings, as well as thrice being knocked out of the FA Cup by their rivals.
While they’re unlikely to roll-over for their neighbours, Everton’s last league game saw a dreadful performance as they were beaten by Chelsea 4-0. If Liverpool are fired up for this one, we could see a very one-sided game once more.
Over in the Bundesliga, third-placed RB Leipzig host second-placed Borussia Dortmund in a game that will be decisive in the battle for second place. With just two games to play, Dortmund are 3 points ahead of RB Leipzig and both teams have a goal difference of +45.
Leipzig remain unbeaten since the league restarted, with four draws and three wins to their name, while Dortmund have won five and lost two, including a 2-0 defeat to lowly Mainz last time out.
Chelsea fans will be keeping tabs on RBL striker Timo Werner, after a reported £53 million deal was struck between the sides. With Werner departing for Chelsea before the Champions League resumes in August, he’ll want to leave Leipzig fans with something special to remember him by and this fixture presents to perfect opportunity to do so.
All odds and markets correct as of date of publication