The battle of Borussia sees Dortmund welcome Moenchengladbach to Signal Iduna Park where Die Schwarzgelben title credentials will be tested against their closest challenger who are just six points behind them with Bayern Munich lurking. Struggling AS Roma travel to Turin to face runaway league leaders Juventus at the start of a packed Christmas schedule in the Serie A. Liverpool can open up a four point gap ahead of Manchester City on Friday night if they manage win at the Molineux against a slightly confident Wolves who have won three on the trot and can move into the top six with a win themselves.
Here is our preview of matches across top five European Leagues.
We begin in Germany;
BORUSSIA DORTMUND v BORUSSIA MOENCHENGLADBACH – FRI. 21 DEC 2018, 20.30HRS
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The top two Bundesliga sides face each other in the first game of week 17th fixtures on Friday evening at Signal-Iduna-Park. Dortmund’s unbeaten start to the Bundesliga season came to end on Tuesday night at Dusseldorf against struggling Fortuna while Moenchengladbach still have their 100% home record in the league intact following a 2-0 victory over Nurnberg to close the gap on the leaders to six points. Lucien Favre’s rotation didn’t work out in Dusseldorf with more concern on the injuries picked up in the game. First choice centre halves – Manuel Akanji and Abdou Diallo are likely to miss the big clash but the Swiss tactician who will be facing his former team will likely deploy his best attacking weapon for the final game of 2018 in front of an expectant crowd.
VERDICT – Dortmund have won the last six encounters between these two sides – their best run against any Bundesliga team but Gladbach have equally not lost seven in a row against the same team. Dortmund scored 14 goals in last three home wins over Monchengladbach. The Foals have a perfect record at home in the league but struggled on the road, failing to score in two of their last three away games. Both teams will be fielding a weakened backline which should make it a field day for the attackers. An intense game with goals is anticipated at Signal Iduna Park on Friday evening.
EINTRACHT FRANKFURT v BAYERN MUNICH – SAT. 22 DEC 2018, 18.30HRS
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Niko Kovac returns to his old ground as Bayern Munich aim to close out the year on a strong note with a victory at the Commerzbank-Arena by securing a fifth successive Bundesliga win at Frankfurt. The home team suffered a blip recently losing back-to-back games against Wolfsburg and Hertha Berlin but have stopped the rot with a win and draw over Bayer Leverkusen and Mainz. On the other hand, defending champions Bayern seem to be picking up momentum after a troubled October and November as the Bavarians aim to close the gap on leaders Dortmund who dropped points midweek. Frankfurt are performing well under Adi Hutter, they are just one point off Champions League spot midway into the season and will be looking towards an exciting 2019. However, Bayern have a strong away record in this campaign losing just twice on the road.
VERDICT – Bayern seem to have woken up after their inconsistent start to the season and will look for a win here to finish the year brightly. Frankfurt are already overachieving with their performance and standing on the log. Their performances have been outstanding at times though they have shown weakness lately. Frankfurt haven’t beaten Bayern in the league in 14 attempts and the Bavarians arrive in Frankfurt with the best away record in the league. Frankfurt will be expected to provide Bayern with a stiff test compared to their last meeting during the DFL Super Cup in August. Luka Jovic will lead the line for Frankfurt, he has scored 12 Bundesliga goals already this season while Robert Lewandowski will torment at the other end; he scored a hat-trick against Frankfurt in the Super Cup in August. We expect goals in this game.
PARIS SAINT-GERMAIN v FC NANTES – SAT. 22 DEC 2018, 21.00HRS
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Paris Saint-Germain lead at the top of the table has been cut down to 10 points thanks to the protest across the country which has seen football schedules disrupted with second place Lille playing two matches more than the leaders. Perhaps a lack of action has affected PSG pace as they struggled to knockout Ligue 2 outfit Orleans in Coupe de la Ligue on Wednesday night. Thomas Tuchel’s team dropped points in their last two Ligue 1 games against Bordeaux and Strasbourg but will be eager to sign out in 2018 with a victory at home in front of their fans. Nantes have been quite inconsistent this season without necessarily hitting the decent heights of last season however, they managed to defeat Olympique Marseille in their last league match. Les Canaris are very tough to beat at home but are not good travelers.
VERDICT – Neymar is a doubt for this game, he missed the Orleans victory in Coupe de la Ligue but Kylian Mbappe should start which should give Les Parisiens superior fire power in attack. PSG have won their last 15 matches against Nantes in all competitions. PSG have won their last eight Ligue 1 home matches. It looks like an easy match on paper for PSG but they must be wary of being too comfortable given Nantes’ improvement in form since the appointment of Halilhodzic.
MONTPELLIER HSC v OLYMPIQUE LYON – SAT. 22 DEC 2018, 21.00HRS
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It is the biggest game in France this weekend between fourth place Montpellier and third place Lyon who are separated by just two points. Montpellier make a return to league football since their 1-0 home loss to Lille 17 days ago thanks to the protest across the country. Michel Der Zakarian’s team would love to give their fans an early Christmas gift by defeating Lyon and overtaking them on the log. Lyon were solid in their 3-0 win over Monaco last weekend and managed to edge Amiens in Coupe de la Ligue on Wednesday night so Bruno Genesio team travel to Montpellier in good form. Lyon are serious contender for second place in the league which guarantees automatic Champions League qualification and in a game against a direct rival, we can expect a full rested and motivated La Paillade to attack Lyon at home.
VERDICT – The last three meetings has seen both teams to score. Last season corresponding fixture finished 1-1 and Lyon have won three games from their last five at Stade de la Mosson. We expect an exciting and intense game with both teams playing well this season and both on the same level. History in this fixture tells us both teams to score as become a part of the fixture.
AC MILAN v FIORENTINA – SAT. 22 DEC 2018, 15.00HRS
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Five points is all that separates fourth place Milan and tenth place Fiorentina in Serie A. The league has been quite competitive below Juventus and probably Napoli with other fighting for various position and European spot. It has been a forgettable couple of weeks for Milan and Gattuso; the Rossoneri are out of Europe and have played two goalless draws against Torino and struggling Bologna. They have only maintained their spot on the log thanks to the inconsistency from the chasing pack. Fiorentina broke the duck in their 3-1 win over Empoli – their first in eight games to keep them within touching distance of European places. Stefan Pioli made a switch to 3-5-2 and it paid off so he will likely adopt similar system when they travel to San Siro to face Milan. Both teams are not at their best but Fiorentina will be happy to see Giovanni Simeone back on the scoresheet and target an upset at the Giuseppe Meazza.
VERDICT – Milan have won three of their last five Serie A games against Fiorentina. The Rossoneri have the chance to make it four consecutive wins over La Viola at San Siro on Saturday, a feat last achieved back in 1997. Milan will be without suspended duo of Franck Ksssié and Tiemoué Bakayoko which leaves Gattuso with limited options in midfield. Fiorentina have no injuries or suspension headache and Kevin Mirallas is expecting to take his spot in the front three. Milan have struggled to score in their last two league games though they have won games they didn’t deserve this season but this might not be one. Fiorentina should still have fresh memories of last season 5-1 drubbing on their minds as they face a weakened Milan team.
JUVENTUS v AS ROMA – SAT. 22 DEC 2018, 20.30HRS
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Juventus passed derby tests with slim victories over Inter Milan and Torino to maintain their excellent form and start to the Serie A season and should be confident when taking on Roma in Turin. The Giallorossi have been struggling to find their best form this season and it is well documented that they are the underdogs for this game. Eusebio Di Francesco is under severe pressure though last week home win over Genoa bought him some time but he feels like he is a drowning man at Trigoria. Roma are 22 points behind Juventus going into this game and have lost on their last four visits to the Allianz Arena. Juventus are eight points clear of Napoli and will want to keep the distance with a busy Christmas schedule on the horizon. Roma will be boosted by the return of Edin Dzeko who should return to the starting XI and lead the line for the capital club.
VERDICT – Juventus have won their last eight home matches against Roma in all competitions. The Old Lady have won seven Serie A matches in a row and kept a clean sheet in their last five. Roma have conceded at least two goals in their last three Serie A matches though they have scored in their last three league matches as well. Juventus nicked last season’s meeting by a lone goal, a similar score line in their last three home meeting against Roma. Roma have lost all eight games they have played at the Allianz Stadium since the venue was opened in 2011. Juve have scored 20 and conceded just three goals during that stretch.
BARCELONA v CELTA VIGO – SAT. 22 DEC 2018, 18.30HRS
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League leaders Barcelona will secure a top-of-the-table finish for the year 2018 with a home win over Celta Vigo with the league going on a Christmas break. Barcelona are in good form winning their last two league matches, scoring nine goals and conceding none. Celta Vigo travel to the Camp Nou unbeaten in their last three LaLiga games and will hope to replicate their performance from last season when they held the home team to a 2-2 draw. Miguel Cardoso is doing a fine job with Galacians, their performances have improved since he took over in November but the form of a certain Leo Messi means the Blaugranas would be overwhelming favorites in front of a large crowd at the Camp Nou.
VERDICT – Celta earned two league draws against the Catalan giants last season and have lost once since Cardoso took charge. However, Barcelona are in a good moment with Lionel Messi at his brilliant best. Barcelona’s skipper and talisman makes his team better when he is in such terrific form. It would be interesting to see how Celta approach this game but they are known for their attacking style and will give it a go at the Camp Nou. An open game is expected, filled with goals.
LEGANES v SEVILLA – SUN. 23 DEC 2018, 16.15HRS
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Sevilla close the year with a tough game at Estadio Municipal de Butarque against Leganes in this round 17 LaLiga game. Mauricio Pellegrino is gradually building Los Pepineros in his image and style – difficult to break down and beat at home but they face an impressive Sevilla who have put themselves in the title race this season and have continued to grind out results both at home and on the road. Los Rojiblancos recorded their ninth league victory of the season against Girona with Pablo Machin sticking to his attacking philosophy. Andre Silva and Ben Yedder are creating a perfect working relationship in Sevilla attack which is making life difficult for LaLiga defenders. Leganes are unbeaten in their last six league matches and were able to force Celta Vigo to a goalless draw last weekend – that’s what you get from Pellegrino’s team.
VERDICT – In six meetings, both teams are locked on two wins, draws and losses apiece. Leganes won one and drew one of last two home matches against Sevilla. Los Rojiblancos will travel to Madrid in high on confidence; they are just three points behind leaders Barcelona at the top of the standings. They won three and drew two of last five league outings and have conceded once in their last four games. Regardless, Butarque is a difficult ground to visit, neither Barcelona nor Atletico Madrid left with three points.
WOLVERHAMPTON WANDERERS v LIVERPOOL – FRI. 21 DEC 2018, 21.00HRS
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Wolverhampton Wanderers are looking to make it four wins out of four, while Jurgen Klopp’s side are hoping to extend their Premier League lead to four points on Friday night with a 15th victory of the season. The Reds saw off rivals Manchester United in the North West derby on Sunday to return to the top of the league. Jurgen Klopp’s team completed a perfect week by securing Champions League qualification and conquering the Red Devils at home. They have won their last six league matches and will hope to keep the momentum as the title race gets more interesting with Manchester City. On the other hand, Wolves are in good form too, winning their last three Premier League matches including a home win over Chelsea. Nuno Espirito Santo’s team have shown they have the talent and ability to compete in the league.
VERDICT – Wolves will be without Diogo Jota while Liverpool will miss James Milner industry in the midfield and Trent Alexander-Arnold’s fantastic runs down the right flank. Wolves won their last competitive match against Liverpool in their FA Cup fourth-round tie in January 2017 but have not won consecutive matches against the Reds since November 1980. The Reds will be at the top of the table at Christmas and should be confident of doing so should they come away with three points at Molineux.
EVERTON v TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR – SUN. 23 DEC 2018, 17.00HRS
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Everton welcome Tottenham Hotspur to Goodison Park in what is expected to be an entertaining game in this Premier League week 18 fixtures. The Toffees failed to win previous four league matches including two home draws against Newcastle United and Watford. Spurs travel to Merseyside in confident mood, winning their last three Premier League matches and got a moral boosting victory over Arsenal in the League Cup on Wednesday. Pochettino’s team still nurse their faint title ambition and will need to win to keep up with the leading pair. Everton looked to have missed their step a bit and Spurs are not the right opponent to face considering their poor record against them.
VERDICT – Everton are looking for their first Premier League victory against the visitors in 12 attempts, as third-placed Tottenham Hotspur are hoping to extend their winning run to four matches. The Toffees form has nosedived lately but their defeats have come against Liverpool and Manchester City in this poor run. Everton are unbeaten in their last six home league matches, winning four and drawing two. Spurs might suffer a bit of fatigue considering their midweek Cup game against Arsenal but the Lily Whites might still have enough in tank to see off their host.
This wraps us our weekend preview. Predict and win big by visiting our Sports shop Babaijebu.ng for mouthwatering offers.