With the other European leagues on Christmas break, the Premier League and Serie A has kept us entertained during the Christmas period and the excitement has not stopped. Unbeaten league leaders Liverpool welcome Arsenal to Anfield for their final game of an eventful 2018 as the Reds soar on at the top of the Premier League table and in Italy, Juventus will aim to return to winning ways in Serie A at Allianz Stadium after battling to a 2-2 draw in Bergamo with a man down against a spirited Atalanta side.
Here is our preview of matches in the Serie A and Premier League.
We begin in Italy;
JUVENTUS v SAMPDORIA – SAT. 29 DEC 2018, 12.30HRS
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Juventus showed champions character at Stadio Atleti Azzurri d’Italia to rescue a point with a man sent off against brave Atalanta in front of their home fans. Cristiano Ronaldo came off the bench to save his team on Boxing Day and preserve their unbeaten record in the league. Marco Giampaolo’s team have crept under the radar to 5th on the table, winning their last three league matches and unbeaten in their last six. Ageless Fabio Quagliarella is the man who can’t stop scoring for the Blucerchiati and will be expected to lead La Samps charges against Juve. Sampdoria have picked up 14 of a possible 18 points lately and are just two points off Champions League spot. These are exciting times at Luigi Ferraris but on this occasion, Doria will be travelling to Turin to face Juventus.
VERDICT – Fabio Quagliarella is in the form of his life and visits his former club off the back off eight goals in his last eight matches. He could be the first player since David Trezeguet in December 2005 to score for nine consecutive Serie A matches if he finds the back of the net in an environment he is familiar with. That said, Juventus dodged a bullet away to Atalanta on Boxing Day and just need to avoid defeat on Saturday to ensure an unbeaten first half of the season. The Old Lady can break the 52 points record set for most points in the first half of a Serie A season with a victory at home. One man loves breaking records, he is the mercurial number 7 for Juventus.
EMPOLI v INTER MILAN – SAT. 29 DEC 2018, 15.00HRS
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Inter won Serie A Boxing Day big game against Napoli but the game was overshadowed with ugly incidents including racist chants against Napoli’s Kalidou Koulibaby – we want the authorities to do more in stamping the disgraceful act out of the game. The victory should help ease pressure on Luciano Spalletti with Inter consolidating their third spot on the log as they travel to Empoli to face a struggling team without a victory in its last three league games. Giuseppe Iachini’s team need a positive result soon to help pull them further up the table. They currently sit 16th, just three points shy of the dreaded relegation zone. They have conceded three goals or more in each of their past three games. On the other hand, Inter have only been able to find the net no more than once per match in their last five in all competitions, so they will be looking to break that this weekend.
VERDICT – Inter will aim to close the gap on Napoli and Juventus as their title dreams are all but over midway through the season. Radja Nainggolan might be recalled for this game but skipper Mauro Icardi is going through a dry spell, he should target this game to rediscover his scoring touch. The odds are firmly against Empoli who might require a miracle. Inter have won nine of their last 10 Serie A meetings with Empoli, drawing the other, since a 1-0 defeat at Stadio Carlo Castellani in April 2006.
NAPOLI v BOLOGNA – SAT. 29 DEC 2018, 18.00HRS
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Napoli can channel their energy to the Bologna game following a disappointing end to the San Siro game where they lost three key players and the match itself. Fortunately, they are playing against a struggling club with no wins in their last six Serie A matches. Fillippo Inzaghi has found it difficult to inspire Bologna with the club sitting in the relegation zone. It would be a nice reunion between a former player and coach but Ancelotti will be gunning for all three points at home to keep their faint title hopes alive and probably start a new winning run.
VERDICT – With the absentees, Dries Mertens should be recalled to the starting XI; the Belgian has found the net in each of his last four Serie A meetings with Bologna, scoring a total nine goals. Napoli are expected to bounce back and finish 2018 with three points. Bologna have lost each of their last five Serie A meetings with Napoli. The visitors are without an away victory in 19 top flight matches, drawing six and losing 13.
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR v WOLVERHAMPTON WANDERERS – SAT. 29 DEC 2018, 16.00HRS
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Spurs have worked their way back in the title contention, they are second on the log, a point better than defending champions Man City and six behind leaders Liverpool. Mauricio Pochettino’s fantastic work at Tottenham deserves all the praises coming his way. On the other side, Wolves managed a draw against Fulham last time out, recovering from their disappointing home loss to Liverpool but will be aware this is a tougher test against a team that has won five straight Premier League matches. Both sides met at the start of November with Spurs edging a five-goal thriller. Nuno Espirito Santo’s team have lost one of their last four Premier League away matches and should be boosted by their positive results at Old Trafford and Emirates stadium this season.
VERDICT – This is the 10th Premier League meeting between Spurs and Wolves. Mauricio Pochettino’s side have won five of the nine previous matches. Wolves are winless in five Premier League matches against Spurs (2D, 3L), since recording a 1-0 win at Molineux in February 2010. Spurs are unbeaten in their last 39 PL matches against newly promoted teams. They have won 36 and drawn three since losing 0-1 to QPR in April 2012. Are we set for another goal fest, considering Spurs put 11 past Everton and Bournemouth recently? Spurs are in confident mood, we don’t think their goal party is over just yet.
LIVERPOOL v ARSENAL – SAT. 29 DEC 2018, 18.30HRS
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Liverpool extended their lead at the top of the table to six points following their 4-0 win over Newcastle United on Boxing Day. The Reds have 51 points half way through the season and are still unbeaten. Is there a chance they could topple Manchester City 100 points record of last season? Arsenal could only manage a draw against Brighton dropping two points in the race for fourth spot with Chelsea. The Gunners have just two wins in their last five league games as they travel to Anfield to face Jurgen Klopp Reds who have won their last eight Premier League matches and the last two against Arsenal at home. Unai Emery’s team look to have dropped a level lower but the competitive drive in Unai Emery’s team means a top drawer game is on the cards in Merseyside.
VERDICT – This is the 227th meeting between these two teams in all competitions. Liverpool have 86 wins compared to Arsenal’s 79 and there has been 61 draws. Arsenal are without a win in their last five trips to Anfield, conceding two or more goals in each match and 17 in total. Jurgen Klopp’s side are unbeaten in their last 30 Premier League home matches and have kept a clean sheet in 12 of their last 14 home league games. The Gunners have the quality in attack to score against any opponent but their growing injury list means a right balance might be difficult to find which makes their task much difficult. Liverpool look like an irresistible force at the moment, it would take something special to stop them especially at home.
SOUTHAMPTON v MANCHESTER CITY – SUN. 30 DEC 2018, 18.30HRS
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It is not a computer glitch or error when you look at the Premier League and you find City in third place. Manchester City are in a mini-crisis, Pep Guardiola’s team has lost three of its last four league matches, dropping down to third on the table. Just like in the game against Palace, City took the lead against Leceister but ended up on the losing side. Are the wheels really coming off for the champions or it’s just a mid-season blip? Southampton are picking up points under new manager Ralph Hassenhuttl, winning two of their last three though they lost to West Ham on Thursday but the team seem to be grasping the new manager’s method as the Saints try to move away from the dreaded relegation zone.
VERDICT – Manchester City have won their last four Premier League matches against Southampton by an aggregate score of 12-2 though they have never won five in a row against Saints in the Premier League. After a run of six consecutive clean sheets, Man City have conceded in eight of their last nine Premier League matches. The Saints have won one of their last 11 Premier League meetings with Man City (D2 L8), winning 4-2 in this exact fixture in the 2015/16 campaign. Can lightning strike twice on the same spot? City need a response and very fast with the leading pack ready to pull further away. This is another huge test for Pep Guardiola in his celebrated and decorated managerial career so far.
This wraps up our final preview for the year 2018. Predict and win big by visiting our Sports shop Babaijebu.ng for mouthwatering offers in all twenty games across the Serie A and Premier League over this weekend.
Happy New Year to all FESIG readers and Babijebu punters!