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FESIG League Preview – (The Reds Devils take on the Gunners in epic FA Cup battle)

The oldest cup competition – the English FA Cup reaches its fourth round with biggest round of this round taking place in London as Arsenal host Manchester United at the Emirates stadium. Carlo Ancelotti returns to the San Siro for the second time in a space of a month to face his former team Milan while league leaders Juventus travel to the capital to face Simone Inzaghi’s Lazio. In LaLiga, there are interesting derbies; at Wanda Metropolitano in Madrid Atletico Madrid square off against overachieving Getafe while Girona host Barcelona in a Catalan derby.

Here is our preview of matches across top four European Leagues and the English FA Cup.

We begin in England (The FA Cup);

ARSENAL v MANCHESTER UNITED – FRI. 25 JAN 2019, 20.55HRS
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Ole Gunnar Solskjaer first passed his first real test as Manchester United manager recently in a narrow victory over Spurs in London. The Red Devils return to capital on a Friday to face an old enemy in Arsenal in the FA Cup, the only domestic silverware either team can win this season. We expect both managers to field a strong starting XI for this mouthwatering fourth round clash. Will Arsenal end Ole’s dream start as United boss or can Manchester United continue to pull together in the expected direction? Both teams have their top-four ambition in the Premier League back on track and will be lifted by last weekend’s result with a view to keep momentum going.

VERDICT – Arsenal will be full of confidence heading into this clash against Manchester United after beating London rivals Chelsea last time out. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has won his opening seven matches as Manchester United manager but it will be interesting to see how he rotates his squad for their FA Cup fourth round match. Games between Arsenal and Manchester United generate a lot of passion and energy considering their rivalry in the past two decades. It depends on how both managers rate this competition but we should be served a great footballing showpiece. Both teams should get on the scoresheet.

MANCHESTER CITY v BURNLEY – SAT. 26 JAN 2019, 16.00HRS
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It is one of the few all Premier League tie in the round of the FA Cup. Pep Guardiola’s team are in confident mood, winning seven games on the trot and not conceding in their last five outings. Sean Dyche’s team appeared to have turned a corner, winning their four of their last five matches and are yet to lose in 2019. However, the Clarets didn’t have much luck in the draw as they were pitched against an in-form Manchester City who have scored 23 goals in their last five games in all competitions. 

VERDICT – It has been a season of ups and downs for Burnley who have been flirting around the relegation zone considering the heights of last campaign. The Clarets have not lost in five but face a massive task away from home to knock the Citizens out. The gulf in class is significant regardless of how much passion and effort Burnley put into this game, it is unlikely to yield much success at the Etihad stadium.

To France;

OLYMPIQUE MARSEILLE v LILLE OSC – FRI. 25 JAN 2019, 20.45HRS
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Marseille got a win against Caen last weekend to put an end to their nine-match winless run. The victory should provide Rudi Garcia’s team with much needed confidence and they aim to push up the table back into continental places. Marseille’s last home game against Monaco drew angry reactions from their supporters who started cheering the visitors. The home team are going through a difficult spell but can expect no sympathy from Lille who are making the 1h 40mins trip down south with the belief of dampening the moral between OM players and their supporters.

VERDICT – OM will rely on tradition in this fixture – they have dominated this games at Velodrome where they won 13, drew five and lost only three of 21 clashes with Lille. The visitors won five of their last six matches in all competitions including a come from behind win over Amiens last weekend. Nevertheless, Marseille’s strong home record against LOSC gives them a slight edge. We can expect goals from both teams.

PARIS SAINT-GERMAIN v RENNES – SUN. 27 JAN 2019, 21.00HRS
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Rennes travel to the capital without a victory in their last two Ligue 1 matches to face PSG who mauled Guingamp 9-0 last weekend with Edinson Cavani and Kylian Mbappe grabbing a hat-trick each. Thomas Tuchel’s troops are moving closer to the league title as every league game goes by but will have to face Les Rouges et Noirs without Brazilian super star Neymar who suffered an ankle injury in Coupe de France game against Strasbourg game. Julien Stéphan’s team have their hands full against the free scoring Parisiens who have won six of their last seven matches in all competitions.

VERDICT – Les Parisiens have won 17 of their last 19 Ligue 1 matches and kept five clean sheets in their last six home league matches. Rennes momentum seem to have dropped after the impressive start under new coach Julien Stéphan. The visitors have dropped points in each of their last two league matches and a third is almost inevitable. Edinson Cavani and Kylian Mbappe are the players to watch out for in as the home team go in search of all three points in front of their fans.

To Germany;

BORUSSIA DORTMUND v HANNOVER 96 – SAT. 26 JAN 2019, 15.30HRS
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Borussia Dortmund won the big game last week at the Red Bull Arena against RB Leipzig to maintain their six point advantage over Bayern Munich. Struggling Hannover lost at home to Werder Bremen, which was their seventh league game with a victory to leave Hannover second from bottom on the log. Lucien Favre’s team could welcome team captain Marco Reus for this game at the Signal Iduna Park where they have been almost perfect winning eight of their nine home league matches. For the visitors, it doesn’t get any better; team captain Niclas Fullkrug and last season’s top scorer Genki Haraguchi will miss the trip.  

VERDICT – Hannover have failed to win their last 21 away Bundesliga matches while Dortmund have won eight of their last nine Bundesliga matches. Last weekend’s victory should inspire Die Schwarzgelben in front of their fans this weekend. Hannover have managed just one victory in their last six away games to Dortmund but on current form, October 2014 victory is a distant memory that is unlikely to be replicate. Dortmund should win comfortably at home.  

BAYERN MUNICH v VfB STUTTGART – SUN. 27 JAN 2019, 15.30HRS
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Bayern Munich are on a six-match winning run in the league but could be nine points behind Dortmund by the time they face Stuttgart on Sunday afternoon. Bayern look unstoppable at the moment, their performance in their 3-1 victory over Hoffenheim at Wirsol Rhein-Neckar-Arena was powerful. Visiting Stuttgart are on a three match losing streak in the league; they lost at home to Mainz last time out and travel to Munich in the worst possible shape. Die Schwaben are without World Cup winner Benjamin Pavard and former Bayern defender Holger Badstuber which leaves Markus Weinzierl with limited defensive options against free scoring Bayern Munich.

VERDICT – Stuttgart top scorer in 2018/19 season – Mario Gomez returns to his old stomping ground as he leads his team attack against Robert Lewandowski led Bayern. Stuttgart recorded a victory on their last trip to the Allianz Arena but Bayern were alrady crowned champions then in May. It is a different scenario now with Nico Kovac’s team trying to keep tabs with Dortmund in the title race. Stuttgart are struggling badly at the moment and shipping in goals easily. Bayern are favorites for this game and should go all out for the win.

To Italy;

AC MILAN v NAPOLI – SAT. 26 JAN 2019, 20.30HRS
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Milan welcome Napoli to the Giuseppe Meazza stadium for one of the big battles in the Serie A this weekend. Both teams recorded victories last time out; Milan beat Genoa at Marassi while Napoli secured an impressive win over Lazio at the San Paolo. Milan new striker Krzysztof Piatek could make his bow for the Rossoneris with Alessio Romagnoli, Fracnk Kessie and Davide Calabria returning from suspension. Napoli have returnees in Kalidou Koulibaly and Lorenzo Insigne after serving their respective suspensions. This isn’t another league game for Carlo Ancelotti, it is a return to a ground and club he knows very well having spent eight years as Milan coach as he gets to face his former player Rino Gattuso who is in charge of the Diavolos.

VERDICT – Milan have won only one of their last 15 Serie A meetings with Napoli, managing five draws and nine defeats home and away. The only victory in this period was 2-0 at San Siro in December 2014. Milan have forced their way back into Champions League spot but have to win in order to fend of Roma and Lazio. Their performances seem to be improving lately but this huge game might be coming a bit early against a steady Napoli team who have key players returning. Napoli are slight favorites and will aim to keep their unbeaten record against Milan.

LAZIO v JUVENTUS – SUN. 27 JAN 2019, 20.30HRS
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All eyes will be on Stadio Olimpico on Sunday evening in a highly anticipated clash between Lazio and Juventus. Both teams are not have full strength for this pivotal game for the home team who need a victory to stay in the Champions League race. Juventus have a comfortable gap at the top and can afford a slip up here and there but Max Allegri will ensure his team do not give room for complacency at the stage of the season. The Old Lady is flying high and still have their unbeaten run in the league intact going into this game. Injuries and absentees for this game should not stop an intriguing match-up in Rome.

VERDICT – Lazio have only scored once in their last nine Serie A home games against Juventus, drawing one and losing eight. The Bianconeri are cruising their way towards title defense this season. They won 18 and drew two of 20 matches so far. Lazio have been poor defensively, failing to keep a single clean sheet in last nine matches on the home patch in all competitions. Simone Inzaghi team face the unenviable task of playing against a Cristiano Ronaldo led attack which can only mean one thing – goals; Juventus will not lose in Rome.

To Spain;

ATLETICO MADRID v GETAFE – SAT. 26 JAN 2019, 16.15HRS
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Getafe have been the surprise team in LaLiga this season; their solid defensive performance and Jorge Molina’s goals has helped them to an impressive sixth place on the table as they make the 16-minutes bus trip north of Madrid to face Atleti in this local derby. Diego Simeone’s team sit second on the table; they need to keep winning in order to keep tabs with Barcelona and cannot afford to any slip ups with resurgent Real Madrid forcing themselves back into reckoning. José Bordalás team are well drilled defensively, a similar outlook to Simeone’s Atletico which might make the derby cagey with both sides not willing to give much away to the opponent.

VERDICT – Atletico are on a 17-match unbeaten run in LaLiga; they have won their last eight home matches against Getafe in all competitions. Los Azulones are on a solid run in the league too; they are unbeaten in their last nine away league matches. Atletico are unbeaten at Wanda Metropolitano this season as they look to end Getafe impressive away run. The fixture has all the elements of a close game but Atleti seem to always find a way in this situation. Do not expect a basket of goals in this game as it might be decided by a single one.

GIRONA v BARCELONA – SUN. 27 JAN 2019, 16.15HRS
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Girona and Barcelona square off in the small Catalan derby days after both teams suffered first leg defeats in the Copa del Rey to Real Madrid and Sevilla respectivey. The Blanquivermell are on a poor run in the league, winless in six against an in-form Barcelona who have won their last six league matches. The reigning champions and league leaders are five points better than closest challenger and will aim to keep the momentum going into the derby. Eusebio Sacristan is known to favor an attacking approach but will required pragmatism as they host the best team in the league in front of their fans.

 VERDICT – Girona started the season in a promising fashion, but their form has seen a massive slide lately. They are winless in last ten matches in all competitions and are facing a potent attack considering their defensive issues. Ousmane Dembele is unavailable for this game but Lionel Messi is expected to return to the starting XI having started last weekend’s win over Leganes from the bench. If there is a surprise at Estadio Municipal de Montilivi on Sunday afternoon, it would be Los Cules not leaving the stadium with three points.

This wraps up our preview for the week. Predict and win big by visiting our Sports shop Babaijebu.ng for mouthwatering offers in the English FA Cup and other top four European leagues this weekend. 

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