Five Games to Watch

Five Games to Watch: Derby della Madonnina and O Classico

Plus huge matches in Germany, France, and England!

 
8:00am on Friday 7th February 2020
By
Martin Macdonald

INTER v MILAN

Sunday 9th February, 1945 GMT

At any other point this season, the result of the Derby della Madonnina may have been a foregone conclusion in favour of an Inter win.

Antonio Conte has rejuvenated the Nerazzurri into legitimate title contenders, with them currently sitting three points behind Juventus. However, three draws in the last four games have handed the initiative to Juve, even though they themselves dropped points recently after losing to Napoli.

Inter's downturn in form has coincided with an upturn in form for Milan, who have won three out of the last four to put them up to eighth after a dismal first half of the campaign.

With Inter short on confidence, albeit not losing games, and with Milan enjoying a rare period of good fortune, this derby suddenly became a lot more interesting. Indeed, the Rossoneri would relish the opportunity to put a dent in the title campaign of their city rivals - even if it does benefit Juve.

They have already faced each other in the league at San Siro this season, with Inter winning 2-0 in their official away game, with Romelu Lukaku and Marcelo Brozovic scoring.

PLAYER TO WATCH

26 yrs - ST (C) - Inter
94
Defending
Creative
Passing
Attacking
Shooting
Decisive
Aerials
Physical
JavaScript chart by amChartsLDefendingCreativePassingAttackingShootingDecisiveAerialsPhysical10-10-5051015100%
1886
Played matches
22
16
2
Shots P90
3.15
Shots On target P90
1.62
Successful passing %
70%
Final third passes P90
11.69

FootballCritic recently wrote about Lukaku's transformation since leaving Manchester Utd. With Lautaro Martinez suspended, he will be Inter's main man up top.

BAYERN v RB LEIPZIG

Sunday 9th February, 1700 GMT

It has taken Bayern longer than usual this season to top the Bundesliga table, but normal order was restored last weekend when they defeated Mainz. The three points gained saw them leapfrog Leipzig, who drew with Gladbach one week after being defeated by Frankfurt.

The title race remains, however, extremely close, with just three points separating these two teams plus Dortmund and Gladbach in third and fourth.

While Leipzig have stuttered in recent weeks, with their poor league form being compounded by elimination from the DFB-Pokal, Bayern have been absolutely flying. They went through in the cup, defeating Hoffenheim, which made it eight straight wins in all competitions going back to the start of December.

In 2020 so far, they have scored 16 goals in four matches, with Robert Lewandowski, Thiago, and Thomas Muller in particular in supreme form.

Bayern and Leipzig do remain relatively equal in terms of quality, as proven by their 1-1 draw earlier in the season, but this week we looked at how the latter's tactics were scuppered by Gladbach last week, so could Hans-Dieter Flick follow the same plan as Marco Rose?

PLAYER TO WATCH

31 yrs - S (C) - Bayern
99
Defending
Creative
Passing
Attacking
Shooting
Decisive
Aerials
Physical
JavaScript chart by amChartsLDefendingCreativePassingAttackingShootingDecisiveAerialsPhysical10-10-5051015100%
1771
Played matches
20
22
3
Shots P90
4.78
Shots On target P90
2.34
Successful passing %
72%
Final third passes P90
14.99

Lewandowski scored two superb headers during the week against Hoffenheim and generally looks to be in the form of his life. If there is one centre-forward who can get in about this pass-happy Leipzig defence, it is the big Pole.

NOTTINGHAM FOREST v LEEDS

Saturday 8th February, 1730 GMT

Leeds' Championship challenge derailment is currently in process.

At points during this season, particular in November into December, they looked invincible, winning seven games in a row. However, from the festive period until now they have been in a torrid run of form, winning just two out of their last nine.

This hasn't just handed the initiative in the title race to West Brom, who now lead by a point, but the teams in the playoff positions targeting automatic promotion to the Premier League, too.

One of these teams is Notts Forest, who can move to within one point of Leeds should they earn all three points at the City Ground. Like Leeds, though, they lost their last game in the league after a 2-1 defeat to Birmingham.

The last clash between the pair was a tight affair which ended 1-1 after Lewis Grabban cancelled out Pablo Hernandez's opener.

PLAYER TO WATCH

26 yrs - S (C) - Leeds Utd
68
Defending
Creative
Passing
Attacking
Shooting
Decisive
Aerials
Physical
JavaScript chart by amChartsLDefendingCreativePassingAttackingShootingDecisiveAerialsPhysical10-10-5051015100%
2275
Played matches
29
12
2
Shots P90
4.20
Shots On target P90
1.58
Successful passing %
76%
Final third passes P90
6.93

It may be slightly harsh to say, but if Patrick Bamford was more clinical in front of goal, then Leeds may well have been on their way to the Premier League with a commanding Championship lead. He scored two against Millwall, but those were his first goals since the middle of December, so they need to get him firing again.

PORTO v BENFICA

Saturday 8th February, 2030 GMT

Liverpool are currently taking plenty of plaudits for having only dropped points in one league match this season, but over in Portugal Benfica have put together a similar run of form.

Bruno Lage's side have only dropped points in one match, too, as they lost against, you guessed it, Porto. Since the 2-0 defeat, though, they have been invincible, winning 16 matches and scoring 40 goals.

In any other season, Porto would be closer to their rivals, but currently sit seven points adrift, meaning this Classico could very well be a championship decider. A 10-point lead for Benfica will surely be too much, while just four points between the two would blow the title race wide open.

Benfica's strength this season has been their defence as they have conceded just eight goals in 19 games. Porto have won the last two games, but recently lost at home to Braga.

PLAYER TO WATCH

30 yrs - M, AM (R) - SL Benfica
93
Defending
Creative
Passing
Attacking
Shooting
Decisive
Aerials
Physical
JavaScript chart by amChartsLDefendingCreativePassingAttackingShootingDecisiveAerialsPhysical10-10-5051015100%
1537
Played matches
19
12
8
Shots P90
2.52
Shots On target P90
1.35
Successful passing %
80%
Final third passes P90
25.06

Along with team-mate Carlos Vinicius, Pizzi is the top goalscorer in the league on 12 goals, but also leads the assists chart with eight. He is, quite simply, Benfica's main man, their talisman.

PSG v LYON

Sunday 9th February, 2000 GMT

PSG have won 19 out of 23 league games this season, scoring 59 goals in that time. The last time they dropped points was in an entertaining 3-3 draw versus Monaco, but since then they have been scintillating.

They have since won four in a row and scored 13 goals, including five in a 5-0 demolition of Montpellier. The confidence is flowing, as displayed by a situation during that match which saw Neymar reprimanded by the referee for alleged showboating. However, the Brazilian was injured for the win against Nantes, as he tends to do at the time of year his birthday falls.

Lyon, meanwhile, have been consistently inconsistent, having won just nine games this campaign to put them sixth. They have only claimed all three points in three out of the last eight, and are largely dependant on the goals of Moussa Dembele up top in the absence of injured Memphis Depay.

Neymar was the difference maker the last time the two faced off, as PSG only won 1-0 thanks to an 83rd minute goal from the former Barca star.

PLAYER TO WATCH

21 yrs - F (CL) - PSG
99
Defending
Creative
Passing
Attacking
Shooting
Decisive
Aerials
Physical
JavaScript chart by amChartsLDefendingCreativePassingAttackingShootingDecisiveAerialsPhysical10-10-5051015100%
1245
Played matches
17
14
4
Shots P90
5.20
Shots On target P90
2.82
Successful passing %
80%
Final third passes P90
20.67

With Neymar having missed the last game, the creativity burden was spread elsewhere, with Angel Di Maria stepping up. However, Kylian Mbappe remains the Parisiens best chance of opening up the Lyon defence.

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