Five Games to Watch

Five Games to Watch: Madrid derby, plus Champions League ramifications in England

Los Blancos look to put Atletico well and truly out of the title race, while Wolves could overtake Man Utd in the Premier League.

 
10:00am on Friday 31st January 2020
By
Martin Macdonald

Real Madrid v Atletico Madrid

Saturday 1st February, 1500 GMT

The Madrid derby takes place this weekend as league leaders Real take on Diego Simeone's struggling Atletico.

Thanks to Barcelona's loss against Valencia, Real Madrid were able to open up a three-point lead at the top of La Liga after narrowly defeating Real Valladolid. Atleti, meanwhile, struggled to score goals at home again, and drew 0-0 with Leganes - their ninth draw of the campaign so far. They have now won the same amount of games they have drawn in the league.

The city rivals played as recently as the 12th January in the Spanish Super Cup final in Saudi Arabia, where Zinedine Zidane's charges won on penalties after a 0-0 draw. They have met in the league this season, too, but that also ended as a goalless stalemate.

Madrid do not have a good recent record against Atletico at the Santiago Bernabeu, and with competitive games between the two normally low scoring in recent times, it could end up being another damp squib. However, with Atletico's confidence in tatters, the Blancos may just take advantage.

PLAYER TO WATCH

30 yrs - M, AM (C) - Real Madrid
99
Defending
Creative
Passing
Attacking
Shooting
Decisive
Aerials
Physical
JavaScript chart by amChartsLDefendingCreativePassingAttackingShootingDecisiveAerialsPhysical10-10-5051015100%
1504
Played matches
19
2
4
Passes P90
77.61
Passes completed P90
72.71
Successful passing %
94%
Final third passes P90
26.45

Real Madrid had to rely on a set piece from Toni Kroos meeting the head of Nacho to win against Valladolid. With things likely to be tight against Atleti, it might be a set piece delivery from the German which decides this one.

LEICESTER v Chelsea

Saturday 1st February, 1230 GMT

Leicester are coming off a heartbreaking loss in the League Cup semi-final against Aston Villa, doing themselves out of a trip to Wembley and the opportunity for a trophy. Their form has been up and down recently, as two consecutive Premier League defeats against Southampton and Burnley were followed up by a 4-1 dismantling of West Ham.

The Foxes have been fairly fortunate that a downturn in form has coincided with Chelsea's, too, as Frank Lampard's men have lost against Burnley and drew against 10-man Arsenal in the London derby recently.

Games between these pair have been extremely tight recently, with no team scoring more than once in each of the last four league fixtures. The last encounter was a 1-1 draw at Stamford Bridge in September

If Leicester can win at home, they can truly make third place their own as they will own an 11-point gap ahead of Chelsea in fourth.

PLAYER TO WATCH

33 yrs - S (C) - Leicester City
92
Defending
Creative
Passing
Attacking
Shooting
Decisive
Aerials
Physical
JavaScript chart by amChartsLDefendingCreativePassingAttackingShootingDecisiveAerialsPhysical10-10-5051015100%
1933
Played matches
22
17
4
Shots P90
2.42
Shots On target P90
1.49
Successful passing %
71%
Final third passes P90
6.05

Jamie Vardy returned from a small injury off the bench against Villa in the Cup but was unable to fire Leicester to Wembley. As the Premier League's top scorer on 17 goals, he'll be eager to get back on the scoresheet against Chelsea.

Man Utd v Wolves

Saturday 1st February, 1730 GMT

The match between these two earlier this January in the FA Cup was not an entertaining one, with Man Utd eventually winning 1-0.

However, what makes this weekend's clash intriguing is the potential ramifications in European qualification. Only goal difference separates United in fifth and Wolves in seventh, meaning that whoever wins this one could open up a gap against the other (with Tottenham sandwiched in between) in the race to catch Chelsea in fourth. At this stage of the season, it would be a major statement from Wolves to leapfrog the Red Devils in the table.

United have lost the last two in the league and were knocked out of the League Cup on Wednesday despite winning the second leg versus Man City at the Etihad. Their only escape from their form recently has been the 6-0 FA win against Tranmere.

Wolves, meanwhile, came within a whisker of becoming just the second team this season to take a point off Liverpool, only to succumb to a late 2-1 loss.

PLAYER TO WATCH

28 yrs - ST (C) - Wolves
89
Defending
Creative
Passing
Attacking
Shooting
Decisive
Aerials
Physical
JavaScript chart by amChartsLDefendingCreativePassingAttackingShootingDecisiveAerialsPhysical10-10-5051015100%
2033
Played matches
24
11
6
Shots P90
3.50
Shots On target P90
1.33
Successful passing %
72%
Final third passes P90
11.55

Raul Jimenez has become one of the most potent centre-forwards in the league, with 11 goals to his name so far. A shaky United defence may be taken advantage of by the Mexican if he uses his physicality.

RB Leipzig v GLADBACH

Saturday 1st February, 1730 GMT

The Bundesliga has emerged as one of the most exciting leagues in Europe ths season, and last week it got even more interesting as RB Leipzig lost for the first time in 10 matches against Frankfurt, allowing Bayern to cut their lead to just one point from first to second.

Indeed, just seven points separate RBL in first and Hoffenheim in seventh.

In third are Gladbach, who led the table for a decent period of the first half of the season. Should they claim all three points this weekend, they will move ahead of RBL in the table. Their 2020 form has been mixed so far, however, as they lost against Schalke before defeating Mainz 3-1 last week.

Lingering in the background are Bayern, who are in a phenomenal run and could take advantage of any further RBL slips to reclaim top spot.

PLAYER TO WATCH

23 yrs - F (C), AM (L) - RB Leipzig
99
Defending
Creative
Passing
Attacking
Shooting
Decisive
Aerials
Physical
JavaScript chart by amChartsLDefendingCreativePassingAttackingShootingDecisiveAerialsPhysical10-10-5051015100%
1605
Played matches
19
20
6
Shots P90
4.54
Shots On target P90
2.47
Successful passing %
78%
Final third passes P90
15.08

Timo Werner and Robert Lewandowski are, by far, the most prolific strikers in the league so far, with the RBL striker scoring 20 goals so far - one behind the Pole. If RBL are to get back to winning ways, it will likely be via one of his goals.

Ajax v PSV

Saturday 2nd February, 1545 GMT

De Topper takes place on Sunday as Ajax face PSV at the Johan Cruyff Arena.

Both sides haven't had a great start to the year, as although Ajax won their first league game back versus Sparta, they were defeated 2-1 by Groningen last week which marked just their third loss of the campaign. They now hold just a three-point lead over main title challengers, AZ.

PSV, meanwhile, haven't won this year yet, with two consecutive 1-1 draws in the league and a surprise elimination in the KNVB Beker at the hands of NAC putting them in a dire run of form.

In recent fixtures between these two, the home side has prevailed, as you would need to go back four years to the last occasion the away side one in De Topper. The last match ended 1-1 in September.

21 yrs - F (CL) - PSV
82
Defending
Creative
Passing
Attacking
Shooting
Decisive
Aerials
Physical
JavaScript chart by amChartsLDefendingCreativePassingAttackingShootingDecisiveAerialsPhysical10-10-5051015100%
1191
Played matches
14
11
2
Shots P90
4.46
Shots On target P90
2.42
Successful passing %
78%
Final third passes P90
17.15

Donyell Malen is one of the new crop of exciting young Dutch players featuring in the Eredivisie. He has 11 goals in the league this campaign, and you can read more about him here in FootballCritic's profile of the young superstar.

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