Five Games to Watch

Five Games to Watch: The Clasico and the Derby d'Italia!

Two huge matches in Spain and Italy, but fans won't be able to see one of them...

 
9:00am on Friday 28th February 2020
By
Martin Macdonald

Real Madrid v Barcelona" href="https://www.footballcritic.com/primera-division-real-madrid-cf-fc-Barcelona/preview/1696629">

Real Madrid v Barcelona

Sunday 1st March, 20000 GMT

This Sunday evening Real Madrid take on Barcelona in the Clasico, with arguably more at stake in this particular league fixture than in previous years due to the proximity between the two in La Liga.

After Los Blancos were defeated by Levante last weekend, it allowed Barca to leapfrog them into top spot. They could, however, reclaim first place if they emerge victorious at the Santiago Bernabeu as just two points separate the two rivals currently.

Both are coming off Champions League games during the week, with Madrid losing at home to Manchester City and Barcelona drawing with Napoli, so neither are firing on all cylinders heading into this one.

Injuries continue to be a concern for both sides, as Barca are missing Luis Suarez until the end of the season as well as first-choice full-backs Jordi Alba and Sergi Roberto, while there are doubts about whether Gerard Pique will be fit after hurting his ankle versus Napoi. Madrid, meanwhile, are still coming to terms with losing Eden HAZard for the season.

The last Clasico took place in December and ended as the first 0-0 draw in the fixture for 17 years, and with so much riding on the return encounter, it could be another cagey affair in the Spanish capital.

PLAYER TO WATCH

32 yrs - F (RC) - Barcelona
99
Defending
Creative
Passing
Attacking
Shooting
Decisive
Aerials
Physical
JavaScript chart by amChartsLDefendingCreativePassingAttackingShootingDecisiveAerialsPhysical10-10-5051015100%
1710
Played matches
20
18
12
Shots P90
5.05
Shots On target P90
2.68
Successful passing %
82%
Final third passes P90
33.95

Who else? With Barcelona stars dropping like flies due to injury and with Real Madrid not really having a talismanic forward this season, the onus will be on Messi to win this one for the Blaugrana.

Juventus v Inter" href="https://www.footballcritic.com/serie-a-Juventus-fc-fc-InternAZionale-milano/preview/1744839">

Juventus v Inter

Sunday 1st March, 1945 GMT

One of the biggest matches in Italy, the Derby d'Italia between Juventus and Inter, will sadly not be played in front of a racuous crowd at the Allianz Stadium after Italian authorities decided it will be played behind closed doors due to the outbreak of the coronavirus in the country.

Even in normal circumstances it would be a shame for fans to miss this one, but this particular fixture promises to be one of the most vital in years as both sides are figting for the Scudetto, with Inter six points behind with a game in hand.

In their last Serie A game, Antonio Conte's men suffered a damaging loss at home to LAZio which suddenly catapulted the Biancocelesti into the title race. Should Inter lose this one, it may spell the end for their championship charge.

Juventus have proved recently they are not as infallibale as they once were, however, with a loss against Verona, and indeed a loss against Lyon in the Champions League, displaying a weakness that wasn't there before.

In the last match at San Siro, goals from Paulo Dybala and Gonzalo Higuain gave Juve the 2-1 away win.

PLAYER TO WATCH

35 yrs - F (CL) - Juventus
99
Defending
Creative
Passing
Attacking
Shooting
Decisive
Aerials
Physical
JavaScript chart by amChartsLDefendingCreativePassingAttackingShootingDecisiveAerialsPhysical10-10-5051015100%
1855
Played matches
21
21
2
Shots P90
5.87
Shots On target P90
2.52
Successful passing %
84%
Final third passes P90
19.07

This game promises to be a fairly tight affair, especially in the unconventional circustances of a game behind closed doors. With that in mind, it could prove to be a moment of magic from Ronaldo which proves the difference.

Aston Villa v MANCHESTER CITY" href="https://www.footballcritic.com/football-league-cup-aston-villa-fc-manchester-city-fc/preview/1830903">

Aston Villa v MANCHESTER CITY

Sunday 1st March, 1630 GMT

The first domestic cup of the season is up for grabs in England in a David v Goliath clash between Aston Villa and Man City.

Normally, clubs fighting relegation don't tend to care too much about the League Cup, but Villa have plodded along nicely to book their day at Wembley, and although they would probably swap that for the opportunity to stay in the Premier League, a meaningful trophy has evaded them for too long.

Pep Guardiola's side, meanwhile, are fresh off their impressive Champions League win against Real Madrid, and with the confidence flowing it could spell disaster for Dean Smith and his charges.

With the Premier League out of reach, Pep will treat this one seriously.

PLAYER TO WATCH

28 yrs - M, DM (C) - Man City
94
Defending
Creative
Passing
Attacking
Shooting
Decisive
Aerials
Physical
JavaScript chart by amChartsLDefendingCreativePassingAttackingShootingDecisiveAerialsPhysical10-10-5051015100%
2156
Played matches
26
8
17
Shots P90
3.13
Shots On target P90
0.92
Successful passing %
82%
Final third passes P90
30.31

Kevin De Bruyne was absolutely magnificent at the Santiago Bernabeu even though he played out of position as a deep centre-forward at times. Even if Villa sit deep and try to counter, he has the ability to very easily open them up, which he has done already this season.

Ajax v AZ ALKMAAR" href="https://www.footballcritic.com/Eredivisie-afc-Ajax-AZ/preview/1647369">

Ajax v AZ ALKMAAR

Sunday 1st March, 1900 GMT

The most important game of the Eredivisie season so far is this weekend as Ajax host AZ at the Johan Cruyff Arena, with just three points between the pair in first and second in the table.

Last week, the tiitle race was blown wide open when Ajax were surprisingly defeated by Heracles, which allowed AZ to shrink the gap. It is a big ask for the visitors to win in Amsterdam on Sunday, but if they can they will move level on points with the champions.

They can certainly take heart from their last two fixtures against Ajax, both of which they won 1-0. In the last game, Myron Boadu popped up in the 90th minute to give them a dramatic victory at the AFAS Stadion back in December.

PLAYER TO WATCH

19 yrs - S (C) - AZ
76
Defending
Creative
Passing
Attacking
Shooting
Decisive
Aerials
Physical
JavaScript chart by amChartsLDefendingCreativePassingAttackingShootingDecisiveAerialsPhysical10-10-5051015100%
1855
Played matches
22
13
6
Shots P90
2.62
Shots On target P90
1.36
Successful passing %
83%
Final third passes P90
9.17

The aforementioned previous match wnner, Boadu, is the third-highest goalscorer in the league this season with 13 goals and as his stock continues to rise, he could add another level to his burgeoning reputation with a performance that could have title ramifications.

Lyon v SAINT-ETIENNE" href="https://www.footballcritic.com/ligue-1-olympique-Lyonnais-as-saint-etienne/preview/1646399">

Lyon v SAINT-ETIENNE

Sunday 23rd February, 1800 GMT

As well as big derbies in Spain and Italy, this weekend sees one in France, too, as Lyon face Saint-Etienne in the Derby Rhone-Alpes.

There isn't too much riding on this one as Lyon are in seventh and Saint-Etienne in 15th, but the latter are just a couple of points adrift from the relegation zone after a torrid run of form which has seen them win just one out of their last 10 Ligue 1 fixtures.

Lyon aren't in great form domestically, either, losing two and drawing two of their previous four. However, during the week they pulled off the shock of the round in the Champions League as they defeated Juventus 1-0, meaning their tails will surely be up heading into the derby.

The last game in October was a tight affair which Saint-Etienne won 1-0 thanks to a late winner from Robert Beric.

PLAYER TO WATCH

23 yrs - ST (C) - Lyon
79
Defending
Creative
Passing
Attacking
Shooting
Decisive
Aerials
Physical
JavaScript chart by amChartsLDefendingCreativePassingAttackingShootingDecisiveAerialsPhysical10-10-5051015100%
2009
Played matches
25
14
2
Shots P90
2.20
Shots On target P90
0.99
Successful passing %
70%
Final third passes P90
8.38

In the absence of the injured Memphis Depay, the goalscoring burden has fell heavier on the shoulders of Moussa Dembele, but with 14 goals in the league you wouldn't put it past him emerging as the match winner here.

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