Liverpool’s victory over West Ham United in midweek took them 19 points clear at the top of the Premier League, and must surely have extinguished any hopes Manchester City had of a remarkable comeback.
However, while the title race may be all but over, there’s plenty of drama left lower down the table, where a handful of clubs are competing for top four berths—and Champions League qualification.
Tottenham Hotspur, currently in sixth, are one of the clubs who need a surge over the coming weeks to unseat Leicester City, Chelsea or their rivals this weekend, Pep Guardiola’s reigning champions.
It’s going to be a tough task for Spurs over the coming weeks, but with the Blues themselves away at Leicester City in Saturday’s early kick-off—a tricky assignment considering the Foxes’ form this weekend—Tottenham can realistically aim to close the gap this weekend.
While Brendan Rodgers’ side isn’t in the best form—they’ve lost two of their last three—they cruised past West Ham in their last Premier League outing and will believe Chelsea are there for the taking.
Frank Lampard’s side are again struggling for consistency, and they’re now without a win since downing Burnley 3-0. Certainly, Leicester will be hoping to exploit the vulnerabilities Chelsea demonstrated when they capitulated against Arsenal last Tuesday.
Despite defeat by Manchester United on Wednesday, City still advanced to the EFL Cup final, and will be confident of retaining silverware.
They’re comfortable in the Champions League places as well, on 51 points—17 ahead of Manchester United—but how Guardiola would love to inflict more woe on his old rival Mourinho.
This will be the 23rd meeting in all competitions between the two legendary coaches, with Mourinho on the losing end on 10 occasions—four more times than against any other manager.
Spurs endured a damaging run in early 2020, taking only two points from a possible 12 in the Prem, although fans will hope that the signing of Steven Bergwijn will help compensate for the exit of Christian Eriksen and the injury to Harry Kane.
Liverpool, the champions-elect, continue their tight fixture schedule at home against Southampton on Saturday, with those two kicking off on SS3 at 17:00 CAT.
The Reds have won their last 19 home games and would equal City’s record of 20, set in 2012 of 20 consecutive home wins if they down the struggling Saints.
Over in the PSL this weekend, there are also some fascinating fixtures, with SuperSport United and Orlando Pirates both in action.
SuperSport United are away at Golden Arrows on Saturday, with kickoff at 15:30 CAT on SS4 in South Africa, and SS11 in the Rest of Africa, before Pirates travel away to Chippa United later in the day.
It’s a match that gives United, on 24 points, the opportunity to move up to second as, with Mamelodi Sundowns in continental action, they could overtake the Brazilians, currently on 35 points, even if they would have played three matches more.
Similarly, this weekend represents an opportunity for the Buccaneers to climb up to second. On 33 points, they’re 12 behind league leaders and fierce rivals Kaizer Chiefs, but their form has been excellent since a 1-1 draw at Bloemfontein Celtic.
They’ve won their last four and will be confident of outclassing struggling Chippa.
A win would see Josef Zinnbauer’s side equal Chiefs’ record of nine games unbeaten this term, and while their resurgence appears to be coming too late for a title challenge, their midseason form bodes well for the future.
In Spain, this weekend, fans are set for a treat, as Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid collide in the derby in the capital on Saturday.
Real have taken advantage of Barcelona’s poor form—they’ve won two of their last six—to climb up to top spot, three points clear, having won their last three.
They could well make it four at home against Atletico, who have themselves taken just one point from their last six matches.
While Atleti were dominant against Leganes last weekend, they failed to make the breakthrough, and it’s imperative they find a cutting edge if they’re to secure an unlikely victory against Los Rojiblancos this weekend.
While Zinedine Zidane is overseeing a 20-game undefeated streak at Real, Diego Simeone’s side needs a late-season surge to avoid this being one of their poorest campaigns under his dogged leadership.
Could their change in fortune begin at the Bernabeu this weekend?
On Sunday, attention turns to Barcelona, where new coach Quique Setien will be desperate to reassure some fans that he can be the right man for the job with a win over Levante.
While Setien insists he has the backing of club president Josep Maria Bartomeu, Barca’s supporters may prove to be less forgiving if he fails to beat Levante and allows Real to extend their advantage at the top of the table.
Catch Barca’s La Liga showdown with Los Granotas at 22:00 CAT on SS7 on Sunday.
Finally, to Italy, where a fascinating title race took another twist last weekend, as challengers Internazionale were held by Cagliari, only for Juventus to fail to capitalise on their draw with a 2-1 defeat at Napoli.
The Partenopei had previously been thoroughly dysfunctional earlier in the campaign, but they summoned some of their erstwhile qualities to snap a three-game losing streak with a shock victory that cuts Juve’s lead to three points.
The reigning champions will be confident of returning to winning ways at home against Fiorentina in Sunday’s early kickoff, although it will be intriguing to see how Inter fare away at Udinese in the last match of the weekend.
Antonio Conte has made some notable recruits during the January transfer window, bringing Christian Eriksen, Victor Moses and Ashley Young to the club, but can these experienced heads integrate into the group and bring their collective experience to bear in the title race?
The Nerazzurri will be without Lautaro Martinez and Tommaso Berni, both of whom were dismissed against Cagliari on Sunday.
Sunday also represents an opportunity for Lazio to begin another winning streak, as their relentless run was paused by fierce rivals AS Roma in last weekend’s 1-1 draw.
Lazio host struggling SPAL 2013 on Sunday, but can they close the five-point gap to the league leaders?
All eyes will be on Ciro Immobile, who has a remarkable 23 goals in 20 league outings so far this campaign and will be confident of filling his boots against SPAL.
Saturday 1 February:
Leicester City vs Chelsea SS3 Kickoff at 14:30 (CAT)
Golden Arrows vs SuperSport United SS4 (SA) & SS11 (ROA) Kickoff at 15:30 (CAT)
Liverpool vs Southampton SS3 Kickoff at 17:00 (CAT)
Real Madrid vs Atletico Madrid SS7 Kickoff at 17:00 (CAT)
Chippa United vs Orlando Pirates SS4 (SA) & SS9 (ROA) Kickoff at 18:00 (CAT)
Manchester United vs Wolverhampton SS3 Kickoff at 19:30 (CAT)
Sunday 2 February:
Juventus vs Fiorentina SS9 (SA) & SS8 (ROA) Kickoff at 13:30 (CAT)
Lazio vs SPAL SS8 (SA) & SS4 (ROA) Kickoff at 16:00 (CAT)
Tottenham Hotspur vs Manchester City SS3 Kickoff at 18:30 (CAT)
Udinese vs Inter Milan SS9 (SA) & SS8 (ROA) Kickoff at 21:45 (CAT)
Barcelona vs Levante SS7 Kickoff at 22:00 (CAT)