The Big Seven Matches This Weekend

The dust is just beginning to settle on a momentous January transfer window which saw Barcelona make Philippe Coutinho the second-most expensive player of all time and Premier League clubs splash out a record amount.

While the off-field action should now begin to settle down, matters on the pitch will only grow more and more intense as the season nears its conclusion.

This weekend sees big matches at the top of the Premier League, Ligue 1 and the Bundesliga, in addition to a huge Athens derby in Greece.

Here, we round up the biggest, best and most important fixtures from all corners of the globe over the upcoming days.

Borussia Monchengladbach vs. RB Leipzig
Saturday, 6.30pm

If the top of the Ligue 1 table looks tight, the race for Champions League football in the Bundesliga is even more hectic with six teams separated by just three points.

Predictably, Bayern Munich have built a healthy lead over the rest of the chasing pack, but behind them it is still all to play for and this weekend sees two of them face off when seventh-placed Borussia Monchengladbach host fifth-placed RB Leipzig.

Only one point separates the two sides in the table, and victory could leave either in the top four at the end of the weekend should other results also go their way.

Neither side have been in particularly good form, though, with Monchengladbach having lost four and won just two of their last seven league games and Leipzig winning just one of their last seven too.

The difference could well come in their home and away form; Monchengladbach are unbeaten in their last five home league games, whereas Leipzig are winless on the road since October.

Monchengladbach have never beaten Leipzig before, though, with their three previous meetings yielding one Leipzig win and two draws – including a 2-2 stalemate in September’s reverse fixture.

FC Porto vs. Sporting Braga
Saturday, 10.30pm

It is second against fourth in Portugal as both teams try to keep chasing Sporting CP who presently are not sitting pretty on top of the log.

The single point gap at the top means Porto can finish the weekend on top if they win and results elsewhere go their way. They are unbeaten at the Estadio do Dragao this term, dropping points only to Benfica. Porto also have a healthy home record against the visitors over the years and surely would be hoping to seal three points.

Braga have been in great form since the turn of the new year, Benfica, once again, being the only teams to not lose to Braga. Braga have found scoring on the road a little bit more difficult but surely will be a tough opposition for FC Porto.

Valletta vs. Balzan
Sunday, 5pm

The Maltese Premier League plays host to a top-of-the-table tussle on Sunday when second-placed Valletta host leaders Balzan.

Balzan, who have only been in the top flight since 2011 and are bidding to win their first ever title this season having finished as runners-up last term, currently lead the way by three points and are unbeaten in their last 17 matches across all competitions.

Second placed Valletta are also doing very well, especially at home. They remain unbeaten in 8 league games and have conceded just three times in that run.

A win for the home side means both clubs go forward level on points and Valletta know they can’t afford to allow their visitors up to a 6-point gap.

Liverpool vs. Tottenham Hotspur
Sunday, 5.30pm

It proved to be a very fruitful midweek period for Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur as Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal all lost to lose ground in the race for the top four this season.

Liverpool bounced back from successive defeats at the hands of Swansea City and West Bromwich Albion – the latter of which came in the FA Cup – to cruise past Huddersfield Town, with that proving to be enough to lift them up to third courtesy of Chelsea’s 3-0 defeat to Bournemouth a day later.

Spurs remain outside the Champions League places as things stand, but they were impressive when beating Manchester United 2-0 at Wembley to return to winning ways and extend their unbeaten streak across all competitions to nine games.

Tottenham also pulled off something of a transfer coup on deadline day as they brought in Lucas Moura from Paris Saint-Germain for a reported fee of £25m, and the Brazilian could be given a baptism of fire should he make his English football debut at Anfield.

Spurs know that victory will lift them into the top four and would leave them on course for a very good points return from a season-defining run which sees them face United, Liverpool and Arsenal in successive league games.

The Reds will have their sights on revenge, though, having lost the reverse fixture 4-1 at Wembley back in October – their only defeat in their last 11 meetings with Spurs.

Rapid Vienna vs. Austria Vienna
Sunday, 5.30pm

The Austrian Bundesliga returns from its winter break with a bang this weekend as third-placed Rapid take on sixth-placed Austria in the Vienna derby.

Both Vienna clubs have fantastic history as they have won multiple titles although RB Salzburg have dominated the Bundesliga in the last couple of years.

This fixture has a long history of away victories but Austria have been inconsistent away from home and three away wins all season don’t particularly inspire confidence.

Rapid have also been inconsistent at home and have just one win in their last four games at home. The home side would be hoping to replicate their early season form that saw them sit in first place in the first few weeks.

Olympiacos vs. AEK Athens
Sunday, 6.30pm

One of Greek football’s biggest matches takes place on Sunday as Olympiacos host city rivals AEK Athens at the Stadio Georgios Karaiskakis.

As is often the case with such derbies in Greece, there is more than just bragging rights up for grabs this weekend, with the two sides separated by just one place and one point in the Greek Super League table as things stand.

Olympiacos, who have won the title in each of the past seven seasons, currently find themselves playing catch-up to PAOK, who lead the way by a solitary point in a fascinating three-way battle for top spot.

AEK Athens are also involved in the race and could move top of the table with victory over Olympiacos this weekend depending on results elsewhere as they go in search of their first title since 1994.

Both teams go into the match in good form, with Olympiacos having won nine and lost none of their 10 league games since the end of October, although the exception in that run did come last time out as they were held to a draw by Asteras Tripolis to end their winning run.

AEK, meanwhile, are unbeaten in 19 matches across all competitions stretching back to October 26 – including eight wins from their last 11 league games – but they have not won away to Olympiacos in the league for more than eight years.

Monaco vs. Lyon
Sunday, 9pm

With the exception of Serie A, it seems to be something of a theme in Europe’s top leagues this season that one team is running away with the title while a fascinating battle for Champions League football develops behind them.

Ligue 1 is no different, and two of those in that race for a top-three spot will go head to head on Sunday when champions Monaco host Lyon at the Stade Louis II.

Just one point separates second-placed Lyon from their fourth-placed hosts, with Marseille sitting between the two clubs having drawn with Monaco last weekend.

Lyon had been beaten by Bordeaux earlier in the day before that draw between two of their Champions League rivals, but that was their first defeat in eight matches across all competitions and they remain best placed to claim a top-three spot from the pack behind Paris Saint-Germain.

The margins are very small, though, and Monaco know that victory will see them end the weekend in the Champions League places. Leonardo Jardim’s side are unbeaten in their last eight Ligue 1 matches, but they have drawn three of their last four.

Indeed, Monaco have only lost one of their last 12 outings across all competitions, although that did come at the hands of Lyon in the Coupe de France last month – one of two 3-2 victories for Lyon against the champions already this season.