The Big Seven Matches This Weekend

With European football having gone out with a bang for 2017 in midweek, including a record-breaking Champions League group stage for goals, teams can now turn their full focus to domestic matters for the rest of the year.

Some clubs will be gearing up for the winter break already, but for those in England especially this is the busiest time of the year and a potentially make-or-break month for their season.

This weekend sees huge matches in the Premier League, Serie A and the Eredivisie, while campaigns are coming to an end in the Americas with plenty still up for grabs.

Here, we pick out the biggest, best and important matches of the weekend from all over the globe.

Manchester United vs. Manchester City
Sunday 5:30pm
Vincent Kompany recently labelled this game the biggest in the world, and those in Manchester will be inclined to agree as the two local rivals duke it out with more than just bragging rights on the line.

Victory for City would see them set a new single-season record of 14 Premier League wins in a row – in addition to equalling the competition’s overall record of consecutive victories – but even more importantly than that it would open up an 11-point gap to United.

Despite City’s incredible winning streak there have been signs of their form wavering slightly in recent weeks, needing late goals to beat Feyenoord, Huddersfield Town, Southampton and West Ham United before finally losing for the first time this season against Shakhtar Donetsk in midweek, bringing an end to their run of 20 consecutive wins in all competitions.

United, meanwhile, beat CSKA Moscow to seal their place in the last 16 having also overcome Arsenal in a thriller last weekend, and should they make it five consecutive wins this weekend then they will start to truly believe that they can catch their ‘noisy neighbours’ at the top of the table.

United have lost just one of the last six meetings across all competitions, with that September 2016 loss being the last time they were beaten in any competition at Old Trafford having since gone a joint club-record 40 games without defeat in front of their own fans.

Liverpool vs. Everton
Sunday 3:15pm
It is something of a baptism of fire for new Everton boss Sam Allardyce, who faces the short trip across Stanley Park in just his second league match at the Toffees helm having got off to a winning start against Huddersfield Town last weekend.

Back-to-back wins have lifted Everton into the top half of the table, but they take on a Liverpool team who have scored 15 goals in their last three games across all competitions, including a 7-0 drubbing of Spartak Moscow on Wednesday night during which all of their front four were on the scoresheet.

The match pits the league’s third-best attack against the league’s third-worst defence, but Toffees fans will be hoping that Allardyce’s appointment at least brings with it increased stability at the back – something which is likely to be stringently tested by Liverpool.

Everton have not won at Anfield yet this century, most recently coming out on top in 1999, while home and away they are winless in their last 14 including defeats in each of their last three.

Juventus vs. Inter Milan
Saturday 8:45pm
The title picture in Italy is shaping up very nicely, with Juventus for once not having things all their own way as they go in search of an unprecedented seventh consecutive title.

Inter look to be back towards something approaching their former glories, though, with a 17-match unbeaten streak stretching back to last season including a 5-0 triumph over Chievo in their most recent outing.

Ivan Perisic netted a hat-trick in that match while captain Mauro Icardi also found the back of the net to make it 16 goals in 15 Serie A appearances this season, but they will be taking on a Juventus side that has lost just one of their last 45 home league games.

Inter have won at this stadium before, but that came more than five years ago and should they end that wait on Saturday – against the only team that has lifted the Serie A trophy on more occasions – then they will prove their title credentials beyond doubt.

Ajax vs. PSV Eindhoven
Sunday 4:45pm
Holland’s two most successful clubs will renew their rivalry on Sunday when Ajax host PSV Eindhoven in De Topper – the second-biggest match in the Eredivisie behind only De Klassieker.

The situation is finely poised heading into the match at the Johan Cruyff Arena too, with Ajax knowing that defeat on home soil could all but rule them out of the title race in early December.

With reigning champions Feyenoord floundering in fifth, PSV have stormed to the top of the table with 13 wins from their opening 14 league games, losing just once all season to build an eight-point lead over AZ.

Ajax are a further two points behind and have already lost twice at home in the league this season, but they will not need telling that another defeat would result in a surely-unassailable 13-point deficit to the leaders.

PSV go into the game in fine form too, winning their last 12 matches across all competitions and losing just one of their last 26 on the domestic front stretching back to last season.

Ajax have not beaten PSV in front of their own fans in almost four years either, with four of the last six meetings between the two sides being won by the visiting team.

Spartak Moscow vs. CSKA Moscow Sunday
The final round of Russian Premier League fixtures before the long, three-month winter break takes place this weekend, and the competition should go out with a bang courtesy of this Moscow derby on Sunday.

Both lost in the North-West of England during the week, although some put up a better fight than others as CSKA led Manchester United before losing 2-1 whereas Spartak were ruthlessly dismantled by Liverpool in a chastening 7-0 defeat.

On the domestic front just one point separates the two sides after 19 games of the season, but it is an important point as it currently leaves CSKA in the final Champions League spot while Spartak are a place below in fourth.

Both are playing catch-up to another Moscow rival in Lokomotiv, who currently lead the way, while Zenit St Petersburg are a point better off than CSKA and two above Spartak. Defeat, therefore, would leave the losers playing catch-up in a big way against three of their major rivals.

Spartak are the defending champions having won their record 22nd title last season, although it was their first since 2001 as they finished seven points above CSKA in the final standings.

CSKA have narrowly edged the head-to-head record in recent years, though, winning five and losing four of the last nine meetings since the most recent draw in the fixture, which came in April 2013.

Marseille vs. Saint-Etienne
Sunday 9pm
Paris Saint-Germain may have dominated the recent history, but their tally of six Ligue 1 titles leaves them still some way behind Marseille and Saint-Etienne, who both lead the way with 10 apiece.

For Saint-Etienne those days are long gone – they last lifted the title in 1980-81 and have been relegated on three separate occasions since then – while Marseille’s 2010 triumph is their only moment of Ligue 1 glory since the days of Jean-Pierre Papin when they won a fourth straight title in 1992.

These two rivals go into the game in contrasting form, with hosts Marseille unbeaten in their last 11 league games and Saint-Etienne winless in their last seven.

Saint-Etienne have also failed to win any of the last eight meetings between these two sides – including a 4-0 defeat in the corresponding fixture last term – and they have not won at the Stade Velodrome yet this century.

Toronto vs. Seattle Sounders
Saturday 10pm
The MLS season comes to its conclusion on Saturday night with Toronto hosting defending champions Seattle Sounders in the final for the second season in a row.

Toronto finished top of the Eastern Conference table quite comfortably, racking up 69 points to end the regular season 12 points clear of New York City and claim the Supporters’ Shield.

Things were more fraught for Seattle, who finished level on points with Western Conference champions and fierce rivals Portland Timbers courtesy of victory on a dramatic final day which saw Vancouver Whitecaps lose to fall from first to third.

It is Toronto who have had the tougher time during the playoffs, though, only scraping past New York Red Bulls on away goals in the Conference semi-finals before edging to a 1-0 aggregate victory over Columbus Crew to book their place in the grand final.

Seattle, on the other hand, piled more misery on Vancouver with a 2-0 aggregate triumph in their semi-final before thrashing Houston Dynamo 5-0 over two legs in the Western Conference final.

This match is a repeat of last season’s final when Seattle won on penalties following a goalless 120 minutes, sealing their first MLS title and leaving Toronto still waiting for their maiden crown.