The Big Seven Matches This Weekend

With leagues around the world approaching the halfway point of the season, title races and relegation battles are beginning to take shape.

Matches continue to come thick and fast in England especially, and it promises to be a pivotal stage of the season elsewhere in Europe as clubs begin to prepare for their winter break.

For clubs in the Americas it is almost the end of their campaigns, while this weekend will also see a team crowned as the best on the planet in the final of the Club World Cup.

Here, we round up all of the biggest, best and most important matches of the weekend from all corners of the globe.

Bolton Wanderers vs. Burton Albion
Saturday, 4pm
With the relegation picture beginning to take shape in the Championship, Saturday’s match between Bolton Wanderers and Burton Albion looks as though it could be a six-pointer at the bottom of the table.

Bolton picked up just two points from the first 33 on offer during a dreadful start to the season, but they have since improved their form and have lost only two of their last 10 Championship outings, with three wins in that time too.

Indeed, Bolton go into this weekend’s match in a position of safety, although they are still very precariously placed with only goal difference keeping them out of the relegation zone.

Burton have taken up Bolton’s old position of propping up the table, picking up just one point from the last five games and recording only one win in their last 13 Championship outings.

Victory for Nigel Clough’s side could see them climb out of the relegation zone, but they have scored just two goals in their last nine Championship away games and, while Bolton are without a home clean sheet this season, they are at least five games unbeaten at the Macron Stadium.

This will be the first ever league meeting between the two sides and just the second in any competition, although the previous one did see Burton win at Bolton with a 1-0 triumph in the League Cup two years ago.

Real Madrid vs. Gremio
Saturday, 6pm
The world’s best football team will be crowned this Saturday when European champions Real Madrid take on South American champions Gremio in the final of the Club World Cup in Abu Dhabi.

Madrid needed to come from behind against hosts Al Jazira on Wednesday night after Romarinho had opened the scoring shortly before half time, but second-half goals from Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale ensured that Zinedine Zidane’s side would make it into the showpiece.

Indeed, Los Blancos are bidding to become the first team to ever retain the trophy, and the last four finals have all gone the way of the reigning Champions League holders, including three in a row for Spanish clubs.

Gremio booked their place in the tournament with a 3-1 aggregate win over Lanus in the Copa Libertadores final last month, but needed extra time to overcome CONCACAF champions Pachuca in Tuesday’s semi-final.

This will be Gremio’s first appearance in the Club World Cup final, and victory would see the title go to a Brazilian club for the fifth time, which would equal the record of five for Spanish clubs.

Manchester City vs. Tottenham Hotspur
Saturday, 6:30pm
It looks increasingly as though it will take a miracle to prevent Manchester City from winning their third Premier League title this season, and the team which has run the champions closest in the past two campaigns will be the latest to try to stop Pep Guardiola’s juggernaut on Saturday evening.

Having dropped just two points all season, City currently enjoy an 11-point gap to second place and are a whopping 18 clear of Tottenham, with Guardiola’s side already being mentioned amongst the best teams to have ever played in the Premier League.

Spurs have begun to regain some form of their own too, though, recording back-to-back wins after only one in six league games before that and climbing into the Champions League places as a result.

Liverpool, Arsenal and surprise package Burnley are the closest challengers to Mauricio Pochettino’s side as things stand, and Spurs will know that one slip-up could easily see them fall from fourth down to seventh, such is the congested nature of that part of the table.

The North London outfit have had the better of their Manchester rivals in recent times, though, winning three and losing none of the last four meetings having lost eight of their previous nine prior to that.

Club Brugge vs. Anderlecht
Sunday, 2:30pm
Belgium’s two most successful clubs will do battle again on Sunday afternoon, and reigning champions Anderlecht know that they need a win if they are to stay in touch with the league leaders.

Anderlecht, who have been crowned Belgian champions 34 times – 20 more than Club Brugge – currently trail this weekend’s opponents by 10 points at the top of the table following defeat in another high-flying clash last weekend.

Brugge have lost just one of their last 14 matches in all competitions and enjoy a six-point lead over their closest challengers this season as they look to regain the trophy they won in 2015-16.

That is their only triumph in the last 12 seasons, though, and Anderlecht certainly hold the edge in terms of experience in that regard, having lifted the trophy seven times in the same period.

Anderlecht are also unbeaten in their last four meetings with Brugge, although they have only won two of their last 10 visits to the Jan Breydelstadion.

Lyon vs. Marseille
Sunday, 9pm
The Choc des Olympiques – aka The Clash of the Olympics – takes place on Sunday when Lyon host Marseille at the Groupama Stadium in a match which could have a major impact on the top of the table.

Paris Saint-Germain are nine points clear of the chasing pack, but below them three teams are locked on 35 points, with Lyon and Marseille sitting either side of defending champions Monaco.

With only three Champions League places available, one of those will have to miss out this season, so Sunday’s contest will take on an even greater significance in the battle for a top-three place.

Lyon have alternated between victories and defeats in their last five outings across all competitions, but in Ligue 1 alone they have lost just one of their last 11 and only PSG have outscored them this season.

Marseille, meanwhile, are unbeaten in their last 12 league games stretching back to September as they bid to end a five-year wait for a top-three finish.

However, Sunday’s visitors have failed to win any of their last six league games against Lyon, with four of those ending as draws, and you have to go back more than a decade for their last league win away to their Olympico rivals.

Alianza vs. Santa Tecla
Sunday, 11pm
The Apertura stage of El Salvador’s season also comes to a close on Sunday in a one-legged final between Alianza and Santa Tecla in San Salvador.

Alianza would complete an unbeaten season with victory over Tecla, who finished second in the regular campaign.

Only founded in 2007, Santa Tecla have enjoyed a rapid rise in El Salvador and thrashed Alianza 4-0 in the Clausura final earlier this year for their third title, whereas 11-time champions Alianza have lifted the title just once since 2011.

Santa Fe vs. Millonarios
Monday, 1am
The Colombian football season comes to a close in the early hours of Monday morning as Santa Fe take on city rivals Millonarios in the second leg of the Clausura final in Bogota.

The match is not only a Bogota derby, but it also pits two of Colombian football’s most successful clubs against each other, with Santa Fe bidding to retain the title they won last season while Millonarios are attempting to restore their former glories.

Once the undisputed dominant force in the country and arguably the best team in the world during a spell in the 1950s when Alfredo di Stefano was amongst their ranks, Millonarios have won just one title in the last 29 years, with that coming in 2012.

It is the visitors who go into the game with the slight advantage, though, having won the first leg 1-0 on Thursday morning to extend their unbeaten streak to 13 matches – including victory over La Equidad and America de Cali in the playoffs.

Santa Fe overcame Jaguares de Cordoba and Deportes Tolima in their playoff matches, but they have won just two of their last 10 matches, drawing seven of those and crucially losing that first leg on Thursday.