The Big Seven Matches This Weekend

The FA Cup will take centre stage in England this weekend as the remaining clubs do battle in the fourth round, but elsewhere around Europe it is business as usual.

There are important top-of-the-table clashes in Spain, France and Germany amongst others, in addition to three all-Premier League FA Cup ties.

Here, we round up the biggest, best and most important matches from the upcoming gameweek.

Eintracht Frankfurt vs. Borussia Monchengladbach
Friday, 8.30pm

Things could not be much tighter at the top end of the Bundesliga right now, with the exception of a Bayern Munich side who have overcome a patchy start to build a 16-point lead.

The next six teams are separated by just one point, though, and two of them will face off on Friday evening when Eintracht Frankfurt host Borussia Monchengladbach.

Both teams currently sit outside the Champions League places in seventh and fifth respectively, but the margins are so fine that one good result either way could completely change the makeup of the top-four race.

Despite just one point separating them in the table, the two sides go into this game in contrasting form, with Frankfurt’s only two defeats from their last 15 outings coming against the current top two in the table.

Monchengladbach, in comparison, have lost four of their last eight games across all competitions including each of their last three away outings.

The reverse fixture in September saw Frankfurt run out 1-0 winners, but that is their only victory in their last six Bundesliga meetings between the two sides.

Yeovil Town vs. Manchester United
Friday, 8.55pm

The FA Cup fourth round gets underway with two matches on Friday night, and one of them has the potential to provide one of the biggest upsets in the competition’s long and illustrious history should Yeovil Town manage to claim the scalp of Manchester United.

United have already been embarrassed in the West Country once this season when they were knocked out of the EFL Cup by Bristol City in the quarter-finals, but that was at the hands of a high-flying Championship side rather than a struggling League Two outfit.

Eighty-seven places separate the two sides in the English football pyramid, with Yeovil sitting 21st and only two points clear of the relegation zone in League Two and Manchester United currently second in the Premier League ahead of their trip to Huish Park.

Everything, of course, points to a United win, but the fixture does also seem to have all the sprinklings of a classic cup upset – the lower-league team at home, a difficult pitch to play on and what is sure to be a fervent atmosphere under the floodlights.

Indeed, Yeovil are the lowest-ranked team still in the competition and could see themselves coming up against Alexis Sanchez in a Manchester United shirt for the first time, just to accentuate the gulf in class between the two sides.

The Glovers have never even scored in their three previous meetings with United, though, and the Red Devils’ biggest-ever FA Cup win actually came against Yeovil with an 8-0 triumph in 1949.

Valencia vs. Real Madrid
Saturday 4.15pm

Only last May, Zinedine Zidane was being hailed as arguably the best manager in world football having steered Real Madrid to the league and Champions League double, but fast forward eight months and his job is seemingly now hanging by a thread.

Madrid president Florentino Perez is notorious for having little patience when it comes to poor results, and the club’s performances so far this season have undoubtedly been woefully below their usual high standard.

Los Blancos go into Saturday’s La Liga clash with Valencia sitting in fourth place, five points behind their opponents, a whopping 19 behind runaway leaders Barcelona and quite worryingly one point above Villarreal in fifth place.

It is safe to say that Madrid’s title defence is effectively over, then, and Zidane’s tenure could be heading the same way with another defeat this weekend, having also seen his side unceremoniously dumped out of the Copa del Rey by Leganes on Wednesday night – their third defeat in their last five outings at the Bernabeu.

Valencia looked like mounting a title challenge themselves following a 13-match unbeaten start to the season, but they have since lost four of their last seven league outings to slip down to third – although they remain six points clear of fifth place.

Marcelino’s side will be hoping that this is the best time to face Real Madrid, then, with Los Blancos also having failed to win at the Mestalla since 2013.

Paris Saint-Germain vs. Montpellier
Saturday, 5pm

PSG have absolutely dominated the French league this season with Neymar and Cavani pulling the strings up front and their 8-point lead at the top of the log looks very comfortable.

Montpellier are doing well in the league also but overcoming their 15 points deficit in the hunt for a Europa League place might be too much to ask for a side that have drawn more games (10) than all other teams in the Ligue 1.

The Paris club would be hoping to bounce back from only their second league loss of the season but face an herculean task against the best defence in the Ligue 1.

Montpellier have not lost to any of the teams presently occupying the top six positions above them in the league and were the first team to stop PSG from scoring this season. Also, Montpellier have only conceded more than one goal twice in a league match this season, keeping ten clean sheet in the process.

PSG are still without Kylian Mbappe with new signing Lassana Diarra unlike to feature.

Standard Liege vs. Anderlecht
Sunday, 6pm

Two of Belgium’s ‘big three’ meet on Sunday afternoon, but Standard Liege find themselves languishing in the bottom half of the table this season, while champions Anderlecht are 10 points behind leaders Club Brugge.

Anderlecht have been very inconsistent this season and their defence has been suspect. They have comceded the most goals of the present top six in Belgium.

Standard Liege also have shown the kind of inconsistencies that have seen them tail of in terms of titles in recent seasons, although, games of this magnitude have the propensity to fuel top notch performances.

Standard have lost just once in the league at home this season winning five and drawing five while Anderlecht would hope to get a result as they have a good win ratio on away grounds but they would have to keep it tight at the back – only six teams have conceded more goals in away matches than Anderlecht.

This fixture has been a low scoring one in recent years with 10 goals scored in the last 6 editions – six of those goals coming in a 3-3 draw in February of 2016.

AS Roma vs. Sampdoria
Sunday, 8.45pm

AS Roma are actively in the hunt for champions league qualification via the league but have tailed off on their early season form. The eterna club have failed to win a game in all competitions since Mid-december but still manage to be two points behind Inter Milan who are in fourth.

Sampdoria are just one place below AS Roma but are a whooping seven points behind so a defeat here could all but end any faint dreams of champions league football.

Both sides drew in the reverse fixture on Wednesday but AS are in a rot and would need the likes of unsettled striker Edin Dzeko, to fire them to three points at home to halt their now embarrassing winless run.

History doesn’t favour Sampdoria either as they have only won once at the Stadio Olimpico in their last six visits.

Marseille vs. Monaco
Sunday, 9pm

Paris Saint-Germain are still the clear pace-setters in Ligue 1 this season, but behind them a very competitive race is developing with just two points separating second place from fourth.

Crucially, only the top three will qualify for next season’s Champions League, and as things stand it is fourth-placed Monaco – the defending champions and semi-finalists in Europe last season – who will miss out.

That could all change this weekend when they travel to Marseille, though, with victory leaving either side firmly in command of one of those Champions League places.

Marseille go into the game having won their last six matches across all competitions, while in Ligue 1 alone they have only been beaten once in their last 17 outings – at the hands of second-placed Lyon.

Monaco also arrive in good form, though, having strung together a nine-game unbeaten run across all competitions prior to Wednesday night’s 3-2 Coupe de France defeat at the hands of Lyon.

The champions have also only lost one of their last 11 meetings with Marseille, winning their most recent five while scoring 20 goals in the process, including a 6-1 drubbing at the Stade Louis II in August.