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SB Nation Soccer News | December 19, 2014

What to watch this weekend in the Premier League, La Liga, Serie A and Bundesliga - December 19th

(click to expand schedule)

Premier League

Saturday, December 20

07:45 ET Manchester City vs. Crystal Palace video
10:00 ET Aston Villa vs. Manchester United video
10:00 ET Hull City vs. Swansea City video
10:00 ET Queens Park Rangers vs. West Bromwich Albion video
10:00 ET Southampton vs. Everton video
10:00 ET Tottenham vs. Burnley video
10:00 ET West Ham United vs. Leicester City video

Sunday, December 21

08:30 ET Newcastle vs. Sunderland video
11:00 ET Liverpool vs. Arsenal video

La Liga

Friday, December 19

14:45 ET Celta Vigo vs. Almería video

Saturday, December 20

10:00 ET Barcelona vs. Córdoba video
12:00 ET Levante vs. Real Sociedad video
14:00 ET Eibar vs. Valencia video
16:00 ET Rayo Vallecano vs. Espanyol video

Sunday, December 21

06:00 ET Villarreal vs. Deportivo La Coruña video
11:00 ET Granada vs. Getafe video
13:00 ET Elche vs. Málaga video
15:00 ET Athletic Club vs. Atlético Madrid video


Friday, December 19

14:30 ET Mainz 05 vs. Bayern Munich video

Saturday, December 20

09:30 ET Augsburg vs. Borussia Mönchengladbach video
09:30 ET Bayer Leverkusen vs. Eintracht Frankfurt video
09:30 ET Schalke 04 vs. Hamburger SV video
09:30 ET Stuttgart vs. Paderborn video
09:30 ET Werder Bremen vs. Borussia Dortmund video
12:30 ET Wolfsburg vs. Köln video

Sunday, December 21

09:30 ET Hertha BSC vs. Hoffenheim video
11:30 ET Freiburg vs. Hannover video

Serie A

Saturday, December 20

12:00 ET Sassuolo vs. Cesena video
14:45 ET AS Roma vs. AC Milan video

Sunday, December 21

06:30 ET Hellas Verona vs. Chievo video
09:00 ET Atalanta vs. Palermo video
09:00 ET Fiorentina vs. Empoli video
09:00 ET Sampdoria vs. Udinese video
09:00 ET Torino vs. Genoa video
14:45 ET Inter Milan vs. Lazio video

3 To Watch
  • Werder Bremen vs. Borussia Dortmund

    It's pretty silly to talk about relegation races before the winter break, but it's pretty silly that Borussia Dortmund and Werder Bremen are in the relegation race. And to say they're in the relegation race is to be kind because going into this weekend's clash Werder are bottom of the Bundesliga and BVB are in the relegation playoff spot.

    Dortmund are still great in the midfield. They often dominate the center of the pitch, but it hasn't done them much good. They've been so disastrous in front of both goals, attacking and defending, that it hasn't meant much. But at least they have the midfield, which is more than Werder can say.

    Bremen have been atrocious all over and are already on their second manager of the season. They've been in the top flight for 32 consecutive seasons, but now that's in danger.

    Nothing about these teams is predictable or sensible. They are too good to be where they are. They are too experienced. They have too much pedigree. But none of that has done them any good this season as they have turned in awful performance after awful performance with a bit of misfortune and confusion tossed in.

    You would think that this match would lean BVB's way. After all, they're not in last place. They have at least been good in the midfield. And while they have dealt with some nasty injuries, they still have Neven Subotic, Mats Hummels, Kevin Grosskreutz and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. That's more than Werder can say.

    But Werder aren't away. And Werder don't have the worst away record in the Bundesliga, with a meager four points from eight matches. Maybe Dortmund don't have the edge in this one after all. After all, the idea of "edges" in between two teams in the bottom three is pretty crazy, just like these two teams.

    So against all logic, when Dortmund and Werder meet on Saturday, they will do so in a relegation six-pointer. It will be the Champions League round of 16 team versus the first division stalwart hoping to jump out of the drop zone.

  • Roma vs. Milan

    It wasn’t that long ago that AC Milan were one of the scariest teams in the world. Much like Real Madrid in their saintly white, Milan’s rossonero stripes glided elegantly under the San Siro floodlights on glorious European nights, as some of the world’s most effortlessly brilliant footballers produced some of the world’s most effortlessly brilliant football. For opponents, the red and black symbolised utter terror. Here was a team that would murder you with a wink and a smile.

    Alas, that was then. Now, the red and black stripes tend to evoke memories of a soul-crushing Fernando Torres miss, a dazed Philippe Mexès defensive calamity, a headless Sulley Muntari errant pass and another Torres miss. In other words, Milan have quickly become Serie A’s laughing stocks -- an undignified development for a club that less than a decade ago could lay claim to being Europe’s best.

    This season, the man tasked with turning things around was one of their former greats, Filippo Inzaghi. His project is still very much a work in progress, as you’d expect for a team that has to resort to handing Daniele Bonera the captain’s armband. But there have at least been some promising signs. Jérémy Ménez has been the side’s best player since arriving from Paris Saint-Germain in the summer, and his fluid attacking partnership with Stephan El Shaarawy has started to blossom. Even Keisuke Honda, who looked suspiciously like a waste of space last season, has been occasionally efficacious.

    That means that they could well cause Roma at least some problems away at the Olimpico on the weekend. Of course, Rudi García’s side, who are very much expected to give Juventus a tough title challenge this season, are strong favourites heading into the game. Unlike Milan, Roma are a very well-constructed team, with strength and depth across the field, rather than just at the sharp end. But that doesn’t mean this game will be completely one-sided.

    Milan’s comfortable 2-0 victory over Napoli last weekend was one of their most impressive results since their dramatic decline, and drew them level on points with Rafael Benítez’s side in the table. They’re back within touching distance of a Champions League spot after a season without European football altogether. If they manage to take points from the team playing better football than anyone else in Italy at present, we’ll have more evidence to suggest that Milan are finally on the road to recovery -- at least until Adriano Galliani breaks the bank to sign Roberto Soldado, that is.

  • Liverpool vs. Arsenal

    It's a tricky decision this week, which piping hot slice of EPL pie to plump for. After all, Sunday lunchtime brings the Tyne-Wear derby, one of those local scraps where the cliche rings true and form really does seem to fly out of the window. Where silly things happen. So it is that Sunderland, despite generally not having quite such a decent time of it as their neighbours, are unbeaten in five and have won the last three. So it is that one Newcastle fan, driven to distraction by a 3-0 whomping in 2013, punched a police horse.

    But while horse punching and a general air of madness is all well and good, it can't compete with the heady aroma of PREMIER LEAGUE CRISIS, this festive season's must-have scent. Lucky for us, then, that Liverpool play host to Arsenal on Sunday afternoon, a game that couldn't be better primed to provoke some kind of meltdown somewhere.

    Liverpool, as you doubtless noticed, were quite good last season, and at no point last season were they better than in this fixture. Four goals in twenty delirious first-half minutes wasn't just great entertainment for the neutrals, it was the performance that kickstarted Liverpool's winning run and served notice to the rest of the country that something special was happening at Anfield. It was a statement win. And that statement was: we're going to score four more than you.

    This season, as you've doubtless noticed, nothing much special is happening at Anfield. Comparisons with last season's performance are going to be unavoidable and, given the state of Liverpool's defence and the likely appearance of Brad Jones in goal, could well be highly unflattering. Last season Liverpool won 3-0 at Old Trafford; this season they lost by the same score. Another symmetrical reverse is unlikely -- however good Alexis Sanchez is, he's surely not 1-5 good -- but some kind of thumping is extremely plausible. If it comes to pass, it will be another stark illustration of just how far Liverpool have slumped (and just how good Luis Suarez was).

    However. Optimism can perhaps come from two places. First, that United result was a vaguely freakish one: in their own box, and in their opponents', Liverpool were utterly appalling, but between the two they were encouraging in possession, even incisive. Which means nothing if the ball is regularly going into the wrong net, but at least represents an improvement from much of the rest of the season, when they've been not just useless but directionless. A similar approach in midweek produced a decent and much-needed win against a perky Bournemouth side.

    Secondly, they're playing Arsenal. Though the Londoners haven't been quite as spectacularly flat as Liverpool this season, the usual ingredients of a thin, unbalanced squad and a brittle, occasionally naive approach to the game have combined to produce the usual results: some good wins, some miserable losses, a title challenge that might not technically be dead but is certainly putting its affairs in order, and a loud, ever-present strain of supporter discontent. That they're a good team when they're in the right mood is never in doubt, but equally, and perhaps more than any other notionally big team in the Premier League, they are always there to be got at.

    In essence, this is two of the Premier League's least reliable defences going head to head, in the presence of a fair few decent attackers. It's two clubs whose seasons are not going to plan, each of whom will be extremely unhappy with a loss. It's Alexis Sanchez against Dejan Lovren; Raheem Sterling against Per Mertesacker. It's not going to be 5-1 to Liverpool. It probably isn't going to be 5-1 to Arsenal. But six goals, shared out, is definitely a possibility, and should either side get properly taken to pieces, the fallout will be equal parts acrimonious and hilarious. That makes this appointment viewing.

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