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SB Nation Soccer News | January 23, 2015

What to watch this weekend in the FA Cup, La Liga and Serie A - January 23th

(click to expand schedule)

FA Cup

Friday, January 23

12:00 ET Cambridge United vs. Manchester United video

Saturday, January 24

07:45 ET Blackburn Rovers vs. Swansea City video
10:00 ET Birmingham City vs. West Bromwich Albion video
10:00 ET Chelsea vs. Bradford City video
10:00 ET Manchester City vs. Middlesbrough video
10:00 ET Southampton vs. Crystal Palace video
10:00 ET Sunderland vs. Fulham video
12:30 ET Liverpool vs. Bolton Wanderers video

Sunday, January 25

09:00 ET Bristol City vs. West Ham United video
10:00 ET Aston Villa vs. AFC Bournemouth video
11:00 ET Brighton and Hove Albion vs. Arsenal video

La Liga

Saturday, January 24

10:00 ET Córdoba vs. Real Madrid video
12:00 ET Elche vs. Barcelona video
14:00 ET Atlético Madrid vs. Rayo Vallecano video
16:00 ET Real Sociedad vs. Eibar video
16:00 ET Villarreal vs. Levante video

Sunday, January 25

06:00 ET Deportivo La Coruña vs. Granada video
11:00 ET Athletic Club vs. Málaga video
13:00 ET Espanyol vs. Almería video
15:00 ET Valencia vs. Sevilla video

Bundesliga

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, January 24

12:00 ET Cagliari vs. Sassuolo video
14:45 ET Lazio vs. AC Milan video

Sunday, January 25

09:00 ET Verona vs. Atalanta video
09:00 ET Inter Milan vs. Torino video
09:00 ET Juventus vs. Chievo video
09:00 ET Parma vs. Cesena video
09:00 ET Sampdoria vs. Palermo video
14:45 ET Fiorentina vs. AS Roma video

3 To Watch
  • Ajax vs. Feyenoord

    So you don't watch the Eredivisie. Who cares? I mean, at some point we should probably discuss why you're choosing not to watch Dutch football, considering PSV, who top the table, already have 49 goals. They've played just 18 games, as compared to Chelsea, who've put in 51 but have had 360 more minutes in which to do so. Even the league's bottom side, Dordrecht '90, have managed to score more goals than Aston Villa -- not such a great accomplishment, but a -32 goal difference makes them fairly amusing to watch.

    Even if that's not enough to convince you to regularly tune in to Eredivisie matches, you should definitely make some time in your schedule for Ajax vs. Feyenoord. De Klassieker is the biggest derby in the Netherlands, encompassing not just the hatred between fans of each clubs but the bitter rivalry between the cities of Amsterdam and Rotterdam. That tension often manifests itself in violence, so much so that in 2009, the mayors of both cities decided to ban away fans for the next five years. That ban is still in effect, so there won't be any Feyenoord fans at the Amsterdam ArenA on Sunday.

    Which is too bad for them, as they'll miss out on what's likely to be an exciting affair. Neither Ajax -- who've won the title for the last four seasons -- nor Feyenoord -- who finished second last season -- have had the greatest start to their seasons. Both sides lost stars: Graziano Pellè took last season's 26 goals for Feyenoord and relocated to Southampton, while Ajax lost captain Siem de Jong to Newcastle and Daley Blind to Manchester United.

    But both sides are recovering. Ajax in particular have gotten their groove back -- a bit of an understatement for a team that hasn't lost since August. Yet they're still four points back of PSV in first, a condition that can't be sitting well with a side so used to winning. Feyenoord won't prove to be the pushovers they were back in September, though. In their first game back from winter break, they dismantled FC Twente 3-1. Last month, they played out a 4-3 thriller at PSV, and would've come away with a result had Memphis Depay not scored in the dying minutes of the match. They've certainly got defensive weaknesses that Ajax can exploit, but the hosts aren't always the best at the back either, so this could be a wide-open game featuring plenty of chances.

  • Valencia vs. Sevilla

    At first glance, the La Liga table looks pretty predictable. All-conquering, near-perfect Real Madrid in first; crisis-riddled, collapsing Barcelona in second; and the Fernando Torres Restoration Project just about keeping pace in third. Then, in the mezzanine of fourth and fifth, come Sevilla and Valencia, because of course they do. That's where Sevilla and Valencia live, betwixt and between.

    Still, it's not quite that simple. Take Sevilla: though they sit two points behind Atleti, they have a game in hand, and so if the champions are still in the title race -- which they are, we think, just about -- then logically Unai Emery's men must be in there too. (Alright, that extra game is against Real Madrid, but still. Logically.) Though they lost dynamic midfielder Ivan Rakitić over the summer, and though they may not have quite the quality to sustain any serious tilt at the top, they've plenty of pace in wide areas and Carlos Bacca has continued last season's excellent form up front. Perhaps the only concern over the nervionenses season so far has been a tendency to wilt on big away days: in two visits to Barcelona and Atletico Madrid, they've shipped a worrying nine goals. Which, since they're away this weekend, does not bode well.

    But if an Emery side over-achieving is one of La Liga's most reliable themes, then the resurgence of Valencia has been perhaps the story of the season so far. (At least, for those of us getting a little weary of "Ronaldo did another goal!") Last they finished a miserable eighth, in turmoil both on and off the pitch; this time around, they're a club transformed, thanks to the tender ministrations (and ready cash) of new owner Peter Lim. Young Portuguese manager Nuno has recently been granted a contract extension -- quite the compliment, given the recent rate of managerial turnover -- and has coaxed fine performances from a fresh-faced, talented squad. Nicolás Otamendi has been rock-like at the back, captain Dani Parejo equally impressive in midfield, and both Madrid clubs have been turned over at home.

    Those of you that like your football with a side serving of lingering animosity will of course recall that this a rematch of last season's epic Europa League semi-final. On the off-chance the details escape you, a quick refresher: Sevilla won the first leg at home, 2-0, only to go to the Mestalla and fall to pieces. Valencia scored their first goal after just 14 minutes, tied the game up after 24, and then took the overall lead just after the hour mark, a lead they kept until deep into injury time. Then, heartbreak. In went a long throw, up popped Stéphane Mbia, in went the ball, and out went Valencia. Sevilla, just to rub it in, went on to win the thing.

    We're probably not going to get anything quite that intense this weekend; league football is rarely so frantic. But when they met on the opening day of the season, it was the turn of ten-man Valencia to poach a late goal and share the points; not revenge, nothing like revenge, but doubtless enjoyable.

    Going into this weekend both sides are in good form, both are playing good football and, given the quality of the three teams above them, both are likely to end the season scrapping over the fourth and final Champions League place. It should be a close one. It could, fingers crossed and touch wood, be a cracker. Once more unto the mezzanine, dear friends, once more.

  • Saint-Étienne vs. PSG

    Had all gone according to plan, Paris Saint-Germain would by now be sat several points clear at the top of Ligue 1, cruising towards their third consecutive league title. The failure of Monaco’s big-money project left Laurent Blanc’s side with an open goal, and they just had to tap in. Alas, midway through the season, that plan has been well and truly torn up, and PSG are on the brink of making a howler worthy of any Christmas bloopers DVD.

    Instead of the one-horse race we were expecting, we head into the weekend with the top four teams separated by just five points. Lyon, thanks to the firepower of the extraordinary Alexandre Lacazette, have surged into the lead, nudging Marcelo Bielsa's Marseille down into second. PSG are in a rather underwhelming third. The Parisian side’s struggles have been as much their own doing as it has their rivals; indeed, if football matches were only 45 minutes long, PSG would be four points clear at the top. As it is, they’re letting leads slip like Steven Gerrard. Internal tensions certainly aren’t helping matters, with problem children Ezequiel Lavezzi and Edinson Cavani constantly linked with moves away from the French capital.

    The result is that this weekend’s game against in-form Saint-Étienne has more riding on it than anyone would’ve predicted a few months back. A defeat, and PSG would drop below Les Verts in the table. What’s more, Christophe Galtier’s side will be confident of their chances, having extended their incredible unbeaten league run -- which stretches all the way back to October -- with a goalless draw away at Rennes last time out. What they lack in attacking firepower they make up for at the back, having conceded just 13 goals all season. It’s the kind of defensive record that has allowed them to dream of winning their first title in over three decades.

    And so, this game not only has the potential to have a serious bearing on the title race, but it should also be an interesting clash of styles. The masterly defending of Saint-Étienne’s silver sage Loïc Perrin versus the unpredictable antics of Germany’s World Cup-winning hero David Luiz; the mercurial attacking genius of PSG’s one-name wonder Zlatan versus Norwich City’s one-goal wonder Ricky van Wolfswinkel.

    Recent meetings between these two sides have almost uniformly ended up in a Parisian victory. When they met at the Parc des Princes in the league last season, Blanc’s side ran out 5-0 winners and Ibrahimović bagged a hat-trick. But the same happening again is almost unimaginable. PSG are struggling, and Saint-Étienne are enjoying what has the potential to be their best season in an awfully long time. As long as you’re not a PSG fan, an upset wouldn’t be upsetting at all.

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