Jeremiah’s Weekend Picks: Dec. 18-20
By Jeremiah Paschke-Wood
This week is chock-a-block with good games, from the Club World Cup championship on Saturday to the Catalan Derby in Spain, to a Top 6 clashin Italy and a meeting of two of the dominant forces in French football. Enjoy!
Saturday (All times Pacific)
Inter Milan v TP Mazembe. (Club World Cup, 9 a.m.) Rafa Benitez will hope the stop-start nature of Inter Milan’s season so far will go into full-on start modein the Club World Cup championship match with huge underdogs TP Mazembe, the first non-European or South American representative in the title match in the history of this tournament. Casual observers, and probably most more esteemed football fans, will probably all be pulling for Mazembe to “shock the world” as too many American basketball stars like to say. Stranger things have happened …
Prediction: Inter Milan 3, TP Mazembe 1
Espanyol v Barcelona. (La Liga, 11 a.m.) The biggest match in Spain this weekend is the Catalan Derby between Espanyol and Barca. This match matters more than most Catalan Derbies in thesense that Espanyol is actually pretty good this year, and will be testing a perfect home 7-0-0 record against their municipal foes who are also a perfect 7-0-0 away from the cozy confines of the Camp Nou. Something has got to give, right?
Prediction: In most other circumstances, we’d pick high-flying Espanyol to pull of the upset or at least draw, but no one has come close to stopping Barcelona lately. Espanyol 2, Barcelona 3
AC Milan v AS Roma. (Serie A, 11:45 a.m.) In something of a rarity, the biggest match in Italy is also on a Saturday, in this case pitting Serie A leaders AC Milan against Roma, who have been lingering on the fringes of Champions League for most of this year so far. In this case, you’d have to fancy AC Milan to win, though these type of matches are always capable of springing a surprise. Zlatan Ibrahimovic, as odious a character as he is, has been dominant for Milan, and Roma has been particularly terrible away from home this season, only winning once so far.
Prediction: AC Milan 2, AS Roma 1
Panathinaikos v Olympiakos. (Greek Super League, 9:30 a.m.) I know arguably less about the Greek league than I do about what is really cooking on those spinning Gyro cones you see at Greek restaurants, but I do know two things: 1. The Greek national team is epically dull to watch; and 2. Pana and Olympiakos are two of the traditionally dominant teams in the league, making a match between them – particularly when they’re No. 2 and No. 1 respectively in the table – always worth watching. So watch it, if you’re not interested in the other matches I’ve already talked about.
Prediction: Panathinaikos 1, Olympiakos 1
Chelsea v Manchester United. (English Premier League, 8 a.m.) Since The Blues emergence as a power in world football (Thank you, Russian oligarchs!) the Chelsea-Man U clash is one that many football fans across the world eagerly await, only to be lulled into a stupor, because, let’s face it, these big matches in the EPL are almost always tactical borefests. The possibility of a draw also increases the chance that Arsenal and Man City can jump into a tie for first in the table with wins.
Prediction: Dominant victories by one team in these matches are almost as rare as Wayne Rooney scoring a goal in open play this season. Oh! Chelsea 1, Manchester United 1
Real Madrid v Sevilla. (La Liga, noon) It’s hard to call this a big match with the way Sevilla (four losses on the bounce in La Liga, including a 3-1 loss at home to the powerhouse known as Almeria) has been playing of late, but the Lionel Messi-Cristiano Ronaldo, Who Will Score More? race has been quite intriguing this season.
Prediction: Real Madrid 4, Sevilla 1
VfB Stuttgart v Bayern Munich. (German Bundesliga, 8:30 a.m.) I admit it, I’m including this match more to make sure I get a Bundesliga game on the list. For those who haven’t watched any German matches this season, start. There are always tons of goals, great technical players, and bizarre occurrences whereby a team like Stuttgart, who qualified for the Champions League last year, are in the relegation zone despite winning two matches this season by at least six goals. As for Bayern, they have to keep winning to have any chance of catching Dortmund, now an incredible 17 points ahead of them at the top of the table with 18 matches to play.
Prediction: VfB Stuttgart 3, Bayern 3
Marseille v Lyon (French Ligue 1, noon) Lyon are a strange team in that they have struggled mightily the past couple seasons (at least for a team that won the title seven years in a row) in the relatively lightweight Ligue 1, but continue to perform well on the continent and have a lot of good players. Playing at defending champs Marseille will give them a chance to show that the recent good form that has them back in the Champions League picture isn’t a fluke.
Prediction: Nonetheless, I’m giving Marseille the edge here playing at home. Marseille 2, Lyon 1
Once Caldas v Deportes Tolima. (Colombia, 2:30 p.m.) Alajuelense v Herediano. (Costa Rican Primera, 2 p.m.) Metapan v Alianza FC. (El Salvadoran Primera, 1:15 p.m.) Municipal v Comunicaciones. (Liga Nacional de Guatamala, 9 a.m.) I won’t pretend to know much about these teams, but all of these matches are league final matches, so if you’re interested in seeing a game where the outcome truly matters, look these up on http://atdhe.net or one of the p2p sites.