This is quite simply the biggest game in football and there will be an extra edge to this one, not least because of off-field events over the past few months in Catalonia.
As far as the players are concerned, their main focus will be on the 11 points that currently separate the two teams. Victory for Barcelona here would leave Los Blancos with an absolute mountain to climb but a home win could really prove a big momentum shift in terms of this season’s Spanish title race.
Real Madrid has been away at the FIFA Club World Cup, which they predictably won without really hitting top gear. In truth, you could argue that Real peaked in the opening week of the season when they bossed the Spanish Super Cup clashes against Barcelona. Few then could have predicted the Catalans would have such a huge advantage heading into the first league Clasico of the season.
Barcelona are not only top of the league table but top of the form table with 20 points from their last 8 matches. They are now unbeaten in 23 league games, winning 20 of them and given that kind of record, it’s understandable why Real Madrid may view this as a must-win game in terms of their title ambitions.
Given that and given Real Madrid have dropped points in 38% of their home league games this season, backing Barcelona Draw No Bet looks the smart bet here with Los Blancos looking very short for the win given their current league position.
Clasico matches invariably produce plenty of goals and there’s virtually no chance of this one ending goalless. 12 of the last 13 meetings in La Liga have seen both teams score and backing Barcelona & Both Teams to Score could be worth considering, given the array of attacking talent that will be on display.
This will be the 237th competitive meeting between these eternal rivals. They’ve already met twice this term with Real Madrid winning both legs of the Spanish Super Cup Clasico in August. Barcelona have won 5 of the last 8 league meetings though. They’ve won on 3 of their last 4 league trips to the Bernabeu, including a dramatic 3-2 win last term.
Real Madrid have won their last two El Clasico’s, both in the 2017 Spanish Supercopa (3-1 at Camp Nou and 2-0 at Santiago Bernabéu). The last time Real Madrid won three consecutive matches against Barcelona in all competitions came back in 1978.
Barcelona have the chance to win three consecutive La Liga matches against Real Madrid at Santiago Bernabéu for the first time in the club’s history.
Real Madrid is 11 points behind Barcelona in La Liga this season- this is the biggest points difference for the first league meeting between the two sides since three points were awarded for a win (1995/96 season).
Prediction: 2x & Over 1.5
Everton vs Chelsea
Sam Allardyce may have been an unpopular managerial appointment to the Goodison Park faithful, but the chances are they are a little less unimpressed with this decision now. Everton have been a completely different side since he took over, and have pushed themselves into the top half of the Premier League table despite their flirt with the relegation zone a month or so ago.
Indeed, the future is looking bright for The Toffees. They have suffered from injuries all season but the likes of Yannick Bolasie, Leighton Baines, Ross Barkley, Maarten Stekelenburg, and Seamus Coleman are all nearing returns to action, so they can look forward to a much more promising second half of the season.
Chelsea obviously won’t be an easy team to get points against, but the hosts will feel slightly confident. The visitors faced a midweek League Cup game against Bournemouth and saw Alvaro Morata pick up a booking that rules him out of this match.
They only just won that match against The Cherries, and they have been less than impressive in the Premier League recently as well. They struggled in a 1-0 win over Southampton and Swansea in the last month and lost 1-0 away to West Ham earlier in December.
After winning their first three away league games this season, Chelsea has won just three of their last six (D1 L2). However, only Manchester City (9) have won more away Premier League games than Antonio Conte’s side this season.
Sam Allardyce has won his last two Premier League encounters with Chelsea – as many as he won in his first 24 against the Blues. Allardyce will become the first Premier League manager to win against Chelsea with five different clubs if he wins this game; he is currently tied on four with Roy Hodgson.
Wayne Rooney has scored 10 goals in 16 Premier League appearances so far this season – this is the fewest tally of games that it’s taken him to reach 10 goals in a league season since 2011-12 (14 games).
Everton have won 80% of their competitive games under Sam Allardyce, losing 0%.
Prediction: Over 1.5
Burnley vs Tottenham
Burnley may not have been able to take all three points at The Amex Stadium last weekend, but their goalless draw against Brighton keeps them in the running for an unlikely top-four spot heading into Christmas Day in the Premier League. The Clarets are currently 6th in the table, just two points adrift of Liverpool in 4th and not looking fazed in the slightest by their position.
It’s much of the same story at Turf Moor, where they have lost just twice this season. One of those was in their first home game of the season too, and since then they have won five, drawn two, and lost one. Admittedly they have had a fairly easy run at home, but their away performances against the likes of Liverpool, Chelsea, and Tottenham suggest that they can do it against the big clubs.
In fact, that earlier meeting at Wembley ended 1-1, and back at Turf Moor Burnley will be quietly confident of taking more points off last season’s runners-up. That’s because Spurs aren’t in the best form at the moment and actually sit a point below their opponents down in 7th position.
They were comprehensively beaten 4-1 at Manchester City last weekend and have won just two of their last seven league games. Both of those victories came at home, and despite starting the season in fantastic form on the road, they have failed to win each of their last five games
Burnley have won one of their seven Premier League matches against Spurs (D2 L4), winning 4-2 in May 2010 under Brian Laws.
Sean Dyche’s side have lost just one of their last eight Premier League home games (W5 D2), keeping six clean sheets and conceding just twice in that run.
After a run of six consecutive away wins, Spurs are winless in their last five Premier League games on the road, picking up just one point from a possible 15 (W0 D1 L4). They last had a longer winless away run in April 2012 under Harry Redknapp (8 games).
Alli has just three goals and three assists in the 2017/18 Premier League so far. Last season, Alli had been involved in just five goals in 16 league apps before Christmas (four goals, one assist) but was involved in 20 goals in 21 Premier League games after Xmas Day (14 goals, six assists).
Prediction: 2x & Over 1.5
Manchester City vs Bournemouth
Manchester City scraped through to the League Cup Semi-Finals in midweek with their second penalty shootout victory of the competition, but their performances in the Premier League have been a lot more convincing than that 1-1 draw at Leicester.
In the league, they are on an unprecedented 16 match winning streak, and their only failure so far this season was a 1-1 draw at home to Everton in game week two. Since then they have been unstoppable, and even when not performing at the top of their game they have been fortunate enough to snatch three points.
Defensively they have been weak recently, and especially at home. They have conceded in six of their nine home games this season, including in each of their last four. However, they more than makeup for that at the other end, where they have scored a huge 32 goals.
This won’t come as good news to Bournemouth. The visitors were knocked out of the League Cup by Chelsea in midweek and are now winless in seven games in all competitions. They have had to face Manchester United, Liverpool, and Chelsea in their last three outings, but Saturday will be an even bigger test than those matches.
The Cherries now sit dangerously close to the drop zone in 16th position, and defeat on Saturday could potentially see them endure Christmas day in the bottom three. The fact they have shipped 12 goals in their last six games will be a big worry coming up against Manchester City as well.
Manchester City has won nine and lost none of their 11 previous league matches against Bournemouth (D2), winning all five in the Premier League.
The Cherries have conceded nine goals in two previous Premier League visits to the Etihad, losing 5-1 in October 2015 and 4-0 in September 2016. Bournemouth have never won a match in Manchester against either City or United in 11 previous attempts in all competitions (W0 D2 L9), conceding 32 goals in those 11 games.
Raheem Sterling has scored in all four of his Premier League appearances against Bournemouth, scoring six goals, including a hat-trick in October 2015 and last-minute winner in this season’s reverse fixture.
If Manchester City wins this, it will be the joint-second longest ever winning run in one of Europe’s big five leagues (17 games). The current record is 19, achieved by Pep Guardiola’s Bayern Munich in 2013-14
Prediction: Over 2.5
Leicester City vs Manchester United
It would be accurate to say that Leicester have had a very disappointing week in the run-up to Christmas. First, they were hammered 3-0 at home to Crystal Palace last weekend. The Foxes have been fairly good recently though, winning four of their last six in all competitions. However, their home form this season hasn’t really been up to scratch. They have won four, drawn one, and lost four of their nine home league games.
Leicester’s home defeats have largely come against the top teams, with Chelsea, Liverpool, and Manchester City all beating them. This may be understandable, but it won’t give them much confidence as they come up against another top team in the Premier League on Saturday.
Away from home, The Red Devils have had a few disappointing results this season, but more recently they seem to have overcome that hurdle and have now won three on the bounce away from home. This is thanks to an increased output from their strikers, which has seen them score nine goals in their last three goals but ship four at the other end.
Manchester United have won five and drawn two of their last seven meetings with Leicester, with there being three or more goals in four of these five wins.
Leicester City has lost 13 of their last 17 Premier League games against Manchester United (W1 D3).
Manchester United have lost just one of their last 12 league visits to Leicester (W7 D4), a 5-3 defeat in September 2014.
Manchester United have conceded in each of their last five Premier League away games, but have managed to win the last three in a row (L2). Indeed, Man Utd’s haul of three wins from their last three away games is more than they’d managed in their previous 10 on the road in the Premier League (W2 D4 L4).
Prediction: Over 1.5
Celtic vs Aberdeen
Celtic got back to winning ways in midweek, claiming a 2-0 victory over Partick Thistle. While that wasn’t the most stellar way to see off the league’s bottom side, it was a much-needed result following their weekend loss at Hearts. Having surrendered their unbeaten record, Brendan Rodger’s side needs to hit their stride once again, but they face second-placed Aberdeen this weekend. With the Dons just five points off top spot, they’ll be looking to inflict another defeat on the Bhoys and close the gap in the title race.
Aberdeen comes here on the back of three straight victories, following Derek McInnes’ decision to stay on at Pittodrie. Having transformed the Dons in to Celtic’s biggest title rivals in recent years, McInnes would have been a big loss for Aberdeen. The visitors seem full of confidence following his decision to hang around, and he’ll be looking for a productive finish to the season, which would include running Celtic close in the battle for the Premiership title.
While Celtic have been slightly better on their travels this season than at home, Aberdeen has an identical away record. The Dons have the joint-best away record in the division, and they’re bound to test the Bhoys in the weekend’s biggest Premiership clash. They have averaged 1.7 goals per game on the road this season, scoring in 80% of their away trips. They should be out to add to that this weekend, as they’re likely to approach this game on the front foot and look to cause more problems for Celtic.
Celtic are on an eight-game winning run against Aberdeen.
Celtic may have lost at Hearts, but they are on a 38 game undefeated run at home. The Bhoys have seen over 2.5 goals scored in 16 of their previous 19 games against Aberdeen.
Prediction: Celtic Wins
Juventus vs AS Roma
The biggest game of the weekend in Serie A is Juventus taking on Roma on Saturday night. This huge clash involves two of the four sides who are competing for the title, with Roma bouncing back after a tough summer to stay in contention for the Scudetto.
Having impressed in the Champions League this season, there is a feeling that the Giallorossi can take the title this year. However, a 2-1 loss to Juve’s city rivals Torino in the Coppa Italia in midweek was a blow for Roma, will they be able to bounce back straight away with a big league victory?
That makes this a difficult trip for Roma, who have a pretty poor record at this ground of late. They have already lost out to Napoli and Inter Milan this season, and this could well be another big defeat for the Giallorossi, who just seems a little inexperienced compared to the likes of Juve. While they are incredibly consistent against the sides below them, Eusebio Di Francesco’s side tends to slip up against bigger opposition.
Juventus have won their last seven matches at home to Roma, keeping a clean sheet in five of those. They’re likely to produce another shut-out once again here, given their great streak at the back. Roma isn’t likely to give too much away either, with just 29% of their away games seeing over 2.5 goals scored. We expect Juve to edge a tight game, so we’re backing a home win, along with a Juve victory and under 3.5 match goals, which both look like great value bets.
Roma has lost 79 games against Juventus so far – more than against any other opponent in the top-flight.
Juventus have scored in 23 of the last 24 Serie A games against Roma. Prior to this season, the last Serie A team to score at least 44 goals in the first 17 games had been Juventus in 1959/60. Roma has already won five games by a 1-0 scoreline this season – a league-high.
Juventus have scored with 13 different players this season – another Serie A-high. While Roma has stopped their opponents from landing a shot on target in three games this season – no other side has managed to do the same.
Prediction: 1X & Over 1.5
Napoli vs Sampdoria
Napoli have returned to the summit of Serie A and continued their push for silverware in the Coppa Italia. The Partenopei face tough opposition this weekend as they look to hold on to their place at the top of the table, with sixth-placed Sampdoria heading to Naples. Will they be able to pull off a shock against the current leaders, or will Samp suffer yet another disappointing result as their great start has begun to tail off?
The visitors come here having lost three of their last four games, taking just one point. They were in solid form until they lost at home to Lazio, and since then Samp have fallen behind in the race for Europe. They’ve fallen 15 points behind the leaders, and 11 shy of the Champions League spots. While they’re still performing well above expectations, the away side are on a bit of a downward spiral at the moment, and that’s only likely to get worse when they take on Napoli.
One thing that hasn’t abandoned the visitors yet is their scoring touch, as they’ve found the net in four of their last five games. The visitors are among the top five scorers in the league, averaging 1.25 goals per game on the road. That’s a solid record, especially as Samp aren’t quite at their best away from home. They’ve claimed two away wins – one of which came at their home stadium – and they’ve lost three of their eight trips. Having slipped up to some poor sides, we think Samp are in line for a loss on Saturday.
Napoli are unbeaten in their last 12 Serie A games against Sampdoria (W9 D3).
Napoli have won seven of their last nine games at the San Paolo against the Blucerchiati. Napoli has collected 42 points this season – their joint-best in a single Serie A campaign after 17 games since 1987/88 (when they finished second).
Sampdoria have picked-up only one point from their last four games, conceding eight goals in the process, they’ve conceded seven goals in the last 15 minutes of play – more than any other side.
Prediction: 1X & Over 1.5
Lazio vs Crotone
Lazio are out to boost their title hopes in Saturday’s early Serie A clash, as they host Crotone at the Stadio Olimpico. They’ve fallen nine points behind the league leaders, but they do at least have a game in hand. On top of that, two of the top four clash this weekend, meaning the Aquile have a chance to push for a Champions League spot. Making the top four has to be their aim after an impressive 18 months, but they’ve slipped five points off fourth-placed Roma.
The meeting between these two last season saw Lazio work for a 1-0 victory, and they’ll be out to add to that with another home win on Saturday morning. The Aquile will see this as the perfect chance to boost their mixed home record, having won three and drawn two of their seven matches here so far. However, seeing as Crotone have lost six of their eight away trips, we fully expect the points to go to Lazio in this clash.
One big problem for the visitors is their lack of goals, having averaged just 0.75 per game in the league this season. They’ve scored just 13 times in 17 league matches overall, which isn’t a record that is likely to keep them up this term. Losing forward Diego Falcinelli in the summer was a huge blow to Crotone, and that’s left them short of goals, as they just don’t have enough quality to cut through defences at this level. That’s especially true when it comes to facing the elite sides in Serie A.
These two sides have met only twice so far in Serie A, in the last campaign – the home team had the better on both occasions.
Lazio have never conceded more than a single goal in their 13 previous Serie A games at the Olimpico against an opponent from Calabria, and have scored in each of their last 15 games – currently the longest streak in Serie A.
Crotone have kept their first clean sheet after a series of 10 consecutive games in which they had always shipped at least one goal.
Prediction: Over 1.5
PSV vs Vitesse
PSV suffered a brief setback in the hunt for their twenty-fourth Eredivisie title when they were first beaten 3-0 convincingly by arch-rivals Ajax and then drew 3-3 at Groningen, but a return to winning ways in the league against Den Haag last weekend was followed up by a 4-1 win in the cup against VVV, and the league leaders look back to their very best once again. On Saturday Vitesse provide the opposition to the table toppers, but this weekend is all about consolidation for the visitors as three points won’t move them any higher than their current placing of seventh, while defeat could see Vitesse slip to as low as tenth.
With four wins from their last six league and cup games, PSV head into this weekend’s second meeting of the season against Vitesse as the form favorites. The league leaders have lost once and drawn once during that six-game period and will prove very difficult to defeat in their own backyard this weekend. Vitesse has also only lost once in their last six, but with two wins and three draws their are doubts as to their ability to finish off games they are in control of.
Three of PSV’s last five wins have seen the table toppers keep a clean sheet, and with Vitesse losing their last big away test 1-0 at Feyenoord, another clean sheet and three points could well be on the way for PSV on Saturday.
PSV have won 42 of their last 66 matches against Vitesse, drawing 17 times and losing on just 7 separate occasions.
Three of PSV’s last five victories have been accompanied by a clean sheet.
Prediction: Psv Wins & Over 1.5
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