Arsenal in FA Cup, Zidane makes Real Madrid debut and five must-see matches this week
Ahead of another weekend of football, Jon Turner selects the five must-see matches from around the world. Note: All kick-off times UAE.
ARABIAN GULF LEAGUE:
Al Wasl v Al Jazira, Friday, Abu Dhabi Sports HD, 7.45pm
It has been all change at Al Jazira this month. A new manager has arrived in the form of Henk Ten Cate, as have two new players. Cardiff City striker Kenwyne Jones has been signed until the end of the season to replace the injured Mirko Vucinic, and Getafe midfielder Angel Latifa has also been brought in. Changes were needed after first half of a campaign that has seen last season’s runners-up languish in 10th having lost seven of 13 matches. Ten Cate’s hopes of getting off to a winning start will not be made easy by a trip to a revitalised Al Wasl who currently occupy fourth spot and have lost just once at home this season. Wasl’s attacking pair of Fabio Lima and Edgar Bruno will ensure Jazira’s shaky backline will be tested, while Jazira will be hoping their two latest recruits hit the ground running. This one could have plenty of goals.
FA CUP THIRD ROUND:
Arsenal v Sunderland, beIN Sports HD, Saturday, 7pm
This weekend sees a break in the Premier League season as the FA Cup welcomes England’s top-flight clubs into the competition, including two-time defending champions Arsenal. After a nine-year wait for a trophy, Arsenal ended their drought by winning back-to-back FA Cups and will look to make it three in a row by the end of the season. Standing in the way of Arsene Wenger’s side is a Sunderland team battling relegation under Sam Allardyce. This should be a relatively straightforward outing for Arsenal, although should Wenger decide to rest key players with his focus on the league title, Sunderland may just spring a surprise. Factor in the “magic of the cup” and anything could happen. Couldn’t it?
Real Madrid v Deportivo, beIN Sports HD, Saturday, 11.45pm
We all know why this fixture makes this week’s top five. All eyes will be on legendary France midfielder Zinedine Zidane, who takes his first match as Real Madrid manager following the sacking of Rafa Benitez this week. Standing in Zidane’s way of opening his Madrid career with a victory is a tough opponent in Deportivo La Coruna, who are currently seventh in the Primera Liga and have lost just once in their past six matches. Such is the volatile nature of Real Madrid, defeat could put pressure on Zidane from the start, although given the fans’ affections toward him, he is sure to be afforded more time and patience than predessor Benitez was.
FA CUP THIRD ROUND:
Tottenham Hotspur v Leicester City, beIN Sports HD, Sunday, 8pm
This is arguably the tie of the round as the Premier League’s second-placed team visits fourth. Tottenham and Leicester are both enjoying successful seasons to date, with each side losing just twice in the league. Not only should this be the closest match to call, but given the attacking, fast-paced football both teams play, hopefully there will be some goals too. As always with the early stages of the FA Cup, expect the absence of a few key players in each side, particularly given the lofty ambitions of both clubs this season, but nonetheless this should be an entertaining game (cue a drab 0-0 draw).
Roma v Milan, beIN Sports HD, Sunday (kick-off 11.45pm)
Two of Italy’s traditional giants, two teams hovering just outside Serie A’s top four, fifth-placed Roma welcome sixth-placed AC Milan to the Stadio Olimpico in a match that could boost or batter the visiting team’s Uefa Champions League hopes. Under Sinisa Mihajlovic Milan have improved markedly on last season’s dismal 10th-place finish, while Roma have so far failed to match the standards they set last season in finishing runners-up. However, a win for the home side will open up a seven-point gap on Milan and keep Roma in the hunt for a top-four position, while a Milan win will thrust them into contention. This one could go some way to shaping each side’s season.
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Updated: January 6, 2016 04:00 AM