Arsenal v Man City, Barcelona in Club World Cup final and the five must-see matches
Ahead of another weekend of football, we pick the five best must-see matches from around the world. All kick-off times UAE. Be sure to click through the arrows to get to the next match, or simply swipe if using a mobile device.
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CHELSEA v SUNDERLAND — BeIN Sports HD, Saturday (kick-off 7pm)
A relegation battle six-pointer, as the cliche goes? Well, not quite but to even suggest it seems almost unbelievable. The only problem for Chelsea is that it is very believable, which is one of the reasons why they sacked manager Jose Mourinho yesterday. Mourinho, who oversaw his team’s slump to 16th in the Premier League, blamed everything on his players. Defeat to Sunderland would a third successive loss and a 10th overall. Second-bottom Sunderland are also in dire straits, although the arrival of Sam Allardyce as provided a touch of stability to the team. In other words, despite their lowly league position, this will not be easy for Chelsea.
CLUB WORLD CUP FINAL - BeIN Sports HD 12, Sunday (kick-off 2.30pm)
The Fifa Club World Cup pits the champions of the six continental confederations against each other. Understandably, Europe’s representative Barcelona are overwhelming favourites to lift the trophy when they take on River Plate. The Argentines are a quality side and, if Barcelona are again without Lionel Messi, who missed yesterday’s semi-final win over Guangzhou Evergrande with illness, and Neymar then the final at International Stadium Yokohama in Japan will be very tough. In 2009 in Abu Dhabi, against another side from Argentina, Estudiantes, they trailed 1-0 with a minute left before eventually winning the trophy in extra time. Despite Barca’s strength, The National columnist Diego Forlan explains why River Plate can spring a surprise on their illustrious opponents given how much the Club World Cup means to South American clubs.
REAL MADRID v RAYO VALLECANO - BeIN Sports HD, Sunday (kick-off 7pm)
Not exactly a stellar tie in terms of the opponents squaring off, but given recent results, the Madrid faithful will accept nothing less than a heavy win against struggling Vallecano. Having lost three of their last five Primera Liga matches, Madrid are five points adrift of city rivals Atletico and fierce rivals Barcelona in the league table, and the pressure is cranking up on Rafa Benitez just 15 league games into his reign. If Cristiano Ronaldo and Co respond in the way they are capable of, this could be a thumping win. If there is some way 18th-placed Vallecano can claim something from this game, expect Real Madrid’s blip to upgrade to ‘crisis’ mode.
INTER MILAN v LAZIO - BeIN Sports HD, Sunday (11.45pm)
As Chelsea can attest, what a difference a few months can make. Last season, Lazio were pipped to second in Serie A by Roma while Inter Milan’s tough season resulted in an eighth-place finish. Fast-forward six months and Inter top the table by four points, while Lazio languish in 12th. The return of Roberto Mancini to the San Siro in November 2014 - 10 years after a first spell in charge that yielded three successive scudettos - is working wonders. Despite their struggles this season, Lazio will provide a stern test to Inter as the Milan club look to end Juventus’ four-year domination of Serie A.
ARSENAL v MANCHESTER CITY - BeIn Sports 11 HD, Monday (midnight)
A huge encounter between two teams tussling at the top end of the Premier League table. Heading into the match, second-placed Arsenal lead third-placed City by a single point, and recent form certainly favours the home team. Arsene Wenger’s side have won seven of their last 10 matches, losing once to West Brom and drawing against Norwich, while City’s form is patchy at best. Of their last 10 games, City have won five, losing three and drawing twice. As ever for Manuel Pellegrini’s side, the availability of captain Vincent Kompany and star striker Sergio Aguero could decide the outcome. For Arsenal, they could be without their own key men in Alexis Sanchez and Santi Cazorla, although the mesmeric form of playmaker Mesut Ozil and a steady stream of goals from Olivier Giroud means the London club are well-positioned to extend their lead over their Premier League rivals.
Updated: December 17, 2015 04:00 AM