Erik Ten Hag manager of Manchester United during the Premier League match at St. James Park, Newcastle upon Tyne. Photo: Nigel Roddis / Sportimage
Erik Ten Hag manager of Manchester United during the Premier League match at St. James Park, Newcastle upon Tyne. Photo: Nigel Roddis / Sportimage

The 7 must-watch football matches for this week

Football OlyBet 04.12.2023

Welcome to December! For the top leagues, mid-season is almost here. Football does not sleep. Which games are worth keeping an eye on this week?

All times listed below are in Eastern European Standard Time (GMT+2).

Celta Vigo vs Cadiz

Monday 22:00

Talk about an early relegation battle. Cadiz is sitting 17th with 11 points, while Celta, a solid mid-table side just a few seasons ago, is languishing in the bottom three with just 8 points (still above Granada, 7, and Almeria, 4, though). Neither team has got the full three points since September 1st. It has been a difficult run.

The last time those two met in May, Cadiz won 1-0 at home, but the return game in September 2022 ended in a comfortable 3-0 win for Celta. Iago Aspas scored twice that day, but the talismanic 36-year-old forward has just one goal in 14 appearances this season.

Luton Town vs Arsenal

Tuesday 22:15

It was a great weekend for Arsenal, as they managed to overcome Wolverhampton 2-1 on Saturday before seeing Manchester City and Tottenham play out an entertaining 3-3 draw on Sunday. The results give them a two-point lead at the top – after topping the table at Christmas time last year, they are on their way for a repeat.

Any hope for Luton, who are 17th in the league after a 1-3 loss to Brentford? Well, Arsenal has never been able to win at Kenilworth Road! Of course, they have not visited since losing 0-1 on December 26th, 1991, but their overall record stands at 6 ties and 4 losses in Luton.

Manchester United vs Chelsea

Wednesday 22:15

Considering the topsy-turvy nature of their seasons, it is somewhat amazing to see both United and Chelsea still in contention. United (with a goal difference of -1!) sit seventh, just nine points off Arsenal, while Chelsea – whose GD is better at +3 – are five points off United in tenth.

A top-four finish is still very much in sight, but both teams know that putting together a good run of wins is essential. United has been mediocre against direct rivals, but they have not lost a home league game to Chelsea since Sir Alex Ferguson was still in charge, all the way back in May 2013. Chelsea meanwhile is yet to find their feet under Mauricio Pochettino.

Everton vs Newcastle

Thursday 21:30

Both teams are aiming higher. Everton, after being deducted ten points by the league for breaching financial rules, find themselves in the bottom three – but a win against Nottingham on Saturday lifted them to 18th, just two points away from safety. For Sean Dyche’s men, this must be the aim for 2023/24.

Newcastle has been fighting on two fronts wonderfully as their return to the Champions League has yielded some memorable nights, but after a 1-1 with PSG, qualifying for the Round of 16 is now out of their hands. To return next season, they have to up their game in the league too, as their current 6th position is not good enough.

Juventus vs Napoli

Friday 21:45

Juventus has found their stride again in 2023/24 after last season was marred by deducted points, inconsistency, and general carelessness – they were seventh in the final table. But their form has been much better this season, with no losses since late September. They are unbeaten in their last nine games, with seven wins and two draws. Six of those wins have been by just one goal, however.

The defending champions Napoli have not been anywhere near the untouchable levels they reached last season. Walter Mazzarri, who returned to coach the team after Rudi Garcia was sacked, started with a 2-1 win over Atalanta but last week, they lost 2-4 to Real Madrid in the Champions League and then 0-3 to Inter in the league.

Real Betis vs Real Madrid

Saturday 17:15

Although Real Betis is just seventh in La Liga, they have not lost since mid-September, going on a ten-game undefeated streak. What’s more, they have not lost a single home game all season. Isco, who has been wonderful for Betis after returning from obscurity, has a chance to show Real Madrid what they are missing.

Not that Real would care too much at the moment. Their pre-season ended with two straight losses, but from the first 20 games of the season, they have 17 wins to go with two draws and just a single loss (in all competitions). In their last five games, they have scored 17 goals. But last season they left Villamarin with a 0-0 draw.

Barcelona vs Girona

Sunday 22:00

At the top of La Liga, two teams are tied on 38 points, one from Madrid, and one from Catalonia. But if there are two elite teams to choose from in Madrid, then the other one is surely Barcelona, right? Well, no. They are third as defending champions, four points off the top. It is not Espanyol either, as they were relegated to Segunda Division last season.

Girona first reached La Liga in 2017, went down a season later, and then returned in 2022; it is just their fourth season in the top division. A part of the City Football Group (headlined by Manchester City, of course), they have a solid foundation, but to be flying so high? They have never beaten Barcelona in the league, but then again, nothing is normal about their 2023/24 season so far …


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