On Tap: Derby Wknd

A week-end of fantastic matches, with spectacular encounters around the world including Portugal, Italy, Argentina, England and Spain.

Sporting – Benfica

The Lisbon derby comes at a difficult time for both clubs as they struggle to find their form and consistency. Sporting is languishing in 8th place in the league and just replaced the coach, Benfica comes into Sporting’s beautiful stadium off an embarrassing loss in the Cup. A highly emotional tie, Sporting will need every bit of the home support to overcome a talented Benfica side.

Genoa – Sampdoria

The beautiful “Derby della Lanterna” brings together great elements, colors and songs in the fantastic Luigi Ferraris stadium in Marassi. The Genovese rivalry is intense, but also respected and celebrated. Genoa need the points to leap up near the top, while Sampdoria is in fourth having regained balance after an excellent start followed by a poor stretch.

Red Star – Partizan

The “eternal derby” takes place for the 137th time. Always a fiery affair and both teams enjoying excellent starts to their campaigns.

River Plate – Estudiantes

A nice match at the Monumental on Saturday between two big clubs struggling. River is languishing once more through an indifferent season and is poised for big changes at the top with December Presidential and Board of Directors elections. There are commercials on TV, ads on the sides of buses and throughout Buenos Aires for the candidates, with powerful businessmen and heavy River personalities in the mix, including Passarella, Francescoli and Ramon Diaz. Estudiantes come to the Monumental still closer to the top, but looking to redeem a disappointing injury time loss midweek to Colon.

Inter – Fiorentina

Inter looks to bounce back from its lame performance in Barcelona and to re-build confidence. Inter’s players need to regain comfort in Mourinho’s system and belief in their abilities. Even though the club is on top in Italy, Inter’s midfield and defensive game is inconsistent. Eto’o must provide the spark and Wesley Sneijder the creativity. Meanwhile Fiorentina is elated to be in the final 16 of the Champions League and will likely be happy with a point at San Siro or, if the chance arises, will take advantage of the opportunity to take all three points.

Arsenal – Chelsea

An exciting match and a true test for both sides, with top of the table implications. Chelsea can afford a slip-up more than Arsenal can, but the real question is who will have the upper hand. Confidence from a high powered encounter such as this one goes a long way. Should be a great match.

Barcelona – Real Madrid

An encounter that requires no further billing, this is the match the entire world will be watching. With so many stars on the field, the quality should be assured. Barcelona plays the most beautiful soccer in the world, their movement and possession game is a joy to watch for all fans of the game. Madrid has not figured out an identity under Pellegrini, but Cristiano Ronaldo is back and should have an impact. Even if Messi and Ibra don’t play, Xavi and Iniesta will look to take control, giving Barca the edge in this one.

San Lorenzo – Boca Juniors

Another of several explosive derbys in Buenos Aires, both clubs come in with high confidence after convincing wins last week-end. Should be a spectacular display at the Nuevo Gasometro with two of the best hinchadas of Argentina providing the electrical atmosphere. San Lorenzo need the three points to stay in touch with the leaders, Boca is making a push after a mediocre campaign.

Everton – Liverpool

The 207th Merseyside derby comes at a critical moment for both clubs. Everton has struggled greatly this season, the latest setback – a 3-2 loss to Hull City – characterized by Everton defender as “shameful.” Liverpool got back on the right track with a 1-0 midweek away win at Debrecen, but the great expectations remain elusive. Aquilani should play a full match and have a chance to demonstrate his qualities. Rivalry, but not hatred between the clubs, this is family.

Panathinaikos – Olimpiakos

The huge derby of Greece is highly anticipated this time around, with both clubs unbeaten in the domestic competition and enjoying good results in Europe. Always an infernal affair, this time should be no different. Players come and go, the clubs represent so many interests, but passion, pride and bragging rights are always at stake in this exciting encounter.