Another FA Cup weekend, this one offering a chance at redemption for last weekend’s Match Of The Season!; then a mid-week Coppa Italia final Derby della Madonnina. Plenty of action, and it all kicks off this afternoon. If you haven’t already, this might be a good weekend to consider a trial run on ESPN+. As always, all listings are US Central time. You can do the the math.
Friday the 22nd – 1:30 PM Borussia Mönchengladbach – Borussia Dortmund (ESPN+). All five top leagues are on offer this afternoon (allowing the FA Cup to stand in for the Prem), but there’s no real competition. Gladbach trail Dortmund by only a point, and both are part of a group of five teams fighting to keep pace with RB Leipzig and Bayer Leverkusen for the right to finish second to Bayern. If you are a real sucker for the magic of the Cup, sixth-tier Chorley hosts Wolves (1:45 PM on ESPN+). In truth, Wolves have been playing poorly enough to keep hope alive.
Saturday the 23rd – 6:15 AM Southampton – Arsenal (ESPN+). Not sure how much magic will be on show, but this FA Cup tie finds two teams struggling to find form. Arsenal seem to be on something of an upswing since Christmas, and will be buoyed by a brace from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in their last game. The Saints did manage to beat Liverpool recently, but that’s less impressive than it once was and is their only win since the middle of December. It was a 1-1 draw when these two met in the league in December–so at least we’ll have a winner this time around. Whatever happens, these two will get a second chance when they meet again on Tuesday.
8:30 AM Bayer Leverkusen – Wolfsburg (ESPN+). Both Leverkusen and Volkswagen are having unexpectedly good seasons, so this should be an exciting match.
11:00 AM AC Milan – Atalanta (ESPN+). While Atalanta’s star is not shining quite as brightly as it has for the past few seasons, they remain a top Italian side and a good challenge for the rossoneri. Having stayed at the top of the table in his absence, Milan now have Zlatan Ibrahimović back in action for what should be an exciting game. If you’re more of a La Liga fan, there’s also Real Sociedad – Real Betis (11:30 AM on BeIN Sports).
2:00 PM AS Monaco – Olympique de Marseille (BeIN SportsXTRA). This may take some ingenuity to watch live (BeIN Sports is airing a replay at 5:00 PM), but the alternatives are dire: Aston Villa facing Newcastle United (on Peacock) is the best of them. By comparison, Niko Kovač’s Monaco are undefeated in the New Year and looking like a contender in 4th, while André Villas-Boas’s Marseille have struggled mightily in January and have dropped to 6th. Even so, they will be buoyed by having beaten Monaco when they met last month. Will the sides go to current form, or could this be a circuit breaker for les Olympiens?
Sunday the 24th – 6:00 AM Girondins de Bordeaux – Angers SCO (BeIN SportsXTRA). Honestly, it’s probably best to just sleep in. The alternatives are Juventus – Bologna (5:30 AM on ESPN2) or Chelsea – Luton Town (on ESPN+).
8:30 AM Brentford – Leicester City (ESPN+). Brentford should be in the Premier League next year, and they are rightly a hipster’s darling for their style of play and their analytics department. This will probably have more of that Cup magic than Fulham – Burnley (ESPN+), a game one suspects both sides will be hoping to lose. If you’d rather skip the magic and watch legitimate top flight football, Hellas Verona – Napoli (8:00 AM on ESPN+) is probably your best bet.
11:00 AM Manchester United – Liverpool. The FA Cup has decided to throw up a rematch of last weekend damp squib of a title bout. I actually enjoyed the first half of that game, which had real tactical interest; but the second half certainly petered out. Hopefully, the one-off nature of the Cup will free up at least one of these two sides and make for a more exciting rematch. Alternately, you can always switch over to Lazio – Sassuolo (also on ESPN+), which should be a relatively lively match.
2:00 PM Atlético Madrid – Valencia (BeIN Sports). Valencia is struggling this season, but this is probably still the best way to finish off your Sunday. The best alternative is AS Saint-Étienne – Olympique Lyonnais (on BeIN SportsXTRA, rebroadcast on BeIN Sports at 5:00 PM).
Monday the 25th – 2:00 PM Athletic Bilbao – Getafe (BeIN Sports). Not the best game of the week, but it’s what’s on. Marcelino has recently taken over Bilbao, and they are looking like a more exciting pressing side now. Getafe have been struggling, and weren’t that much fun to watch even when they weren’t. Championship side Wycombe Wanderers host Spurs (at 1:45 PM on ESPN+) if you’d rather take your chance on some highly unlikely magic happening.
Tuesday the 26th – 12:00 PM Newcastle United – Leeds United (NBCSN). Leeds are starting to look a bit tired and thus less of a must-watch requirement; but this is still a better bet for the neutral than Crystal Palace – West Ham United.
1:45 PM Internazionale – AC Milan (ESPN+). The Coppa Italia final is also a Derby della Madonnina and a showdown between the top two sides in Serie A. This is the match of the week, and should not be missed under any circumstances. Also, be aware that while the game will be available on ESPN+, it appears that ESPN may be considering broadcasting it on one of their cable channels as well.
Wednesday the 27th – 10:45 AM Atalanta – Lazio (ESPN+). This is a pretty good start to the day. Depending on how the game is going, you could stick with it, or make a switch at noon.
12:00 PM Chelsea – Wolverhampton Wanderers (Peacock). This is an interesting match-up between two talented attacking sides that have been struggling of late. Alternately, there’s a Copa del Rey Round of 16 matchup between Sevilla and Valencia (on ESPN+).
2:15 PM Everton – Leicester City (Peacock). A solid game between 6th and 3rd place in the Premier League. Carlo Ancelotti’s Everton beat Leicester in mid-December, so Brendan Rodgers’s men should be eager to return the favor.
Thursday the 28th – Tottenham Hotspur – Liverpool (NBCSN). This would be the game to watch even if it weren’t the only one of the day. Both José Mourinho’s and Jürgen Klopp’s sides are struggling to stay in the title race, so this match will certainly be important. Neutrals will probably be hoping for an early Liverpool goal, which is the best chance to create an open, attacking game to boot.