Words by: Elan Solomon & Jeremy Proome
This weekend sees some massive encounters, with the European football leagues teeing up some big clashes featuring the English giants and Spanish mainstays; while the end-of-year international Test season kicks off, with the Boks heading to Twickenham for another bruising battle with the English. That said, here are the games you can’t afford to miss this weekend:
Real Madrid v Valladolid
Saturday, 16:15 | La Liga
Real Madrid’s dismal form culminated in manager Julen Lopetegui being sacked this past week, leaving the hot-seat vacant with a laundry list of potential candidates to fill the void. For the moment it will be up to caretaker manager Solari to try and steady the ship, and potentially make a play for the job himself. Having watched from the sidelines he’s got the opportunity to make tweaks as he sees fit, so Real fans will be given some indication of what changes will be made from this coming fixture. Players to look out for that could come in are youngsters Asensio and Mejia, potentially to replace the disappointing Benzema and Bale. Whatever was being done before clearly didn’t work, so Solari may make several changes in order to reverse Real’s ailing fortunes.
Predicted result: Real Madrid 3 – 1 Valladolid
Wales v Scotland
Saturday, 16:45 | International Test rugby
Scotland will be on the warpath to get one over their Six Nations counterparts after nine consecutive losses on Welsh soil since 2002. Wales have had a decent year, winning six of eight tests throughout 2018 (only faltering to England and Ireland in the Six Nations), so they’re in relatively good shape heading into this battle. Big-name Scots, Stuart Hogg and Finn Russell, will be missing from this match, but the men in blue do have a strong and experienced side put Warren Gatland’s men to the test, but Wales have been building a solid and consistent squad heading into the stretch towards the World Cup, so they’re looking like the favourites for this one.
Predicted result: Wales by 5.
England v South Africa
Saturday, 17:00 | International Test rugby
The Boks will attempt to continue their quickly-improving yet staggered form of 2018 when they take on England at Twickenham. The Springboks have welcomed back Duane Vermeulen, who will bring some ball-carrying and fetching skills to the table, while youngster Damien Willemse gets a shot at fullback. However, the game will largely be dictated by the conditions, so it will likely be a slower, more territorial game than an open-running affair – but Rassie Erasmus’ men should attempt to capitalise on England’s untested combos they’re forced to field due to injuries.
Predicted result: Springboks by 10.
Arsenal v Liverpool
Saturday, 18:30 | Premier League
For a couple of years now the odds in this fixture have been heavily slanted in Liverpool’s favor, but that might not be the case this weekend. Unai Emery has Arsenal performing like a well-oiled machine with an impressive string of victories under their belt. This match against first-place Liverpool will be the first real test of Arsenal’s newfound confidence and ability, and one that will specifically test Arsenal’s defense. Their attack and midfield has managed to impress under Emery’s guidance, but question marks remain about how their defense will cope against an attack of Liverpool’s quality. Salah, Mane, and Firmino will be a serious handful for the likes of Bellerin and Mustafi to keep quiet, and may just overpower their hosts.
Predicted result: Arsenal 2 – 3 Liverpool
Ireland v Italy
Saturday, 22:00 | International Test rugby
Ireland and Italy will play an exciting game of rugby on US soil in a bit to showcase the game to the greater rugby audience Stateside, which should result in some ambitious play from both sides. The Irish will field a relatively youthful yet enthusiastic side capable of putting on a show, while Italy will likely lean on their stalwarts to try and cause an upset on neutral ground.
Predicted result: Ireland by 15.