We look ahead to the three biggest matchups in La Liga, Serie A, and the Premiership, respectively.
Atletico Madrid (3rd) vs. Real Madrid (1st). Los Blancos are coming off a tough week that saw their chance at a Treble canceled out by Mallorca in the Copa del Rey. They'll need to regain focus quickly against an Atletico side pulling an Arsenal this season and giving further credence to the Bill Simmons "Ewing Theory." Los Indios can do a lot for themselves (and Barca) if 19 year old wunderkind Sergio Aguero continues to make his partnership with Diego Forlan pay off in goals; this Argentine-Uruguayan alliance has already netted 16 in La Liga.
The verdict: A draw. Both teams are playing extremely well at the moment, and even though San Iker* stops most everything (including the ladies' hearts) , Atletico will get a result at home in this capital city derby. They'll also snap his 5 game clean sheet run. 1-1.
Udinese (4th) vs. AC Milan (12th!). At this point, Milan qualifying for the Champions League is looking more likely to come from an outright victory in this year's competition. Their league form (especially at home) has been absolutely woeful, with just one recently recorded victory. Meanwhile, Udinese are sitting in the spot Milan probably believe is rightfully theirs as they continue to grind out results.
The verdict: Udinese has been more than solid at home, but methinks Milan are hitting their stride. An 18 year-old duck made an impressive debut for them in their first home win, and this will carry over to victory on the weekend. Plus, they're not at the San Siro, which for some reason seems to help them. Udinese 1 - 3 Jekyll/Hyde.
Liverpool (4th) vs. Aston Villa (6th). A Monday game, so it's not technically the weekend, but close enough. I think it's pretty fair to say that the Premiership is a three horse race at this point. That being said, Liverpool need to maintain their tenuous grasp (they're among four teams sitting on 39 points, albeit with a game in hand) on fourth and a CL spot. Oh, and save Rafa Benitez's job, too. In recent years they've been a second half team, but this won't be easy; Villa are playing good football and their quick young wingers, Ashley Young and Gabriel Agbonlahor, are a scary test for any defense.
The verdict: Will it be the same backs-against-the-wall response that we saw against Besiktas in the Champions League? Highly doubtful. However, with the fans and players firmly behind Rafa, one would expect to see an inspired display at Anfield. Reds 2 - 0 Villans.
*Speaking of Iker Casillas, I have a treat for everyone. Google Eva Gonzalez. You won't regret it.
Arsene Wenger cobbled together starting lineups with spit and duct tape and Denilson and somehow the team dragged its ass over the finish line in third or fourth.