ITALIAN SERIE A
SS Lazio vs AS Roma (9:00 AM ET/beIN Sports)
Today's game between Lazio and Roma goes by many a name. The Eternal City Derby, Derby Capitolino, Derby del Cupolone, as well as the Rome Derby are just a few of them (or maybe all, it's early cut me some slack). One thing that this derby shall not be called is boring. Roma, a team hampered by draws last year, has come out firing on all cylinders in 2015-16 scoring a Serie A best 25 goals through 11 games. They'll look to add to that tally against a Lazio team with a porous back line today. They'll have to do so though without some key pieces to the Giallorossi puzzle. Daniele De Rossi, Francesco Totti, Alessandro Florenzi, and Seydou Keita are all injured leaving what was a strength for the Romans a glaring weakness. That weakness was made even frailer by the one game suspension of Bosnian international Miralem Pjanic, scorer of five goals and supplier of five more in Serie A this season. While the midfield for Roma is banged up, the forward line may be just starting to heat up. Mohamed Salah and Gervinho have been locked in (5 goals apiece) since the opening day, but newcomer Edin Dzeko has been quiet since that season opener win versus Juventus. Could his goal drought ending (602 minutes in all comps, yikes) against Bayer Leverkusen in the UCL spark a league resurgence? Lazio are hoping not as they hope to break into the European places and keep Roma from going top. This game will have goals, and it will be wide open. I may have tipped my hand though in this preview with a good paragraph about Roma and probably one combined sentence about Lazio. Oh well.
PREDICTION: Roma 3 Lazio 2
Borussia Dortmund vs FC Schalke 04 (9:30 AM ET/Fox Sports 1)
Another derby on the European soccerscape this morning is the 87th Revierderby in the Bundesliga between second place Borussia Dortmund and fifth place Schalke. The German top tier is in its normal form this season, with Bayern Munich running away at the top and four or five teams duking it out just below them. Dortmund are the kings of that mountain at the moment. They will however be without one of their big stars as Marco Reus found himself sidelined against Azerbaijani side Qabala in the Europa League midweek. They will still have the highest Bundesliga scorer not from Bayern Munich in Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang who has scored in 12 of BVB's last 15 games in all competitions with two two-goal games and two hat tricks. Schalke will be hoping to break into the top three of the Bundesliga with a win against their rivals. They too lead their Europa League group, and are hoping to parlay that success domestically after a rough patch has put them back on their heels in Germany. Leroy Sane may not be knocking in goals like his BVB brethren, but the 19 year old just got his first call-up to the German National Team so that could be cause for a celebration of goals on his part. Even with Reus in street clothes, I think Dortmund will be too much to handle. But for any fan of getting ahead of your friends on the inside track for finding the next superstar, be sure to watch this game for Sane alone.
PREDICTION: Borussia Dortmund 3 Schalke 1
SWISS SUPER LEAGUE
FC Basel 1893 vs Grasshopper Club Zurich (10:00 AM ET/beIN Sports 8)
In last Sunday's picks, I picked a game between two of the top clubs in Switzerland. Today, I profile the other two, and most successful, teams in the country. The dominance of Basel and Grasshoppers have come at two different times. Think of Grasshoppers as Liverpool, the team that dominated the sport in the pre-Premier League era producing some of the finest footballers that the English game had to offer. Grasshoppers won 27 titles, still a Swiss record, before the creation of the Premier League yet have not finished better than second since the makeover in 2003-04. FC Basel on the other hand have been the Manchester United of Switzerland. Sure they were good before the formation of the Premier League, but since that moment they have become the preeminent team in the division. They've won nine of the twelve titles to be had since the Swiss Premier League formed including the last six years in a row. They are looking to make it seven on the trot as they are 13 points ahead of second place Young Boys with a game in hand. Their youth system has developed some top notch talent from former Dortmund striker Alexander Frei to current players Gokhan Inler (Leicester City), Xherdan Shaqiri (Stoke City), and Ivan Rakitic (Barcelona). Both teams score plenty of goals, so those with the full beIN Sports package will get themselves a doozy, but Grasshoppers have also let in the second most goals in the division which will ultimately be their downfall in this one.
PREDICTION: FC Basel 4 Grasshoppers 2
SPANISH LA LIGA
FC Barcelona vs Villarreal CF (10:00 AM ET/beIN Sports ñ)
Villarreal led La Liga for what seemed like a month or two as they rode an early season wave of goals to shock contention in the Spanish top flight. Two losses and a draw in their last four have dropped them back to their usual Europa League level though for now. It is still hard to fathom that not five years ago this team was relegated to Spain's Segunda Division. But enough dwelling on the past, Villarreal's immediate future is a date at the Camp Nou with a Barcelona team that is looking to keep momentum building before the first El Clasico of the season following the international break next weekend. They are still without Lionel Messi, and probably will be for the game against Real Madrid as well, but Barca have been maintaining with these two guys you may have heard of: Neymar and Luis Suarez. The duo have 17 goals in La Liga and are sitting 1-2 in the battle for the league's Pichichi (top scorer trophy). Villarreal has their own goal scorer du jour in Roberto Soldado, scorer of both goals versus Dinamo Minsk mid-week, but he's suspended for the match which puts even more of an impetus to score on Cedric Bakambu. We've talked about nothing but goalscorers thus far, but a missing defender may be the key to today's game. Villarreal have gotten as far as they have this year with defense, boasting the third best goals against mark in La Liga behind the two Madrid sides. They won't have the services of 21 year old center half Eric Bailly, the Ivory coast international who took the African Cup of Nations by storm. Yellow card accumulation has relegated the Yellow Submarine's rock at the back to the stands for today. Having more teams in the hunt in La Liga can do nothing but help the league, but the odds are just too stacked against the visitors today.
PREDICTION: Barcelona 2 Villarreal 0
ENGLISH PREMIER LEAGUE
Arsenal FC vs Tottenham Hotspur FC (11:00 AM ET/NBC Sports)
Derby day continues here on the picks with a cracker in England. The North London derby pits Arsenal against Tottenham Hotspur. Arsenal stands second in the table on just goal difference, but they have a battered ego and roster after a 5-1 dismantling at the hands of Bayern Munich in the Champions League. Tottenham have no such ills at the moment as they have yet to be beaten in the league since a Kyle Walker own goal doomed them to defeat on opening day. However, this is Spurs' third game in just six days having bested Aston Villa on Monday Night Football and Anderlecht in the Europa League on Thursday. Arsenal is also the last team to beat them in any competition, as the Gunners eliminated them from the Capital One Cup in September. This game has plenty of attacking talent left healthy on both sides, Alexis Sanchez & Olivier Giroud for Arsenal and Harry Kane & Christian Eriksen for Spurs. Ultimately though it will come down to which world class goalkeeper can make the most tremendous saves. Petr Cech's back line has been his downfall on several occasions at Arsenal (most recently the Bayern massacre), but the Chelsea castaway has been stellar for the Gunners in the EPL. Hugo Lloris finally has some consistency in front of him at Spurs, but in no way does that discount the marvelous work that he has done between the sticks. The Emirates will be buzzing today, but I don't think that will faze Spurs who have long since put away the memories of the back to back 5-2 drubbings at that ground a couple of years back. I am taking my first upset of the day to disrupt the balance of power in the Premiership.
PREDICTION: Spurs 2 Arsenal 1
FRENCH LIGUE 1
Olympique Lyonnais vs AS Saint Etienne (3:00 PM ET/beIN Sports 3)
We end this day of big games and derbies in France with the Derby Rhone-Alpes between Lyon and St. Etienne. Not only are the teams long standing rivals in France's Ligue 1, the winner of today's game will propel themselves into the second guaranteed Champions League spot in the French table with a victory. Both teams couldn't be coming into this game on more different wave lengths though. Lyon was beaten 2-0 by Zenit St. Petersburg in their mid-week game in the Champions League. The loss eliminated Les Gones from the competition and to be honest the scoreline could have been much worse if not for a superb handful of saves from keeper Anthony Lopes. On the other sideline, St. Etienne will be entering the hostile Stade Gerland with a big win over 2014-15 Europa League finalist Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk under their belt. Les Verts beat the Ukranians 3-0 to move past them in their group. Though I hate picking draws, and the recent form is stating that there will be a result to the contrary in either direction, I can't fathom this being anything but a low scoring sharing of points. I say Lyon score early to get the home crowd excited, but the air will be taken out of them late as St. Etienne gets a goal and their cut of the derby spoils.
PREDICTION: Lyon 1 St. Etienne 1
Enjoy this six pack of European supplemental action with a six pack of your own this fine Sunday morning. Be sure to come back next week as well when I may delve into the international break for the WORLD'S best games instead of being a lazy asshole who does nothing during international breaks. Cheers!