Well, the snow finally came to us in the northeast and man did it hit hard. Luckily for us football fans, yesterday was chock full of goals for our snowbound entertainment. It started off for myself personally with a 5-4 Liverpool triumph in which both them and Norwich City combined in an epic game of "anything your defense can do, mine can do worse." From there the goals continued to pour in from a 1-1 draw in Germany to a double comeback for shared spoils in Italy. The snow is still piled pretty high out there, but I think this quartet of games today will provide ample distraction from the stinging pain in your lower back from shoveling. We are off first to Belgium as the league's most storied franchise tries to get back to the top of the table.
BELGIAN JUPILER LEAGUE
RSC Anderlecht vs Royal Charleroi SC (8:30 AM ET)
Although the reach of the internet is global (well duh), I am still taken aback and humbled when I see that somebody from outside of the United States (or outside of my immediate family for that matter) enjoyed something I put out there. I've made picks from the Belgian Pro League before, even an Anderlecht match, but I wasn't planning on doing so today until a reader all the way from Antwerp made the request for the Purple & White to make a return appearance. So what's on the docket for the 33x Belgian champions this morning? They welcome Royal Charleroi SC to the Constant Vanden Stock Stadium for a big match as they try to keep pace with leaders Gent. Anderlecht were defeated by Gent in their last match, so a win today is vital to keep the gap between first and third from widening. Gent play the second fixture of the day against Standard Liege, so Anderlecht don't have the ability to know what they truly "need" from the game beforehand. Their opponent, Royal Charleroi, or the Zebras for their black and white striped kits, comes in needing some points themselves. They sit just outside the championship playoffs at the moment, a place they want to return after participating in their first Europa League this season. Royal has probably been one of the more active sides in January in Belgium, signing former Real Madrid B player Cristian Benavente and Panathinaikos winger Sotiris Ninis during the window. They are going to need all the help they can get if they are to beat Anderlecht's Silvio Proto, possessor of a league high 0.86 GAA. After doing my due diligence, I don't think there will be many goals in this one. But if you can find a stream of it (UK & Ireland markets both have the game), you'll see an Anderlecht win.
PREDICTION: Anderlecht 2 Royal Charleroi 0
Eintracht Frankfurt e.V. vs VFL Wolfsburg (9:30 AM ET/Fox Sports 1)
It has been a tough year for both Eintracht Frankfurt and Wolfsburg in the Bundesliga. For the home side, they find themselves hovering precariously above the relegation zone just two years removed from making the knockout stages of the Europa League. Defense has always been an Achilles' Heel for Frankfurt, but this year their normally potent offense has been silent in their attempts to offset their porous backline, including much maligned USA defender Timmy Chandler. For Wolfsburg, they aren't fighting a drop as much as they are a battle against who is the new main man for them. With Kevin De Bruyne, their unequivocal talisman, now in Manchester, there has been a power struggle in Wolfsburg that has left them on the bad end of some surprising results. They ended their 2015 having to poach a late goal for a draw with Hamburg and followed that up by getting shellacked by Stuttgart, the league's worst defense. Still with Borussia Monchengladbach's loss to Borussia Dortmund yesterday, Wolfsburg can get into the Champions League places with a win today. Sadly I just don't see that happening. Call it what you will: an upset special, a shot in the dark, idiocy. I just don't like a team that is coming from a month off that had cohesion troubles before the break. Catching a club rusty on your home turf sounds like the perfect tonic in my opinion for Eintracht to put some much needed distance between themselves and the bottom three in the Bundesliga.
PREDICTION: Eintracht Frankfurt 2 Wolfsburg 1
SPANISH LA LIGA
Club Atletico de Madrid vs Sevilla FC (10:00 AM ET/beIN Sports)
Atletico Madrid have quite the test ahead of them if they are going to keep pace ahead of their monstrous clash with Barcelona next weekend. They started off the week getting slapped with a year long transfer ban along with their Madrid neighbors. They end it with a game against Sevilla, the two time defending Europa League champions who are finally beginning to round into form. With Barcelona winning yesterday at Malaga, and still having that game in hand, Atletico cannot afford to slip up today before their trip to the Camp Nou. They also have the return leg of their Copa Del Rey quarterfinals to worry about in the midweek. Sevilla struggled early on in 2015, but they have never been a team to overlook, even at their poorest. It will be a Frenchman on either side that could sway the game in their club's favor. For Atletico, Antoine Griezmann is one of four men at twelve goals in La Liga. That would be a league best if, you know, Real Madrid and Barcelona didn't exist. Griezmann has been highly sought after by massive clubs around the continent, but manager Diego Simeone insists that his prized attacker is going nowhere. For Sevilla, Kevin Gameiro has been their offense in the league as of late. No, literally. The last four goals in the league for the Rojiblancos have come from Gameiro. It feels strange talking about goals with Atletico Madrid given their even stranger inability to score, but it has to be noted that they had their highest output in La Liga this season against Sevilla in August as they scored thrice in Seville. I don't foresee a repeat performance in the number of goals, but I do see a similar result for Atleti coming from this morning's tie. Unless Gameiro has a game for the ages, I can't see this ending in any other fashion than a rough and tumble win for the home squad.
PREDICTION: Atletico Madrid 1 Sevilla 0
ENGLISH PREMIER LEAGUE
Arsenal FC vs Chelsea FC (11:00 AM ET/NBC Sports)
We close up shop this morning with a game of high stakes in the Premier League. It is safe to say that things couldn't be going any differently for the two London sides involved in today's game. Arsenal are a win away from top of the table and have been so for the majority of 2015-16. Chelsea on the other hand have found themselves mired in slump after slump even after the dismissal of Jose Mourinho. But in this iteration of the London derby, form goes out the window. Chelsea has maintained a stranglehold over the psyche of Arsenal over the past few seasons, always coming in at the right time to bring an end to times of elation at the Emirates. Arsenal will nearly be back at full strength going into this one as they'll have Mesut Ozil back in the lineup after he missed last weekend's draw against Stoke. Alexis Sanchez, who has been sidelined for nearly two months, may make his return today as well. Guus Hiddink may just be a caretaker for Chelsea, but he's a man who has been a points accumulator for the club. He has yet to experience defeat during this reign as Chelsea boss, and has the psychological currency of being in charge of Chelsea's biggest win at the Emirates in 2009. It seems though that all arrows this season are pointing to an Arsenal win. But as I've stated before, every team has their bogey side and even when one is experiencing difficulty that doesn't truly ever change. Chelsea comes in this morning into hostile territory and picks up three vital points for survival and Arsene Wenger once again shakes his head in bewilderment as he ponders what could have been.
PREDICTION: Chelsea 2 Arsenal 1
I hope you stay warm today with this conglomeration of football goodness. I know full well that there are huge games in Italy (Juventus vs Roma) and France (Le Classique between Marseille and Lyon), but I wanted to give those who cared enough time today to watch both European football as well as the conference championships in the NFL. I've been up since 6:00 AM for Athletic Bilbao and Eibar, and plan on being out for Arizona and Carolina at 6:40 PM, but that is because I am a lunatic. Enjoy your day, crack open a beer or four, and get your football on! Time to shovel...ugh it's up to my knees.