Sunday Football Open Thread

Steve Haag

The African Cup of Nations wraps up, and play across most of the European leagues winds down for the weekend ahead of Liverpool's Monday evening meeting with West Brom.

Premier League:

Aston Villa v. West Ham 1:30PM GMT/8:30AM EST
Manchester United v. Everton 4:00PM GMT/11:00AM EST

Villa have scored six goals in two league matches on Merseyside and only six since mid-September at Villa Park, which is not particularly good by any measure. They haven't won there since late November, and West Ham--with Liverpool loanee who you absolutely forgot was still a Liverpool player Andy Carroll--will enter feeling confident of getting at least a point. The big match of the day is at Old Trafford, where the league leaders will host Everton in a repeat of one of last season's more enthralling fixtures. If Marouane Fellaini misses out, the mediocrity in the visitor's midfield will match the host's, and it'll all end with United getting the winner from a jetlagged Javier Hernandez in the final minutes.

Spanish Primera Division:

Barcelona v. Getafe 11:00AM GMT/6:00AM EST
Rayo Vallecano v. Atletico Madrid 8:00PM GMT/3:00PM EST

Barcelona are pretty much home free as league champions--Atletico might close a few points here or there, but it's hard to see Barcelona dropping nine, and it's doubtful that Getafe will put up too much of a fight at the Camp Nou. One of the more intriguing fixtures on the day is in Madrid, where Rayo host the aforementioned Atletico in the lesser-publicized Madrid derby. Rayo are right on the edges of European qualification, just a point behind Betis in sixth, and if Atletico are going to make a run at Barca, they'll have to come away with three points.

Serie A:

Cagliari v. AC Milan 2:00PM GMT/9:00AM EST
Sampdoria v. Roma 2:00PM GMT/9:00AM EST
Inter v. Chievo 7:45PM GMT/2:45PM EST

The two Milan clubs are level on points through 23 matches played, with Inter winning only two of their last seven and their rivals headed in the opposite direction, losing only once since October and winning three on the trot. Both have seemingly winnable fixtures today, and Mario Balotelli is probably worth watching at Cagliari because...you know, just because. Roma started the month by losing to Cagliari and then immediately sacking Zdenek Zeman, and while they're not yet in danger of being cast off from the European spots, they'll have to move on quickly if they're going to be around the top five at season's end.

Eriedivisie:

Ajax v. Roda JC 1:30PM GMT/8:30AM EST

After PSV's draw with fifth-place Vitesse on Saturday, Ajax have a chance to draw within a point of Eindhoven at the top of the table. Former Liverpool players Ryan Babel and Christian Poulsen have featured off and on for the Amsterdam club, and perennial target Christian Eriksen will either confirm why he should absolutely be Brendan Rodgers' number ten or continue to cause questions about why people would actually want him at Liverpool.

African Cup of Nations:

Nigeria v. Burkina Faso 6:00PM GMT/1:00PM EST

I don't know that many would have expected either of these teams to make it to the final--Nigeria's federation and setup were anything but stable and better known for underachieving, and Burkina Faso weren't really on the radar to progress from Pot 3, which included Oussama Assaidi's Morocco. But they're the only two left standing on the final day, and it'd be hard to see Nigeria not ending the day as the 2013 champions.

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