Weekend preview

Ream, Pulisic have big games in England, EPB set, for the Vienna Derby in a busy weekend for Yanks

As he does every Friday for ASN, Brian Sciaretta is here to preview the weekend ahead from an American perspective. Included in his 10 best games is the Vienna Derby, Pulisic heading to Everton, and Ream looking to continue Fulham’s promotional push.
BY Brian Sciaretta Posted
December 06, 2019
1:50 PM
THE HOLIDAYS are approaching, the games are getting more and more important and condensed. Some teams are looking to make moves in their respective leagues and some are looking just to find ways to survive. Throughout Europe, Americans will play in a variety of games this weekend.

As we do every Friday, here are the 10 best games to follow from an American perspective.

Everton - Chelsea

The Premier League
Saturday, Dec. 7: 7:30am EST

This game could be dangerous for Chelsea. It’s playing against a desperate club that has fallen into the relegation zone ahead of the holiday slate of games and who has just made a managerial change. On top of that, Chelsea has a critical Champions League game against Lille that will determine its fate of advancing to the knockout stages.

After a tough loss last weekend at home to West Ham United, Chelsea rebounded with a nice 2-1 win over Aston Villa. Christian Pulisic did not score or assist against Villa but he played well and has had an excellent two months as he is firmly settled into to the London club.

This game is all about Chelsea staying focused and avoid thinking about Lille or the busy holiday slate of games. A desperate opponent, like Everton, can be very dangerous.

Fulham - Bristol City

The Championship
Saturday, Dec. 7: 10:00am EST

Tim Ream is indeed Mr. Championship. The St. Louis native has excelled in this league over seven seasons and now once again, he is having yet another fantastic season for a promotion contending club.

Fulham enter into this weekend sitting in third place in the Championship and have to close a five point gap on Leeds United for second place. They can begin that on Saturday but its opponent, Bristol City, is also a promotional contender and sits in fifth place.

It’s a big test for Ream and company but these are the games that will help determine if automatic promotion is possible.

Blackburn Rovers - Derby County

The Championship
Saturday, Dec. 7: 10:00am EST

What kind of club is Derby? Is it club that can fall into a relegation battle? Is it just going to coast at midtable? Or can it make a push to the playoffs?

Both Derby County and its American playmaker, Duane Holmes, have been up and down this year. At times the club looks like top-tier Championship club, other times it suffers from poor performances. So far, it hasn’t been able to get a string of positive outings together. But it has also had to deal with setbacks off the field which has hampered its ambitions.

But Derby will soon welcome Wayne Rooney who should be able to bolster the attack. But can the club have momentum before he gets on the field?

Blackburn on the road is tricky but winnable for a club that has high ambitions. But will it show up? It is a big test for Duane Holmes and company.

Luton Town - Wigan Athletic

The Championship
Saturday, Dec. 7: 10:00am EST

The season is slowly getting away from Wigan Athletic which is in an awful stretch of collecting just two points from its last seven games. That winless run has put it in the relegation zone.

What often determines survival in a relegation battle is how a club does amongst the clubs surrounding it in the table. And Wigan’s opponent on Saturday, Luton Town, is just one point ahead of it and holds the first spot ahead of the drop zone.

There is nothing glorious about the lower end of the Championship but these games can be a brutal dogfight with both teams playing out of desperation. U.S. U-23 left back Antonee Robinson should start and he has been successful in relegation battles in his young career. Maybe one day he can play for something more, but for now he brings valuable experience in these situations at such a young age.

Reading - Birmingham City

The Championship
Saturday, Dec. 7: 10:00am EST

Reading sits five points clear of safety but at least a few teams below it should gain some points. But this is a matchup for teams looking to tread water in the league or perhaps look to start a steady climb. Reading currently sits in 18th place in the 24-team league while Birmingham City is in 15th place.

For Miazga, this is another test for him to continue to be a steady presence in a tough an physical league with a club that has higher ambitions but has struggled in recent seasons. Miazga was dropped from the U.S. national team in November but can he build his resume over the next few months heading into March?

Borussia Dortmund - Fortuna Dusseldorf

The Bundesliga
Saturday, Dec. 7: 9:30am EST

The U.S. national team duo of Zack Steffen and Alfredo Morales will have a tough test ahead of it on Saturday when it travels to face a Borussia Dortmund team that has struggled by its own high standards this year – sitting in fifth place.

Only goal differential is what is separating Fortuna Dusseldorf from the relegation playoff spot but it has a game in hand over Hertha Berlin at the moment.

This will be a chance for Fortuna to take a clear lead. But Fortuna is a heavy underdog and Steffen will surely have to make big saves if Fortuna wants to get a result. Morlaes will also have to be a physical presence in the midfield and last week he helped set up a late equalizer in a solid away draw against Hoffenheim.

Freiburg - Wolfsburg

The Bundesliga
Saturday, Dec. 7: 9:30am EST

This should be an unpredictable game as just two points separate ninth place Wolfsburg and fifth-place Freiburg. But unpredictability has been the story of this season in the Bundesliga and many teams are bunched together at various spots in the table with very little separation.

So, three points could be massive for either of these teams in terms of their ambitions to play in Europe next season.

Wolfsburg’s biggest strength is its defense which has conceded just 13 goals in 13 games. That makes it the best defense in the league and American central defender John Brooks is a big part of that success. It’s weakness is its offense which has scored only 15 goals.

Will Brooks and Wolfsburg’s outstanding defense limit Freiburg’s chances? Will its offense step up and be dangerous? It is not hard to see what the keys to this game are.

Bayer Leverkusen - Schalke 04

The Bundesliga
Saturday, Dec. 7: 12:30pm EST

David Wagner, Weston McKennie and surging third-place Schalke will have a difficult test on Saturday when they visit seventh place Bayer Leverkusen on Saturday. Coming into this game, Schalke has three wins and two draws in its last five Bundesliga games and a win could conceivably move even with the league leaders on points.

McKennie has been a useful player for Schalke having played in 11 of the team’s 13 Bundesliga games so far this season. But he has often played multiple positions and sometimes out of his typical central midfield roles. He is healthy and rested for this game so seeing how McKennie fits into a rising Schalke team is always an interesting subplot to these very important games.

Rapid Vienna - Austria Vienna

The Austrian Bundesliga
Sunday, Dec. 8: 11:00am EST

The always intense Vienna Derby will take place on Sunday when Rapid Vienna hosts Austria Vienna in the 329th meeting between the two teams.

Both teams are coming into this game on the heels of impressive wins. Rapid defeated second place LASK away 0-4 and its unbeaten in its last four games (three wins and one draw). That has seen the club move into fourth place.

Last week, seventh place Austria Vienna demolished sixth place Hartberg 5-0 at home. Austria Vienna is looking to climb into sixth place and into the Championship round at the end of the season but needs to make up a five point gap that still exists between it and Hartberg, despite the recent result.

2017 U.S. U-20 World Cup captain and central defender Erik Palmer-Brown has cemented his starting role with Austria Vienna – where is on loan from Manchester City. Palmer-Brown’s play has been improving but the Vienna Derby will be his biggest test to deliver against a rival. On a personal level, it could also help his standing to get into the picture with the U.S. U-23 team.

Red Bull Salzburg - WSG Swarovski Tirol

The Austrian Bundesliga
Saturday, Dec. 7: 11:00am EST

Red Bull Salzburg, coached by Wisconsin native Jesse Marsch, still sit atop the Austrian Bundesliga but could have fallen into second last week – only to have been spared by second-place LASK losing at home. It is true that Salzburg has been focused on the Champions League but its last two Bundesliga games have been subpar with two draws (the club still has not lost in the league through the first 16 games.

It is true that this week Red Bull Salzburg will host Liverpool in the Champions League and a win would advance it to the knockout stages. But Salzburg can look beyond this game, otherwise it could fall into second place – and then have another problem to think about.

Marsch has done an outstanding job so far this year but he is entering into one of his biggest weeks as a coach. It starts with hosting 10th place Swarovski Tirol on Saturday. Putting Liverpool out of mind isn’t easy, but it is necessary.

Post a comment