This week's biggest games in world football

Sports Mole rounds up the biggest, best and most important upcoming matches from all corners of the globe.

The upcoming weekend will see all of Europe's top five leagues back in action again after the winter break as the second half of the 2017-18 campaign begins to take shape.

There are big derbies in England, Italy and the Netherlands amongst others, while away from Europe many parts of the Americas are gearing up for the start of their new season.

Indeed, there is another edition of arguably the biggest derby of the lot in Argentina when Boca Juniors take on River Plate in the Superclasico.

Here, Sports Mole rounds up the biggest, best and most important upcoming matches from all over the world.



Boca Juniors vs. River Plate (Monday, 1.10am)

Whenever Boca Juniors and River Plate come up against each other, the world stops to watch what is arguably the biggest game in club football.

The latest instalment will come in a friendly competition, but that is unlikely to diminish the intensity of the occasion as these two bitter Buenos Aires rivals do battle.

The Torneos de Verano are held annually in a mid-season break during the summer months of the Argentine campaign, and this year marks the 50th anniversary since its inaugural outing in 1968.

The competition contains a series of short tournaments between various Argentine clubs - and occasionally other South American teams - but the main draws are the Copa Desafio and Copa Revancha, both one-match cup competitions between Boca and River.

Attendances have grown for the tournaments through the years, and the competitiveness on the field has followed suit. Indeed, last season's 'friendly' meeting between these two sides saw three red cards dished out, while in 2016 no fewer than five players were sent off.

River Plate have won the last three such meetings between the two sides, but so far in the Superliga they have woefully underperformed and currently sit 17th in the table with only 15 points from 12 games - half the number leaders Boca have amassed.



Arsenal vs. Chelsea (Wednesday, 8pm)

Jack Wilshere, Eden Hazard and N'Golo Kante in action during the Premier League game between Arsenal and Chelsea on January 3, 2018© Offside

Two London rivals who are out of form will be looking for a morale-boosting win and a passage into the first major final of the season when Arsenal host Chelsea in the EFL Cup semi-final second leg on Wednesday.

A 2-1 defeat for the Gunners at the hands of Bournemouth last Sunday saw them fall eight points adrift of the Champions League places while also extending their winless run to five matches across all competitions.

Arsene Wenger will have a chance to improve that when his side host Crystal Palace on Saturday, but the pressure is mounting on the Frenchman once again and a semi-final exit at the hands of one of their biggest rivals would surely ratchet that up even further.

The pressure is beginning to grow on Antonio Conte too following a run of five successive draws across all competitions, with the Premier League champions only scraping past Norwich City on penalties in their FA Cup third-round replay on Wednesday night.

Chelsea will renew their search for their first win of 2018 inside normal time against Brighton & Hove Albion on Saturday, but anything other than victory at the Amex would see them head into this match on their longest winless streak since December 2012.

The two sides have met three times already this season - including twice in January - and all of those have ended as draws, including a 0-0 stalemate in the first leg of this tie which leaves the semi-final showdown up for grabs at the halfway stage.



Bristol City vs. Manchester City (Tuesday, 7.45pm)

Sergio Aguero scores late on during the EFL Cup game between Manchester City and Bristol City on January 9, 2018© SilverHub

Bristol City have the chance to pull off a massive upset and end Manchester City's dreams of the quadruple when they host the Premier League leaders in the other EFL Cup semi-final on Tuesday.

The Championship outfit put up a heroic effort in the first leg at the Etihad Stadium, only for Sergio Aguero's last-gasp header to give Pep Guardiola's side a slender 2-1 advantage heading into this second leg.

It was the latest in a growing line of comparatively unconvincing wins for Man City in the EFL Cup this season, with each of their victories coming either via a penalty shootout or a late goal to reach this stage.

Bristol City may also be boosted by Man City's first domestic defeat of the season at the hands of Liverpool last weekend, although Guardiola's side will be expected to return to winning ways when they host Newcastle United on Saturday.

Lee Johnson will be more concerned with his own side's form rather than that of Man City, though, with Bristol City having lost their last five games ahead of Friday's showdown with fellow promotion hopefuls Derby County.

Victory over the best team in England will certainly help them to forget about that run, though, as they go in search of a first major cup final since 1909.



Inter Milan vs. Roma (Sunday, 7.45pm)

Serie A table

Serie A returns from its brief winter break this weekend, and the standout tie of the matchweek sees Inter Milan host Roma with both teams in growing need of a victory.

A little over a month ago Inter were top of the table and unbeaten for the season, but they have since lost three times across all competitions and are winless in five Serie A games, slipping nine points adrift of leaders Napoli.

Inter must now focus on securing their spot in the Champions League places instead, although defeat this weekend could see them drop out of the top four with fifth-placed Roma just three points behind.

The capital outfit are in poor form themselves, though, losing three and failing to win any of their four matches across all competitions immediately prior to the winter break.

Defeat would see Roma fall to back-to-back Serie A losses for the first time since May 2014 while also potentially cutting them further adrift of bitter rivals Lazio in fourth place.

Roma won on their last visit to face Inter at San Siro last season, but the reverse fixture in August saw the Nerazzurri score three times in the final 25 minutes to record a 3-1 win at the Stadio Olimpico.



Ajax vs. Feyenoord (Sunday, 1.30pm)

Eredivisie

The Eredivisie returns with a bang this weekend as Ajax host Feyenoord at the Johan Cruyff ArenA in the biggest match in Dutch football - De Klassieker.

Ajax are the most successful team in the history of the Eredivisie with 33 titles, but it is Feyenoord who currently hold the trophy having been crowned Dutch champions for the first time since 1999 last season.

However, both clubs are playing catch-up to PSV Eindhoven so far this season, with Ajax sitting five points adrift in second and Feyenoord way back in fifth.

The Rotterdam outfit's title defence appears to be over with 14 points separating them from the leaders and even a Champions League spot looks unlikely, but Feyenoord did go into the winter break on a seven-game unbeaten streak across all competitions, including scoring 15 goals in their last three competitive outings.

Ajax know that they can ill-afford any slip-ups after beating PSV last month to kick off a four-match winning streak heading into the winter break, while they have also scored 25 goals during an ongoing seven-game unbeaten run.

It is a match which pits the league's best attack against the best defence, although a quarter of the goals conceded by Feyenoord this season came at the hands of Ajax in a 4-1 home defeat in the reverse, extending the Amsterdam club's 11-game unbeaten streak against their great rivals in the league.



Sunderland vs. Hull City (Saturday, 3pm)

Championship table

Neither Sunderland nor Hull City have responded well to their drop down from the Premier League last season, and after 27 games of the Championship season both clubs are looking down the barrel of the very real possibility of back-to-back relegations.

Sunderland's position currently looks the most perilous as the Black Cats sit rock-bottom of the table with only 22 points and the worst defensive record in the division, a situation Chris Coleman has been unable to rectify so far.

Hull crucially sit above the dotted line as things stand, but they are by no means safe with only one point separating them from the relegation zone and three points separating them from Saturday's opponents.

Victory for Sunderland is likely to lift them out of the bottom three, but they have lost four of their last five games across all competitions and incredibly have only won one of their last 25 home games, stretching back to December 2016.

Hull's form isn't much better with only one win from their last 14 Championship outings, and the goals have dried up for the Tigers too with five blanks being fired in their last six games.

The reverse fixture between the two sides ended in a 1-1 draw, with Sunderland now unbeaten in their last four meetings with Hull having lost four on the bounce prior to that.



Other matches to look out for

Pumas UNAM vs. Club America: Mexican fans will be treated to an early-season Clasico Capitalino between UNAM and America this Sunday. UNAM are the early league-leaders with maximum points from their opening two games, whereas America have won one and drawn one so far.

Puebla vs. Veracruz: The above is not the only derby taking place in Mexico this weekend, as Puebla take on Veracruz in El Clasico Del Sur on Saturday. Puebla have won one and lost one so far, whereas Veracruz only have one point from their opening two games.

Aris vs. Apollon: Sunday sees the Limassol derby between Aris and Apollon in Cyprus, with Aris sitting in the relegation zone two points from safety and Apollon in fourth place but just three points off top.

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Emerson Palmieri in action for Roma on April 4, 2017
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