Football Forensic: Real Madrid, Liverpool & Celtic feature in top five games to watch this weekend

Steven Gerrard, Mohamed Salah and Karim Benzema

GIVEMESPORT has partnered with FotMob to launch a brand new feature. Each week, we’ll be bringing you statistical previews of the top five matches taking place over the coming weekend.

What better way to bring in 2021 than enjoy a tasty smorgasbord of thrilling clashes from across European football?

More traditional New Year’s celebrations may be on hold for the time being but the beautiful game is still going strong and looks set to kick off 2021 with a flurry of engaging encounters.

To ensure you’re using your football viewing time most efficiently, GIVEMESPORT has picked out the best five games taking place this weekend and teamed up with live score app Fotmob to take a deeper look at some of the statistics behind them.

Rangers vs Celtic

Rangers' Conor Goldson celebrates scoring versus Celtic

Competition: Scottish Premiership
Kickoff: Saturday, 12:30pm GMT

Does the Old Firm ever disappoint? For what it may sometimes lack in quality, it always makes up for in tension, aggression and controversy such is the intensity of one of the most socially and politically charged rivalries in world football.

Over the last decade or so, Celtic have been the favourites for pretty much any Old Firm encounter. But the situation is a little different this season - Rangers are 16 points ahead in the Scottish Premiership, albeit their Glasgow rivals being three games in hand, and have won their last two meetings with the Bhoys.

It’s indicative of how times are changing in Scottish football with Celtic’s nine-year dominance of the title potentially coming to an end. Rangers will be desperate to stop a ten-in-a-row coronation this season but after calls for Neil Lennon's head amid a poor run of form, the Parkhead outfit have bounced back in recent weeks, winning their last four in the top flight without conceding. 

Rangers' 13-game winning streak stems all the back to September, however, so both Glasgow sides enter this fixture in high spirits. 

Southampton vs Liverpool

Southampton striker Danny Ings

Competition: Premier League
Kickoff: Monday, 8pm GMT

Liverpool’s 2021 starts with them taking on their most trusted recruitment pool and while the Premier League champions may no longer be as awash with former Saints as they once were, Southampton’s fans would no doubt love to see them get one over on the club that has a habit of prizing away their best players.

That being said, the situation could be reversed on Monday night with ex-Red Danny Ings retaining his role as Southampton’s talisman this season, niggling injuries permitting - 12 Premier League appearances have brought six goals and three assists.

The England man will want to add to that tally versus his former club but Liverpool, of course, will be far from easy pickings. Not only are they the reigning champions and not only are they top of the Premier League once again this season despite enduring a truly horrific injury crisis, they’ve also won their last six meetings with Southampton.

Nonetheless, with Ralph Hasenhuttl’s side being amongst the best of the rest in the Premier League this season, they should give the Anfield outfit a tough evening - especially as Jurgen Klopp's boys have come off the boil a little recently.

A big win over Spurs and the 7-0 demolition of Crystal Palace has been followed by disappointing draws to West Brom and Newcastle, so who knows whether the Reds will be at their best at St. Mary's. 

Dortmund vs Wolfsburg

Dortmund interim manager Edin Terzic

Competition: Bundesliga
Kickoff: Sunday 2.30pm GMT

With both sides separated by just one place and two points in the table, this game is the obvious pick from the Bundesliga’s returning round of fixtures following its brief winter break.

Uncharacteristically though, it’s Wolfsburg who sit in fourth right now as Dortmund’s underwhelming start to the season has them one position outside the Champions League places.

A run of just six wins in eleven, climaxing with a 5-1 defeat to Stuttgart, cost Lucien Favre his job but Dortmund haven’t fared too much better without him - a win over Werder Bremen in interim manager Edin Terzic’s first game at the helm was followed by a 2-1 loss to Union Berlin, the side now breathing down the Black-Yellows’ necks from sixth place. 

Wolfsburg have lost just one Bundesliga game all season and even that was to Bayern Munich, while they also have the third-healthiest goals conceded record throughout the division, so Dortmund have their work cut out to get back to winning ways in the German top flight.

History suggests they will, however - Sunday’s hosts haven’t conceded a single goal in their last six meetings with Wolfsburg, winning five of them.

Real Madrid vs Celta Vigo

Iago Aspas celebrates scoring for Celta Vigo

Competition: LaLiga
Kickoff: Saturday, 8pm GMT

Two points behind bitter rivals Atletico Madrid at the top of the table despite playing two games more, Real Madrid will know that nothing but a win will do against Celta Vigo in Saturday’s late LaLiga kickoff.

The only problem is that Celta Vigo are proving a tough nut to crack. They haven’t lost since facing Sevilla in November with veteran forward Iago Aspas enjoying yet another fine season - nine goals and six assists - and the recent appointment of Edouardo Coudet providing an impressive run of results (six wins and a draw from eight games).

Real Madrid, meanwhile, could only draw with relegation-threatened Elche on Wednesday night and with just one clean sheet in their last four games, Zinedine Zidane's side will need to be wary of a team that rank joint-fifth in LaLiga for goals this season. 

Having held them to a draw at the Bernabeu in this same fixture last season, Celta Vigo will feel the potential is there to pick up a hard-fought point or three on Saturday night.

Sheffield Wednesday vs Derby County

Derby County manager Wayne Rooney

Competition: Championship
Kickoff: Friday, 5.30pm GMT

There’s nothing like a Championship relegation dogfight to warm the cockles on a cold New Year’s Day evening, and thus Sheffield Wednesday vs Derby County ushers in 2021 for English football’s second tier.

But this one comes with the extra incentive of seeing how both clubs are faring since significant changes in management. Wayne Rooney took charge of the Rams at the end of November and has guided them from the foot of the table to being three points clear of the drop zone with three wins and four draws from eight games, including a 4-0 romping of Birmingham last time out.

22nd-placed Wednesday, meanwhile, have just parted with Tony Pulis and might even have a new permanent manager in place by the time New Year’s Day comes around. Nevertheless, Wednesday have picked up seven points from their last three games, a marked improvement on a prior streak of four consecutive losses and nine games without victory. 

Perhaps most important of all though, is the simple fact a Sheffield Wednesday win will see them jump out of the relegation zone and leapfrog Derby in the table. Plenty to play for then, and showing just how little there is to choose between both teams right now, they've scored and conceded the exact same number of goals (14 and 23 respectively) in the Championship this season.

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