Football Forensic: Previewing the top five games to watch across Europe this weekend

Pedro Goncalves, Lars Stindl, David Moyes

GIVEMESPORT has partnered with FotMob to bring you a weekly statistical preview of the top five matches taking place over the coming weekend.

As winter slowly drifts into spring, the world begins to feel that little bit brighter and more exciting, and that only rings doubly true within the realm of football. 

European knockouts returned this week and that can only signify one thing - the business end of the season, where legacies are made, hearts are broken and eventually, trophies are either won or lost. 

We're not quite at that silverware-deciding stage just yet but with the sun beating down and flowers beginning to bloom, things really are hotting up in European football. 

And thus, courtesy of the numbers crunched by our good friends at Fotmob, we bring you statistic-induced previews of the five games from across the continent to watch this weekend.

Manchester City vs West Ham

David Moyes and Pep Guardiola

Competition: Premier League
Kickoff: Saturday 12.30pm GMT

Such a prediction would have rightly drawn chuckles of disbelief back at the start of the season but West Ham might just have as good a chance as anybody of ending Manchester City's incredible run of 13 consecutive Premier League victories at the Etihad. 

David Moyes has provided the consistency the Hammers have perpetually lacked despite their squad possessing more than enough individual ability and they now sit in fourth place thanks to a run of seven wins from their last nine Premier League outings. 

More pertinent to this game, only four teams have won more away points than the Irons this season and they've also demonstrated a knack for decent performances against top teams.

Leicester and Spurs have both surrendered points to them this term while Manchester City could only manage a draw in the reverse fixture back in October. 

City of course remain a level above the rest of the Premier League: as well as enjoying a ten-point buffer over second place, they're the only side in the division to concede less goals than play games this season. 

But West Ham are in such a feel-good place right now that no challenge seems beyond them, including a scalp away to the Premier League's leaders. 

RB Leipzig vs Borussa Monchengladbach

Dayot Upamecano versus Bayern Munich

Competition: Bundesliga
Kickoff: Saturday 5.30pm

It remains to be seen quite how Bayern Munich will respond to losing to Eintracht Frankfurt last weekend and should they suffer another blip against relegation-threatened FC Koln on Saturday, RB Leipzig could even go into the late kickoff with Borussia Monchengladbach knowing a win will move them to the top of the Bundesliga. 

Gladbach are amid a really peculiar season that's seen them take more draws (nine) than wins in the Bundesliga (eight), despite still only being three points off a Europa League spot. 

Nonetheless, Leipzig would be foolish to write off a team that qualified for the Champions League last season and it's worth noting that even amid a somewhat underwhelming campaign, only six players have scored more times in the German top flight than Gladbach's ten-goal marksman Lars Stindl. 

In stark contrast, no Leipzig player has scored more than five Bundesliga goals this term, although an impressive eight of them have netted at least three which highlights the true danger of Julian Nageslmann's critically acclaimed side - the goals really can come from anywhere. 

Porto vs Sporting Lisbon

Sporting Lisbon star Pedr Goncalves

Competition: Primeira Liga
Kickoff: Saturday 8pm GMT

A Saturday night encounter that sees first visit second in the Portuguese top flight, and respectively the side that's conceded the fewest goals in the division take on the team that's scored the most. 

Having remarkably not lost a single game this term, Sporting already have the title pretty much sewn up with a ten-point lead over Saturday's hosts Porto.

But the second-placers will be eager to remind their historic rivals that they're not invincible and ensure the title race isn't a complete whitewash, for pride's sake if nothing else. 

There's still something to play for then, and for the neutrals any game between two top Portuguese sides should be treated as something of a scouting mission - the man to run the rule over in this instance being Sporting's Pedro Goncalves. 

The 22-year-old has filled Bruno Fernandes' void in Lisbon and is currently the Primeira Liga's top scorer with 14 goals from midfield.

PSV vs Ajax

Ajax midfielder Davy Klaasen

Competition: Eredivisie
Kickoff: Sunday 1.30pm GMT

Six points ahead at the top of the table with a game in hand, an away win for Ajax this Sunday over their closest title challengers will all-but signify the end of the race for the Eredivise crown.

Ajax will fancy their chances of making such a scenario a reality as well: they've won seven straight games in the Dutch top flight and have a remarkable record on the road.

With their last away Eredivisie defeat coming in October, Ajax have dropped a mere five points on their travels this season and are the division's most successful travellers with just six goals conceded and 37 scored in eleven games. 

That being said, PSV stand top of the Eredivisie's home table with a near-perfect record of ten wins from eleven, conceding only seven times. 

So this fixture does seem a case of an unstoppable force encountering an immovable object, which explains why Ajax and PSV's most recent meeting ended in a 2-2 draw. 

Ajax will be happier than PSV with the same outcome on Sunday, although the home side would be glad to simply stop the Amsterdam outfit's momentum for the time being.

Chelsea vs Man United

Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel

Competition: Premier League
Kickoff: Saturday 4pm

Manchester City may be well out of sight in the title race but this fixture feels crucial for a few key reasons. 

Firstly, with Liverpool falling miles off the pace and Chelsea enjoying a superb run of results under new manager Thomas Tuchel, the Blues will give themselves a real chance of catching Manchester United in second should they beat them on Sunday, closing the gap to just three points. 

Secondly and as already alluded to, Chelsea are yet to lose a game under Tuchel and if Manchester United are psychologically savvy enough, they'll be alert to the fact it still remains to be seen how quickly the new Blues boss can get his side to bounce back after a defeat. 

But perhaps most importantly, this game feels like something of a showcase going into next season. It's looking like Liverpool will need to rebuild somewhat and thus the potential is there for United or Chelsea to emerge as City's biggest competitors going into 2021/22. 

Sunday's ninety minutes alone won't decide that but it gives both clubs the chance to build up a psychological advantage and lay down a statement of intent. 

There isn't a great deal to choose between them in terms of overall quality, although it should be noted that United are yet to lose on the road this season. 

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