With the last international break of 2020 now done and dusted, Goal looks at some of the continent’s stars likely to play for their teams this weekend.
Observers will want to watch the in-form Morocco playmaker Hakim Ziyech strut his stuff for Chelsea, while the big game in Serie A this weekend involving Napoli and AC Milan ought to see Kalidou Koulibly face off against Franck Kessie and Ismael Bennacer.
Ziyech & Mendy
Hakim Ziyech and Edouard Mendy have been instrumental at both ends of the pitch to Chelsea’s rise in the Premier League table and both are likely to start against Newcastle United on Saturday.
The Morocco superstar has been the team’s creative force in recent weeks, with a remarkable showing against Sheffield United before the hiatus, being his best showing yet for the West Londoners.
As for Mendy, the Senegal star’s assuredness between the sticks has been admirable, leading to a glut of clean sheets since his debut against Tottenham Hotspur in September.
With Kai Havertz and Christian Pulisic expected to miss the Blues’ trip to St James’ Park, Ziyech is likely to start while Mendy will play from the off between the sticks.
Chelsea lost the corresponding fixture last season at the death and Frank Lampard will want his troops to get the better of Steve Bruce’s troops, aided by their African pair who have improved the level at Cobham significantly.
Aubameyang & Partey
The Arsenal pair didn’t have it all their way in the Gunners’ last home game before the break as Aston Villa thrashed them in North London 3-0.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has since endured criticism over his inability to win games consistently in the side, while Partey’s start to life at the English giants has been mixed.
The Ghana midfielder is likely to have recovered from an injury that saw him withdrawn at half-time two weeks ago for a daunting trip to Leeds United on Sunday.
While the game against Marcelo Bielsa’s troops looks to be daunting on paper, the game at Elland Road should theoretically play to both players’ strengths as they look to continue Leeds’ recent malaise after a good start on their return to the big time.
Aurier vs Mahrez
Owing to Matt Doherty’s expected absence after a positive coronavirus test earlier this week, Serge Aurier is likely to start at right-back when Tottenham Hotspur host Manchester City on Saturday evening.
Riyad Mahrez’s form for the Cityzens this season has been questionable, and he was dropped against Liverpool a fortnight ago as Pep Guardiola’s men played out a 1-1 draw at the Etihad Stadium.
Man City lost this fixture 2-0 after dominating the entire game at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, so Pep would rouse his team to right the wrongs of last season when both sides do battle on game week nine.
Koulibaly vs Kessie & Bennacer
Gameweek eight in Serie A throws up a potentially mouthwatering encounter between leaders AC Milan and third-placed Napoli at Estadio San Paolo.
Kalidou Koulibaly ought to play at the heart of the Azzurri’s defence while Franck Kessie and Ismael Bennacer could feature in midfield for the unbeaten visitors.
The Ghana star had a hand in both Rossoneri goals last time out as Stefano Pioli’s side came back from two goals down to draw 2-2 against Hellas Verona, continuing his amazing form this season
However, Koulibaly and co. will back themselves to get the better of a Milan side whose form before the international break was on the wane.
Certainly, one thing is guaranteed in Naples on Sunday night: entertainment.
Inter Milan’s poor run of results continued before the Italian top-flight’s break as they could only draw 1-1 against Atalanta.
Hakimi only got seven minutes of action at the Gewiss Stadium having replaced Matteo Darmian in the 83rd minute but should return to the line-up against struggling Torino.
The Nerazzurri have picked up one win in five league games and need a win against the Bull to prevent falling further adrift of AC Milan, who lead their rivals with five points already.