After another week of football madness, with some chaotic midweek fixtures thrown into the mix, this weekend sees the return of the FA Cup in both the men’s and women’s games — as well as some crucial tussles at the top of other European leagues. Alasdair Hooper previews the games you should keep an eye on this weekend.
West Ham United v West Bromwich Albion (Saturday, 3pm)
The FA Cup fourth round takes centre stage this weekend and one of the most hotly anticipated fixtures sees West Ham United host West Brom.
The main attraction here is undoubtedly the return of Slaven Bilić to West Ham as the opposition manager — his first appearance at the London Stadium since he was sacked and replaced by current Hammers boss David Moyes.Embed from Getty Images
Much has changed since Bilić’s time as boss – Moyes has been hired twice, and many of the players are new acquisitions – but some things have stayed the same.
One of those all too familiar feelings is that West Ham never seem far away from crisis. They go into this weekend’s cup tie with that similar vibe, having lost 4-1 in midweek to Leicester and fans protesting the weekend before.
What’s more, Bilić’s West Brom team are earning huge amounts of praise at the top of the Championship.
This could be a game where the lower league side may quite easily come away as winners.
Manchester United Women v Manchester City Women (Saturday, 12.45pm)
The Women’s FA Cup is also at the fourth-round stage – and what better way to draw in viewers than with a Manchester derby.
The game is being shown on the BBC red button and on iPlayer. If previous incarnations of this fixture are anything to go by, then it’s sure to be a close affair, and well worth a watch.Embed from Getty Images
This will be the third time the teams have met this season – City won their first meeting in the league, while Manchester United won the game in the Continental Cup.
With their recent head-to-heads all even, we know Nick Cushing and Casey Stoney’s teams will commit fully when it comes to getting a result.
West Ham United Women v Arsenal Women (Sunday, 1pm)
Another highlight from the Women’s FA Cup is a London derby as West Ham host Arsenal.
Several eyes will be on Arsenal after Joe Montemurro’s team suffered a severe shock to the system against Chelsea last weekend.Embed from Getty Images
The way the Gunners respond will be one of the key questions that needs answering.
West Ham, meanwhile, remain inconsistent but received a welcome boost after their come-from-behind win over Brighton last weekend.
Let’s also not forget how Matt Beard’s team ran Arsenal so close on the opening day of the WSL. The same could happen once again as last year’s runners-up look to advance.
Roma v Lazio (Sunday, 5pm)
In Serie A many eyes will be on the Stadio Olimpico, which stages the latest edition of the Rome derby this weekend.
But this not only one of football’s most famous rivalries — it is also a game that has huge ramifications on the table.
Lazio have been one of Europe’s in-form sides and are now on a run of 11 straight victories.Embed from Getty Images
Simone Inzaghi’s team are now just six points off the top spot and are starting to become many people’s dark horses for the title.
Roma have also been on a relatively good run of form, having lost only twice in 11 games in all competitions.
But Paulo Fonseca’s team have suffered back-to-back league defeats at home to Torino and Juventus, leaving them in fourth place and seven points behind their city rivals.
With Atalanta just three points behind them, the pressure is on to keep their place in the top four. Can they be the side to halt Lazio’s incredible recent run?
Bayern Munich v Schalke (Saturday, 5.30pm)
The Bundesliga title race continues to chop and change with RB Leipzig currently leading the charge at the top of the table.
Bayern Munich sit four points behind in second, but this weekend their title ambitions could take a knock against David Wagner’s improved Schalke side.
The Gelsenkirchen side are among the contenders at the top of the table themselves, to the surprise of many.
They may be in fifth, but they are only three points behind Bayern, with the former Huddersfield boss Wagner continuing to earn plaudits for his work at the club.Embed from Getty Images
However, Bayern won’t want to slip up in their quest for the latest title.
Four straight league wins sees them in a positive frame of mind as Hansi Flick continues his work with this squad.
Much of the game though could be decided on which makeshift defence copes better.
Both teams have been suffering with long-term injury problems at the back, so this may be a fixture where we will see goals galore.
You can follow Alasdair on Twitter @adjhooper1992