January stands out as an unusual period in the European club football calendar. Except for steadfast England, most leagues and countries opt for a short hiatus as the new year commences, emphasising national cup competitions significantly.
This results in major clubs from Spain and France encountering smaller opponents, setting the stage for intriguing matchups. Notably, the latter stages of England’s League Cup showcase unexpected semi-finalists like Middlesbrough and Fulham. In Germany, the national cup has taken an unpredictable turn, with only three of the eight quarter-finalists emerging from the top division.
While a few significant league games occur periodically, January is predominantly characterised by adverse weather conditions and intermittent cup fixtures. Football tipsters have highlighted the most crucial January matches across Europe.
- 9 and 23 January: Middlesbrough v Chelsea (League Cup)
- 13 January: Newcastle United v Manchester City
- 14 January: Manchester United v Tottenham
The third-round draw of the 64-team FA Cup presented an intriguing scenario. Among the 20 Premier League teams included, eight are set to face their top-flight counterparts, while six will host teams from lower divisions. This setup, along with the upcoming second clash between Liverpool and Arsenal within 16 days, followed by another league match on February 4th, ensures an enticing round of fixtures.
The English League Cup semi-finals also promise excitement. While Liverpool and Chelsea are familiar with such high-stakes games, the second-tier Middlesbrough aims to secure their first home cup final appearance since 2004, while Fulham seeks their first since 1975. Additionally, noteworthy league matches such as City vs. Newcastle and Spurs vs. Manchester United add to the anticipation, setting the stage for a couple of thrilling weekends in English football.
- 13 January: RB Leipzig vs Eintracht Frankfurt
- 20 January: RB Leipzig v Bayer Leverkusen
- 27 January: Stuttgart v RB Leipzig
- 30 January: St. Pauli vs Fortuna Düsseldorf (German Cup)
- 31 January: Hertha vs Kaiserslautern (German Cup)
Germany’s winter break draws close soon, heralding RB Leipzig’s prominence in the Bundesliga for nearly three consecutive weekends. The powerhouse team, known for their energy, is set to encounter three of the league’s top six teams in quick succession, two of which will be home fixtures.
Presently occupying the fourth spot in the table, they trail first-placed Bayer Leverkusen by eight points but maintain a six-point lead over fifth-placed Borussia Dortmund.
Current ratings project Leipzig with a mere 1.3% chance of clinching the league title yet a significantly high 93.1% probability of securing a top-four finish. The outcome of their January matches could substantially alter either of these probabilities.
Furthermore, while the clash between Stuttgart and Bayer Leverkusen on February 6th promises a heavyweight German Cup encounter, the initial two quarter-final fixtures will shift attention towards the second division.
- 13 January: Athletic Bilbao vs Real Sociedad (Spanish Cup)
- 14 January: Spanish Super Cup final
- 21 January: Betis vs Barcelona
Spain gears up for an intense cup-centric atmosphere in January. Following the Spanish Cup’s round of 16, a four-team Super Cup is scheduled, although the event will unfold in Saudi Arabia instead of the teams’ home stadiums. The semi-finals are slated for January 10th (featuring Atletico Madrid vs Real Madrid) and January 11th (showcasing Barcelona vs Osasuna), leading up to the final on the subsequent Sunday.
In addition to these fixtures, a significant Basque derby between Real Sociedad and Atletico holds immense importance. The victor of this clash could emerge as the prime contender for a top-four finish, especially if one of the current front-runners (likely Girona) falters, adding further intrigue to the competition.
- 14 January: AC Milan vs Roma
- 17 January: Bologna vs Fiorentina (Italian Cup)
- 27 January: Milan vs Bologna
- 28 January: Lazio vs Napoli
Bologna finds itself presented with notable prospects in January, courtesy of Fiorentina’s involvement in the Italian Cup and Milan’s commitments in the league.
This month holds significant weight for both Roma and AC Milan. Roma’s descent to seventh place, securing only four points from four league games, places them five points adrift from the top four. However, they have upcoming matches against higher-ranked opponents across two consecutive weekends, providing a chance to make strides in the standings.
Towards the end of January, a crucial faceoff is anticipated between ninth-placed Lazio and eighth-placed Napoli, two of Serie A’s most underwhelming teams this season. Both squads have a limited window to turn their fortunes around, adding pressure to this pivotal encounter.
Other European leagues
- 14 January: Porto vs Braga (Portuguese Primera Liga)
- 27 January: Anderlecht vs Union Saint-Gillois (Belgian Pro League)
- 28 January: PSG vs Brest (French Ligue 1)
- 28 January: Feyenoord v Twente (Dutch Eredivisie)
PSG faces a crucial encounter towards the month’s end against fourth-placed Brest. While Brest might not challenge for the title, they are expected to compete fiercely for a coveted Champions League spot.
Meanwhile, top-flight action unfolds elsewhere across Europe. In Belgium, Union St Gillois eyes an opportunity to surpass second-placed Anderlecht, currently trailing by six points. In Portugal, Porto and Braga seek victories to keep pace with Sporting. Additionally, the Netherlands witnesses a clash between second-placed Feyenoord and third-placed Twente. Both teams are not at risk of closing the gap with the dominating leader, PSV. Nevertheless, this match holds significance in the race for securing a spot in the Champions League.