Football Forensic: Liverpool, Man United & Inter feature in top five games to watch this weekend

Nemanja Matic and Sadio Mane

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With Christmas and the New Year now little more than a minute blur in the proverbial rear-view mirror, football finds itself going full steam ahead into 2021. 

And this weekend, European football is all about fierce rivalries - indeed, from the United Kingdom's Northwest derby to Turkey's all-Istanbul encounter between Besiktas and Galatasaray, top-of-the-table clashes involving ancient foes dominate the continent this weekend. 

To make sure you know which ones to focus on, and which non-derby games might be of most interest too, we've picked out the five clashes across Europe to divert your attentions to this weekend and used Fotmob to take a look at some of the statistics behind them.

Lazio vs Roma

Lazio captain Ciro Immobile

Competition: Serie A
Kickoff: Friday, 7:45pm GMT

A heated inter-city rivalry that stems all the way back to the days of Benito Mussolini, the fact Lazio vs Roma may not be the most fierce derby in Europe this weekend, or for that matter the most important game in this round of Serie A fixtures, is itself indicative of the succulence of football on offer over the next few days.

Nonetheless, Derby della Capitale is a notoriously heated clash between two clubs that regularly war with each other on and off the field.

In pure footballing terms, Roma are one of the rank outsiders in this season's incredibly competitive Serie A title race, whereas Lazio are in the chasing pack for the Europa League and Champions League positions, currently five points behind fourth-placed Juventus. 

Plenty to play for then, and there's not a huge amount to choose between the two sides with Lazio tellingly finishing just a place above Roma last season. 

While the visitors have more sources of goals, with Jordan Veretout, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Edin Dzeko all scoring at least seven times this term, Lazio boast the most potent one in Ciro Immobile - the third-top scorer in Serie A.

Union Berlin vs Bayer Leverkusen

Bayer Leverkusen's Florian Wirtz

Competition: Bundesliga
Kickoff: Friday, 7.30pm GMT

Only gaining promotion to the Bundesliga the season before last, Union Berlin are the German top flight's surprise package this term. Despite Max Kruse being their top scorer on a relatively modest six goals, Urs Fischer's side find themselves in fifth place having collectively netted the second-most times of any team in the division.

Leverkusen, meanwhile, are doing pretty much what they always do. Often referred to as "Neverkusen" for their continual habit of being there or thereabouts without ever actually winning anything, Peter Bosz's boys are in third but require more than a win to overtake Bayern Munich in top spot. 

So for Union Berlin, this game is all about proving a start to the season which has seen them lose just twice is no great fluke. But the challenge for Bayer is overtaking RB Leipzig into second, at least temporarily, while ensuring the home side don't make themselves legitimate contenders in the top four battle. 

One thing Bayer do have is a pretty interesting attack. Patrik Schick and Leon Bailey are coming into their footballing peaks, while 21-year-old Moussa Diaby continues to impress and 17-year-old Florian Wirtz is enjoying a breakthrough season. And then there's top scorer Lucas Alario, who's produced eight goals from six starts and six substitute appearances. 

Ajax vs Feyenoord

Ajax Fans

Competition: Eredivisie
Kickoff: Sunday, 3:45pm GMT

Last week's edition covered Ajax's top-of-the-table clash with PSV. Well, after beating the Eindhoven outfit, the boys from Amsterdam now find themselves in another first-versus-second encounter, this time taking on Feyenoord in yet another fierce rivalry on offer in Europe this weekend.

Known as simply De Klassieker, Ajax and Feyenoord's bad blood is stemmed from the rivalry between the two cities, Amsterdam and Rotterdam, which is said to hark back to the 13th century.

It's centred around their differences in culture with Amsterdam more artisan and Feyenoord more industrious, and that contrast remains prevalent in Ajax and Feyenoord's styles of football today. 

Dick Advocaat's side have conceded the joint-fewest goals of any team in the division this season, whereas Ajax have scored an incredible 18 times more than anybody else - and indeed, 25 times more than Sunday's visitors.

PSV managed to hold Ajax to a 2-2 draw at home last weekend, so there is certainly hope for Feyenoord who boast the top-scoring player among both teams in Steven Berghuis. He's netted eleven and assisted six in just 15 Eredivisie outings this season. 

Combine that with the fact they've won their last three games in a row without conceding, and Feyenoord will fancy their chances of securing a massive away win over their bitter rivals.

Liverpool vs Manchester United

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Jurgen Klopp

Competition: Premier League
Kickoff: Sunday, 4:30pm GMT

It doesn't get any bigger than this in the Premier League. The Northwest derby is English football's answer to El Clasico, albeit trading flurries of gorgeous goals for shin-shattering challenges and fiery confrontations, and this Sunday's edition is a particularly poignant one. 

An incredible run of 11 games without defeat in the Premier League, nine of those being wins, combined with Liverpool failing to win any of their last three and even losing 1-0 to Southampton last time out, has created an unexpected scenario where Manchester United enter the Anfield clash top of the table, three points ahead of the reigning champions. 

This match will be the ultimate test of their title credentials (it's worth remembering United have failed to beat Arsenal, Chelsea, Spurs and Man City in various domestic competitions this season), while Liverpool will feel a victory is crucial to stopping United building a head of steam going into the business end of the season. 

The Red Devils have won just one of the last 8 Northwest derbies in the Premier League, but they'll be buoyed by the fact a usually potent Liverpool have scored just one goal in the three games since they decimated Crystal Palace in a 7-0 thumping.  

Inter vs Juventus

Inter Milan manager Antonio Conte

Competition: Serie A
Kickoff: 7:45pm

We teased the notion that we'd mention a Serie A clash even bigger than the Rome derby and while Inter vs Juventus may lack the inter-city factor, Derby d'Italia is nonetheless considered to be Italian football's most intense rivalry between two teams from different cities - back in 1998, a controversial refereeing decision during Juventus' 1-0 win over Inter even triggered a heated debate in parliament. 

Fast forward to 2021 and this rivalry is very much at the heart of the Serie A title race, just as it was last season when Juventus won their ninth Italian crown in a row by beating second-place Inter by a single point - albeit actually securing it with two games to spare. 

The Old Lady have suffered a far bumpier ride of it this season, however, and despite only losing once find themselves in fourth place. Inter, on the other hand, are in second having played a game more.

For Juventus, then, this match is a chance to continue re-establishing their psychological dominance over the rest of the division after already beating top-spot Milan this month. For Inter, meanwhile, a win is paramount to keeping their title hopes ticking over.

Unfortunately for Sunday's hosts, they've beaten the Italian champions just once in Serie A since the turn of 2013 and while they've scored the most goals of any side in the division this season, Juventus have conceded the joint-least. 

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