FA Cup in spotlight this weekend
The third round of the FA Cup will take the spotlight in England this weekend.
After playing three games each inside 10 days, the Premier League teams are straight back in action. The round opens tonight with a Merseyside derby and Manchester United taking on second-tier Derby. Liverpool host Everton with Philippe Coutinho ruled out through injury, just as he is linked with a January transfer window move to Barcelona.
Jamie Vardy could be denied a fairy-tale return with Leicester to third-tier Fleetwood tomorrow due to a groin injury. The England striker joined from the then non-league club in 2012, and went to score the goals that powered Leicester to their shock Premier League title in 2016.
Premier League leaders Manchester City, who are pursuing a quadruple, host Burnley tomorrow when 2017 league champions Chelsea go to Norwich. Arsenal's cup defence opens Sunday at second-tier Nottingham Forest. AFC Wimbledon face Tottenham at Wembley, 30 years after shocking Liverpool to win the 1988 final in the old stadium.
The third round ends on Monday with Brighton hosting Premier League rivals Crystal Palace.
Atletico Madrid resume their chase of leaders Barcelona, assisted by the successful return of Diego Costa. The former Chelsea striker's second debut was delayed by Atletico's transfer ban, but after missing the first half of the season, he scored on his return to action on Wednesday against Lleida in the Copa del Rey. Costa is expected to start when Diego Simeone's team hosts Getafe in the league tomorrow.
Atletico are nine points behind Barcelona, who host Levante on Sunday. Third-place Valencia, 11 points off the lead, host Girona tomorrow, while fourth-place Real Madrid are at Celta Vigo on Sunday. Madrid, the defending champions, are 14 points behind Barcelona with a game in hand.
Massimiliano Allegri faces the team he established his coaching career with when Juventus visit Cagliari tomorrow. In 2008-09, Allegri guided Cagliari to ninth place, the Sardinian club's best Serie A result in nearly 15 years.
Allegri joined AC Milan in 2010 and won the league during his first season at the San Siro. Since moving to Juventus in 2014, he has won three straight titles.
Second-place Juventus enter on a six-match unbeaten streak, while Cagliari are struggling in 15th place, five points above the relegation zone.
Leaders Napoli begin the second half of the season by hosting Hellas Verona, who are second from the bottom.