Last season, Arsenal finished 21 points behind champion Manchester United in the English Premier League but won both their meetings, 1-0 away and 2-1 at home. This season, they are tied for first -- the unbeaten Gunners have a game in hand -- going into Saturday's showdown at the Emirates Stadium.
United manager Alex Ferguson says there are similarities between this year's young Arsenal team that has been in sensational form in recent weeks and his young team that won the EPL title last season.
"I know challenging for the title is a new experience for a lot of their players but some of them have been there before and the manager has, which is a big
help," Ferguson said. "People said the same about us last year but we led the league for three quarters of the season so I don't think it's a handicap."
Both Arsenal and United have been playing exciting soccer in recent weeks. Young Spaniard Cesc Fabregas has emerged as a world-class midfielder and already scored 10 goals this season. Wayne Rooney and Argentine signing Carlos Tevez have scored nine goals between them in the last five United games.
SETANTA SPORTS USA, ARSENAL-MAN. UTD., Saturday (live), 8:40 am ET
One of the most highly anticipated matches of the Serie A season takes place Sunday when Juventus hosts Inter Milan at Turin's Stadio Olimpico. Inter was awarded the 2006 Scudetto when Juve was stripped of its title for its role in the Calciopoli match-fixing scandal, and Inter won again in 2007 without having to face Juve, which was banished to Serie B.
Juve is back in Serie A, and its fans are ready for the meeting with Inter. During the last 15 minutes of Juve's 3-0 win over Empoli on Wednesday, Juve tifosi directed chants at Inter, which leads Serie A with 24 points, three more than Roma and four more than Juve and Fiorentina.
"It is an important match because they are a great team," said French star David Trezeguet, who stayed at Juve after it was relegated in 2006 and scored all three goals against Empoli. "We must not think about other reasons. I can't wait to play."
FOX SOCCER CHANNEL, JUVENTUS-INTER MILAN, Sunday (live), 2:25 pm.
PLAYER/RAFAEL VAN DER VAART
Hamburg, second in the German Bundesliga, looks to be first-place Bayern Munich's biggest challenger, but it will have to keep Dutch star Rafael van der Vaart if it wishes to remain in the title race.
Dutch coach Ronald Koeman's move this week to Valencia from Ajax has renewed speculation that Valencia will attempt to swipe van der Vaart during the January transfer window. "He is a fantastic player whom I would gladly see at Valencia," Koeman told the Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf. "There are some things which occurred in the past, but we learn from everything."
Van der Vaart, who also said differences between Koeman and him were in the past, is scheduled to be back in the HSV lineup against Hertha Berlin on Saturday after missing last week's game at Duisburg with a thigh injury. He almost moved to Valencia during the summer but stayed at Hamburg, for which he has already scored seven league goals. Van der Vaart has a contract with HSV through the 2010-11 season, but there is a clause in his contract that allows him to leave in 2009 for about $2 million.
GOL TV, HAMBURG-HERTHA BERLIN, Saturday (live), 10:30 am ET
Like Valencia, Sevilla endured an early-season coaching change when Juande Ramos resigned last Friday to fill the managerial vacancy at English club Tottenham.
His replacement, former reserve team coach Manolo Jimenez, was immediately tested with two tough matches in which Sevilla scored three goals both times. Sevilla, winner of back-to-back UEFA Cup titles, beat Valencia, 3-0, last Sunday, but fell, 4-3, at Atletico Madrid on Wednesday and faces its most difficult challenge when it hosts defending champion and leader Real Madrid on Saturday.
Jimenez bemoaned his team's failure to come out of the Atletico match with at least a point. "It was a spectacular match for the fans," he said, "but when you score three goals, you get the feeling that you should have come away with at least a point."
GOL TV SEVILLA-REAL MADRID, Saturday (live), 5 pm ET