Bayern Munich vs. Borussia Mönchengladbach
Friday, 2:30 p.m. (ESPN+)
Port Vale vs. Brentford
Saturday, 10 a.m. (ESPN+)
The Premier League takes its annual pause on the first weekend of January for the third round of the men’s FA Cup, when all the big teams enter the field. It’s traditionally a big festival for soccer fans across the country, but this time it might be a bit muted -- and not just because of the pandemic.
What makes the FA Cup special, like any national knockout tournament, is watching big teams play little teams on the little teams’ turf. This year, just three of the round’s 32 games feature Premier League games visiting opponents two or more divisions below them: 4th-tier Swindon Town vs. Manchester City (Friday, 2:45 p.m.), 3rd-tier Charlton Athletic hosting Norwich City (Sunday, 9 a.m.), and this game. Port Vale is in the fourth tier, and Brentford is in the midst of its first season in the Premier League.
There are, to be fair, some teams from the fourth and fifth tiers hosting second-division opponents. There’s even one sixth-tier team, Kidderminster Harriers, hosting second-tier Reading (Saturday, 2:45 p.m.). But there might not be much magic for romantics to savor. While Swindon-Man City has intrigue on paper, City is so deep that it should cruise even with seven players and manager Pep Guardiola in COVID-19 protocols.
The good news is that ESPN+ will stream every game of this round. So if an upset starts brewing, you’ll be able to get to it easily and see if Cinderella shows up.
» READ MORE: The rest of this weekend's men's FA Cup schedule
Eintracht Frankfurt vs. Borussia Dortmund
Saturday, 12:30 p.m. (ESPN+)
Reports in Germany say Gio Reyna, sidelined by injury since September, might make it back to Dortmund’s bench for this game. That would be great news for the club and the U.S. national team, with a big stretch of World Cup qualifiers coming at the end of this month.
» READ MORE: The rest of this weekend's Bundesliga schedule
Real Madrid vs. Valencia
Saturday, 3 p.m. (ESPN+)
Yunus Musah played one of his best games for Valencia in Wednesday’s 2-1 Copa del Rey win at Valencia, though he suffered a collision and cramp in 71st minute that forced him off. Now the American and his club prepare for what’s always one of their biggest games, a visit to Spain’s biggest team.
» READ MORE: The rest of this weekend's La Liga schedule
Monterrey vs. Querétaro
Saturday, 6 p.m. (FS1, Fox Deportes)
Santos Laguna vs. Tigres UANL
Saturday, 8 p.m. (FS1, Fox Deportes)
It’s nice to see that FS1 will give prominent English-language coverage to the first weekend of the Liga MX Clausura campaign. Tigres just signed big-time playmaker Sebastián Córdova from América, and Monterrey just brought playmaker Rodolfo Pizarro back on loan from Inter Miami as part of the MLS club’s fire sale to become salary cap-compliant.
Cameroon vs. Burkina Faso
Sunday, 10:55 a.m. (beIN Sports Xtra)
Ethiopia vs. Cape Verde
Sunday, 1:50 p.m. (beIN Sports Xtra)
Seven months after José Andrés Martínez became the first Union player to play in a Copa América while part of the club, Olivier Mbaizo and Jamiro Monteiro are set to become the second and third active Union players to play in the Africa Cup of Nations, Africa’s marquee continental tournament for national teams.
If you don’t know who was the first, you aren’t alone. If you’ve forgotten who it was, you aren’t alone either. And if you don’t want to remember, then you know it was Raïs M’Bolhi. In the lone offseason of his disastrous Union tenure, M’Bolhi started every game of Algeria’s run to the 2015 AFCON quarterfinals.
Mbaizo being with Cameroon and Jamiro Monteiro being with Cape Verde will be much more popular among fans, as well it should be - even though it means they’ll likely miss the start of preseason training camp in a few weeks. This is a huge moment for both players.
Mbaizo is the starting right back for the host nation of this tournament, one of the historical powers of African soccer. Cape Verde is an underdog, but has grown its stature in recent years with smart recruiting of dual nationals such as the Netherlands-born Monteiro.
Even better, Cameroon and Cape Verde are in the same group at this tournament. Their game against each other on Jan. 17 should be treated as one of the biggest days in Union history: the first time two players from the club will play against each other in a national team tournament other than the Concacaf Gold Cup.
BeIN Sports will carry every game of the tournament on its streaming platforms, and almost every game on TV. The only games not on TV are ones that overlap with the network’s coverage of France’s Ligue 1, which takes precedence. But you’ll be able to find everything on beIN’s website, and if you have a strong over-the-air antenna, you can watch beIN Xtra free in Philadelphia on channel 8.4.
Roma vs. Juventus
Sunday, 12:30 p.m. (Paramount+)
The home fans at Rome’s venerable Stadio Olimpico likely won’t be in a good mood when Juventus visits for what’s always one of the biggest games of the Serie A season. Roma is winless in its last three Serie A games, including a 3-1 pounding at Milan on Thursday.