European football returned with a bang in midweek but it is now time to get back to domestic matters across the continent.
These are the standout fixtures to tune in for.
Monza v Milan
Granted, normally a clash such as Milan’s trip to Monza wouldn’t usually rank as appointment viewing but on a quiet Serie Aweekend, this is the standout.
And much of that is down to it being a meeting of the past and the present for the Rossoneri, who will take on two men responsible for much of their most recent golden period: Adriano Galliani and Silvio Berlusconi.
Those men are now behind the rise of Monzaand who have courted controversy with some of their incentives for winning big games this season, with Berlusconi offering to bring a bus filled with sex workers for his players if they could beat one of the big six in the second half of the season.
They duly did so in Turin against Juventus to complete a double over them for the campaign.
Who knows what bonuses await if they can pull off the scalp of the reigning champions?
Spice rating: Mild 🌶
Gladbach v Bayern
After an indifferent start out of the winter break are Bayern Munich now back?
Their midweek win in Paris on Champions League duty would certainly suggest so but this may be the best test of that as they make the difficult trip to North Rhine-Westphalia.
After all, they are facing the club who have beaten them more than any other side in Bundesliga history with 27 wins from their 109 past meetings.
In addition, their recent record is also daunting at home as the Foals have won three of their last four fixtures at Borussia-Park against the defending champions.
And there is an added degree of spice to this too, with Bayern arriving with Gladbach legend Yann Sommer between the posts after his January move between the clubs. He’ll likely be in for a hot reception.
Sommer foiled the Bavarians so often in this fixture in the past, can he now perform similar heroics on the other side of the divide?
Spice rating: Medium 🌶 🌶
Atlético Madrid v Athletic Club
Despite all of the concerns about their form this season and surprising speculation intensifying regarding the future of Diego Simeone at Atlético Madrid, they still occupy the last of those all-important Champions League places.
And this could be a decisive fixture in that race to secure a place in Europe’s premier club competition for next season, which will be the last under its current guise.
With Athletic Club making the trip to the capital sitting six points off the Colchoneros, it is win or bust time and they will be aware that defeat from this one will surely spell the end of their top four contention, leaving Atleti to fight it out with Real Betis and Rayo Vallecano.
Although they have lost just one of their last four meetings with Atlético, the Basque giants have failed to win on any of their last 11 straight trips to Madrid for these meetings but they have been handed a pre-match boost with Friday’s news that Ernesto Valverde has signed a new deal with the club until 2024.
Following that up with a win could really open up the fight for that final golden ticket.
Spice rating: Hot 🌶 🌶 🌶
PSG v Lille
It doesn’t take much at a club the size of PSGand packed with the superstars they have for a crisis to set in.
But the latest one may have some justification behind it.
They have already lost five games in 2023, including their last three in a row, which has resulted in them crashing out of the Coupe de France against Marseille and leave them staring into the abyss in the Champions League.
As a result of their good work in the first half of the season, they still hold a five-point advantage at the top but Lille will be desperate to add to the tension in the Parisians camp – something even Neymar acknowledged when he admitted that some heated exchanges took place in the dressing room after last week’s loss to Monaco.
After all, they were humiliated 7-1 at home by PSG in the previous meeting between the sides this season so will have extra incentive to pick up a positive result.
Spice rating: Fire 🌶 🌶 🌶 🌶
Feyenoord v AZ
It seems like barely a week goes by in the Eredivisie at the moment without a big clash at the top of the table.
But they have not not come bigger than this one as first meets second at De Kuip with a two-point gap separating them.
Feyenoord are the current leaders as they chase what would only be their second title of the millennium, while AZ are hot in pursuit of a title that would represent just the third in their entire history.
Although the Rotterdam outfit have stuttered a little of late with three draws from their last five games, it should be noted that each of those draws was against a fellow top five side, with Twente in fifth just three points.
With the last of those teams to come, will history repeat itself? Or are we in for new league leaders in one of Europe’s most open and exciting title races?
We can’t wait to find out.