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It's a massive weekend in Europe, as we have two battles between first and second-place teams taking place. Sure, it isn't ideal that both matches will be played simultaneously on Saturday, but in defense of the schedule makers, I wonder how they could've seen this coming.

Perhaps you could've predicted that Bayer Leverkusen and Bayern Munich would be the top two teams in Germany at this point of the season, but even if you did, I doubt you'd have said it was Bayern in second. But not even Nostradamus could've called Girona being in second place in Spain. Yes, the club shares the same ownership group as Manchester City, but it was promoted to La Liga last season and finished 10th. Climbing to second a year later, ahead of Barcelona and Atlético Madrid, isn't supposed to happen.

But it has, and it's set us up for a weekend that could see the races in both leagues tighten, or could lead to one side pulling too far ahead. 

Bayer Leverkusen vs. Bayern Munich

Date: Saturday, Feb. 10 | Time: 12:30 p.m. ET | Watch: ESPN+

So how does a German team go about ending Bayern Munich's run of 11 straight Bundesliga titles? It's easy. Never lose a match! Leverkusen have played 20 league matches (59% of the season) and won 16 with four draws. Yet, if they lose to Bayern on Saturday, they will fall into second place. That's the level of excellence a team has to maintain to topple the German giants. So can they do it? Probably not! It's hard to go an entire season without losing!

That said, Leverkusen did avoid losing to Bayern earlier in the season, managing a 2-2 draw away from home. But that was early, before everybody knew what this Leverkusen team would be. Bayern Munich know how important this match is because a loss would put them five points behind with only 13 to play. Can they overcome a Leverkusen team that has allowed only six goals on 6.3 expected goals in 10 home matches? I think so, because while Leverkusen have been phenomenal defensively, their worst performances have come (unsurprisingly) against the better teams in the league. Who wins? I'm not sure, but I'm expecting goals. The Pick: Over 3.5 (+120)

Real Madrid vs. Girona

Date: Saturday, Feb. 10 | Time: 12:30 p.m. ET | Watch: ESPN+

I'm a bit hazy when it comes to predicting a winner in Germany, but the picture in Spain is much clearer. Girona are one of the season's biggest surprises, but while they deserve to be competing for a top-four spot, the underlying metrics suggest they've been on the winning side of quite a few coin-flips. Girona have a goal differential of +27 on the season despite an xG differential of 9.3. Now, overperforming your xG is only sometimes a sign of luck. Sometimes, it's a reflection of being an outstanding team. After all, Real Madrid's current goal differential of 33 dwarfs their xG differential of 19.2. The difference is Real Madrid have an established track record of this, and Girona don't. Therefore, it becomes more challenging to trust Girona scoring 52 goals on an xG of 40.3 when they don't have world-class players.

Also, whether you want to call it exceeding expectations or luck, Girona have been much stronger at home in both departments than away from it. Then there's the fact that Real Madrid have been in important matches like these a million times. The players on the team know what to expect and how to deal with the pressure. Girona don't. I fully believe Madrid will win and take a firm grasp of a La Liga title, but the juice on the money line is a bit heavy. The Madrid goal tally is a more enticing play. The Pick: Real Madrid Over 2.5 (+115)

AC Milan vs. Napoli

Date: Sunday, Feb. 11 | Time: 2:45 p.m. ET | Watch: Paramount+

On the surface, things are improving for Napoli. They've managed seven points in their last three matches after picking up only seven in the previous eight. They're also getting healthier as players like Piotr Zielinski, Mathias Oliveira and Alex Meret have returned to training. But I don't buy that things are fixed. At least, not to the point where I expect much from Napoli heading to San Siro. Not while Victor Osimhen remains with the Nigerian national team as it prepares for Sunday's Africa Cup of Nations final against Ivory Coast. Napoli are a team still struggling mightily to score goals, and they won't be able to play their way to a scoreless draw here as they did against Lazio two weeks ago.

Milan aren't good enough to win Serie A this season, but while they're not as good as their rival Inter, they're in a tier with Juventus far above the rest of the league. They're also playing their best football of the season, winning six of its last eight with two draws sprinkled in. I expect they'll deliver Napoli a sobering reminder of where they truly stand this season. The Pick: AC Milan (-106)

Weekend Parlay

We haven't had much luck with our parlays this season, but I have a good feeling about this one. It pays +138.

  • Manchester City (-475)
  • Liverpool (-575)
  • Stuttgart (-245)
  • Barcelona (-525)


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