In terms of high profile football, this weekend is to some extent the eye of the storm, with the relative calm of league action following midweek Champions League games and preceding next week's clashes in Europe's elite competition. There are still, though, plenty of ties to whet the appetite, with some interesting trends that are worth taking note of.
In losing 3-0 at home to Viktoria Plzen on Thursday, Napoli manager Walter Mazzarri made perfectly clear where his priorities lie; in their attempts to hunt down Juventus at the top of Serie A. Only 5 points behind them in the race for top spot they have an outside chance of catching the Old Lady, and Mazzarri rested no fewer than 5 of his first choice XI, with the likes of Hamsik, Behrami and Cannavaro all sitting out.
On Sunday the Partenopei face Sampdoria at the San Paolo, against whom they have won each of their last 4 home games without conceding a single goal. Sampdoria are improving, though, and their recent 2-1 win at Juventus certainly showed that, so a win to nil may be beyond the home side. They have got the best home record in the Italian top flight, though, and should continue their winning run against Sampdoria.
Each of their last 3 wins against the Blucerchiati have been almost solely thanks to the goals of star striker Edinson Cavani. The Uruguayan has bagged 5 goals in his 3 Serie A appearances against Sampdoria and has scored the final goal in each of those matches. He is odds-on favourite to score any time at 1.44, but with only Stephan El Sharaawy (8) having scored the last goal of a Serie A game more times this season than Cavani (7), he could be worth a punt to net last once again, at 3.00.
Mourinho's men return to the serenity of La Liga, where they can do little more than hope for a Barcelona implosion, and possibly their main aim is to beat city rivals Atletico to second place. Los Blancos host Rayo Vallecano on Sunday night and will be hoping to continue their good home run; they have dropped points only twice in 11 home games this season. Furthermore, they have won each of their last 6 games against Vallecano, as well as their last 5 on home soil, scoring at least 3 goals in those five games.
There is no doubting Real's pedigree on home soil, where they have scored 14 more goals (36) than they have in one more game on their travels (22) this season. Having netted so many against Vallecano - who also have a significantly worse away record than they do at home (7 losses in 11 games) - and having scored 4 goals in each of their last 4 league games at the Bernabeu, Cristiano Ronaldo and co. are well set for another goal fest. Real Madrid are 1.53 to score over 2.5 goals and could well do so here.
After Thursday night exertions in Europe these teams will be far from glad to be back in domestic action quite so soon. In their 6 matches immediately following a midweek Europa League group stage game this season, both sides have picked up just one win, clearly suffering a so-called European hangover all too often. Lyon have arguably been the worse affected, with their solitary domestic win on a Sunday following Europa League action coming after they played their final group game when they had already guaranteed qualification and rested the vast majority of their first team.
The home advantage may also play a part. Bordeaux have that for this game and have lost only 1 of their last 16 Ligue 1 matches at home. They have also won 4 of their last 5 at home to Lyon without conceding a goal in any of those wins. Lyon's midweek loss at Tottenham was also their third straight defeat and they look to be on something of a slide at this moment in time. Bordeaux's healthy home record might make them simply too strong for the away side, and they represent decent value at 2.30 to win the game.
Liverpool are having a tough time of things at the moment. While they will have been pleased with away points at Arsenal and Manchester City in recent weeks and many will have predicted a loss at Zenit in midweek, 5 games without a win speaks volumes in itself. They still have not beaten any of the teams currently in the top half of the table, and this week they face another of those teams, with Brendan Rodgers' former employers Swansea visiting Anfield.
Liverpool have played 8 Premier League games the Sunday immediately following a Thursday night Europa League tie, and have only won one of those (at West Ham). They have had tough games directly after European games, facing the likes of Chelsea, Man Utd, Everton, Arsenal and Man City in those matches, so it may well be harsh to attribute their poor results to Thursday games.
However, they face another tough team in Swansea this weekend, and the combination of games in quick succession and good opposition may again prove too much. West Brom picked up a smash-and-grab victory at Anfield at the beginning of the week, and Liverpool will be tired from recent endeavours while the Swans will have had 8 days off. Liverpool haven't yet scored a Premier League goal in 3 attempts against Swansea, while Michael Laudrup's side also triumphed 3-1 at Anfield in a Capital One Cup tie earlier this season. The Swans can be backed at 2.30 to avoid defeat - fantastic value for a double chance bet - and that might just be worth a punt.