Only 8 matches this week, and the teams from Manchester feature in four of them. While the derbies were not as exciting this year as last, are we heading for an FA Cup showdown? United and Chelsea should advance to the Champions League quarterfinals. Meanwhile, Saturday is not the May Day showdown we are all waiting for, but sort of an opening morsel. With their quad dreams now halved, do Arsenal put their best 11 on the pitch at Old Trafford while United have to have at least one eye on Tuesday night?
Remember that starting Sunday we will have a couple of weeks of later (US) kickoffs as we move our clocks forward but Europe does not.
***: Strong match; worth watching live; DVR a must if you can’t see live
**: Flip through quickly to see the goals, red cards, injuries, and perhaps watch the last 5 minutes + injury time if close
*: Only if you’re a die-hard
Matches shown in chronological order:
Thursday, March 10 (all times EST)
** Braga v Liverpool, Europa League R16 leg 1, 1 pm, DirecTV 484
Andy Carroll to start? Suarez is cup-tied and Gerrard is staying home. Liverpool will be fine with a draw but may do better.
** Dynamo Kiev v Man City, Europa League R16 leg 1, 3:05 pm, DirecTV 481
Anyone want to bet on nil-nil?
Saturday, March 12
** Birmingham v Bolton, FA Cup Quarterfinal, 7:45 am, FS+ [Dowd]
The double and still go down? It would be fun to see an improved Bolton in a cup semi-final or final given how well they have played this year.
**** Man Utd v Arsenal, FA Cup Quarterfinal, 12:15 pm, FSC/FD [Foy]
The start of 3 straight home matches for the Red Devils, and we’re all fascinated by team selection as they look ahead to Marseille on Wednesday. Can the Gunners quickly recover from Fabregas’ absurd back heel, RvP’s even more absurd sending-off, and more importantly the fact that they could not even attempt a single shot on Tuesday night in Barcelona? Arsenal last won here in 2007, and the last time they met here in an FA Cup match, they were shellacked 4-nil. Park scored the only goal in their first league meeting in mid-December and Rooney skied a penalty over the bar. Webb cautioned 4 Gunners and no one from the home side. Still should be the match of the week, and Arsenal really need to find a way to put the ball in the back of the net.
Sunday, March 13 (all times EDT)
*** Stoke v West Ham, FA Cup Quarterfinal, 10 am, FS+ [Jones]
The Hammers are clearly revitalized by Demba Ba and der Hammer. Add February’s player-of-the-month (Parker), Cole, Piquionne, Obinna, and the team that couldn’t score now is regularly pumping in 3 goals/match. They did it to Liverpool in an impressive home win and they just did it to Stoke at Upton Park on Saturday. Now the sides meet again, and Tony Pulis needs to turn something around and do a better job of controlling midfield play. Opposing managers are countering their long-ball, throw-it-in-the-box strategy, deploying 3 tall center halves, and other than against the woeful set piece defending of the Black Cats, Stoke are having difficulty scoring. I predict a better, closer match, and maybe even a replay.
** Man City v Reading, FA Cup Quarterfinal, 12:45 pm, FSC/FD [Probert]
Reading won’t be afraid having won at Everton, and they will defend well as a team, but City should have too many weapons.
Tuesday, March 15
*** Man Utd (0) v Marseille (0), Champions League leg 2, 3:45 pm, FSC/FD
Deschamps lifted the Champions League trophy 8 years ago for Marseille, and now tries to win one as manager. Nil-nil wasn’t what they hoped for at home, but it’s not a terrible scoreline for a tough defensive side. Can they actually score a goal? I think we all saw why Vidic is the most important player in the EPL after what Liverpool did to the captain’s side in his absence. United should advance.
Wednesday, March 16
* Chelsea (2) v Copenhagen (0), Champions League leg 2, 3:45 pm, FSC
Unlikely to be an interesting contest.