Rejoice! Rejoice! After the a couple of weeks when UEFA Champions League action provided some superb midweek relief, we were “treated” to international friendlies this time round.
This weekend we’ve got a host of magnificent games to look forward to in a plethora of different competitions. Fans of English football can sift between the FA Cup, the Premier League and the Championship this weekend as the domestic season begins to come to the boil.
Given the calibre of games in the aforementioned competitions, this week’s “must watch” selections do have something of an English bias. We’ve got a stellar FA Cup quarterfinal to kick the weekend off, followed by two games with huge connotations at different ends of the Premier League table.
On Sunday we’ll be treated to one of the most passionate but lesser known derbies in English football. And to cap things off, we’ve got a key game in the race for Champions League football in Italy.
If the English game’s not your bag, we’ve included a few honorable mentions too.
All kick off times are Eastern Time. Enjoy the weekend and enjoy the games!
Wolfsburg vs. Bayern Munich, Saturday, March 8, 9:30AM, GolTV
Can Wolfsburg stop the Bayern Munich machine rattling on? The home side are certainly in good form heading into this one and are in need of the points if they are to mount a late push for the Champions League. Pep Guardiola’s team will be looking to make history and preserve their unbeaten record for the entirety of the Bundesliga campaign.
Given the kickoff time, this one is certainly suited to those of you who like and early start, or even coming back in from a night out! It’s a dress rehearsal of the Europa League double header between the two side, but both the Bianconeri and La Viola both have plenty still to play for on the domestic front. Fiorentina beat the Italian champions 4-2 when they met earlier in the campaign.
Blackburn Rovers vs. Burnley, Sunday, March 9, 8:15AM, beIN SPORTS Play
As two founder members of the football league, the rivalry between Blackburn Rovers and Burnley is longstanding and bristling with historical context.
Burnley will visit their local rivals looking to continue their march towards the Premier League. They are a side that many expected to eventually fade away atop of the Championship, but as QPR have seemingly fallen by the wayside, Sean Dyche’s side continue to pick up crucial results at vital times. They have goals aplenty in their XI and a seemingly unwavering togetherness.
A win at Ewood Park would surely galvanise them ahead of the run-in, but Blackburn will certainly have some say in that. Rovers sit six points behind the playoff positions with a game in hand on many of the teams above them. They will be hoping a derby victory can inspire them to a late push for the top six and that they can continue that momentum into the playoffs.
Given the volatile nature of this derby, Burnley fans will be bussed directly to Ewood Park on the morning of the game. It would be fair to say tensions have been known to boil over in the stands as well as on the pitch in this fixture; with plenty at stake on Sunday, expect this derby to be no different.
It’s also worth noting that Burnley haven’t secured a win over their fiercest rivals for 34 years.
Arsenal vs. Everton
Saturday, March 8, 7:45AM, FOX Sports 1 and FOX Soccer 2Go
These two sides drew 1-1 at the Emirates back in December, and whilst it may not have been a game flush with goals, it certainly was one of the contests of the campaign to date.
Both teams will look to boss possession and play in an attacking eye-catching manner. In that aforementioned tie, Roberto Martinez’s side went toe-to-toe with the then league leaders, with a stunning Gerard Deulofeu strike earning them deserved point late on.
Arsenal will be looking to bounce back from last weekend’s loss against Stoke City in the Premier League and playing a team like Everton might make things easier for them. The Toffees will look to attack, and that will give the Gunners’ creative players plenty of space to work within.
It’s win or bust for both sides here, with the FA Cup the only realistic chance of silverware for both teams. Everton would be happy with a draw and a replay at Goodison Park but you can bet they’ll be going all out to win on the day. The same, of course, applies for the Gunners and it should make for a superb contest.
I’ll be at this one, so look out for my column on Tuesday in which I’ll do my best to give you a raw insight into an FA Cup quarterfinal.
Cardiff City vs. Fulham
Saturday 8 March, 10:00AM, NBCSN
A huge game at the foot of the Premier League as the bottom two square off. Both sides have found victories extremely difficult to come by as of late and a win for either in this contest could provide some major impetus for the remainder of the campaign.
Of the two sides, it’s perhaps more crucial for Cardiff to pick up three points here. They’ve only won one game since Ole Gunnar Solskjaer took over the manager’s job and they’ve dropped like a stone to the bottom of the pile. As the home side, they’ll be charged with being positive and they won’t get many better chances to bag three points than this.
Fulham are desperate for points too, though. They have rolled the dice in their sacking of Rene Meulensteen and subsequent appointment of Felix Magath. The boss did get something of a response in his first game: a respectable 1-1 draw against West Brom. But they haven’t won a Premier League game since New Years day and that’ll be of grave concern for followers of the Craven Cottage club.
You have to wonder if the team that loses this contest—given the mental frailties they’ve demonstrated so far this campaign—has it in them to recover in the remaining nine games of the season. A huge clash in the battle for Premier League survival.
Chelsea vs. Tottenham
Saturday 8 March, 12:30PM, NBCSN
Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea team have a great chance to lay down a marker in the Premier League title race this weekend, as they’re the only side in the top four that will play a league game.
Their opponents are Tottenham, and it’s difficult to garner which Spurs team will turn up ahead of this one. They’ve been hugely inconsistent under Tim Sherwood and it’ll be interesting to see how the rookie boss goes about ending Chelsea’s unbeaten home record under Mourinho. Spurs themselves have failed to win at the home of their rivals since 1990.
If Chelsea can win here it will put them seven points clear atop of the Premier League, and that would heap huge pressure onto the chasing pack. With no FA Cup ties and no Champions League games in midweek, expect a full strength team from the league leaders in this one.
These games are typically fiery clashes and given the nature of the London derbies, expect a great atmosphere and a brilliant game to match. This is one of Chelsea’s toughest remaining fixtures, and if they take three points here they’ll be well on course for another Premier League title.
Seattle Sounders vs. Sporting Kansas City
Saturday, March 8, 3pm, NBCSN
MLS’s pre-season has flown by, and the top flight American soccer league returns to action this weekend with a match between the best supported side in the league versus the 2013 MLS Cup champions.
US captain and Seattle star Clint Dempsey will hopefully have overcome the jet lag from the mid-week international match in Cyprus to lead his side. But with Kenny Cooper now also in the mix, Seattle has the potential to be a dangerous attacking force. A former Timber, Cooper brings a big physical presence that could compliment the pace of Martins well.
Sporting Kansas City, meanwhile, will want to defend their title by starting their season off in the right manner. Keep an eye out to see whether Kansas City wears their new secondary kit.
For more insight into the game between Seattle and Sporting Kansas City, visit the MatchCenter for the latest stats and build-up to the inaugural 2014 MLS game.
Napoli vs. Roma
This game is dubbed the “derby of the South” in Italy and it’s third up against second in Serie A as Roma and Napoli lock horns.
Roma are clinging onto the coattails of Serie A leaders Juventus, but their more realistic aim for the remainder of the season will be to reaffirm their place in the Champions League places. A win here over a talented Partenopei outfit would go a long way to doing exactly that.
Rudi Garcia will be very wary of a Napoli team that can go to within three points of his team with a win on Sunday. Under Rafael Benitez they’ve only lost one game at the San Paolo all season. But if they have ambitions of finishing in the top two, they must pick up the three points here.
Both teams are in excellent form going into this one. They both need the three points and after playing out a pair of cracking up ties in the Italian Cup earlier in the season, expect a brilliant game here to cap off the weekend’s action.