Everyone loves an underdog story, don’t they? After all, a team or an individual triumphing against the odds is one of the great things about sport.
But in soccer, the cutthroat, finance-geared nature of the modern game has diluted these instances where we get to see these unexpected stories. This season though, we could yet see two surprise champions in two of the game’s highest profile leagues.
In Spain, Atletico Madrid are showing that organization, hard work and a sprinkling of genius can go a very long towards a successful campaign. They sold their prize asset Falcao for circa £50 million the summer, whilst their two title rivals—Real Madrid and Barcelona—brought in acquisitions that surpassed that figure. And yet, Diego Simeone’s team are top of the pile in La Liga, on the verge of an historic title triumph.
In England, too, we could see Liverpool lifting the league title come the end of the campaign. An all-out-attack mantra has seen them blow plenty of teams away in the Premier League, including some of the top sides in the country. With seven games to go, they’re just one point off the Premier League leaders and, after winning seven games in a row, could yet emerge as Premier League champions in a whirlwind season in England’s top flight.
Both of the aforementioned sides have crucial games this weekend, and they’ll both feature in our top five selections this week. Elsewhere we’ve got another key title clash in each of those divisions, and to kick the weekend off, an intriguing contest between the top two in English football’s second tier.
All kickoff times are Eastern Time (don’t forget daylight savings time changes in England early on Sunday morning!). Enjoy your weekend and enjoy the games!
Burnley vs. Leicester City
The best two teams in the Championship meet on Saturday morning to kick start a bumper weekend of soccer. Burnley and Leicester City occupy the two top spots in English football’s second tier and a win for either side here would go a long way to guaranteeing their promotion to the promised land of the Premier League.
They are two sides that have done things very differently this season. Sean Dyche’s Burnley team side sold off their prize asset Charlie Austin in the summer and whilst little of his £7 million transfer fee has been reinvested into the playing squad, Burnley have blossomed. After a rip-roaring start, things looked like they were about to unravel over the course of the Christmas period, but they’ve won nine and drawn five of their last 14 games, putting a buffer between themselves and QPR in third place.
The visitors to Turf Moor on Sunday are league leaders Leicester City. The Foxes are a side that suffered a heartbreaking loss in the playoffs last season, but they have regrouped and gone again this campaign. They’ve spent a fair bit on the playing squad down the years without ever really mounting a challenge for automatic promotion, but Nigel Pearson’s team are seeing the benefits of their investment now.