So often within a long, arduous league campaign a title can hinge on the result of one game.
Sure if you want to be crowned champions there is a demand to be consistent over the entirety of the season. Sure you’ll pick up some vital results along the way. But silverware at the end of a domestic season regularly teeters on the outcome of one result in the final knockings of the campaign. And we’ve seen loads of these games down the years in the Premier League.
Think back to Eric Cantona’s goal against Newcastle in 1996 to give United a 1-0 win at the home of the league leaders. Think back to Arsenal’s 1-0 win at Old Trafford in 2002 thanks to Sylvain Wiltord’s late winner. And more recently, think back to Vincent Kompany’s header that gave Manchester City a win over United, paving the way for their first Premier League title. All huge games that the title has ultimately hinged upon.
In the Premier League this weekend, we’ve got another one of those match-ups as the two favorites for the title go head-to-head. In addition to that cracker, theres a vital clash at the bottom of the table along and a meeting between the two biggest sides in France.
We also preview Saturday’s FA Cup semi-final, and continuing the cup competition theme, look ahead to another el Clasico in the Copa Del Rey final on Wednesday. We’ve also included a couple of honorable mentions that you might consider.
As we approach the 25th anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster, all games in England are set to kick off seven minutes late as a mark of respect for the 96 Liverpool fans who lost their lives that day; Liverpool’s game against Nottingham Forest was abandoned at 3:06 on April 15 1989.
All kick-off times are Eastern time, enjoy your weekend and enjoy the games!
Bayern Munich vs. Borussia Dortmund, Saturday, 12:30PM, GolTV
There might not be much to play for in the Bundesliga, but a clash between these two sides is always well worth a watch. Dortmund looked as though they were rediscovering some form in midweek, but can they trouble the champions at the Allianz Arena? Bayern have the league wrapped up already, but have only won one of their last four games in all competitions.
Hull City vs. Sheffield United, Sunday 11:07AM, FOX Sports 1 and FOX Soccer 2Go
I think it would be fair to say that these two sides have made surprising runs to this season’s FA Cup semi-final. League one side Sheffield United have been marvellous in the cup this season, but they’ll face a Hull City side who are a couple of division above them and chasing their first ever FA Cup success. The Blades have won this trophy four times, with their last victory coming in 1925.
Fulham vs. Norwich City
Saturday, 10:07AM, NBCSN
After their last gasp win at Aston Villa last weekend, Fulham have given themselves a sniff of steering clear of relegation. Felix Magath seems to have instilled some cohesiveness and a level of aggression into the Craven Cottage side, and a win here is an absolute must against fellow relegation strugglers Norwich City.
The Canaries have been on the slide for a while now, and whilst their 1-0 defeat to West Brom was their first home loss of the calendar year, their performances have been dull and uninspired. Chris Hughton has subsequently been sacked, with the City board clearly looking for a new manager bounce in the final five games of the campaign.
Fulham are a side who are getting that sort of reaction. They looked well and truly doomed at one point, but they have clawed their way back to within five points of Norwich under the tutelage of Magath. A win here and the gap will be just two points.
For Norwich supporters, that’ll be a major, major concern. Their final four games of this campaign are against Manchester United, Liverpool, Chelsea and Arsenal. Given their current plight, it’s difficult to see them taking anything from those games and they need to put some distance between themselves and the bottom three. Lose at Craven Cottage, and they’re in deep, deep trouble.
Arsenal vs. Wigan Athletic
Saturday, 12:07PM, FOX Sports 2 and FOX Soccer 2Go
What a wonderful love affair Wigan have endured with the FA Cup as of late. Having won the trophy last year under the tutelage of Roberto Martinez, they were subsequently relegated and ahead of their trophy defence, nobody gave them a sniff. But their supporters are at Wembley again for the fourth time in less than 12 months.
They’ll be underdogs here once again, as they take on Arsenal. The Gunners thumped Everton 4-1 in the quarter-finals to make it to Wembley, but a 3-0 defeat to the Toffees last weekend has made for a sombre mood about the Emirates. Spirits should be high ahead of this one, but having failed to win in their last three games, there is some apprehension amongst the Arsenal faithful.
In truth, this is a competition Arsene Wenger’s side should be winning. They’re by far the strongest outfit remaining in the competition and the players should be insatiable in their quest for silverware, especially after nine years without a trophy.
But Wigan are performing well, will be playing without pressure and will be desperate to defend their FA Cup crown. Will the tag of overwhelming favourites grip the Gunners with fear? Or will they have far too much for a team a tier below them in the English football league?
Liverpool vs. Manchester City
Sunday, 8:37AM, NBCSN
The biggest game of the Premier League season so far will be played out at Anfield on Sunday as league leaders Liverpool take on Manchester City. The winner, you have to say, looks likely to go on and secure the title.
And what an occasion this is set to be. Expect Anfield to be fully charged with passion and emotion as not only will the Reds supporters back their team to the hilt, but pay tribute to the 96 fans that lost their lives at Hillsborough 25 years ago. Liverpool have been simply brilliant as of late, winning their last nine games in a row. If they can make it ten, they’ll put seven points between themselves and the visitors on Saturday.
But it’s not going to be easy. Manchester City are a fine side, and unlike their opponents on Sunday, they’ve been there and done it in a title race before. They won this title in the most dramatic of circumstances in back in 2012, and their players know exactly what it takes to win these big pressure, title defining contests.
This should be a sensational game. Both sides have set all kinds of records with their attacking exploits this season, and you suspect neither team will deviate from that sort of approach on Sunday. Luis Suarez, Daniel Sturridge, Sergio Aguero and David Silva are all set to feature; goals, drama, passion and despair are guaranteed in this one.
Lyon vs. Paris Saint-Germain
Paris Saint-Germain will be looking to bounce back from their Champions League heartache against Chelsea when they travel to face Lyon in Sunday’s massive clash from Ligue 1.
Laurent Blanc’s side were chasing a league and European Cup double after their first-leg win over Chelsea in their quarter-final tie. But it all came crashing down around them in the final minutes at Stamford Bridge, meaning they only have the Ligue 1 title to play for.
It’d be quite the collapse if the Parisians were to falter now though, as they lead second placed Monaco by a whopping 13 points with just six games to go. They have been the best side in France by a country mile this season, and a win over Lyon would take them another step closer to a consecutive league title. A win here means they could potentially wrap up the championship in their next fixture.
But this is a big game for Lyon too. They have Marseille breathing down their necks in pursuit of that final Europa League spot, and they’ll be keen to take something from a frustrating season punctured with inconsistencies. A win against the champions elect would certainly raise morale at the Stade Gerland ahead of the final five games of the campaign.
Real Madrid vs. Barcelona; Copa del Rey Final
Wednesday, April 16, 3:30PM, ESPN and ESPN Deportes
After these two played out a thriller in the most recent meeting between the sides, plenty will be expected when they lock horns again in Wednesday’s Copa Del Rey final. Real Madrid triumphed over their high-flying city rivals in the semi-final, whilst Barcelona dispatched of a dangerous Real Sociedad outfit.
Typically, this competition takes third priority for these teams behind La Liga and the Champions League. But only Real Madrid remain European competition, and with Atletico flying high atop of domestic standings, the Copa Del Rey could well be the only piece of silverware either of Spain’s “big two” pick up this season.
That applies to Barcelona more than Real Madrid perhaps, as La Blaugrana were dumped out of the Champions League in midweek by Atletico Madrid. They’re certainly still in contention in the title race, but getting a trophy in the bag would ease some pressure ahead of what promises to be a tenaciously tight conclusion to the title race in Spain.
Real Madrid are a little further back in that particular race, but have a very realistic chance of triumphing in the Champions Leauge. It’s touch and go whether or not their talisman Cristiano Ronaldo will be fit for this one, and Los Blancos will be desperate to get him on the pitch given his excellent record against the Catalans.
It’s always a wonderful occasion whenever these two sides meet and with a cup at stake, it should bring out the very best in each team. If it’s half as good as the most recent league meeting, we’ll be in for a cracker.