In my household, Sunday’s have always been synonymous with soccer. For me, the ideal weekend would be to watch my team win on the Saturday before settling in for a full day of soccer on the Sunday. That includes highlights from the games the day before early in the morning, previews for the games ahead that day and then the matches themselves.
When there are no games to watch on a Sunday (I’m looking at you international breaks), there’s a void to fill in the day. It dampens the weekend, as I find myself indulging in tennis, rugby or cricket to help get my sporting fix. But it just isn’t the same, is it?
This weekend, that’s not something you need to worry about, though. Four of our five selections this week are Sunday games that provide a full day of soccer spanning roughly ten hours in total. Magnificent.
So, for your viewing pleasure this week, we have a crucial game in the Bundesliga on Saturday and a proverbial relegation six-pointer in England’s top-flight to kick us off on Sunday morning.
Then, attention switches to the very top of the table in England and Spain, where one game from the Premier League then two from La Liga round us off; all three should play a major part in determining the destination of the title in the respective divisions.
All kick-off times are Eastern Time. Enjoy your weekend and enjoy the games!
Borussia Dortmund vs. Bayer Leverkusen
Saturday, 12:30PM, GolTV
Where has it all gone wrong for Bayer Leverkusen? At the start of the calendar year they were comfortable in second place, in the knockout stages of the Champions League and things seemed to be going in the right direction under boss Sami Hyypia.
But a disastrous run of form in 2014 has seen Bayer falter, Hyypia sacked and now they’re in a battle to secure their Champions League status for next season. Wolfsburg and Borussia Moenchengladbach are hot on their heels, so it’s vital that Leverkusen keep picking up points as the season draws in.
They go to Dortmund in this weekend’s Bundesliga showpiece and although Jurgen Klopp’s men have been a little generous at the Westfalenstadion during this campaign, they seem to be finding their feet again as of late. German forward Marco Reus in particular has been in scintillating form in Borussia’s last few contests and Leverkusen will do well to stop him making an impact.
A win here is vital for Bayer. They could find themselves out of the top-four if they lose, and with just two games to go after this weekend’s round of fixtures, any dropping of points could prove to be catastrophic for their Champions League ambitions.
Sunderland vs. Cardiff City
Sunday, 7:00AM ET, NBCSN
After losing to Everton a fortnight ago, Sunderland looked all but doomed at the foot of the Premier League table. Cut a adrift at the bottom of the pile with away games at Manchester City and Chelsea to come, even their boss Gus Poyet suggested they needed “a miracle” to remain in the top flight.
But sometimes, miracles can happen in football. Sunderland took a point from the Etihad and three points from Stamford Bridge. Suddenly, they’ve given themselves a wonderful chance of staying up. Although their next game, at home to Cardiff City, will be vital in determining their fate.
Poyet’s Black Cats have performed well against the more illustrious outfits all in all, but they’ve really struggled against the supposed lesser teams this season and especially against their relegation rivals. Lack of focus? Complacency? Whatever the problem is, it’s imperative that it’s put right on against the visitors from South Wales on Sunday.
But Cardiff are another side who looked buried a couple of weeks ago, but four points from their last two games have seen them crawl their way back into survival contention. This team are beginning to show resilience under the tutelage of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, and their 1-0 win Southampton was a major indicator that this team will not be going down without a fight.
Quite simply, a must-win game for both. The winner will really fancy their prospects of staying up.
Liverpool vs. Chelsea
Sunday, 9:05AM ET, NBCSN
A win for Liverpool here and the Premier League might as well present the trophy to the Reds after the game on Sunday. Beating Jose Mourinho’s men would put the Reds eight points clear of the Stamford Bridge outfit and 12 points clear of Manchester City who have three games in hand.
A first ever Premier League defeat at Stamford Bridge last weekend put an end to Mourinho’s faltering title charge, and with the second-leg of the Champions League semi-final against Atletico Madrid looming large on Wednesday evening looming large, the Portuguese has insisted that he’ll field a weakened team at Anfield for this one.
That would surely hand the initiative to Liverpool, who will be well rested and at full strength. They lare likely to welcome back Daniel Sturridge for this one after he missed out against Norwich City last weekend, and you imagine he’ll be desperate to make a big impression when taking on his former club.
Liverpool have won their last 11 games now, and have built up an incredible amount of momentum. Even if Mourinho was to field a full strength side, you imagine his team would struggle to contain Brendan Rodgers’ rampant reds. A team rife with youngsters and lacking in match sharpness could be lambs to the slaughter up against this fine Liverpool side.
Valencia vs. Atletico Madrid
It’s so close for Atletico Madrid. They’re three points clear at the top of La Liga with a superior head-to-head record over Real Madrid who are six points back with a game in hand; Barcelona remain four games back on the same number of games played. But Diego Simeone’s side have a difficult run-in to negotiate, starting with this trip to the Mestalla to face Valencia.
Valencia have been in ropey form as of late, and on the back of 2-0 Europa League, first-leg, semi-final loss to Sevilla, it’ll be curious to see what type of mind-set they bring into this one. Especially when they have the second-leg to play at home next Thursday.
Will they take a leaf out of Mourinho’s book and rest a host of players? Perhaps. But for Atleti, despite their own European semi-final second-leg looming large, you suspect they’ll be going all out for this one.
The La Liga title remains by far and away their best chance of silverware this season despite their Champions League heroics, and a win here means the pressure could be off them going into that final day fixture at the Camp Nou.
Villarreal vs. Barcelona
If Atletico do slip up at Valencia, then Barcelona have a chance to take advantage straight away when they travel to Villarreal later on in the day.
After falling behind to Athletic Bilbao last weekend, Tata Martino’s side looked as though they were set to suffer their fourth consecutive defeat. But they rallied late-on to equalize and then take the lead thanks to a sumptuous 25-yard free-kick from Lionel Messi. They didn’t play well, but that win sees them clinging on in the race for the title.
La Blaugrana need slip-ups from both Madrid clubs if they are to battle their way back into pole position atop of La Liga. But with Real focusing on their European commitments and Atletico title-chasing novices, it’s certainly no beyond the realms of possibility.
An Atleti win and a positive result for Villarreal would surely put an end to Barca’s title aspirations. With the home side still in the race for a Europa League spot, they certainly won’t be taking any liberties either. Expect a free-flowing game bristling with fluid, attacking football.