This weekend features a fantastic selection of soccer to watch. Most excitingly, there’s the reemergence of cup matches on the calendar. A final in Spain and two semi-finals in England.
Elsewhere, there’s a decisive weekend in Italy, as the major challengers to the long-term dominant force have one final opportunity to thrust themselves into contention again. In Germany there’s a crucial fixture in a gripping race for the top four spots.
I’ve listed my Top 5 that should help break the monotony of leagues who have already crowned a champion.
All kickoff times listed are in the Eastern US time zone.
The FA Cup may not be the most prestigious prize anymore, but for Spurs and United it could turn decent seasons into good ones.
It will be important to demonstrate that both clubs are moving forward for Jose Mourinho and Mauricio Pochettino. Granted, Manchester City have accelerated past the rest of the Premier League. Those teams nestled in behind will want to feel as though they’re at least going in the right direction too.
Tottenham probably are.
This term Spurs have beaten some huge clubs. They’ve carried out some smart recruitment and are comfortably among the top four teams in the league again. A trophy of any kind would feel like another surefire sign that progress is being made and this feels like a huge opportunity for them.
As for United, with City confirmed as champions and Liverpool in the Champions League semi-finals, it’s imperative they have something to show for their efforts this term. However, when they met Spurs at Wembley earlier in the campaign, the Red Devils were dominated in a 2-0 loss.
Both clubs are in need of big pick-me-ups ahead of this fixture, as they both continue to jostle for a position in the top four.
For Dortmund it’s been a tough few weeks. They were hammered by Bayern Munich. After falling to rivals Schalke 04 last weekend, news of losing Michy Batshuayi for the remainder of the campaign due to injury leaves a noticeable void. They sit in fourth going into this one and their campaign is in danger of finishing on a major low point.
Leverkusen’s league form has actually been encouraging. Although in the DFB Pokal in midweek they were mauled by Bayern Munich 6-2 on their own patch. It was a reminder that despite the reams of exciting talent they have at their disposal, there’s still a long way for this team to go before they match the might of Munich.
Leverkusen are more than good enough to finish third. Despite Dortmund’s troubles, a win at the Westfalenstadion would feel like a big step forward for them. They may not get a better chance to do so than this.
SEVILLA VS. BARCELONA
Saturday, April 21, 3:30 p.m. ET, ESPNews, ESPN Deportes and Sling TV
It’s the Copa del Rey final in Spain this weekend and an entertaining fixture is on the cards at the Wanda Metropolitano in Madrid.
Barcelona have been so dominant domestically this season and remain unbeaten in La Liga as they head into this fixture. Any worries of a late-season slump after their loss to Roma in the Champions League were also dispelled this week. Doing well to take four points from two games with Valencia and Celta Vigo.
As for Sevilla, it’s difficult to know quite what to expect. This is a team, after all, that knocked Manchester United out of the Champions League. Drew 2-2 with Barcelona recently and also lost 4-0 to Celta.
If Vincenzo Montella’s team maximize their potential, then they can match the Catalan giants.
The last time these two met, the Andalusian outfit put in a strong performance. Until their two-goal lead was pegged back by Barcelona after a Lionel Messi substitution late in the game. Containing the great man for a full 90 minutes, and maybe even longer, will be a massive ask for Sevilla.
The least glamorous of the two semi-final matches. A thrilling Premier League clash between these two sides last weekend has raised expectations for a second meeting between Chelsea and Southampton.
A week ago Southampton lost 3-2 in dramatic fashion. Controversy crowded the headlines as Chelsea’s Marcos Alonso wasextremely fortunate not to have been red-carded for a dubious tackle. The Saints marched to a 2 goal lead but Chelsea produced an excellent nine-minute spell to score three times and turn the contest upside down.
The man who inspired the fightback was Olivier Giroud. Netting either side of an Eden Hazard goal.
With Alvaro Morata not at his best, the chance will surely be handed to the French forward to become more than a super-sub. The Champions League has most likely escaped their grasp for next season. This opportunity could solidify his team selection for the Blues next season.
On the other hand, Southampton are in a position of peril in the Premier League. Perhaps supporters can divert their attention away from eminent doom on Sunday for 90 minutes, at least. A win here and the chance of winning an FA Cup would be a significant silver lining on what has already been a season to forget for Saints.
It’s been in danger of fizzling out over the past few weeks, but the title race in Serie A is still alive as leaders Juventus gear up for the visit of close rivals Napoli.
There was further intrigue added in midweek, as Juventus unexpectedly dropped points away to Crotone. Napoli’s win over Udinese now means the gap is just four points to the table-toppers. A win in Turin would not only reduce that gap to one point, but ensure they have the initiative heading into the final weeks of the campaign.
Juventus will provide ominous opposition, though. In these big games the Bianconeri tend to find a way through. Their previous meeting in Naples earlier this term saw the old lady hold the then league leaders at arm’s length in a 1-0 win.
Regardless of whether or not Napoli win here, Juventus will still be the big favourites to win the league title. But the Partenopei have given themselves an opportunity and at the end of such a tiring season for Maurizio Sarri’s team, will be desperate to muster one final charge.
What do you think, are these the most anticipated matches on schedule for this weekend? Let us know in the comments below.