The final few games of the campaign are wonderful. Nine months of grind seems geared towards these final knockings, as fans across the globe pray that their team has what it takes to stand up under pressure and get the job done.
For many, these last few games are somewhat meaningless. But for others, portable radios will be clutched with clammy palms and social media pages will be refreshed relentlessly; desperate to know what’s going on elsewhere and how it affects your own team. Heartbreak and elation await.
In England’s top flight, it’s the final weekend of the campaign and here, we feature the game that could see the champions crowned. Elsewhere, we have the drama of the playoffs, as four teams battle it out to take their place at the top table of English football.
It’s final day weekend in the Bundesliga too, and we focus on the fight for a Champions League spot, that could see any of three different teams qualify for Europe’s elite competition. Our final pick is a huge clash in La Liga’s penultimate weekend of action, one that could have huge connotations at both ends of the table.
All kickoff times are Eastern Time. Enjoy your weekend and enjoy the games!
Wigan Athletic vs. QPR
Friday, 2:45PM, beIN SPORTS and DishWorld
The Championship playoffs are always a fascinating spectacle, and they get underway for two of the four teams on Friday, when FA Cup semi-finalists Wigan host Queen’s Park Rangers. Both sides will be hoping to make a return to the Premier League after a one-year hiatus.
Since Uwe Rosler took charge at the DW Stadium, Wigan have looked like one of the strongest teams in the entire division. They operate with a vibrancy and a swagger that was lacking under his predecessor Owen Coyle, and despite playing an enormous amount of games due of their European commitments this campaign, they still looked fresh in the latter stages of the season.
The Latics’ form has tailed off a little though, and that’s something Harry Redknapp’s team will be hoping to take advantage off. Rangers may not have been the best side in the division to watch this season, but Redknapp has fashioned a team that are very tough to beat. They have a myriad of experienced players too, which can only be a positive ahead of this high pressure clash.
Typically, the first-leg of these games can be a little cagey before they explode into life in the second-leg. But as the home side, the onus will be on Wigan to take the game to QPR and should make for an entertaining spectacle.
VFL Wolfsburg vs. Borussia Moenchengladbach
Saturday, 9:30 AM, GolTV
The race for Champions League football in Germany will go to the wire, with three teams vying for that ellusive final berth in the Bundesliga. Bayer Leverkusen currently occupy fourth position, but if they drop points on the final day, then a win for either Wolfsburg or Monchengladbach could see them take that coveted spot.
The latter two of the aforementioned trio meet on the final day of the Bundesliga season, and with both teams knowing that only a win will suffice, this game should see two teams playing with freedom and fluidity from the off.
Wolfsburg have been seriously impressive in recent weeks, with former Chelsea midfield Kevin De Bruyne looking in superb fettle. He’s the player that can make things happen for this team with his composure, vision and creativity, and given what promises to be an attacking contest, expect De Bruyne to revel in the space afforded to him.
Moenchengladbach need to win this game and hope that Leverkusen drop points at home to Werder Bremen if they are to qualify for the Champions League. Throughout the course of the campaign they’ve shown themselves to be capable of pulling off brilliant results, and they’re a team well capable of doing so again here. They’ve won their last two games, including victory away at Schalke.
All eyes will be on Leverkusen, but with both sides knowing that only a win will be good enough, get set for a gripping 90 minutes at the Volkswagen Arena.
Manchester City vs. West Ham
Sunday, 10:00AM, NBC
For long spells against Aston Villa in midweek, Manchester City looked a side burdened by the pressure of being Premier League favourites. They struggled to break down their dogged opponents for an hour, before a finely worked goal from Edin Dzeko opened the flood gates.
Now, Manuel Pellegrini and his team are on the brink of Premier League glory in just his first season in charge at the club. A point at home to West Ham on Sunday will be enough to secure the title, and you have to say, they look almost certain to notch it.
The problems that they encountered against Villa are likely to reveal themselves again though, with Sam Allardyce’s team sure to get men behind the ball, defend with diligence and pose a major threat from set-pieces. It won’t be easy for City, but it’s a game they should not lose by any stretch of the imagination.
At the time of writing, Pellegrini’s side have been top of this Premier League table for just 12 days. They have timed their run to perfection this season, and given their wonderful balance between defensive discipline and attacking fluidity, they are definitely the most rounded team in the Premier League at the moment. If they can get the job done, then they’ll be worthy champions.
Derby County vs. Brighton
Sunday, 12:15PM, beIN SPORTS and DishWorld
It’s Derby County who hold the advantage going into the second leg of this play-off after their spirited 2-1 win at the Amex Stadium. The Rams fell 10- down early on, but battled back to secure a win in front of a raucous Brighton crowd.
Now, Steve McLaren’s team have a marvellous opportunity to progress to the Wembley playoff final. This Derby team have been simply oustanding since the former England manager took over, and he is quickly re-establishing himeslf as an extremely astute man manager.
But it’d be foolish to write off this Brighton side. They’ve already showcased their fighting qualities by scoring a last minute goal against Nottingham Forest to qualify for the playoffs, and they’ll go to Pride Park feeling confident of getting another unlikely victory.
It’s worth remembering that the away goals rule does not apply to the playoffs, so a 1-0 win for the visitors would be enough to take the game into extra-time. Given the manner in which Derby have performed in front of their own supporters this season, they’ll be hoping an extra 30 minutes is unnecessary.
Elche vs. Barcelona
Sunday, 1:00PM, beIN SPORTS, beIN SPORTS Espanol and DishWorld
A game with enormous connotations at both ends of the La Liga table, as relegation battlers Elche host title chasing Barcelona.
Despite some very inconsistent recent form, slip ups from both of the Madrid teams mean that La Blaugrana still have a very realistic chance of winning the title. After Real Madrid dropped more points at Valladolid in midweek, Tata Martino and his team know that two wins from their last two games would be enough to clinch the title.
But they are not easy games, by any means. Their final clash of the season will be against current table toppers Atletico Madrid at the Camp Nou, but ahead of that one, their penultimate game of the campaign will looks set to be real a battle against Elche.
Much of the talk surrounding La Liga this season has been about the exceptionally tight race for title, but the fight to stay in the division is shaping up to be just as close. Elche are right in the mix for relegation, and although they sit in 14th spot, they’re just three points clear of the drop zone.
Any kind of result against their more illustrious opponents on Sunday would surely guarantee their safety, and that should make for a fascinating affair to cap off the weekend.
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