While the race for the Premier League title looks dead in the water, there are a host of enticing battles still to be played out in English soccer’s top flight. Perhaps most intriguingly, the race to finish amongst the top four spots and secure UEFA Champions League football for next season.
Our selected five games feature two that involve teams vying for those coveted spots, while we’ve also picked matches from Spain and France that will have major connotations on the potential destination of their respective league titles. Capping the weekend off is an MLS franchise making their home debut at an iconic venue.
All kickoff times are in Eastern Time.
Enjoy your weekend and enjoy the games!
Eibar vs. Barcelona
Two teams at the opposite ends of the form spectrum meet in La Liga this weekend, with minnows Eibar set to host a Barcelona team that romped to the top of the table last time out.
Indeed, the Blaugrana capitalized on Real Madrid’s loss to Athletic Bilbao with distinction as a hat-trick from Lionel Messi and two goals from a resurgent Luis Suarez pushed the Catalonians on to a 6-1 victory against Rayo Vallecano. At the moment, there’s little denying that they are the finest team in Spain.
It’ll be intriguing to see how they approach this one, though. As noted, Eibar are in rotten form at the minute and Barcelona have a vital clash with Manchester City to negotiate in the midweek round of Champions League fixtures following. The temptation will definitely be there for Luis Enrique to chop and change things, but he must ensure complacency doesn’t creep into their game.
Eibar may be in poor form—they’ve lost their seven games in succession—but they showcased enough about them earlier in the season to suggest they’re capable of hauling themselves out of this rut. Their humble Ipurua Municipal stadium will certainly come as a culture shock to some of the Blaugrana stars.
Chelsea vs. Southampton
Sunday March 15, 9:30AM, NBCSN & NBC Sports Live Extra
After their embarrassing elimination at the hands of Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League, Chelsea will now be focusing squarely on the Premier League and will be desperate to get back to winning ways against a Southampton side still eyeing a top four spot.
The Blues were uncharacteristically languid throughout that clash with the French champions and that will have definitely come as a concern to Jose Mourinho. The form of players like Diego Costa and Cesc Fabregas seems to have taken something of a nosedive, so it’d be no surprise to see the Portuguese freshen things up with a few new faces in the XI.
Southampton are side that are definitely capable of taking advantage of any potential frailties too. Ronald Koeman’s men are one of the most hard-working teams in the country and although their own sensational early season exploits have fizzled out, a positive result here would haul them right back into the race for the Champions League spots.
Playing a Premier League fixture on the back of a European defeat it always difficult and you suspect it’ll be quite a sombre atmosphere inside Stamford Bridge. Saints should be refreshed and ready to capitalize should the Blues come into this one with a comparatively lackadaisical approach.
Manchester United vs. Tottenham Hotspur
Sunday March 15, 12:00PM, NBCSN & NBC Sports Live Extra
Both of these sides will feel as though they are right in the hunt to secure Champions League football for next season, but Manchester United and Tottenham both come into this contest on the back of completely different previous results.
Indeed, United’s loss to Arsenal was in many ways a microcosm of their entire season. Throughout the match they resembled a set of fractured components, they were unable to sustain any offensive pressure and at the back Louis van Gaal’s men were all over the place. A response against Spurs this weekend is imperative, you feel.
But the Londoners have been in decent form themselves as of late and in Harry Kane, they have a player who has netted in each of his previous six away matches. His industry and intelligence will cause plenty of problems for this ropey Red Devils defense, as will the intensity Mauricio Pochettino’s teams play with week-to-week.
Tottenham can really flex their muscles with a win here. While United aren’t at their free-flowing best, Old Trafford remains a very tough place to go and get three points. If they can go there and savour victory, you suspect their top-four credentials would start to be taken a lot more seriously.
Marseille vs. Lyon
Sunday March 15, 4:00PM, beIN SPORTS Connect
The race to win Ligue 1 has been an unexpected thrill ride this season. While the wealth of PSG should see them dominate this division, they’re currently locked in a three-way scrap for glory with Marseille and Lyon, who meet each other at the Stade Velodrome this weekend.
This effervescent young Lyon side currently lead the reigning champions by one point at the moment and they abated any suggestions that their bubble is poised to burst with a terrific display at Montpellier last time out. Herbert Fournier’s men won 5-1, putting in a dazzling display at one of the toughest venues to triumph in the entire division.
Spearheading their charge are the mercurial talents of Alexandre Lacazette and Nabil Fekir. The former is the top scorer in the division by a stretch this season with 23, scorching pitches up and down the country with his scintilating forward displays. Fekir is typically the man laying on passes for the Frenchman, but he’s also helped himself to 11 goals.
Marseille will test their title credentials to the maximum however. They are a very tough team to beat on home soil and Marcelo Bielsa’s men always put their opponents under pressure with a high-octane brand of football. This one has all the makings of a potential classic.
New York City vs. New England Revolution
Sunday March 15, 5:00PM, ESPN2, ESPN Deportes & Sling TV
Yankee Stadium will host the first ever competitive home game in the history of New York City, as the franchise gear up for the visit of New England Revolution.
The newly found club got their MLS campaign of to a pretty decent start, picking up a valuable point away from home against Orlando City. The fervent backdrop of supporters made for testing conditions for the visitors, but it was a measure of Jason Kreis’ side’s character that they were just seconds away from taking a deserved win from the clash.
It’s a performance that seems to have stirred even more interest in the franchise too. The stadium has opened extra seating for supporters due to added demand and it looks as thought the attendance will far surpass that of the standard Yankee Stadium capacity for soccer of circa 27,500. Subsequently, expect a pretty special atmosphere to be conjured.
Do New England Revolution have it in them to spoil the party? They’ll certainly have to perform a lot better than their previous outing when they were well beaten by the Seattle Sounders. But Jay Heaps will surely have his team primed to turn in a much more cohesive, diligent display.
Follow Matt on Twitter @MattJFootball
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