There are some soccer rivalries that go beyond what occurs on the field. The needle between some of the game’s most illustrious names spans across various cultural and historical demographics, with deep-rooted factors contributing to the angst between those out on the pitch and the supporters in the stands.
For neutrals, these are wonderful games to savor and this weekend we’ll be able to sample arguably the two most iconic derby matches in world soccer, as the two biggest clubs from Spain and England go head-to-head. We’ve also got a burgeoning rivalry to sample between two of Major League Soccer’s arch-enemies.
The other key clashes of the weekend are centered around teams battling for UEFA Champions League places, with spots up for grabs in Germany.
All kick-offs are in Eastern time. Enjoy your games and enjoy the weekend!
Schalke vs. Bayer Leverkusen
Saturday, March 21, 1:30PM, GolTV & fuboTV
After both of these teams performed valiantly but ultimately came up short in their respective Champions League ties against the Madrid giants, the focus for the remainder of the campaign shifts towards cementing their place in next season’s competition.
Bayer Leverkusen currently occupy the fourth and final Champions League spot, but there are a clutch of teams—including Schalke, Augsburg and Hoffenheim—all in hot pursuit. On the back of that draining clash against Atletico Madrid in the week, a trip to Schalke will pose a massive mental and physical challenge from Roger Schmidt’s men.
Schalke’s form has been up and down as of late, but the prospect of a weary Leverkusen team rocking up at the Veltins Arena and the chance to move level on points in fourth spot with a win represents a major incentive for Roberto di Matteo and his side.
Leverkusen have won three domestic games in succession and should carry some confidence into this significant fixture. But you just wonder whether 120 exhausting minutes at the Vicente Calderon against such an energetic, aggressive outfit will hamper them when they take to the field at the Veltins Arena.
Liverpool vs. Manchester United
Sunday, March 22, 10:30AM, NBCSN & NBC Sports Live Extra
While these two teams traditionally challenge at the very summit of the English game, both look as though they’ll have to make do with a consolation prize of Champions League football for next season. But the way in which the league table is shaping up, it’s increasingly likely that only one of Liverpool and United will have that honor.
Given their recent form and what should be a raucous home crowd backing them, Liverpool are the big favorites for this clash. They’ve not lost in the league since their clash with United back in December, as Brendan Rodgers has helped expedite a staggering turnaround in fortunes. A win here can push the Reds up into the top four at United’s expense too.
The Red Devils seem to be getting things together at last under the tutelage of Louis van Gaal, though. They turned in an exemplary display to beat Tottenham Hotspur 3-0 last time out, with the 4-3-3 system deployed enabling United to play with a renewed endeavor and intensity. It’ll be tough for them to replicate these kinds of traits at Anfield, however.
The two sets of supporters simply do not like each other and the racket that emits from this famous old stadium when they two meet is deafening. Whichever side triumphs here can take some major momentum into the back end of the campaign and shout have enough to secure a coveted spot amongst the top four teams in the league.
Bayern Munich vs. Borussia Monchengladbach
Sunday, March 22, 12:30PM, GolTV & fuboTV
Bayern Munich’s 11-point lead at the top of the Bundesliga is looking increasingly insurmountable, but they’ll face a Borussia Monchengladbach team this weekend who may fancy their chances of springing an upset at the Allianz Arena.
The reigning champions are in stunning form at the moment. With key players returning from injury and healthy competition in almost every facet of the squad, Pep Guardiola has a real luxury of options when picking his team on a week-to-week basis. Indeed, they’ve won their previous six domestic games in succession, all at a canter.
They can’t afford to let complacency creep into their make-up in this one, though. Monchengladbach are currently well worth their third place in the division and are unbeaten in their last five Bundesliga matches. Lucien Favre has assembled a cohesive, diligent and incisive team, one that relishes playing on the break and could potentially cause Bayern problems.
If Leverkusen can get a vital away win at Schalke then they’d leapfrog Borussia coming into this match. While it’s a big ask, a positive result at the Allianz Arena would then be very important for Monchengladbach, otherwise they might have to start taking a few nervy glances over their shoulder at some of the teams in hot pursuit.
Barcelona vs. Real Madrid
They don’t come much bigger than this one. Both Barcelona and Real Madrid are battling it out at the top of La Liga and will add another chapter in illustrious history of this storied rivalry when they go head-to-head at the Camp Nou.
Barcelona are definitely the form team coming into this encounter. The Blaugrana have been in supreme form since the turn of the year, with the attacking trio of Lionel Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez taking apart defenses on a weekly basis. The former in particular has been sensational and his form has helped the Catalonians reel in former table toppers Real.
Programming note: Soccer fans in the US, watch el Clasico between Barcelona and Real Madrid on Sunday, March 22 at 4PM ET on beIN SPORTS. If you don’t get beIN SPORTS, watch it live (and legally) via DishWorld for just $10/month for La Liga, Serie A, Ligue Un coverage and more. Watch DishWorld on your phone, computer, tablet or Roku. Plus, in addition to La Liga, Serie A and more, you’ll get Chelsea TV, Arsenal TV, Bayern Munich TV and more.
For the capital club, the 22-game winning run that was put together in late 2014 seems a long way off. Carlo Ancelotti is under a lot of pressure after a substantial lull in form, Cristiano Ronaldo has cut an unashamedly frustrated figure and Gareth Bale has been the source of jeers aplenty from the Sanitago Bernabeu crowd.
It’s tough to see Real going to the Camp Now and turning this one around, but the 3-1 win they sampled over Barcelona earlier in the campaign should give them a fillip of confidence. However, Barca are a side rejuvenated since that previous encounter and can put a four-point buffer between themselves and Real at the top of the pile should they sample victory.
New York Red Bulls vs. DC United
Sunday, March 22, 5:00PM, ESPN2, ESPN Deportes and Sling TV
The New York Red Bulls will resume their season following their week off last time out, as they get set to host DC United in their first home match of the campaign.
Lloyd Sam bagged the only goal for the Red Bulls in their opening day draw with Sporting Kansas City and they’ll be hoping to start their campaign with a bang on home soil. They will have good memories of this fixture too as they won the only match against their big rivals at the RFK Stadium last season.
DC United got their MLS campaign off to the perfect start as they beat Montreal Impact thanks to a Jairo Arrieta goal. A win over their big rivals would make it a perfect start for Ben Olsen’s side after they too were afforded a week off in the second round of fixtures and the momentum accrued from such a potentially significant win would be like nectar for the manager.
These two sides have played out some fascinating clashes downs the years and it’s one of the fixtures on the calendar that the respective fans of each club typically look out for. As such, expect quite the din to be conjured by the Red Bulls supporters, for both sets of players to respond and a classic encounter to manifest.
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