It’s always wonderful when domestic soccer returns after the international break and the fixtures to sample this weekend have whetted the soccer appetite further as the end of season approaches in various division across Europe.
Coming up, we’ve got a battle between Germany’s two biggest outfits, as well as clashes in Italy and England that will have a massive say on which teams compete in next season’s UEFA Champions League. In addition, there’s an iconic derby match to savor with huge relegation connotations, and a match in Ligue 1 that’s massive in the race for the championship.
If none of those encounters tickle your fancy, there are a couple of honorable mentions to potentially check out too.
All kick-off times are in Eastern time. Enjoy your weekend and enjoy the games!
FC Twente vs. PSV, Saturday April 4, 2:45PM, NGSN (free trial)
This exciting PSV team have surged to the top of the Eredivisie after a marvelous campaign. They are an enthralling side to watch, are eight points clear of Ajax and can take a massive step towards clinching the title with a win at Twente this weekend.
Fort Lauderdale Strikers vs. New York Cosmos, Saturday April 4, 7:30PM, One World Sports and DishWorld
The North America Soccer League (NASL) gets underway this weekend and all eyes will be on the clash between the Strikers and the Cosmos. Raul will be making his league debut for New York against the Ronaldo co-owned Fort Lauderdale outfit; the legendary Brazilian forward won’t be playing, however.
Roma vs. Napoli
Roma were looking as though they were going to challenge for the Serie A title for long spells of this campaign, but a horrendous run of recent form has left them looking over their shoulders instead. A loss here to Napoli would put their chances of securing a Champions League spot for next season at serious risk.
Things started going wrong for the Giallorossi after they were hammered 7-1 by Bayern Munich in the Champions League. Rudi Garcia’s team have been sapped of their confidence ever since that embarrassing loss to the German juggernaut and after being eliminated from two European competitions, their league form has plummeted.
Napoli are also finding things especially tough at the moment. They haven’t won in their last four domestic matches and are currently languishing down in fifth place. With Lazio and Sampdoria both in sensational form, it’s imperative the Partenopei cling on to the coattails of the teams above them if they’re to secure Champions League football.
There’s always a certain amount of gravitas that festers when two giants of Italy meet and although neither of these teams are at their best at the moment, there’s enormous pressure on both. Expect a fervent Stadio Olimpico to provide a colorful backdrop to what should be an intriguing 90 minutes of action.
Arsenal vs. Liverpool
Saturday April 4, 7:45AM, NBCSN and NBC Sports Live Extra
These sides have been arguably the most exciting two teams to watch in the Premier League in 2015 and this encounter at the Emirates Stadium will do plenty to outline the respective ambitions of each between now and the end of the season.
Aside from their Champions League exit to Monaco and a loss to Tottenham Hotspur in the league, this Arsenal team have been exemplary in 2015. At home especially, Arsene Wenger’s side have been fantastic and a win here over Liverpool would surely help cement their status as a Champions League side once again next season.
Liverpool will be hoping to thrust themselves back into contention for a top four spot with a victory in North London. The Reds lost to Manchester United in their previous encounter and another defeat here would set them back even further in their own ambitions to finish in the Champions League spots.
These sides are two of the most attacking, fluid and encapsulating teams in the division. Don’t expect either to compromise on their principles here despite what’s at stake, as such we should be treated to one of the most engrossing matches of the entire campaign.
Borussia Dortmund vs. Bayern Munich
Saturday April 3, 12:30PM, GolTV and fuboTV
These two teams have typically battled it out at the top of the table over the last few Bundesliga seasons and although BVB have endured a tough campaign, this fixture—Der Klassiker—remains one of the most hotly anticipated in the German top flight.
Dortmund seemed set for a relegation at one stage this season and while Jurgen Klopp has steered them away from the dreaded drop-zone, a charge towards the European places doesn’t look as though it’s going to materialize. On their day, they remain one of the finest sides in the the division however and they could pose problems for this Bayern team.
It’s a Bayern team that are coming into this game on the back of a loss too. Borussia Monchengladbach beat Pep Guardiola’s side 2-0 at the Allianz Arena in their previous league encounter and the patented swagger that had been so prominent from the leaders this season was scarcely on show.
Monchengladbach got their tactical blueprint spot on for that match, soaking up Bayern’s pressure for long spells, counter-attacking with distinction and taking their chances when they materialised. Dortmund are potentially capable of deploying similar stylistic principles and as such, we should get a thoroughly entertaining contest.
Sunderland vs. Newcastle United
Sunday April 5, 11:00AM, NBCSN and NBC Sports Live Extra
Sunderland have developed a bit of habit of bringing in new managers at this stage of the season and as it happens, the vast majority of new bosses have had to tackle their North-East rivals Newcastle United in the opening weeks of their reign.
Temporary Black Cats boss Dick Advocaat needs to inspire his team to a win too. Sunderland have become engulfed in a relegation battle in recent weeks and although there were some minor signs of improvement during the Dutchman’s managerial debut at West Ham United last week—a match they eventually lost 1-0—it’s results they need at this stage of the season.
Advocaat probably couldn’t have asked for a better opponent in this fixture, though. Sunderland have a very good recent record against Newcastle, the Magpies are stranded in mid-table with nothing at all to play for and the visit of the Toon Army should unite a fan-base that have become completely disillusioned with the club as of late.
Newcastle will be desperate to inflict even more woe onto their rivals and a win for John Carver’s side would help lift the mid-season malaise that’s engulfed St. James’ Park. Sunderland—just one point clear of the relegation zone coming into the weekend—dare not think of the consequences should they suffer a loss.
Marseille vs. Paris Saint-Germain
The race for the title in Ligue 1 is arguably the most exciting in European football, with teams still dreaming of sampling glory. Two of them meet at the Stade Velodrome this weekend, with third-placed Marseille set to host league leaders and reigning champions Paris Saint-Germain.
After a stunning start to the season, Marseille dropped off the pace a little under Marcelo Bielsa mid-season. But they’ve clung on to the heels of Lyon and PSG; if Lyon fail to win at Guingamp on Saturday and they take three points here, they can go back to the top of the table. It’s a major incentive for Bielsa’s side and expect a stunning atmosphere to match the occasion.
PSG are a quality outfit though and have far superior experience when it comes to these kinds of challenges. Blanc’s men have reeled in Lyon and Marseille in recent weeks and after hitting the front following a 3-1 win over Lorient last time out, they’re a team that look as though they’re going to be very difficult to knock off course.
Just two points separate the top three sides in this engrossing fight and there’s a chance for a side to gather some major momentum here with the weeks ticking down. PSG remain the major favorites to triumph, but a win for Marseille would blow things wide open once again.
Follow Matt on Twitter @MattJFootball
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