It’s the final weekend of domestic action in Europe, but with crucial league matches and major cup finals to sample, it’s probably the most intriguing round of matches we’ve had this season.
Saturday will see the final of three major competitions, with the curtain set to come down on action in England, Germany and Spain. Aside from that, we’ve got a critical game in Serie A, with what’s essentially a playoff for a Champions League place.
Rounding the weekend off, two of Major League Soccer’s biggest sides will clash in what’ll be an intriguing contest.
All kickoffs are in Eastern Time. Enjoy your weekend, enjoy the games and enjoy your summer!
Arsenal vs. Aston Villa (FA Cup Final)
Saturday May 30, 12:30PM, FOX and FOX Soccer 2GO
The FA Cup final’s pageantry still makes it one of the most hotly anticipated fixtures on the football calendar. Arsenal and Aston Villa should make this one a cracking occasion to savor too.
Arsenal will be hoping to retain the trophy which they lifted a year ago. Last season there was massive pressure to end an extended silverware drought; eventually the Gunners got over the line against Hull City and they’ll surely be much better prepared this time around. A 4-1 win over West Bromwich Albion suggests the Londoners are in fine form ahead of this one too.
By contrast, while Tim Sherwood galvanized Aston Villa sufficiently to stave off relegation, the Midlands club have tailed off somewhat. A heavy defeat to Southampton was backed up by a moribund showing and subsequent loss at home to Burnley; it’s imperative this team raises their game at Wembley if they’re to avoid a severe beating.
Given how they shone in the semi-final against Liverpool, expect Villa to up the ante significantly when they take to the field on Saturday. Getting the better of an in-form Arsenal side possessing fresh memories of last season’s triumph will be an altogether more difficult challenge.
Borussia Dortmund vs. Wolfsburg (DFB-Pokal)
Saturday May 30, 2:00PM, ESPN3.com
Jurgen Klopp has the chance to sign off a seven-year tenure with Borussia Dortmund in magnificent fashion, as BVB face Wolfsburg in the final of the Dfb Pokal in Berlin.
Having secured European football for Dortmund with a win over Werder Bremen in his final match at the Westfalenstadion, Klopp will be delighted with how his side have recovered from a turbulent beginning to the campaign. Now they can cap the season off in style, giving the popular manager and longstanding skipper Sebastian Kehl the chance to leave on a high.
While the focus will be on the men in black and yellow this weekend, Wolfsburg are formidable opposition. They finished the Bundesliga campaign strongly and have been the standout team in the division behind eventual champions Bayern Munich. In Kevin de Bruyne, they boast one of European football’s most creative talents too.
It’s an intriguing dynamic heading into this one. While Dortmund have long been second behind Bayern, the club are on the cusp of a defining spell of transition. Wolfsburg, it would seem, are ready to step into their shoes should they drop off the pace.
Barcelona vs. Athletic Club (Copa del Rey Final)
Saturday May 30, 3:30PM, ESPN2, ESPN Deportes and WatchESPN
Luis Enrique’s Barcelona side will be hoping to clinch the second leg of what would be an historic treble, as they face Athletic Club at the Nou Camp on Sunday evening in the final of the Copa del Rey.
Having wrapped up the La Liga title, the Blaugrana have a chance to secure a domestic double ahead of the Champions League final on June 6. With home advantage, a cohesive defence and the most feared attacking triumvirate anywhere in the world, on paper, this should be the most straightforward of the trio of trophies they are chasing.
Athletic shouldn’t be written off completely, although the odds will be hugely stacked against them. After all, the Basque club will have a substantial support in situ in the Catalonian venue and after finishing the season undefeated in seven games, Ernesto Valverde’s men are certainly in excellent form.
Beating Barcelona at the Nou Camp in a major final is an ominous challenge. There’s a festering sense of invincibility about Enrique’s men and with news that Luis Suarez is set to be back in the side alongside Lionel Messi and Neymar, it’s tough to see quite how the Basque club are going to get the better of this brilliant Blaugran outfit.
Napoli vs. Lazio
Sunday May 31, 2:45PM, beIN SPORTS Espańol and fuboTV
After Monday’s defeat to Roma in the Derby della Capitale, Lazio are in danger of slipping out of the Champions League spots in the final embers of this campaign. Indeed, if they lose to Napoli at the San Paolo in this one, the Partenopei will overhaul them to take third place.
A positive result against Roma would have capped off a brilliant season for the Biancolesti. They’ve been wonderful throughout 2015, inspired by the effervescent wing play of Felipe Anderson and for long spells, Stefano Pioli’s side seemed set to finish second. Sadly, after a loss to their bitter rivals and defeat to Juventus in the Coppa Italian final, it’s all beginning to unravel.
Lazio only need to get a point here, but it’s easier said than done at what will be a raucous San Paolo stadium. Napoli will feel relieved they’re still in with a chance of breaching the top three after a defeat to Juve last time out and given their excellent home record, they’ll be confident of edging out the capital club at the final hurdle.
It will be Rafael Benitez’s final game for the Naples team and it’ll be intriguing to see whether that inspires or inhibits the Napoli players. But this is such an important occasion for both sides as they look to finish the season off with a flourish.
Seattle Sounders vs. New York Red Bulls
Sunday May 31, 5:00PM, ESPN2, ESPN Deportes and Sling TV
While domestic matters in Europe are swiftly drawing to a close, across the pond the start to the MLS season has been encapsulating. Expect this weekend’s fixture between Seattle Sounders and New York Red Bulls to keep standards high.
These two sides have produced some outstanding matches down the years and this one doesn’t look set to buck that trend. Indeed, Seattle come into this one as the top side in the Western Conference by a couple of points, while the Red Bulls are five points back on Eastern leaders DC United, although the New Yorkers do have two games in hand.
Seattle will be relying on their prolific front line to fire them to victory at CenturyLink field. Both Clint Dempsey and Obafemi Martins have began the campaign in excellent form, with 13 goals plundered between them in the opening 12 matches. But the defensive side of this team is blossoming too; led superbly by Chad Marshall, the Sounders haven’t conceded in their last three.
The Red Bulls are enduring a sketchy run of form coming into this one. Their only win in the last six matches came against local rivals New York City FC and a 2-0 defeat to Philadelphia Union in their previous fixture represented the most toothless display of the season to date. They’ll be hoping memories of a 4-1 win over Seattle last year will prompt an upturn in form here.
Follow Matt on Twitter @MattJFootball
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