While a lot of the European leagues have settled down, for those in the United States, the competition is bubbling up to an intriguing climax.
Indeed, this Sunday will see the conference semi-finals get underway in the MLS Cup and there are a couple of standout encounters included in or selections this weekend. In addition to those first-leg showdowns, there’s a brilliant day of action to savor from the Premier League on Saturday, with two standout fixtures to sample.
Completing our five selections is a top of the table showdown in Serie A in what remains a thoroughly engrossing Italian season.
All kickoffs are in Eastern Time. Enjoy your weekend and enjoy the games.
Chelsea vs. Liverpool
Just when things seemed to be turning around for Chelsea, two devastating losses in a week have set them back again. A rejuvenated Liverpool side will be hoping to inflict another defeat on their longstanding rivals.
The manner in which Chelsea collapsed at West Ham United was hugely concerning for Blues faithful. Red cards, yellow cards, coaches being banished to the stand and reports of manager Jose Mourinho refusing to leave the referee’s room at half-time; at the moment the team is an accurate reflection of their desperate manager.
Liverpool are becoming a more clear reflection of Jurgen Klopp as the weeks tick by too and will be buoyed by their first victory under the German in midweek against Bournemouth. There is still much work to be done for the Reds, but they seem to have the tools to make the match against Chelsea a very difficult one for the hosts.
After all, the Reds, unlike Chelsea, seem totally unified behind a cause and willing to run through brick walls for their boss. The Blues players aren’t flying at the moment, but a win over the Merseysides could help formulate a much more prosperous second half of the season.
Crystal Palace vs. Manchester United
Saturday, October 31, 11:00AM, NBCSN and NBC Sports Live Extra
Manchester United were unable to notch a derby day victory last weekend against Manchester City, but still remain in the hunt for the Premier League title. This game, away at Crystal Palace, is the kind of contest that sides with ambitions of topping the table need to take three points from.
Crystal Palace suffered a rare away defeat at Leicester City last time out and given their patchy home form will be a little bit concerned about this clash at Selhurst Park. Alan Pardew’s men took a beating in midweek at the hands of City in the League Cup too, making it three defeats in a row in all competitions.
United remain tough to predict, though. Louis van Gaal’s side were excellent at Everton a fortnight ago, average against Manchester City last weekend and rank bad against Middlesbrough in the League Cup in midweek, losing on penalties. Wayne Rooney’s perennially poor form gives Van Gaal a big decision to make ahead of this game too.
The Red Devils won this fixture 2-1 last season and have shown the requisite qualities to grind out another win on the road. Palace will be smarting after a poor run of results, though, and backed by their raucous supporters, they’ll fancy their chances of getting back to winning ways.
Inter Milan vs. Roma
Saturday, October 31, 3:45PM; Shown on delay at 5:30pm ET on beIN SPORTS and fuboTV
Roma are the latest side to take their place at the top of Serie A and they’ll be desperate to make another big statement of intent when they face Inter Milan at the San Siro on Saturday evening.
A 3-1 win for the Giallorossi last time out kept them two points clear of Fiorentina, but it’s exceptionally tight at the summit. Indeed, La Viola, Napoli and Inter are all just two points back on the league leaders, and with Juventus continuing to struggle in Serie A, it seems as though the Scudetto is there for the taking for an outsider.
Roma look like the team best placed to capitalise on the Bianconeri’s stuttering start. After an unconvincing beginning of their own, the capital club have clicked into gear in the last five matches, winning five in a row in Serie A and scoring goals for fun. Inter are likely to be their biggest test of the season so far.
The Nerazzuri are struggling for a spark themselves, with just 10 goals scored in their opening 10 games. Roberto Mancini’s men are well capable of grinding out results, though, and with top spot potentially up for grabs, will surely be seeking to secure victory. It’s a clash of styles which should make for a very intriguing contest.
DC United vs. New York Red Bulls
Fixtures between DC United and the New York Red Bulls often make for some of the most enthralling in Major League Soccer, making this Eastern Conference semi-final first leg arguably the game of the weekend.
After clinching the Supporters’ Shield last weekend, the Red Bulls should be on a high coming into this clash. It’s a fixture which Jesse Marsch will want to see his experienced players step up in, as the atmosphere at RFK Stadium is likely to be a hostile one. However, throughout the campaign, the Red Bulls have shown the requisite mental strength to deal with this type of challenge.
If anything, it’s DC who will have to overcome a mental hurdle. They were unable to get the better of their Atlantic Cup rivals during the regular season and after a mediocre regular season by their own high standards, will know that they need to raise their levels if they’re to take a first-leg lead in this tie.
The Red Bulls have something of an aura about them this year and while they will have been delighted to finish top of the pile after the regular season, they’ll be desperate to secure their maiden MLS Cup triumph. A positive result here would be another big step towards that honour.
Seattle Sounders vs. FC Dallas
Seattle’s thrilling 3-2 over reigning MLS Cup holders LA Galaxy saw them secure their spot in the semi-finals of the Western Conference, but they’ll have their work cut out against an FC Dallas team who finished top of the table following the regular season.
While Dallas did miss out on the Supporters’ Shield on the final day, Oscar Pareja’s team can be content with a strong season overall. Now, he’ll be desperate to push this team on to what would be their first ever MLS Cup victory and they’ve shown enough so far this year to suggest they’re well capable of going all the way.
Seattle are a dangerous opponent, though, especially at CenturyLink Field where the first leg will be played. The Galaxy found that out to their peril in their last outing, as Seattle, backed by a passionate crowd, tore through the opposition early in the match and secured a vital win. It’s a kind of dynamism and industry they must show again here.
It’s a fixture the hosts will have good memories of too, as an inspired showing from Lamar Neagle helped the Sounders to a 3-0 win back in June. Dallas are a much more fearsome proposition at this point, but will have to be at their very best if they’re to walk away from this fixture undefeated.
Follow Matt on Twitter @MattJFootball
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