There’s another stellar weekend of soccer in store from around the world, as domestic action returns for a significant spell after the final international break of 2015.
And what better way to kickstart our weekend of action than with arguably the biggest club soccer game anywhere in the world, El Clasico. If that wasn’t enough to fully whet the appetite, there are two more enormous clashes in European football, one from Italy and one from Spain, plus the first two legs of the Major League Soccer conference finals.
All kickoffs are in Eastern time. Enjoy your weekend and enjoy the games!
Real Madrid vs. Barcelona
Saturday, November 21, 12:15PM, beIN SPORTS, beIN SPORTS en Español and fuboTV
It doesn’t get much bigger than this when it comes to club soccer, as Real Madrid get set to host Barcelona at the Santiago Bernabeu.
Rafa Benitez will be acutely aware of the significance of this one as a Spaniard and after the loss to Sevilla in Real’s previous outing, will know just how imperative it is Los Blancos get back to winning ways. There have been some criticisms of the pragmatic principles which have been employed by Benitez so far and it’s vital the hosts begin on the front foot here.
Barcelona are a dangerous team to trade attacking blows with. Not only have Luis Suarez and Neymar been in tremendous recent form, Lionel Messi, after being missing since late September, is back in training once again ahead of this one. If the hosts leave space, then the Blaugrana have a trio of players capable of exploiting it.
Aside from the prestige which comes with winning one of these games, there is plenty at stake in terms of league position too. A win for Real and they’ll go back ahead of Barcelona, whereas if the visitors take all three points, they’ll be six points clear of their main title challengers, boasting a superior head-to-head record too.
Manchester City vs. Liverpool
Saturday, November 21, 12:30PM, NBC and NBC Sports Live Extra
There’ll be an immense about of scrutiny on Raheem Sterling come Saturday afternoon, as his current club Manchester City face former employers Liverpool for the first time since his £49 million transfer.
City will be the big favorites for this one after a decent beginning to the Premier League season, heading into this weekend top of the standings. At the Etihad Stadium Manuel Pellegrini’s men are a fearsome proposition and they’ll be confident of picking up all three points, especially with key attacking men David Silva and Sergio Aguero set to return from injury
Liverpool will head along the M62 motorway with hopes of picking up a positive result. Manager Jurgen Klopp has helped bring a feel good factor back to Anfield, but a 2-1 defeat at home to Crystal Palace in their last outing exposed some of the longstanding concerns there are when it comes to this group of players.
Sterling will be desperate to make an impression, having shown signs of maturity since his move from Anfield. He’ll get a rough reception from the visiting supporters, but there are more important matters to consider as these two rivals seek to build momentum ahead of the festive period.
Juventus vs. Milan
Saturday, November 21, 2:45PM, beIN SPORTS, beIN SPORTS en Español and fuboTV
It’s been a long, long time since a clash between Juventus and Milan was merely a midtable encounter, but that’s what these two are facing up to in Turin this weekend. Nevertheless, it’s a match will still should make for an absorbing occasion.
Slowly but surely, the Bianconeri seem to be getting their act together. Two wins from their last two Serie A outings have yielded signs of positivity for Massimiliano Allegri, with the likes of Paul Pogba and Juan Cuadrado stamping their authority on matches. They’re just nine points back on leaders Fiorentina heading into the weekend.
It’s been a mixed bag of a season for Milan under Sinisa Mihajlovic. There have been moments of real quality from this team, helped by the dynamic forward play of Carlos Bacca. However, instances of defensive madness have led to inconsistencies and that’s something they must eradicate if they’re to get a win here.
Despite the stuttering starts made by both sides, they each don’t remain too far back in the race for the Serie A title. It’s glory which may be beyond this group of Milan players, but if Juventus can secure their third win in succession in this encounter, then suddenly they’ll be major contenders once again.
Columbus Crew vs. New York Red Bulls
Sunday, November 22, 5:00PM, ESPN, ESPN Deportes and SlingTV
The finale of the Eastern Conference season is likely to be a storming encounter, as Columbus Crew and the New York Red Bulls seek to book their place in the MLS Cup final.
Columbus Crew are the hosts for the first game of what’s likely to be an absorbing double header. The Black & Gold were excellent in their semi-final matches against Montreal Impact. Spearheaded by the goalscoring prowess of Kei Kamara, they were able to overturn a 2-1 first leg deficit, emerging victorious in extra-time and bottling some major momentum going into this one.
The Red Bulls have been the finest team in Major League Soccer this season. Admittedly, they weren’t at their free-flowing best in getting past DC United in their own semi-final, but this group of players seem determined to make it to the final and secure the MLS Cup for the first time in their history. Getting a positive result here would be a massive step towards that goal.
The teams faced each other three times in the regular season, with the Red Bulls notching two wins and Columbus one. Encouragingly for the visitors, they were able to secure an impressive 2-1 victory at Mapfre Stadium back in March; a repeat of that result would delight their traveling fans on Sunday evening.
Portland Timbers vs. FC Dallas
Sunday, November 22, 7:30PM, FOX Sports 1 and FOX Soccer 2GO
The first leg of the Western Conference semi-final will follow the day’s earlier game, with Portland Timbers and FC Dallas both hoping to cap off fine playoff campaigns.
There’s a lot to admire about the manner in which FC Dallas have gone about their business as of late. Against Seattle Sounders, Dallas were staring elimination in the face when Chad Marshall scored a last minute goal. But in stoppage time, the hosts fought back through Walter Zimmerman and eventually won a thrilling tie on penalties.
It means they’ll head to the home of the Timbers hugely confident, although acutely aware of the size of the task at hand. Portland are a dynamic side and one which has the defensive steel to help shut down an impressive Dallas attacking set-up. It’s important they take a lead in this first-leg, though, and backed by their raucous supporters, will feel as though there’s a great chance of doing so.
For FC Dallas fans, it’s going to be intriguing to see how this young team handles the pressure of a conference final. They’ve showed a fearlessness to this point, but in what’s set to be a white hot atmosphere at Providence Park, Portland could easily capitalise on their inexperience.
Follow Matt on Twitter @MattJFootball
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