The curtain will come down on another gripping MLS season on Sunday evening, with the competition finale capping off what’s going to be a wonderful weekend of action across the globe.
It’s one which begins on Friday, with two of Italy’s most illustrious names facing off in what should be a cracking contest. On Saturday, teams seeking to push into UEFA Champions League spots will host the respective champions in fixtures from Germany and Spain. Then, a classic Premier League encounter will whet the appetite on Sunday for the MLS Cup clash.
All kickoffs are in Eastern time. Enjoy your week and enjoy the games!
Lazio vs. Juventus
Slowly, Massimiliano Allegri’s Juventus team have started to get their act together in Serie A and their recent run of positive form will be tested on Friday evening, as they head to the capital to face Lazio.
There were clearly big problems with the Italian champions at the start of the campaign, with new players to integrate and gaps to fill. Form suffered as a result and Allegri was under growing pressure. But things have turned in the last few weeks, with the Bianconeri creeping up into fifth position on the back of four straight wins.
Lazio initially looked like one of the teams who may be capable of taking advantage of Juve’s troubles, but they’ve slipped down the table after some wretched form, losing four and drawing one of their last five games. The capital club can turn it on at home, though, meaning the visitors should expect a big test.
Juve can thrust themselves back into contention for the title with a win here. They would move to within four points of leaders Napoli with a victory at the Stadio Olimpico and you can bet the Partenopei, Inter Milan, Fiorentina and Roma would all start looking over their shoulder with some degree of concern.
Borussia Monchengladbach vs. Bayern Munich
If Bayern Munich are to be slowed down in their romp towards yet another Bundesliga title, then Borussia Monchengladbach must take points off them this weekend.
The champions head to Borussia Park eight points ahead of nearest challengers Borussia Dortmund, having won 13 and drawn one of their 14 games to this point. Pep Guardiola’s side are in simply sensational form, scoring plenty of goals, staying watertight at the back and thrilling supporters with their magnificent play.
Monchengladbach’s season has been a peculiar one so far. They’ve made their way up to fourth position in the Bundesliga coming into this game, which is around where many would have expected them to be. But they lost their first five games of the season, prompting the dismissal of Lucien Favre and under new head coach Andre Schubert, have yet to lose a game.
At home, Monchengladbach will fancy their chances of springing a surprise against their illustrious opponents and will likely attack the champions more than most other sides in the division. Should Bayern take all three points in this one, the Bundesliga title race may well be done and dusted already.
Valencia vs. Barcelona
There’s been a lot going on at Valencia this week, with Gary Neville appointed as their manager in a shock deal. But the former Manchester United man won’t be in charge this weekend, as Los Che face the unenviable task of halting Barcelona.
Nuno Santo left Valencia last weekend after they turned in a tepid performance at Sevilla, meaning they head into this round down in ninth position. There are some quality players within the ranks for Neville to work with and it’ll be intriguing to see whether they up their levels with the new boss likely to be looking on from the stands.
Barcelona are a bit special at the moment, though. With Lionel Messi back in the fold, linking up with Neymar and Luis Suarez once again, the Blaugrana are almost unstoppable in their forward forays. They’ve scored for fun in their last few matches, but will come up against a Valencia team whose defensive record is only bettered by Atletico Madrid in La Liga.
The Mestalla is always a difficult place to go and even though it’s been a week of disruption at Valencia leading up to this game, that’ll be the case again for Barcelona. Luis Enrique will be hoping the visitors find their rhythm quickly and stifle any momentum Los Che may be seeking to build.
Newcastle United vs. Liverpool
Sunday, December 6, 11:00AM, NBCSN, Telemundo and NBC Sports Live Extra
Newcastle United are in dire straits after losing 5-1 against Crystal Palace in their last outing and things don’t get any easier for Steve McClaren’s side this weekend, as they welcome a Liverpool team who have been make tremendous progress under new manager Jurgen Klopp.
In a season of awful moments for this Magpies side, the showing at Selhurst Park was the lowest point for these players. After going ahead earlier in the game, the travelling supporters had to endure 80 minutes of abject football, as Palace ran riot on the day. Another performance that bad and you wonder how much longer McClaren will last for.
Liverpool are one of the worst teams in the division come up against at the moment too. Under Klopp they have been full of energy, picking up positive results and most noticeably of all, are really enjoying their football once again. At the moment, they’re the total antithesis of their upcoming opponents and will be buoyed by their magnificent 6-1 win over Southampton in midweek.
Newcastle have shown some small signs of life at home, beating Norwich City 6-2 and pushing Chelsea extremely close in a 2-2 draw. It means an entertaining game should be on the cards, although there’ll have to be a major shift in performance levels if the hosts are to take anything from this contest.
Columbus Crew vs. Portland Timbers
This is as big as it gets for Columbus Crew and Portland Timbers, as they each go in search of glory in the MLS Cup final.
It’s set to be a gripping encounter, with little between the two sides. Indeed, the match will be played at the home of Columbus, although only due to goal difference, with the two teams possessing identical season records up to this point. The Crew will be hoping the backing of a raucous MAPFRE Stadium will enable them to take the tile.
For Columbus, it’s a brilliant opportunity to win what’d be their second MLS Cup. They won the title back in 2008 with a victory over the New York Red Bulls and they beat the same team in the Eastern Conference final this time round, clinging on in the second leg to win 2-1 on aggregate. After showing such determination, their supporters will be confident this team can go all the way.
Portland are a dangerous team, though, as we’ve been witness to all season. They proved against FC Dallas over two legs that they definitely have what it takes to triumph on the road, showing their attacking quality to nab a 2-2 draw and progress 5-3 on aggregate. If they can play with a similar offensive swagger in the final, they’ve got an excellent chance.
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