When the Premier League got underway back in August last year, few would have anticipated that this year’s edition would churn out quite so many surprises. And this weekend’s round of matches—the reverse of Week 1—will prompt memories of just how we’ve come this term.
Two games have made the final cut, with each involving a title challenger and a side seeking to finish in the Champions League places. Elsewhere, there’s a contest between two fast starters in Major League Soccer to savor, as well as the Bundesliga’s biggest derby and a fascinating showdown in La Liga.
All kick-offs are in Eastern time. Enjoy your weekend and enjoy the games.
Philadelphia Union vs. Orlando City
It may still be early days in Major League Soccer, but the starts made to the season by both Orlando City and Philadelphia Union bode well for the months to come.
Orlando, in particular, have excelled so far this term. Manager Adrian Heath will have been disappointed not to have picked up wins from the opening two games, but City have responded well since, beating an illustrious New York City side before thumping reigning MLS Cup holders Portland Timbers 4-1 in their last outing.
So they’ll travel north to take on Union with plenty of confidence this weekend and as the Eastern Conference leaders. But Philadelphia can leapfrog them with a win and while they lost in their last encounter at Chicago Fire, they’re a side who have showcased potential to date with wins over Columbus Crew and New England Revolution.
With Kaka back in the side supplementing the excellent Kyle Larin, Orlando are a force to be reckoned with going forward. If Philadelphia can match them, this could be the standout game of the weekend.
West Ham vs. Arsenal
Saturday April 9, 7:45AM, NBCSN, NBC Universo & NBC Sports Live Extra
Both West Ham United and Arsenal have slender hopes of achieving something special this season, but one of them will surely have their dreams curtailed come the end of this match on Saturday.
It’s been a superb season for the Irons and from the off it seemed as though they were capable of upsetting the odds. That’s after they went to the Emirates Stadium and won 2-0 on the opening day, with Dimitri Payet pulling the strings in a fine counter-attacking performance. It’s a blueprint which has worked wonderfully for the remainder of the campaign.
A win for West Ham would move them level on points with fourth place Manchester City and surely call time on Arsenal’s title tilt. The Gunners are 11 points behind leaders Leicester City with a game in hand and have rediscovered their spark in recent weeks with wins over Watford and Everton. Anything other than a win here and they’ll surely have to settle for a top four berth, though.
It’s a perfect game to kick off the Premier League weekend, with local bragging rights and positional gains at stake. With some superb cerebral talents on show like Payet, Manuel Lanzini, Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez, expect plenty of thrilling soccer at the Boleyn Ground.
Real Sociedad vs. Barcelona
A testing week for Barcelona continues on Saturday evening, as they head to Real Sociedad looking to end their poor longstanding record at the Anoeta.
The last two outings have been very difficult for Luis Enrique’s Barcelona team. They were beaten by Real Madrid on Saturday in the Clasico, before they were left with a bloodied nose by Atletico Madrid in the Champions League during midweek, although they did eventually rally to win 2-1. There have been small signs that this is an XI looking a little jaded as of late.
So the last thing they probably want is a trip to the Basque country and a venue at which they’ve not won at in La Liga since 2007. Sociedad have endured a difficult season to this point and have been flirting with a relegation battle for long spells. But a very impressive win at Sevilla last time out has alleviated some worries for Eusebio Sacristan’s team.
There are few concerns for Barcelona’s title hopes at the moment, as they still have a seven-point lead over Atletico. However, should the curse of the Anoeta strike again this weekend and the capital clubs pick up victories, then a few nerves will begin to settle in. Enrique will be desperate to ensure that doesn’t happen.
Schalke 04 vs. Borussia Dortmund
Sunday April 10, 9:30AM, FOX Sports 1 and FOX Soccer 2GO
The Ruhr derby between Schalke 04 and Borussia Dortmund is the most passionate contest in German football, and this weekend’s showdown at the Veltins Arena has a lot more riding on it than local pride.
Dortmund are still clinging on in the title race. Bayern Munich ground out a 1-0 win in their last domestic contest, keeping their five-point lead intact. And while Pep Guardiola’s side are still the big favourites to go on and lift the trophy, BVB will be hopeful of forcing a late lapse from the Bavarians if they can keep the pressure on.
The home of their biggest rivals is never an easy venue to pick points up from, though. Schalke’s supporters relish the visit of Borussia and will conjure a feisty backdrop to his contest. They need the points too; currently they’re languishing down in seventh spot, but are just four points back on third place Hertha Berlin.
Dortmund may be a little vulnerable here. Thomas Tuchel’s team had a testing Europa League showdown with Liverpool on Thursday and will not have had too much time to recover. Any lack of a physical edge from BVB could be costly in what is always an incredibly high-octane football match.
Tottenham Hotspur vs. Manchester United
Sunday April 10, 11:00AM, NBCSN, Telemundo and NBC Sports Live Extra
Tottenham Hotspur could find themselves ten points back on Leicester City in the race for Premier League glory come Sunday, but the pressure will be on them to get the better of Manchester United as a result.
Mauricio Pochettino was noticeably disappointed that his team were unable to take all three points from Anfield in their previous outing, as they were held 1-1 by Liverpool in a pulsating contest. That result gave the Foxes a chance to push on and they duly obliged; Spurs are now facing a massive challenge if they’re to reel in the leaders.
United will be tough opposition too, as they have plenty to play for. Louis van Gaal’s side kept in touch with the top four when they beat Everton 1-0 at Old Trafford on Sunday and with local rivals Manchester United and West Ham in the hunt, there is little margin for error when they head to White Hart Lane for this one.
The Red Devils won this game 1-0 on the opening day, but both clubs have gone in opposite directions since then. A draw is no good for neither side at this point in the campaign and result should be an entertaining tussle with so much at stake for each team.
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