The first domestic trophy of the season will be won in English football on Sunday, while the potential destination of the Premier League may also become clearer.
The key matches in two competitions will be played out back-to-back in what promises to be an absorbing day of football. Following that will be a Bundesliga showdown involving the stuttering league leaders, plus a clash between two of France’s biggest outfits.
On Saturday, there’s a big challenge for the champions and leaders, as they visit one of the most atmospheric stadiums in the division.
All kick-offs are in Eastern time. Enjoy your weekend and enjoy the games!
Sevilla vs. Barcelona
A week ago this match looked like a potentially crucial one for Barcelona, with Real Madrid closing in ahead of next weekend’s Clasico. However, there’s now less pressure on them as they gear up for the challenge of facing Sevilla at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan.
That’s because Real Madrid dropped unexpected points last weekend, as Girona produced a stunning fightback at the Santiago Bernabeu to win 2-1. That loss saw Los Blancos slip back to third, with their nearest challengers now Atletico Madrid, who trail by six points; Real now find themselves nine back.
Los Blancos may come to rue that slip, as Barcelona have been a little vulnerable lately. In midweek at Lyon they were nowhere near their best in a 0-0 draw and the weekend before in La Liga a Lionel Messi penalty was required to squeeze past Real Valladolid.
While Sevilla have had their struggles as of late, at home they are still formidable and go into this one after a routine 2-0 win over Lazio in the Europa League. With their raucous fanbase in support, the Andalusian outfit are well capable of adding another twist to this title race.
Manchester United vs. Liverpool
With Manchester City in action in the Carabao Cup final, Liverpool play their game in hand on Sunday in the Premier League and have the chance to move three points clear at the summit of the table. But it’s against red-hot rivals Manchester United.
The Reds were held 0-0 by Bayern Munich in the Champions League on Tuesday and while they dominated long spells of the game, they didn’t play with the sort of spark that’s been prevalent in their play for the majority of the campaign. That will be a worry for manager Jurgen Klopp as they gear up for this one.
Still, in the Premier League they’ve lost just one game this season and can head to Old Trafford with confidence as a result. In United, they will be up against a team that’s enjoying a remarkable run of recent form though, and a side who will be desperate to put a dent in the title challenge of the team from Merseyside.
Fresh from their win over Chelsea in the FA Cup on Monday, United will be bouncing into this encounter and in Paul Pogba they also possess arguably the best player in the Premier League at the moment. If Liverpool can overcome this challenge, it will be an emphatic sign of a title-winning team.
Chelsea vs. Manchester City (League Cup Final)
Sunday, February 24, 11:30 a.m. ET, ESPN+ (free trial)
Manchester City will be seeking to inflict more pain on Chelsea and Maurizio Sarri on Sunday, as the two sides meet in the Carabao Cup final at Wembley.
For the Blues, this match comes a fortnight on from their 6-0 hammering at the hands of City at the Etihad Stadium. In that lopsided encounter the Blues were comprehensively outplayed for 90 minutes, with the attacking slickness and incision of City too sharp for a soft Chelsea defense.
With that in mind, the mentality of the Blues will be intriguing coming into this fixture. Under normal circumstances the professional pride and team ethic would kick in, although at the moment it’s debatable as to whether this group is playing for the manager. If Sarri is to keep his job, you sense the Chelsea hierarchy need to see a response.
Even so, if City turn up and perform to their best in this fixture, then Chelsea won’t be able to contain them. There’s excitement building about a potential quadruple for Pep Guardiola’s side and it would be a big shock if they didn’t secure the first of four potential titles at the national stadium on Sunday.
Borussia Dortmund vs. Bayer Leverkusen
Borussia Dortmund’s season feels like it’s at a precarious point as they gear up for a showdown with a resurgent Bayer Leverkusen team on Sunday.
Having been dumped out of the DFB-Pokal, lost 3-0 to Tottenham Hotspur in the first leg of their UEFA Champions League clash and then drawn at home to Nurenburg on Monday, suddenly the remarkable momentum they built up in the latter stages of 2018 has seeped away somewhat. A win here would help gather some back.
Leverkusen suddenly look like a major threat though, having managed to rediscover a spark following a challenging start to the campaign. In the Bundesliga they’ve won their last four in a row and suddenly look like a dark horse to finish in a Champions League place; they’re fifth as things stand, five points back on RB Leipzig.
Dortmund manager will be desperate to see his team start well and whip the Westfalenstadion crowd into a frenzy. If they show similar vulnerabilities to what’s been on show in the last few weeks, the Leverkusen have the personnel to punish them.
Monaco vs. Lyon
Monaco have started to ease fears over relegation with a resurgence of sorts under the re-appointed Leonardo Jardim. A win on Sunday over Lyon would represent a major step forward for the side.
When Thierry Henry departed his post as Monaco boss, dropping down to the second tier was a real possibility for this side. However, Jardim appears to have steadied the ship for the principality club, with two wins and a draw in their last three enough to propel them out of the relegation zone into 16th.
With three points separating Monaco from the automatic relegation spot, they are definitely not out of trouble yet. Lyon have the quality to make matters nervy for their opponents on Sunday too.
Bruno Genesio’s side performed well in the Champions League on Tuesday, giving as much as they got in a 0-0 draw with Barcelona. They trail second-placed Lille by four points .
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