After a weekend when all the focus from across European soccer was on derby matches, this week the focus is…erm, more derby matches.
Still, we can’t get enough of these types of games can we? They come from Italy on Friday, plus Germany and Spain on Saturday.
Also on the agenda is a huge clash in the Premier League on Saturday night, while the champions of the 2018 Major League Soccer season will be determined on Saturday too after a gripping set of conference finals.
All kick-offs are in Eastern time. Enjoy your weekend and enjoy the games!
Juventus vs. Inter Milan
Juventus may be running away with the Serie A title once again this season, but Derby D’Italia showdowns between themselves and Inter Milan are always worth tuning in for.
In midweek the Bianconeri showed their champion credentials yet again, as they dealt with the potentially challenging task of going to Fiorentina with relative ease. They were comfortable 3-0 winners and maintained their eight-point lead to Napoli.
Three points further back in third are Inter, as they lost ground in the battle for second following a 2-2 draw at Roma last time out. There have been signs of progression from Luciano Spalletti’s side this season after another busy summer and they will feel as though they can be the closest challengers to the Turin giants this term.
The Bianconeri will find Inter tough to break down and they may have to be patient when it comes to trying to open the scoring here. However, this season they’ve dealt with almost every challenge put in front of them and on home soil, you’d back the champions to come through again.
Schalke vs. Borussia Dortmund
One of the few teams in Germany that won’t be enjoying Bayern Munich’s struggles is Schalke, as they’ve watched their local rivals Borussia Dortmund seize initiative and thrust themselves to the top of the Bundesliga.
Schalke will have a chance to sap some of the momentum built up by Dortmund on Saturday, as they welcome BVB to Veltins-Arena for the Revierderby. Having finished in second spot last season, Schalke have found things much tougher this term and sit down in 12th in the table.
The 2-0 win Schalke enjoyed in this fixture late last season feels a long way off now, as they’ve regressed significantly and Dortmund have found a new direction under manager Lucien Favre. It’s an approach that’s resulted in some wonderful football and has seen the team move seven points clear at the top of the table.
Dortmund have yet to lose in the Bundesliga this season and have won their last four in a row in the competition. Not only will they be desperate to get one over on their rivals this weekend, but they’ll want to show just how far they’ve come since the tepid 2-0 loss they suffered at the hands of their rivals in April.
Chelsea vs. Manchester City
Despite setting a blistering pace in the Premier League this season Manchester City may find themselves second in the table come kick off on Saturday against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.
Liverpool’s turnaround at Burnley on Wednesday kept them within touching distance of the leaders. With the gap at just two points prior to their meeting with Bournemouth on Saturday lunchtime, Jurgen Klopp’s team have a big chance to put the pressure back on the defending champions again.
Even so, it’s hard to see City slipping up at the moment and in a fixture that saw them make a major statement last season, they’ll be desperate to do the same. Against Watford in midweek they were dominant for 85 minutes, although Pep Guardiola will be a little concerned by the manner in which the Hornets applied pressure late on.
Chelsea are going through something of a rough patch going into this game, with just one Premier League win from their last four. At Wolves in midweek they controlled swathes of the match, only to see a string of defensive errors allow the Midlands side to pick up a 2-1 comeback win.
Espanyol vs. Barcelona
The eyes of the Catalan capital will be on Cornella-El Prat on Saturday evening as Barcelona look to preserve their spot at the top of the La Liga table against their city rivals Espanyol.
The Blaugrana got back to winning ways in the Spanish top flight last weekend, as a 2-0 win over Villarreal was enough for them to move to the top of the table. Sevilla had the chance to retain that place, but were held to a draw at Alaves.
Barcelona have had to cope with a number of injury issues recently and while that’s opened up chances for the like of Carles Alena, they’ve not looked fluid as an attacking force. Manager Ernesto Valverde will be hopeful Luis Suarez is fit enough to return to the first XI following his recent injury layoff.
Espanyol were in the mix at the very top until recently, but have lost their defensive cohesion in recent games, falling to three La Liga defeats in a row. Manager Rubi will be hopeful the visit of their bitter rivals can stir something in this talented set of players again.
Atlanta United vs. Portland Timbers
Atlanta United have the chance to cap off two years of remarkable recent progress with an MLS Cup triumph on Saturday, but face a challenging opponent in the form of the Portland Timbers.
At their own Mercedes-Benz Stadium United are the favourites going into this one, having played some of the standout football in Major League Soccer so far this season. They beat the New York Red Bulls 3-0 in the first leg of their conference finals, with the likes of Josef Martinez and Miguel Almiron too hot to handle.
Portland have recent pedigree in this match, having won the competition in 2015 and have relished being the underdog throughout the playoffs, qualifying as the fifth seed from the Western Conference. The manner in which they won the second leg 3-2 against Sporting Kansas City was seriously impressive too.
It’ll be a huge challenge for them to get the better of Atlanta in this one though, as they have quality up top and the vociferous backing needed to get them over the line.
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