There’s a mixture of league and cup matches to take in this weekend, as the season begins to reach a nail-biting point for a number of outfits.
All kick offs are in Eastern time. Enjoy your weekend and enjoy the games!
Everton vs. Tottenham Hotspur
Everton and Tottenham are clinging on in the race for European football, although the loser of this match at Goodison Park may find themselves out of it altogether.
At the start of the campaign, these two teams were playing as well as anyone. However, they have each struggled to preserve that attacking swagger and in recent weeks in particular they have both found it a slog.
Everton’s issues have not been helped by a remarkable injury crisis, with 11 first-team players unavailable for their 0-0 draw at Brighton & Hove Albion on Monday. Manager Carlo Ancelotti will have some key men back for this fixture, although star striker Dominic Calvert-Lewin looks unlikely to be involved.
Spurs are in desperate need of a spark too, having won just one of their last four Premier League games. They’ve already lost to Everton twice this season, including a remarkable 5-4 in the FA Cup earlier in the year; neutrals tuning in on Friday would love to see a repeat of that.
Manchester City vs. Chelsea
Saturday, April 17, 12:30 p.m. ET, ESPN+
While Sunday’s FA Cup semi-final between Southampton and Leicester City should be an entertaining game, it’s Saturday’s other semi-final that captures the attention, with Premier League leaders Manchester City facing a rejuvenated Chelsea.
For City, the prospect of what would be an incredible quadruple remains alive after their Champions League win over Borussia Dortmund. While that pursuit will take a physical toll on the players, Pep Guardiola has the luxury of an amazing squad to choose from and it’ll be fascinating to see how much he rotates here.
Although Chelsea aren’t in the hunt for four prizes, with the FA Cup and Champions League up for grabs it could be a memorable end to the season yet. Thomas Tuchel has breathed fresh life into the Blues since his arrival and they appear as well equipped as anyone in Europe to give City a serious test.
In a boost to the English game, some supporters will be permitted entry to the stadium as lockdown restrictions continue to ease. This should be a fantastic spectacle for those fortunate to be at Wembley.
Barcelona vs. Athletic Club
Saturday, April 17, 3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN+
Just two weeks on from their Copa del Rey final loss to Real Sociedad—the postponed 2020 edition–, Athletic Club have another shot at the competition on Saturday against Barcelona.
For the Blaugrana, the Copa represents a bare minimum at this point. Ronald Koeman’s team are out of the Champions League and are in third position in La Liga following their 2-1 loss to Real Madrid last weekend. It means the pressure is ramped up ahead of this encounter.
Athletic haven’t been at their free-flowing best lately and appeared inhibited by playing their Basque rivals on this stage a fortnight ago. Given they are clearly the underdogs for this fixture, manager Marcelino will want to see his players relax a little more.
The Bilbao outfit do have positive recent memories of playing Barcelona in a cup final. They emerged victorious against the Catalan giants in the Spanish Super Cup earlier in the year, with Inaki Williams’ stunning goal in extra time seeing them emerge 3-2 winners from a thrilling encounter.
Atalanta vs. Juventus
Sunday, April 18, 9 a.m. ET, ESPN+
The race for the Champions League spots is really beginning to heat up in Serie A and this clash between Atalanta and Juventus will go a long way towards determining who seizes them.
After nine years at the summit of Italian football, Juventus’ dominance is poised to come to an end this season, with Inter Milan racing clear from the pack. That will be a disappointment for new manager Andrea Pirlo, although not making it into the top four and back into the Champions League would be a disaster.
As things stand, the Bianconeri are in third place and three points clear of Napoli, who are in fifth. Between those sides is Atalanta, who have found their form late in the campaign and surged into the reckoning for a European berth.
While Napoli have a challenging game this weekend, it’s feasible that one of these teams will find themselves out of the top four this weekend. Given the enterprising style of the home side and defensive solidity of the visitors, a fascinating clash of style under intense pressure looks to be on the cards.
Napoli vs. Inter Milan
Sunday, April 18, 2:45 p.m. ET, ESPN+
Napoli are clinging on in the race to finish in a Champions League berth and will take a big step towards that if they can beat runaway leaders Inter Milan.
It’s been a season of inconsistency for the home side, although when they put things together they can beat any team in Serie A. Aside from a loss to Juventus, they’ve been in exceptional form, winning six and drawing one of their other previous eight matches.
Inter are a force of nature at the moment though, leaving the competition trailing with a phenomenal late-season surge. After winning their last 11 games in a row in Serie A, they are course to coast to the title and victory at the San Paolo would be a huge step towards it.
It’ll be a huge ask for Napoli, but with two of their big rivals for a Champions League spot locking horns this weekend, it’s a fantastic chance for them to muscle their way back into contention.
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