This weekend is highlighted by several local derbies across Europe’s top 5 leagues, the main ones being Manchester City vs. Manchester United and Real Madrid vs. Atletico Madrid.
On Saturday night, we could see the official crowning of the new English Premier League champion when Manchester City hosts Manchester United at The Etihad. Of course, Mourinho will do everything in his power to prevent this from happening. City is coming off a gut-wrenching Champions League loss to Liverpool. With the second leg coming up on Tuesday, I wouldn’t be surprised if Guardiola doesn’t go all out in this one. Even though it’s a derby and an important match for the fans, logic dictates that the title is won anyway. Therefore, the focus should be put on staging a Champions League comeback.
We also have another derby between city rivals Everton and Liverpool. Salah, who suffered a groin injury versus Manchester City, could very well miss this fixture. Chelsea welcomes West Ham in an all London clash. Conte will attempt to raise the team’s spirit and try to make a final push for a strong finish to the campaign. Tottenham travels to Stoke and Arsenal takes on a stumbling Southampton in games both favorites shouldn’t have problems winning. The two main contenders for the 7th spot are currently Burnley and Leicester. The former visits Watford, while the latter welcomes Newcastle.
The Spanish first division has its own city rivalry this weekend, as Real Madrid takes on Atletico Madrid at Santiago Bernabeu. Both teams are in stellar form, which means we should see a true battle on the pitch. The last two league meetings between the two ended in draws. I expect Zidane to push the tempo and try to win in order to reduce the gap to one point. Even though the title is lost, pride is still in play.
Barcelona has an easy home task versus Leganes, whereas Valencia should continue its 4-game winning streak against Espanyol. Villarreal takes on Athletic Bilbao, while Real Betis, who has climbed all the way to number 6 hosts Eibar. It if wins and The Yellow Submarine doesn’t, Betis will be 5th. The two other squads that are chasing those European qualification spots are Sevilla and Girona. Sevilla has not won any of its last three fixtures and might continue that streak when it travels to Vigo to take on Celta. Girona also has a tough task ahead since it must face Real Sociedad on the road.
There are two head-to-head position battles in Germany’s top flight this weekend. The first one is RB Leipzig vs. Bayer Leverkusen. The second one is Eintracht Frankfurt vs. Hoffenheim. A win would go a long way towards securing a Champions League birth for Leipzig, as it would create a 4-point difference between Red Bull’s team and Leverkusen. Eintracht has interchanged home wins and road losses since January. It means Niko Kovac’s boys should win this, but Hoffenheim is on a 5-game undefeated run. Schalke will look to extend its 6-game winning streak by defeating bottom dweller Hamburger SV away from home, while Dortmund will try to keep up the pace with three points in a home matchup with Stuttgart. Bayern Munich visits Augsburg.
Juventus and Napoli have easy jobs to do in Seria A. The defending champions visit Benevento, while Napoli hosts Chievo. Inter and Lazio have road fixtures against Torino and Udinese, respectively. Torino has been a difficult opponent for Inter over the years. Udinese will look to snap its 7-game losing streak. Roma welcomes Fiorentina, who is on a 5-game winning run of its own. Di Francesco’s men had a frustrating night in Barcelona and will look to bounce back with a win that will ensure they keep hold of that precious 3rd place for at least one more round.
Milan will try to affirm its 6th position with a home victory over Sassuolo. Atalanta, Fiorentina and Sampdoria are all tied at 47 points at the moment in the battle for 7th spot. As I mentioned, Fiorentina will have the daunting task of coming out from Italy’s capital undefeated. On the other hand, Atalanta and Sampdoria should record victories. The former has a seemingly simpler task away to Spal, but the newcomers haven’t tasted defeat in five matches. It’ll be tense in Genoa as well, since the matchup between Sampdoria and Genoa is a fiery local derby.
Ligue 1 opens on Friday, when PSG travels to Saint Etienne, a team that hasn’t lost a league game since January 21. Montpellier’s 7-game unbeaten run will be tested in Marseille, who’s going to be without Thauvin’s services for a while. Lyon, who visits the league’s worst team in Metz, will hope that Montpellier’s formidable defense can hold off Marseille. Rennes, who’s on a 7-game unbeaten run of its own (including a draw with Monaco on Thursday), travels to Nice in a direct clash between teams jostling for European qualification. Monaco welcomes Ranieri’s Nantes. As you can see, all top teams (except for Lyon) play each other, so it is an important weekend in France’s first division.