At this stage of the season, with many European leagues having less than 10 game weeks to go, each point could be the deciding factor between success and failure, between a championship and relegation. Here a few game to keep an extra eye on this weekend.
FC Barcelona – Valencia (Spanish La Liga Gameweek 32):
Barcelona is in a real dogfight with Real Madrid for the top spot in La Liga. At the moment, Barca has a two-point lead over Real, but they will have to play a great game in order to keep madrid at bay as they play host to 4th placed Valencia on Saturday. Valencia is in the last Champions League spot, and with Sevilla just three points behind, they will do their outmost to grab at least a point at Nou Camp. Barca did play midweek against Paris Saint Germain in the Champions League quarterfinals and won comfortably 3-1. Before getting a 2-2 draw week against Sevilla, Lionel Messi & Co. had won six straight games in the league.
Messi has an incredible 34 goals in the league this season, but despite having another great goalscoring season, he trails Cristiano Ronaldo who has 38 goals. Dani Parejo is Valencia’s best scorer with 9 goals on the season.
Chelsea – Manchester United (English Premier League Gameweek 33):
This is the biggest game of the weekend, no question about it. This game will draw huge numbers all over the world as both clubs have strong fanbases around the globe. Chelsea sits in first place in the Premier League with 73 points, seven points ahead of second-placed Arsenal and eight points ahead of Manchester United in third. United has been on a great run lately and played reigning champions and local rivals Manchester City off the pitch in a convincing 4-2 last weekend. Chelsea got the three points against QPR last week thanks to a late goal by Cesc Fabregas. Two out of the last three meetings between these sides has ended in a draw, so the safe money would be on that, but they way that both these teams have played lately, we should be seeing some fireworks.
Chelsea’s top scorer Diego Costa is said to be out with an injury. But they have plenty of attacking options and creative players that can put the ball into the net. Eden Hazard has had a phenomenal season and he stands at 12 league goals so far. Wayne Rooney also has 12 goals this season, and the Man United captain is in fine form just like the rest of his team.
Juventus – Lazio (Italian Serie A Gameweek 31):
A clash a the top of Serie A rounds off Saturday’s European soccer. First-placed Juventus takes on second-placed Lazio at the Juventus Stadium in Turin. Both teams are coming into this one in good form, with Juventus winning four out of their last five games and Lazio being on a eight-game winning-streak in league play. Juve has a firm grip on the title, as they lead Lazio by 12 points, and if they win this game it’s pretty much a done deal. Even if Lazio would win the game, they would pretty much have to win out the rest of the season and hope that Juventus drops another three games.
Juventus’ Argentinian striker Carlos Tevez leads Serie A in goalscoring with a tally of 17. Both the veteran German striker Miroslav Klose and Felipe Anderson has 10 goals for Lazio.
Aston Villa – Liverpool (FA Cup Semifinal):
Two classic clubs square off in the second semifinal of the FA Cup. The FA Cup is still a very highly regarded domestic club competition, something that a lot of leagues struggle with. The winner will take on the winner of the Reading – Arsenal clash on Saturday. Villa has had some positive results since Tim Sherwood took over as manager and he definitely has gotten Belgian striker Christian Benteke back on his game with four goals in the last two games. Steven Gerrard will be leaving Liverpool in the summer to cross the Atlantic Ocean and represent the LA Galaxy in the MLS. He will certainly want to end his time at Liverpool with another trophy, so look for Liverpool to be hungry in this one. Villa is still in the relegation battle at the bottom of the Premier League, so Sherwood might be focused more on securing a new contract, but the opportunity to win the cup and get a spot in Europe is obviously alluring.
Inter – AC Milan (Italian Serie A Gameweek 31):
Derby della Madonnina is one of Italy’s most historic and passionate derbies. These two clubs are huge rivals and the winner will be champion of Milan until the next meeting and fans will chirp and takes digs at each other at work and at the cafes after this one. The first meeting between these two sides were back in 1908. Inter was a breakout club after there was some arguments about signing foreign players at Milan. So from the get go these teams have never felt any love for one another. Both teams have fallen on hard times after having some fantastic years in the 90s and early 00s. Milan is rumored to be sold in the summer as it seems like majority owner Silvio Berlusconi is finally ready to let someone else take over the club.
AC Milan is in 9th place with 42 points and Inter are just behind them in 10 with 41 points. With both clubs struggling, a win in the derby will mean even more to the fans. Mauro Icardi is Inter’s best scorer with 16 goals on the season, and he’s tied with Jeremy Menez of Milan for the second place in the scoring race behind Carlos Tevez (Juventus).