Does Manuel Pellegrini make it to the end of the season? I think his tenure as manager of Manchester City is coming to an end. Whether he lasts to the end of the year or it is cut short after a big defeat, I do not see him in charge next season. He was brought in to take City deep into the Champions League. If they are not able to turn around their 2-1 deficit against Barcelona on Wednesday, that will be three years in the Champions League and never making it past the Round of 16. Their first year in, they failed to make it out of the group stage. Then came the Pellegrini era. While manager of City, he has won the league title and successfully taken them out of their groups in the Champions League both years. But now it is time to look and think if he is truly the man to take them to a semifinal or final of Champions League. With their recent run of games in the Premier League, the questions are now coming forward. It will take an enormous night and huge effort from his City team as they need to score two goals in Catalunya to advance. Can they turn it around and save Pellegrini’s job?
Champions League Preview
This week brings the Round of 16 to a close. On Wednesday night we will know the final 8 teams in the competition. 4 teams have already taken their seat in Bayern Munich, Real Madrid, Porto, and PSG. Who will join them? On Tuesday, we could see the second English team exit the competition as Arsenal travels down to Monaco. Monaco won the first leg 3-1 in the Emirates and will be in the driver’s seat to advance. Their poor defensive record could give Arsenal hope, but goals will be needed for the Gunners to advance. In the other game, Bayer Leverkusen will try to hold on to their 1-0 lead when they travel to Atletico Madrid. Atleti is having a bad run of form lately, but they will advance if they can win at home. On Wednesday, two teams who have had great success domestically over the last three years will look to finally make it to the Quarter-finals. Juventus has a 2-1 lead that they will take to Dortmund. Will Dortmund’s away goal help them advance, or will Juve finally make it to the last 8? Lastly, Manchester City will look to overcome a 2-1 defeat at home when they travel to Barcelona. Can the City team score 2 goals to advance? Will there be an English club in the last 8?
Europa League Preview
On Thursday, the second legs of the Europa League Round of 16 take place. It will be fascinating to see if any of the teams that lost the 1st leg can overcome the defeat and advance at home. I think Everton could be in some trouble if Dynamo Kyiv score early. Everton might be the only English side left in Europe when their game kicks off. Ajax will look to score more than two goals and advance, despite their 1-0 defeat to Dnipro. Can Zenit hold on in Torino? Probably. Wolfsburg will travel to the San Siro with a 3-1 lead and will hope to easily advance. Sevilla are the only team that gets to head home following a win on the road, so they will have an advantage to continue their defense of their title. Roma host Fiorentina today in the only game that was drawn last week. Napoli and Club Brugge will both strive to advance following their wins at home against Moscow and Besiktas respectively.
In Italy, all of the big games really take place today when Fiorentina hosts Milan, Torino hosts Lazio, and Roma host Sampdoria. 4 of the top 6 teams will play today with all of the teams in the top half of the table. The other two top 6 teams played over the weekend. Juventus won 1-0 at Palermo on Saturday to all but wrap up the title. Their lead is now 14 points with only 11 games to play. Napoli lost 2-0 at Verona. They now sit in 4th place, tied with Lazio on points. The race for third place just got a little tighter.
In France, the top 3 teams all dropped points this weekend, but Lyon did extend their lead at the top after their 0-0 draw in Marseille. This was due to Bordeaux beating PSG 3-2. Bordeaux took the lead twice, but both times PSG was able to level the score before they finally got the winner in the 88th minute. Zlatan was not very happy with the officiating during the game. He even came out and said that France do not deserve PSG. He has since apologized for his comments, but it just shows his frustration following what was a big week for them in the Champions League. Monaco won big on Friday, beating Bastia 3-0. This win means they are just 4 points outside of the Champions League places. Lyon is now 2 points clear of PSG and has a four point lead over Marseille. With just 9 games to go, the need for points is heating up.
In Germany, it was more of the same as both Bayern Munich and Wolfsburg went on to win 4-0 and 3-0. In fact, the top 4 teams all won their games by a combined score of 13-0 as Bayer beat Stuttgart and Monchengladbach beat Hannover. Schalke was only able to draw 2-2 with Hertha, and Augsburg lost 2-0 to Mainz. Looking at the table now with just 9 games to go, Munich maintain their 11 point lead on Wolfsburg and their 20 point lead on Monchengladbach in third. Bayer sits in fourth now, just 2 points behind Monchengladbach. Schalke are now 23 points from fourth with Augsburg a point behind them.
In Spain, we had a shift in the top 4 as Atletico Madrid could not find the back of the net en route to a 0-0 draw at Espanyol. On Friday, Valencia had put the pressure on Madrid when they beat Deportivo 2-0. This sent Valencia up to third and Madrid to fourth. Barcelona beat Eiber 2-0 with Messi scoring both goals to keep them in the top spot heading into El Clasico next weekend. Real Madrid got back to winning ways when they beat Levante 2-0. Sevilla won 3-0 against Elche to sit just 4 points behind Atletico in fifth place. This is a huge weekend coming up but more on that later in the week.
In England, the top two teams dropped points. Manchester City lost 1-0 at Burnley on Saturday. This set it all up nicely for Chelsea to basically win the league with a win at home against Southampton. However, Chelsea seemed very flat and could only manage a draw. The game could have really gone either way as the Saints played very well and deserved at least one point. Manchester United came out and finally got that big scalp they have been waiting for in 2015. They destroyed Tottenham 3-0 in the best game I have seen them play all season. This is a nice setup for their clash with Liverpool next weekend. Arsenal won comfortably as they inched their way up the table and may get themselves in the title race. According to Jose Mourinho, they are title contenders but let’s be honest, if they actually get close to Chelsea it would be due to some terrible form from Mourinho’s side. I think he should worry more about his team than the teams behind him right now. Liverpool plays today against Swansea City as they will need 3 points to stay in the race for fourth.