This weekend hosts the greatest rivalry in all of sports. A rivalry that is not just on the pitch, but off the pitch. This is more than a local rivalry, this is El Clasico. One of the most watched events of the year. The eyes of the world will turn to Catalunya this Sunday to see two of the greatest teams in the world. The two best players in the world will face off. Both of these teams have stars upon stars. Barcelona will have their big 3 in attack of Suarez, Neymar, and Messi. Madrid have a big three of their own in Bale, Benzema, and Ronaldo. Both midfield trios will be fantastic with Real most likely having Modric, Kroos, and Isco. Barcelona will have Xavi, Iniesta, and Mascherano. The defenders will be the ones focused on, as Ramos is back for Real with Pepe or Varane, Marcelo, and Carvajal. Barcelona will have Dani Alves, Jordi Alba, Pique, and Mathieu or Bartra. The goalies will most likely be Bravo and Casillas. This will be a game of stars. The one that every fan dreams of seeing. It also comes with a huge reward. The winner will be in the driver’s seat for the Spanish League Title. In Spain, the first tiebreaker is not goal difference but head-to-head. Since Real Madrid won the first match up in the Bernabeu 3-1, Barcelona have their work cut out for them if they want to lead the first tiebreaker. However, I am sure all Cules (Barcelona fans) would simply take a win and a 4 point lead at the top. I have seen this game played live at a neutral site and can honestly say I have never been in such unbelievable atmosphere. It was tense but exciting. I will certainly be glued to my television as I watch what I believe is the greatest fixture in the world.
Champions League Recap
Messi is the best player in the world and he reminded us all of this on Wednesday. He completely bossed the match against Manchester City. He nutmegged just about everyone he could. Barcelona dominated the game creating what felt like 100 chances to score. They were in complete control, and then Messi made an amazing pass to Rakitic who calmly chested the ball down and lobbed the ball over Hart and into the net. Aguero had a late penalty to level the game and get City within one goal of forcing extra time, but Ter Stegen was up to the task and he saved the penalty with a little help from Mascherano. He was standing right behind Aguero and pointed to the direction that Aguero was going to go. Barcelona advance to the round of 8 and the English hopes of a team in the last eight were dashed.
Has Juventus finally arrived to the European party? They look dominant in both games against Borussia Dortmund and were rewarded with a 3-0 win in Dortmund. Carlos Tevez was the best player in the park, scoring two goals and setting up Morata for the other. Juventus advanced 5-1 on aggregate. Is this the end of Borussia Dortmund? With this loss, it looks more likely that Dortmund will not be in the competition next year. Will there be a great exodus to find Champions League football? I hope not, but knowing the game it will most likely happen.
Was Tuesday just a reminder of who Arsenal really are? They looked fantastic and were attacking brilliantly. They came so close but in the end, they were just not good enough. Arsenal was facing a daunting task. One that has never been overcome in the history. They needed to score 3 goals on the road. They came very close, but again in the end they were just not good enough. They beat Monaco 2-0. They had goals from Giroud and Ramsey. There was a penalty shout in the first half, but it was not called. Arsenal gave it their all, but their poor performance at the Emirates cost them and over the two legs Monaco were the better team and deserved to advance.
In Madrid, Mario Suarez gave Atleti the goal they needed after 27 minutes. With the game level on aggregate, extra time and eventually penalties were needed to find a winner. Each team took 5 penalty kicks and at the end, 5 people had missed. Garcia (over the bar) and Koke (saved) missed for Atleti, and Calhanoglu (saved) and Toprak (Over the bar) missed for Bayer. Torres stepped up to take Atleti’s last penalty and calmly placed the ball past Bernd Leno. Kiesling stepped up for Bayer Leverkusen and put his over the bar. Atletico de Madrid survived and advanced winning on penalties 3-2 after an aggregate score of 1-1.
CHAMPIONS LEAGUE DRAW!!!!
The Champions League draw took place today for the Quarterfinals. I, for one, cannot wait for some of these matches. There are two fantastic draws and two that are easy to predict. The two big matchups are PSG-Barcelona and Atletico-Real Madrid. The Madrid derby is the headlining tie of the draw. A rematch of the final from last season. A rematch of the round of 16 of the Copa del Rey. A rematch of the Supercopa de Espana. Two teams from the same city that really don’t like each other. I think this is going to be a massive tie. PSG vs Barcelona is a rematch from two years ago when Barcelona advanced on away goals. Both of these games should be fantastic. The other two matchups are Porto-Bayern Munich and Juventus-Monaco. Here are my early predictions of who will make it to the Semifinals: Barcleona, Atletico, Bayern, Juventus. It is hard to call some of them, but let’s see how I do.
Europa League Recap
The English hopes in Europe were dashed fairly quickly when Everton lost 5-2 to Dynamo Kyiv. In what was already a great day for Ukrainian soccer, Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk defeated Ajax when they lost 2-1 on the road, so they advanced thanks to their road goal. Zenit Saint Petersburg lost in Torino 1-0, but advanced thanks to their 2-0 win in the first leg. Wolfsburg beat Intern 5-2 on aggregate and Nicholas Bendtner scored the winning goal in Milan. Sevilla won the second leg 2-1 to advance winning 5-2 on aggregate. The holders remain alive in the competition. Club Brugge won in Istanbul 3-1 and that helped them advance to the Quarterfinals. The draw today has set up some very intriguing matchups. The holders Sevilla face Zenit Saint Petersburg. Club Brugge will battle with Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk. The two Italian clubs were kept apart as Fiorentina plays Dynamo Kyiv and the probable tie of the round is Wolfsburg against Napoli.
In France, the weekend starts early as PSG host Lorient on Friday. A win will take PSG to the top of the table before Lyon play on Saturday. Lyon host Nice on Saturday and will most likely need a win to take back the top spot. This race is heating up and as we go down to the wire any dropped points will be devastating. Marseille will look to keep pace with the top 2 and distance themselves from the bottom when they travel to Lens. Monaco is hot on their tails and they travel to Stade Reims.
In Germany, the battle for fourth place really heats up as the current 4th place holder, Bayer Leverkusen, travels to 5th place Schalke. With just a 3 point difference between these two teams, this game has huge importance in who will eventually end up in the Champions League next year. It takes on even more significance since third place Monchengladbach have to travel to top of the table Bayern Munich on Sunday. They could be in fourth place at the time, or have two teams just two points behind them. Augsburg will look to keep pace with these three as they travel to Freiburg this weekend. Wolfsburg travel to Mainz.
In Italy, Lazio sit in third place right now with a 3 point lead over Napoli. They are just 1 point behind Roma in second. Juventus has all but won the title with their 14 point lead at the top. Fiorentina and Sampdoria are also in the race for third as they sit just 4 points behind Lazio. With 11 games left in the season, the race will really start to get tight. Looking at their remaining schedules, Roma has the easiest run-in as they do not face Juventus and only play Napoli and Lazio of the contenders. Fiorentina is next as they only face Sampdoria, Napoli, and Juventus, but have a nice run-in at the end of the season. Sampdoria has to face Fiorentina, Napoli, Juventus, and Lazio before the end of the season. Napoli has to play Roma, Fiorentina, Sampdoria, Juventus, and Lazio. Lazio plays Juventus but then has the worst end to the season as they face Sampdoria, Roma, and Napoli in the last three weeks of the season. Should Roma hold on to second and Fiorentina and Sampdoria falter, it could come down to that last game. This weekend have Napoli host Atalanta, Lazio host Verona, Roma travel to Cesena, Sampdoria host Inter Milan, and Fiorentina travel to Udinese. The leaders Juventus host Genoa.
In Spain, while the eyes will be on Barcelona hosting Real Madrid, Valencia has quickly risen to third place and will look to stay there when they travel to Elche on Friday. Atletico Madrid will host one of their other crosstown rivals in Getafe. Villarreal may be sick of seeing Sevilla, as this will be the third time in a week and a half that these two teams face each other.
As if my Sunday was already not good enough with El Clasico, Liverpool host Manchester United in England’s version of El Clasico. The two clubs with the most trophies in England will face off with a place in Champions League on the line. A win for either club will go a long way in their Champions League ambitions. Manchester City will look to rebound following their defeat to Burnley when they host West Brom on Saturday. Southampton has to face this hot Burnley team. Arsenal will look to rebound from their Champions League exit as they travel to Newcastle. Chelsea will look to get back to winning ways as they travel to Hull.
EPL Pick ‘Em
I have won another weekend 8-6 over Buzz but the lead still seems to never shrink as he now leads 199-187. I am running out of weekends to catch up but here’s to hope!
My Picks: City 2-1, Stoke 1-1, Spurs 2-1, Saints 1-0, Villa 1-0, Arsenal 2-1, West Ham 3-1, Pool 2-2, Chelsea 2-0, QPR 1-1
Buzz’s Picks: City 2-1, Aston Villa 1-1, Arsenal 2-1, Saints 2-2, Spurs 3-1, Stoke 2-2, West Ham 2-0, Pool 2-2, Chelsea 3-1, Everton 1-0