The Final is Set!!

We are all set for the biggest game of this calendar year.  Barcelona will face Juventus in the Champions League final.  Juventus and Barcelona are both playing in their 8th final.  The two have never met in the final before.  This is Juventus’ first trip since 2003.  They have won the title twice, once in 1985 and most recently 1996.  Juventus advanced to the final following their 1-1 draw with Real Madrid in the Bernabeu.  The game in Turin ended with Juventus winning 2-1 and the road goal for Real look poised to be crucial.  Real Madrid came flying out of the gates and were on the attack.  23 minutes into the game, James was bundled over in the box and a penalty was awarded to Madrid.  Ronaldo placed the ball in the back of the net and had Real Madrid poised to reach the final.  At halftime, Real was ahead 1-0.  Then in the 57th minute, boyhood fan and former real Madrid youth player chested the ball down and smashed it into the net.  He did not celebrate as he had just scored the goal to knock his boyhood club out of the Champions League.  Alvaro Morata had leveled the score on the night and gives Juventus the lead in the tie.  @HipsterManager tweeted “I think it’s great how Real Madrid spent £195m on their front 3 and they get knocked out by their own academy player.”  The game would end 1-1 and Juventus advanced to the final winning 3-2 on aggregate.

Barcelona has reached the final four times in the last 10 years and have won the previous 3 finals.  They have won a total of four titles.  They won in 1992, 2006, 2009, and 2011.  It will be a fascinating game and will be a great 90 minutes of football.   Barcelona advanced thanks mostly in part to their 3-0 win in the first leg in Barcelona.  In the second leg, Bayern started fast as Benatia headed in a corner to give them the lead.  However, Messi, Suarez, and Neymar hooked up twice within 15 minutes to end the game.  At halftime, Neymar had a brace and gave Barcelona a 2-1 lead.  The aggregate score was 5-1 and Bayern would need 5 goals in the second half to advance to the final.  They did get two goals from Lewandowski and Muller, but Barcelona had clearly switched off and turned their focus to winning the league title this weekend.

The Europa League semifinals also took place this week.  The final is set as Sevilla cruised and Dnipro kept a vital clean sheet.  Sevilla was already up 3-0 and would get two more within 5 minutes to guarantee themselves a chance to defend their title.  Dnipro got a vital road goal in the first leg and added a home goal to win the home leg 1-0, and the two-legged match 2-1.  Dnipro is in their first ever final.  They will look to become just the second ever Ukrainian team to win the title.  The other being Shaktar Donetsk in 2009.  Sevilla has won the title 3 times before and is looking to become the first team to win the Europa league/UEFA Cup for the fourth time.  They are also looking to win back to back titles for the second time.  They did this in 2006 and 2007.  Real Madrid is the only other club to win the title in back to back seasons in 1985 and 1986.

Where to go from here is the next question.  This is the penultimate weekend in Spain, France, England, and Germany. Italy has three weeks to go.  In Spain and France, the title can be won.  In England, it is Steven Gerrard’s last match at Anfield.

In France, PSG can win the title this weekend if they are able to get a point at Montpellier.  This will be their third title in a row.  The defending champions need just one more point over the next two games to win the title.  Lyon is already guaranteed a spot in the Champions League, but can guarantee themselves a spot in the group stage next season and second place with a point.  Monaco, Marseille, and St. Etienne will battle it out over the next two weeks for the final spot in the Champions League.  Monaco has a 2 point lead on the other two.  Monaco hosts Metz this weekend.  Marseille travels to Lille.  St. Etienne travels to Evian.  They should all win this weekend, but any dropped points will really hurt them with just 6 points available.  Lens and Metz are relegated already.  Evian will be relegated if they fail to win against St. Etienne.

In Spain, the strike is over and the final rounds of the season will be played. Barcelona can win the title with a win in either of their last two games.  This weekend they travel to Madrid to face Atletico Madrid.  With just two games left, Atletico Madrid needs just two points to guarantee their spot in the Champions League Group Stage.  They will clearly be in the competition next year.  Real Madrid will be without their manager when they travel to Catalunya to face Espanyol.  The title race is all but over and many will wonder if Ancelotti will ever manage from the pitch for Real Madrid again.  Valencia holds a 3 point lead on Sevilla for the fourth spot in the Champions League.  Valencia host Celta Vigo this weekend.  3 points could guarantee the Champions League football next season.  Sevilla hosts Almeria, and if they drop any points then they will be in trouble.  However, they could qualify for the Champions League if they win the Europa League.  Cordoba is the only team that is currently relegated.  Eibar, Granada, and Deportivo are all on 31 points.  Almeria is on 32 points.  Getafe and Levante can guarantee their spots in La Liga next season with any points this weekend.  Eibar and Getafe face each other in a massive game at the bottom end of the table.  Getafe will look to get the point they need to survive.  Deportivo hosts Levante in the other big match at the bottom end of the table.  Granada travels to Real Sociedad this weekend.

In England, the big story has to be Steven Gerrard’s final match in Anfield.  The Liverpool legend will be moving on after this season and a great career will come to an end.  He has been captain of Liverpool for 11 years and only ever played for the club.  His final match will be against Crystal Palace.  It should be a rather emotional affair in what is a meaningless game otherwise.  Both teams do not have much to play for, as Liverpool will not be able to catch United in fourth.  The Champions, Chelsea, travel to West Brom this weekend.  Manchester United host Arsenal on Sunday, in what is the most intriguing game of the round.  The two teams are currently battling for the final spot in the group stage and avoid the qualifying rounds.  Burnley and QPR are relegated.  The final spot will go down to the last weekend as Hull, Newcastle, and Sunderland battle it out.  Hull is currently two points behind Newcastle and could be relegated this weekend if results don’t fall their way.

In Germany, the attention should be shifted to the bottom end of the table.  Stuttgart is currently at the bottom of the table.  They host Hamburger this weekend.  Hamburger is currently safe but sits just 2 points above Stuttgart.  A win will send Stuttgart out of the bottom 3.  Paderborn travels to Schalke needing points to get out of the bottom 3.  Hannover travel to Augsburg while they look to get to safety.  Freiburg could find themselves in some trouble as they face Bayern Munich in what is certainly going to be a redemption game for them.  With the top 4 set, all eyes will be on the bottom end of the table.

In Italy, Juventus may not be completely focused, as they have already won the league and are two wins away from a treble.  They will travel to Milan to play Inter.  Roma and Lazio need to avoid points.  A win for Roma will almost guarantee them Champions League football next year.  Lazio will not mathematically be guaranteed Champions League football with a win, but they have a far superior goal difference when compared to Napoli, so it will be hard to see them not getting at least third place with a win this weekend.  Roma hosts Udinese while Lazio travels to Sampdoria.  Napoli will need to win on Monday in order to stay alive in the race for a top 4 place.  Parma, Cesena, and Cagliari are all relegated to the Serie B for next season.  The Europa League spots are still up for grabs.  If Napoli cannot catch Lazio or Roma, then they will be in the Europa League.  Fiorentina and Sampdoria currently sit in the last two spots, but Genoa and Inter could catch them in the final three weeks.

EPL Pick Em

I picked up 3 points last week and now only trail by 10 as the score is 235 to 225.  I need a big win here or Buzz will be the Champion along with his beloved Blues.

My Picks: Saints 2-1, Leicester 1-0, Stoke 3-1, Hull 1-1, Hammers 1-1, QPR 2-1, Pool 2-1, Man City 5-1, Arsenal 2-2, Chelsea 3-1

Buzz’s Picks: Coming soon…

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