#6raciasXavi

This weekend is starting to feel like the end of an era in many ways.  The EPL is losing two legends in Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard, as they will heading to the states in the coming weeks to battle in the MLS.  These two midfielders are playing their last games for their teams and will both be remembered as greats of the game.  Lampard will eventually be remembered fondly again in Chelsea, as he was one of the greatest players in their history.  He has won the Premier League 3 times, the FA Cup 4 times, and a Champions League trophy in his time at Chelsea.  While today he plays for Manchester City, his time at Chelsea should not be forgotten.  I have already talked about Gerrard and what a disappointment in the result for the game last weekend, but the reception and admiration from the crowd was palpable.

However, this weekend will be the last La Liga game for a legend.  Xavi Hernandez made the announcement on Thursday that he will be leaving the club that he has spent his whole career at.  Xavi joined the club at the age of 11.  He rose through the ranks at the club and many thought he would never get a game.  He watched from the sidelines as Barcelona won the 2006 UEFA Champions League.  He was getting overlooked by Rijkaard as more athletic players were his first choice.  Then life changed for Xavi as two coaches gave him a chance and he shined.  Pep Guardiola and Luis Aragones both built their teams around the midfield maestro.  This lead to unprecedented success.  His vision and ability to pick out a pass was way beyond anyone around him.  Paired with Andres Iniesta, the two formed what has become one of the greatest midfield partnerships ever.  Xavi has won 3 Champions League titles, 2 Super Cups, 2 Club World Cups, 8 La Liga titles, 2 Copa del Rey titles, and 6 Spanish Super Cup with Barcelona.  He has also won the World Cup and two European Cups with Spain.  Xavi still has time to add to these trophies with the Copa del Rey and Champions League finals to come.  Xavi’s brilliance has inspired many and showed us all how great he truly can be.  Barcelona will be wearing a special jersey this weekend.  While I do believe we will see Xavi back at the Camp Nou someday, it will not be in another team’s shirt. #6raciasXavi

The treble hunt is on as Juventus have won the Coppa Italia.   Lazio was able to jump out to an early lead as they scored the first goal of the game in the fourth minute from a Cataldi free kick.  Radu was able to head in the beautiful free kick.  The lead did not last long as Chiellini leveled the score after Pirlo sent in a free kick and Evra headed it down to Chiellini.  The game was level after 90 minutes but just 7 minutes into the first half of extra time Alessandro Matri scored what would be the winner.  Juventus won the game 2-1 after extra time.  This was their 10th Coppa Italia win.

This weekend sees the end of the English Premier League, the German Bundesliga, the French Ligue 1, and the Spanish La Liga.  All of the titles have been decided and they will be more or less coronation games for the champions: Chelsea, Bayern Munich, Paris Saint-Germain, and Barcelona.  This week I will look at the games that will have an impact on Champions League/Europa League places or relegation.

In England, two games will have the spotlight on Sunday.  The first game is Hull City hosting Manchester United.  If Hull City does not win then they will be relegated.  They also need help if they are able to beat United.  The other game is Newcastle hosting West Ham.  If Newcastle is able to get a win then they will be safe.  The relegation battle is down to these two teams due to Sunderland getting a point against Arsenal during the week.  The Champions League spots are all set, Chelsea, Man City, Arsenal, and Man United will be the top 4 and in that order.  The Europa League spots go to the 5th place team and the winners of the FA Cup and League Cup.  Since Chelsea won the League Cup, the 6th place team will also play in the Europa League.   If Arsenal wins the FA Cup, then the team in 7th place will play in the Europa League.  If Aston Villa wins then they get to play in the competition.  Liverpool, Tottenham, and Southampton will all be fighting for these spots.  Liverpool is on 62 points, Tottenham has 61 and Southampton has 60.  Liverpool travels to Stoke this weekend.  Tottenham travel to Merseyside to face Everton.  Southampton travels to Manchester to face City this weekend.   The Champions, Chelsea, will lift the trophy at home when they host Sunderland.

In Spain, Barcelona will lift the trophy in the Camp Nou when they host Deportivo on Saturday.  Real Madrid is also assured of second place in the league and host Getafe.  Atletico can secure third place in the league with a win or draw at Granada.  Valencia will be guaranteed a place in the Champions League if they are able to secure a point this weekend at Almeria.  Sevilla will look to jump into the top 4 as they travel to Malaga, but even if they cannot make it into the top 4 they can still qualify if they are able to beat Dnipro in the Europa League final.  The relegation battle is very tight going into the final weekend of the season.  Almeria and Eibar are currently in the relegation zone with 32 points.  Deportivo and Granada are 2 points clear of those 2.  AS recently published that there are 81 different relegation combinations.  Almeria, Depo and Granada will have tough matches against Valencia, Barcelona and Atletico respectively.  Eibar hosts already relegated Cordoba.   It will be fascinating to see who stays up.

In Germany, there is not much to talk about at the top of the table.  The places are set and the teams will be looking forward to the end of the season.  At the bottom of the table, the bottom 2 teams are automatically relegated and the third team, Paderborn, is all but guaranteed a spot in the bottom 3.  Hamburg needs to win this weekend, or they will be relegated for the first time in their history.  Stuttgart are currently in the third relegation spot and will look to stay up with a win against Paderborn.   Hamburg face Schalke in a must win for them.  Hannover and Freiburg are the two teams that are just above the zone and face each other.  A win for them will go a long way in staying up.  Lastly, there is a spot in the Europa League up for grabs between Borussia Dortmund and Werder Bremen.  If Dortmund is able to earn a point it is theirs.  This will also be the last home game for Jurgen Klopp and Sebestian Kehl.

In France, the top two are set but there is a battle for the third Champions League spot still to play for.  Monaco will be in the Champions League with a win at Lorient.  If they should fail to win then the door will be opened for Marseille or Saint-Etienne.  Monaco is currently two points above their rivals.  If the teams end the season with the same amount of points, then the first tie-breaker is goal difference.  Currently, Marseille has the best goal difference at +31, then Monaco at +24 and then Saint-Etienne at +20.  Marseille needs to beat Bastia if they want to have a chance and Saint-Etienne needs to beat Guingamp.  This could an interesting weekend of play.  The two teams that do not qualify for the Champions League will play in the Europa League next season.  The relegation battle is over as Evian, Metz, and Lens will be in Ligue 2 next season.

In Italy, there are two weekends left in the season.  While the title and relegation battles have been settled, the fight for the Champions League and Europa League spots is still going on.  Roma, Lazio, and Napoli are all battling for the final two Champions League spots.  Since Juventus won the Coppa Italia, an additional Europa League spot will be given to the team that finishes in 6th place.  However, Genoa did not get a UEFA license so they cannot play in Europe next season.  Napoli has qualified for the Europa League at the very least.  Fiorentina has also qualified for the Europa League.  Sampdoria, Internazionale, and Torino will battle for the final spot.  The big game this weekend was moved to Monday and sees Lazio host Roma in the Derby della Capitale.  Napoli travels to the Champions in need of 3 points.  These two matches might be the must watch games of the weekend.

EPL Pick Em

Score is 240 to 231.  Buzz has the lead.

My Picks – City 1-1 Chelsea 0-0 Pool 3-1 Leicester 1-0 Villa 2-1 Palace 1-0 Hull 1-1 Arsenal 2-0 Hammers 2-1 Everton 2-1

Buzz’s Picks – Arsenal 2-1, Villa 2-2, Spurs 1-0, Leicester 2-1, City 3-1, Toon 1-1, Swans 2-1, ManU 2-0, Stoke 1-1, 2-1

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