What a day to be sitting on the couch! Sunday was an absolutely beautiful day of soccer. This week, I will focus on the top end of the table in each league. I will give a quick look at who is on top and who is still in the race for each league. Then I will give quick preview of the upcoming Champions League matches this weekend.
English Premier League
The EPL title race really tightened up this weekend. On Sunday each of the top four teams faced each other. On Saturday, the team in 5th place, Manchester United lost 2-1 at Sunderland. This meant that they would not be gaining ground on the top four and remain at least 6 points behind Manchester City in 4th. On Sunday the day started when the leaders, Leicester City, traveled to Arsenal. Arsenal fell behind 1-0 but then in the second half Danny Simpson was sent off and the game tide turned. Arsenal went on to have about 80% of the ball. Leicester was doing very well but a lovely cushioned crossed by Olivier Giroud found Theo Walcott who beat Kasper Schmeichel. The game stayed level until the last kick of the ball. Marcin Wasilewski fouled Nacho Monreal. Mesut Ozil took the free kick and Danny Welbeck placed his header in the back of the net. This meant that Arsenal closed the gap to 2 points at the top. In the other top four matchup, Tottenham defeated Manchester City 2-1. Tottenham took the lead through a Harry Kane penalty in the first half. In the second half, Kelechi Iheannacho leveled the score with just about 15 minutes to play. The game was very much back and forth, but in the 83rd minute Erik Lamela played in Christian Eriksen who went on to score the game winning goal. This means that we should have a great race for the last 12 games of the season. Leicester remains on top but are only 2 points ahead of Tottenham and Arsenal. Manchester City is going to need to turn their form around as they are 6 points behind the leaders.
Spanish La Liga
The Spanish top flight is a three horse race again this year as Barcelona, Atletico Madrid, and Real Madrid fight it out. Barcelona is at the top of the table. They defeated Celta Vigo this weekend 6-1. The game was tied 1-1 at half but in the second half, it was all Barcelona. Suarez scored a hat trick. Atletico Madrid remained in second following their 1-0 win over Getafe. The goal came from Fernando Torres in the second minute. Atletico continues with their dominating defense having only conceded 11 goals this season. 4 of those goals have been scored by Barcelona this season. Atletico sits 3 points behind Barcelona and they have played 1 more game than the leaders. Real Madrid sits in third place, a point behind Atletico. They have also played one more game than Barcelona. This weekend, they defeated Athletic Bilbao 4-2. Ronaldo scored a brace and Toni Kroos and James Rodriguez scored the other two. There is still an El Clasico to come and a Madrid Derbi, but if Barcelona is to be caught, they would need to drop points in a couple games. Otherwise we will see Barcelona win their 6th title in the last 10 years.
French Ligue 1
The champion is getting closer and closer to being official. PSG remains on top of the table and unbeaten this season. They currently have a 24 point lead over Monaco. Right now, if Monaco wins all of their 12 remaining games, they would have 82 points. PSG right now have 70 points. They are 4 wins away from clinching the title. This weekend, the top two were not successful. PSG drew 0-0 with Lille. Monaco drew 1-1 with Saint-Etienne. Those two teams look set to qualify for the Champions League as Monaco have a 6 point lead over Nice and Saint-Etienne. The interesting race will be that of the third and final Champions League spot. Right now, 6 teams are within 3 points of that place. Nice is currently in third with 40 points. They are just above Saint-Etienne on goal difference. In 5th and 6th are Lyon and Nantes. They both have 39 points. Rennes has 38 points and they are in 7th place. Lastly Angers is in 8th with 37 points. The last 12 games will be very interesting to see who is able to pick up that last Champions League place.
With 13 games to go in the season, the Bundesliga is close to being decided as well since Bayern Munich has only dropped points in 3 games with just 1 loss. They are currently 8 points clear of their nearest rivals and look to have 4th title in a row wrapped up. This weekend, they defeated Augsburg 3-1 thanks to two more goals from Lewandowski and one from Muller. The focus for them now has to be trying to win the Champions League as they look set to win the title. Dortmund has rebounded nicely after their poor season last season and they are now 13 points clear of third place. They look like sure favorites to finish in 2nd place. They defeated Hannover this weekend thanks to a second half goal from Henrik Mkhitaryan. The race for the other two Champions League spots is getting really tight as 5 teams are all within 3 points of each other. Bayer Leverkusen and Hertha Berlin are currently in the last two spots with 35 points each. Bayer defeated Darmstadt 2-1 this weekend. Hertha lost to Stuttgart 2-0. Right behind them is Schalke and Mainz who are both on 33 points after Mainz defeated Schalke 2-1 last Friday. Monchengladbach is just on the outside now thanks to their 3-2 defeat to Hamburger this weekend. They have 32 points. This should be a great race to the finish line in Germany.
Italian Serie A
In the Serie A, we have a new but familiar leader now thanks to a late goal from Simone Zaza. His goal was the only goal in a 1-0 win from Juventus over title rivals Napoli. The win sent Juventus over Napoli in the table. It completes their epic climb from 17th to first place over the course of this season. The defending champions extended their unbeaten run to 15 games this season. The loss leaves Napoli one point behind Juventus. This should make the run in great as the two can’t afford to drop many points. These two have distanced themselves from the rest of the pack. Napoli is 7 points ahead of third place Fiorentina. The race for third will be one to watch as Roma has started to climb back into the race. They are now just two points behind Fiorentina. Inter Milan has really fallen off having gone from the top spot just a couple weeks ago to now being in 5th place. They are 4 points from a Champions League place. The title race is probably going to be the best race in all of the big 5 leagues.
Goal of the Weekend
For my goal of the weekend, I am going to go with Keisuke Honda’s goal for AC Milan against Genoa.
James is going to go with Danny Welbeck’s game winning goal in the last seconds against Leicester.
I also have to share this brilliant penalty kick taken by Leo Messi and finished off Luis Suarez.
Champions League Predictions
This week there are four Champions League Knockout matches.
- Paris Saint-Germain vs. Chelsea – Parc des Princes, Paris – Tuesday at 2:45 pm EST on Fox Sports 1
This game should be one of the better ties in the round of 16. This is a rematch from last season that saw PSG advance on away goals. Chelsea has gotten off to a rough start but really righted the ship lately under Guus Hiddink. Look for PSG to try and dominate this game; I am going PSG 3, Chelsea 1.
James’ thoughts: This is a huge opportunity for Chelsea to show they have turned the corner and are back on track but a late goal ends the optimism. PSG continue domination and win 2-1.
- Benfica vs. Zenit Saint Petersburg – Estadio da Luz, Lisbon – Tuesday at 2:45 pm EST on Fox Sports 2
Both of these two teams would be very excited to make it to the Quarterfinals of the competition. Zenit was the last team to drop points in the competition. The last game that Zenit played was their 2-1 loss to Gent. I think this one will be tough for Zenit. Benfica 2-0.
James’ thoughts: I think it’ll be a good trip for Zenit as they win 2-1.
- Gent vs. Wolfsburg – Ghelamco Arena, Gent – Wednesday at 2:45 pm EST on Fox Sports 2
This game to features one team that is sliding down the German table and another team sitting in second place in the Belgian Super League. Gent is definitely the surprise team of the week. Look for them to try to keep a clean sheet. 0-0 draw in the first leg.
James’ thoughts: German team dominates here, wins 2-0.
- Roma vs. Real Madrid – Stadio Olimpico, Rome – Wednesday at 2:45 pm EST on Fox Sports 1
The 10 time winner, Real Madrid, begins the campaign toward winning their 11th title in the Italian capital as they face Roma. Roma has been very up and down but look to be in trouble. They were dominated by Barcelona in the group stage and I would not expect this to much different. 3-1 to Real Madrid.
James’ thoughts: This is an exciting early match up. Roma can really put a stamp on this season but they need to be flawless. I don’t see it happening. Real take control early with heavy possession and an early set of goals and win 3-1.