Cup Competitions

Since we are on an international break, I figured now was a good time to take a second to look at the cup competitions in England, France, Italy, Spain, and Germany.  We will look at what stage they are in right now and preview the rest of the competition.

England

In England, there are two major cup competitions, the F.A. Cup and the League Cup.  The FA Cup is in the semifinal stage.  The League cup has crowned its champions.

English FA Cup

This is the oldest football competition in the world.  The first tournament took place in 1871-72.  The competition is open to any professional club from the top 4 tiers of football and several hundred “non-league” teams in the Nation League System tiers 5 to 10. The FA Cup is a bit unique in their use of replays.  If the game ends in a draw, and then the match is over and a replay of the game is scheduled at the other team’s stadium at a later date.  If that game ends in a draw then they go to extra time and then penalties.  The competition has 12 total rounds.  The teams that are not in the professional leagues go through a four round qualifying competition in August, September, and October.  The qualifying rounds are drawn regionally.  After the qualifying rounds, the “proper” rounds start with 32 qualifying teams and the 48 teams from the Football league one and Football league Two.  In the third round proper, the 20 winners from the previous round are joined by the 44 teams in the Football league Championship and the Premier League.  The current cup holders is Arsenal.  They have won the last two FA Cup competitions and are the most successful team in the competition.  The semifinals and the final of the competition are played in Wembley Stadium in London.  The winner qualifies for the UEFA Europa League.

The current edition of the FA Cup just finished the sixth round proper, or the quarterfinals.   The semifinals will take place on April 23rd and April 24th.  The April 23rd semifinal will have Everton face either Manchester United or West Ham United.  These two teams played to a 1-1 draw in quarterfinals and will have a replay at West Ham on April 13th.  The other semifinal is set for April 24th and will feature Crystal Palace and Watford.  This is a great moment for both clubs and could be historic for each of them.  The final will take place on May 21st. Of the final 5 teams, Manchester United has been to 18 finals and won the cup 11 times.  Everton has been to 13 finals and won 5.  West Ham United has been to the final 5 times and won 3.  Crystal Palace has been to the final 1 time and never won the competition.  Watford has never been to the final.

English League Cup

The Football League Cup is a cup competition for any club in the top four levels on the English football league system.  That is all of the clubs in the Premier League, Championship, League One, and league Two.  The competition was founded in 1960.  The most successful team in the competition is Liverpool who has won the competition 8 times.  The tournament is single leg matches that if tied goes to extra time and then penalties.  The semi-finals are two legged affairs played at each of the teams’ home stadiums.  The first round starts with 72 teams from Football League One, Football League Two, and the Championship.  In the second round, the 36 winners from the first round are joined by the 12 Premier League teams not in European competitions.  In the third round, the 24 winners are joined by the 8 Premier League teams that are involved in Europe.  The final is played at Wembley in a one legged final.  The winner qualifies for the UEFA Europa League.

The current edition of the League Cup has crowned their champions, Manchester City.  Manchester City faced Liverpool in the final at Wembley.  The gamed went into the half at a 0-0 tie.  In the second half, Fernandinho opened the scoring in the 49th minute.  In the 83rd minute, Coutinho scored for Liverpool to draw the game level.  The game went to penalties.  Emre Can scored the first penalty kick. Fernandinho missed the first one for City.  Then Lucas, Coutinho, and Lallana all missed for Liverpool, and Navas, Aguero, and Toure did score for City.  City would lift the title thanks to a 3-1 penalty shootout win.  This was their fourth ever League Cup title.

France

In France, there are also two different major cup competitions.  They are the Coupe de France and the Coupe de la Ligue.

Coupe de France

This is the premier knockout competition in French football.  It is open to all amateur and professional football clubs in France, including any club in the overseas departments and territories.  The competition started in 1917.  The tournament is a random draw each round.  If the match ends in a draw then extra time takes place and if needed, penalties take place.  The first 6 rounds of the competition take place regionally to help cut down on travel costs.  In Round 7, the 156 qualifying teams are joined by the 20 teams in Ligue 2.  In Round 9, the 20 Ligue 1 teams join the competition.  If a team is two levels below the team they are drawn against then the lower tier team is automatically the home team.  This can benefit the amateur teams.  The most successful team in the cup is Olympique de Marseille.  They have won the title 10 times.  The current holder of the trophy is Paris Saint-Germain.  This was their 9th time winning the competition.  The winner qualifies for the UEFA Europa League.

This year’s edition of the Coupe de France is set for the semifinal round.  Three of the four teams are from the top tier of French football.  The first semifinal is set for April 19th in Lorient.  Lorient hosts Paris Saint-Germain.  The other semifinal is between Sochaux and Marseille.  Sochaux is in the second tier of French football.  This could set up an intriguing final between PSG and Marseille.  If PSG win the competition, then they will draw level with Marseille on 10 total titles.  The final will take place in the Stade de France.

Coupe de la Ligue

This is France’s second cup competition.  It is very similar to the League Cup in England.  It is only open to professional clubs in France.  The tournament was founded in 1994.  It is a single legged knockout competition.  The winner qualifies for the UEFA Europa League.  The current champions are Paris Saint-Germain, who also has won the competition more than any other team.  The first two rounds feature teams not in the top flight of French football.  In the third round, the French teams not competing in Europe join.  In the Round of 16, the rest of the top flight teams join.  The final of the competition is played at the Stade de France.

This final is set for this year’s competition.  Lille will face off with Paris Saint-Germain on April 23rd.  This could be PSG’s third title in a row.  Lille has not won the title and is making their first appearance in the final.  This could be PSG’s second trophy of the season since they have clinched the league already.

Italy

In Italy there is one major cup competition, the Coppa Italia.

Coppa Italia

The Coppa Italia is the annual cup competition in Italy.  It was founded in 1922, however, there was a bit of a break since the second champion was not crowned until 1936.  The draw for the whole competition takes place before a game is played.  It is a single legged tie excepted for the semi-finals, which are two legged.  If the match is a draw then extra time is played.  The winner qualifies for the UEFA Europa League.  There are 8 rounds in the tournament.  The first round consists of teams that are not in the Serie A or Serie B.  Teams in Serie B join in the second round.  In the third round, the 12 lowest teams in Serie A join.  In the Round of 16, the last 8 remaining teams from Serie A join the competition.  The final is played in the Stadio Olimpico in Rome.  The most successful team is Juventus with 10 tournament wins.  They also won the competition last year.

The final for this year’s competition is set for May 21 and will feature the two biggest teams in Italian football.  Milan will face Juventus.  Juventus are looking to win their 11th title and second in a row.  Milan has won the trophy 5 times but not since 2003.  This could be a big step forward for them in their rebuilding process.

Spain

There is only one major cup competition in Spain.

Copa del Rey

The King’s Cup is the oldest competition in Spanish football.  It was founded in 1903.  83 teams compete in the competition each year.  The winner is given a spot in the Europa League.  Barcelona is the most successful team in the competition, having won 27 times.  They are also the current holders of the trophy after defeating Athletic Bilbao last year.  The competition is limited in terms of entry.  The only teams that are allowed to enter the competition are the teams from the Primera Division, Segunda A, 23 teams from Segunda B and the top team in Tercera Division that is not a reserve team.  The early rounds are all one legged matches with the team from the lower division as the home team.  The competition starts with all of the teams from Tercera and Segunda Division B competing.  They are seeded regionally.  The teams in the Segunda Division A join in the second round.  One team will receive a bye.  The Segunda Division teams face each other in the early rounds. La Liga joins during the Round of 32.  From the Round of 32 on, the games are two legged ties with the winner being decided on aggregate scores.  The location of the final rotates around the major stadiums in Spain.

The final is set for May 22nd this year.  It will take place in the Vicente Calderon.  The final will feature Barcelona and Sevilla.  Barcelona is looking for their second straight Copa Del Rey win and their 28th title over all.  Sevilla have won the title 5 times in the past.

Germany

There is one major cup competition in Germany.

DFB Pokal

The DFB Pokal is the major cup competition in Germany.  It was founded in 1935.  64 teams participate in the competition, including all clubs from the Bundesliga and the 2.Bundesliga.  The top four finishers of the 3. Liga are automatically qualified for the tournament.  21 slots are given to the Cup winners of the regional football association.  The final 3 spots are given to the three regional associations with the most men’s teams.  The 64 teams are split into two pots for the initial draw.  In one pot, the 32 amateur teams are placed.  In the other pot are the teams in Bundesliga and the teams in the 2.Bundesliga that were not just recently promoted.  All the teams are involved from the start.  The final is played at the Olympiastadion in Berlin.  The winner of the competition qualifies for the Europa League.  The most successful club is Bayern Munich with 17 titles.  Wolfsburg is the current holders.

This year, the Pokal is currently in the semifinal stage.  The final four teams left are Bayern Munich, Werder Bremen, Hertha Berlin, and Borussia Dortmund.  Bayern Munich will face Werder Bremen in the first semifinal on April 19th.  Hertha Berlin will face Borussia Dortmund in the second semifinal on April 20th.  The final will take place on May 21st.

Winners and Losers From This Weekend

Here are 10 teams that were either winners or losers this weekend.

Winners

  1. Eintracht Frankfurt & Hoffenheim – These two German sides got massive wins this weekend. They currently sit in 17th and 16th respectively. However, they are now level on points with Augsburg and just one point behind Bremen and Darmstadt.  Eintracht defeated Hannover 1-0.  Hoffenheim defeated Hamburger SV 3-1.  These wins mean that we now have a 5 team race for survival and these two teams have given themselves a chance now to potentially escape. While the top of the table seems fairly settled, the bottom is going to be a great watch.
  2. Villarreal – Villarreal faced Barcelona this weekend. Barcelona was in the midst of a 38 game unbeaten run and a 12 game win streak. Barcelona took an early lead thanks to Ivan Rakitic and Neymar.  They looked on pace for an easy win.  Villarreal had other ideas.  They fought back after the break and Cedric Bakambu scored to make it 2-1.  Then Jeremy Mathieu scored an own goal just moments on to the pitch.  Villarreal had fought back and earned a point.  They made a big statement towards their future Champions League place.
  3. Manchester United –The race for fourth place is really on now as Manchester United won the Manchester Derby. Marcus Rashford scored the lone goal of the game with a great move and some poor defending from Manchester City. United are now level  on points with West Ham and just a single point behind City for fourth place.  A place in the Champions League is on the line and United took a big step towards potentially returning to the Champions League next season.
  4. Carpi – The Italian minnows defeated fellow relegation strugglers Verona this weekend 2-1. Verona is going to be relegated this season. Carpi took a step this weekend as they jumped from 19th to 17th and out of the relegation zone.  It will certainly be a great race for the final 8 games.  Carpi and Palermo are both level on 28 points.  Frosinone has 27 points.  Two of them will get relegated.  Who will it be?  Carpi gave themselves a chance at survival this past weekend.
  5. Nice – OGC Nice is close to qualifying for the Champions League for the first time since 1957. This weekend they took a big step towards this as they remained in third place. They have a one point lead on Lyon and two point lead on Rennes.  This weekend they defeated Ajaccio 3-0.  The win helped keep them in the Champions League places.  There are just 7 games remaining in the Ligue 1 and this would be great for Nice and the French league to get some new blood in the Champions League.

Losers

  1. Atletico Madrid – In a weekend in which Barcelona did not win, they still picked up ground on Atletico Madrid. Atletico faced relegation zone side, Sporting Gijon. At halftime, they had a 1-0 lead thanks to Antoine Griezmann.  However, it all fell apart in the second half, more precisely in the last 10 minutes.  Antonio Sanabria scored with 11 minutes to go and then Carlos Castro Garcia scored the winner.  Atletico Madrid’s title challenge might be over.  Barcelona is now 9 points ahead with 8 games to play.  Atletico will now need to cheer for their cross-town rivals when the league resumes with El Clasico.
  2. Monaco – Monaco defeated Paris Saint Germain this weekend 2-0. They provided the Parisian side just their second loss of the season. It makes the point differential now 27 points with just 8 points to go.  It is way too little too late.  PSG has won the title and they have no need to win another game in Ligue 1 the rest of the season.  I think Monaco was close to pushing PSG for the title, but they struggled this season.  Maybe next season they can play like this all year and make the French league a competition, but probably not.
  3. Sunderland & Newcastle – The Tyne-Wear derby was a fascinating game but at the end, a 1-1 draw was bad for both clubs. Norwich defeated West Bromwich Albion 1-0. This sent the Canaries out of the relegation zone ahead of the Tyne-Wear derby.  The draw means that Sunderland and Newcastle are still in the relegation zone.  Will we see three established Premier League clubs in the Championship next year including both sides of the Tyne-Wear derby?
  4. Roma – They are a loser this weekend because their run of 8 consecutive Serie A wins ended and they fell behind Juventus and Napoli. They fell behind thanks to an Ivan Perisic goal. They looked set to lose the game, but Radja Nainggolan leveled the score with just 6 minutes.  They earned a point and maintained their 5 point lead for the third and final Champions League spot.  Roma will hope to make it back into Champions League and look to build on their round of 16 exit.
  5. Monchengladbach – In what was the biggest game of the weekend in Germany, Schalke defeated Monchengladbach 2-1. Schalke took the lead thanks to an own goal from Martin Hinteregger.  Monchengladbach leveled the score with just 11 minutes to go however, that would not last long.  Leon Goretzka would give Schalke the 2-1 win and send them above Monchengladbach in the table.  The race for the final Champions League spot is on as the two teams are separated by just 2 points. Who will get the final spot?

Goal of the Week

For my goal of the week, I am going to go with Paul Pogba and his free kick goal in the Turin derby.

As we approach the international break, there will not be a blog on Friday but I will write one on this week on the Cup competitions going on in each of the big 5 leagues.

Manchester and Tyne-Wear Derbies plus relegation battles

  1. Manchester City vs. Manchester United ~ Etihad Stadium, Manchester

Sunday, March 20th at 12:00 pm EST on NBC

The Manchester Derby takes place this weekend and both of the teams come in a bit of a slump to this game.  Manchester City advanced to the quarterfinals of the Champions League, but failed to score in their home leg against Dynamo Kyiv.  Manchester United was eliminated by their rivals Liverpool in the Europa League.  In the Premier League, both teams have been up and down and sit in the middle section of the form table.  United has won only 3 of their last 6 matches.  City meanwhile have only won 2.  The title seems out of reach for both as City sits in fourth place 12 points behind Leicester.  United is in 6th and is 4 points behind City.  Both teams come into the derby with lengthy injury lists.  De Bruyne and Delph are still out.  Kompany was injured against Kyiv during the week.  Nasri just returned to training so he will also miss out.  Otamendi was also injured in the game against Kyiv, but he might be fit for this one.  For United, they are still without Shaw, Young, Jones, and Rooney.  They have all been injured for a while now.  Herrera is a doubt due to his groin injury.  Rashford and Martial vs Aguero and Silva.  Whoever is more clinical will win the game.

Betting Odds

Match Result – City 5/6, United 15/4, Draw 11/4

First Goalscorer – Aguero 3/1, Iheanacho 9/2, Bony 5/1

Predictions

My Pick – City 2, United 1: Goals by Aguero, Sterling, and Martial

James’ Pick – City 2, United 1: Goals by Aguero, Toure, and Martial

  1. Real Madrid vs. Sevilla ~ Estadio Santiago Bernabeu, Madrid

Sunday, March 20th at 3:330 pm EST on beIN Sports USA

My favorite stat from the season so far is that Sevilla is 5th in the table despite not winning a single game on the road all season.  That trend is likely to continue as they face Real Madrid.  Real Madrid is the third best home team in the league behind Barcelona and, not surprisingly, Sevilla.  I mean, they have to be great at home if they are winless on the road.  Meanwhile, Sevilla is the only team in the league that has not won on the road.  Yes even Sporting Gijon (3 wins), Levante (1), and Granada (3) have won on the road and they are the bottom 3 in the league.  Real Madrid has won 3 straight but the league title seems well out of reach since they are 12 points behind Barcelona.  Sevilla, meanwhile, is on the hunt for 4th place.  They are just 5 points behind Villarreal and any points on the road will be massive for them.  Pepe and Ramos are both suspended for Real Madrid.  That means Nacho and Varane will partner in the back.  Casemiro might keep his place in the side as well.  Ever Banega is suspended for Sevilla.  They are without Konoplyanka, N’Zonzi, Vitolo, Andreolli, and Pareja because of injury.  Krohn-Deli faces a late fitness test.  This will be a tough one for Sevilla to get their first road win, but it is bound to happen someday soon.

Betting Odds

Match Result – Real Madrid 4/11, Sevilla 7/1, Draw 17/4

First Goalscorer – Ronaldo 9/4, Benzema 15/4, Jese 4/1

Predictions

My Pick – Real Madrid 2, Sevilla 2: Goals by Ronaldo, Bale, Gameiro, and Reyes

James’ Pick – Real Madrid 3, Sevilla 2: Goals by Ronaldo (2), Benzema, Gameiro

  1. Eintracht Frankfurt vs. Hannover ~ Commerzbank-Arena, Frankfurt

Saturday, March 19th at 1:30 pm EST on Fox

This is a huge relegation 6 pointer this weekend.  Eintracht Frankfurt is currently in the relegation playoff spot, 7 points above Hannover.  They are level on points with Hoffenheim, who is in the first relegation place.  Hannover sits on the bottom of the table.  They are in big trouble, but a win this weekend could give them a glimmer of hope.  Hoffenheim will be watching this match closely as they will hope to get a point and climb up the table in their game.  Eintracht is winless in their last 8 games.  Hannover has failed to win their last 3 and in fact have lost 11 of their last 12.  Frankfurt is without Anderson, Flum, and Gacinovic.  Meier is a doubt.  Hanover is without Andreasen, Benschop, Bech, and Felipe.  Milosevic is a doubt.  Frankfurt will hope that Hannover can end their bad run and give them some breathing room at the bottom.  This could be a very tight race at the bottom of the German table.

Betting Odds

Match Result – Frankfurt 5/6, Hannover 10/3, Draw 13/5

First Goalscorer – Castaignos 5/1, Seferovic 5/1, Waldschmidt 6/1

Predictions

My Pick – Frankfurt 2, Hannover 1: Goals by Seferovic, Castaignos, and Kiyotake

James’ Pick – Frankfurt 2, Hannover 1: Goals by Seferovic, Stendera, and Kiyotake

  1. Roma vs. Internazionale ~ Stadio Olimpico, Rome

Saturday, March 19th at 3:45 pm EST on beIN Sports

I have really enjoyed watching Roma lately so of course I am going to pick their game against Inter Milan.  Roma has won 8 straight.  They are on top of the form table and are trying to catch up with Napoli and Juventus.  They are currently in 3rd place and 5 points behind Napoli.  They also have a 5 point lead on Fiorentina and Inter Milan.  Inter comes in on the back of 2 straight wins.  They are now level on points with Fiorentina and a win can see them jump above Fiorentina and within touching distance of Roma.  Roma is finally healthy and playing some great soccer.  They are only missing Norbert Gyomber.  With all of their midfielders healthy, they might go with a midfield 3 of Naingolan, De Rossi, and Pjanic finally.  This is the midfield three that all Roma fans have been craving for a while.  It might also mean that Edin Dzeko sits on the bench due to the great form of Perotti, Salah, and Shaarawy.  Inter Milan is without Stevan Jovetic and Rodrigo Palacio.  Palacio is suspended.  Mauro Icardi is a doubt for this game which means that Eder will lead the line for Inter.  Roma has been great lately and that looks set to continue, especially since they have won 20 of their last 26 Serie A home fixtures.

Betting Odds

Match Result – Roma 8/11, Inter 4/1, Draw 11/4

First Goalscorer – Dzeko 9/2, Totti 5/1, Pjanic 11/2

Predictions

My Pick – Roma 3, Inter 0: Goals by Salah, Pjanic, and Dzeko

James’ Pick – Roma 3, Inter 1: Goals by Salah, Pjanic, Shaaraway, and Icardi

  1. Newcastle united vs. Sunderland ~ St. James’ Park, Newcastle-upon-Tyne

Sunday, March 20th at 9:30 am EST on NBCSN

This weekend is the second Tyne-Wear Derby of the season and this time it is Newcastle who changed their manager just before the game.  The last couple times, we have seen a Sunderland manager face Newcastle in their second game.  This time it is Rafa Bentiez.  It has worked for Sunderland in the past, will it work for Newcastle?  This derby also has new added meaning as both teams sit in the bottom 4 teams in the league.  The threat of relegation is very real and could be coming for one or both of these teams.  Newcastle sits in 19th place having lost four straight games.  Sunderland has one more point than Newcastle but is 2 places above them, just outside of the relegation zone.  They have drawn their last two games and would love another one this weekend.  Sunderland comes into this derby unbeaten in the last 8 Tyne-Wear derbies and having won 6 straight.  Newcastle might have the longest injury list in the league.  They have 11 first team players out injured, plus Mbemba is facing a late fitness test.  Sunderland meanwhile will have busy Physios as Khazri, Defoe, Lens, Eboue, and Cattermole all face late fitness tests.  They are without Duncan Watmore.  Will Newcastle be able to end the four year run without a league win over their biggest rivals?

Betting Odds

Match Result – Newcastle 11/10, Sunderland 14/5, Draw 5/2

First Goalscorer – Mitrovic 5/1, Doumbia 5/1, Riviere 11/2

Predictions

My Pick – Newcastle 2, Sunderland 1: Goals by Wijnaldum, Perez, and Borini

James’ Pick – Newcastle 1, Sunderland 2: Goals by Wijnaldum, Defoe, and N’Doye

Champions League Recap

Manchester City 0, Dynamo Kyiv 0 (3 – 1 aggregate score) – In what was a fairly boring game, Manchester City advanced to the quarterfinals thanks to their away win in Ukraine.  Kyiv had more possession in the game but both teams created little going forward.

Atletico Madrid 0, PSV Eindhoven 0 (0 – 0 aggregate score) (8 – 7 penalty) – This game was very much back and forth and the defense held out.  Atletico Madrid had plenty of chances but was not able to find the goal.  The game then went to penalties.  The first 14 players all scored their penalties.  Luciano Narsingh missed his penalty.  Juanfran stepped up and sent Atletico on to the quarterfinals.

Bayern Munchen 4, Juventus 2 AET (6 – 4 aggregate score) – This game was a fantastic match.  Juventus took a two goal lead thanks to a Manuel Neuer mistake gifted Pogba a 5th minute goal.  Cuadrado doubled the lead after 28 minutes.  They took this lead into halftime.  Lewandowski gave Munich a hope in the 73rd minute.  Then Muller completed the comeback in the first minute of additional time.  In extra time, Thigao Alcantara and Kingsley Coman both scored to send Munich on and Juventus home.

Barcelona 3, Arsenal 1 (5 – 1 aggregate score) – Barcelona dominated the game and easily advanced thanks to goals from MSN.  Neymar opened the scoring.  Mohamed Elneny leveled the score for Arsenal, but Luis Suarez and Messi ended the tie and won the game for Barcelona.

Champions League Draw

The draw for the quarterfinals of the Champions League took place this morning, and the matchups look set to give us some epic semifinal matchups.  The matchups are…

Barcelona vs. Atletico Madrid

Bayern Munich vs. Benfica

Paris Saint-Germain vs. Manchester City

Wolfsburg vs. Real Madrid

Europa League Draw

The draw for the Europa League was also today.  One matchup stand out above the rest as Borussia Dortmund faces off with their old coach, Jurgen Kloop.  Here are the quarterfinal matchups…

Villarreal vs. Sparta Prague

Braga vs. Shakthar Donetsk

Borussia Dortmund vs. Liverpool

Athletic Bilbao vs. Sevilla

Other Games on TV This Weekend

England – Premier League

Everton vs. Arsenal – Saturday at 8:45 am EST on NBCSN

Crystal Palace vs. Leicester City – Saturday at 11:00 am EST on NBCSN

Chelsea vs. West ham United – Saturday at 11:00 am EST on USA

Swansea City vs. Aston Villa – Saturday at 1:30 pm EST on NBCSN

Spain – La Liga

Sporting Gijon vs. Atletico Madrd – Saturday at 11:00 am EST on beIN Sports

Villarreal vs. Barcelona – Sunday at 11:00 am EST on beIN Sports

Italy – Serie A

Empoli vs. Palermo – Saturday at 1:00 pm EST on beIN Sports

Torino vs. Juventus – Sunday at 10:00 am EST on beIN Sports

Germany – Bundesliga

Koln vs. Bayern Munchen – Saturday at 10:30 am EST on Fox Soccer Plus

Stuttgart vs. Bayer Leverkusen – Sunday at 10:30 am EST on Fox Sports 1

Augsburg vs. Borussia Dortmund – Sunday at 12:30 pm EST on Fox Soccer Plus

French – Ligue 1

PSG vs. Monaco – Sunday at 4:00 pm EST on beIN Sports

Winners and Losers From This Weekend in World Football

Winners

  1. Paris Saint-Germain – Our first major 5 league title has been clinched this weekend following an impressive showing by the Parisians. They took the lead in the 13th minute thanks to Cavani, and in the 19th minute it was 3-0 with Pastore and Rabiot scoring the goals. In the second half, Ibrahimovice scored 3 goals within the first 11 minutes to pit the game out of reach.  He would add a fourth, Cavani a second and a Saunier own goal would be the rest of the scoring for the game.  9-0 and the title to PSG.    They can now shift their full focus to the Champions League and hope they do not draw Barcelona again.
  2. Roma – The team from the Italian capitol has now won 8 games in a row in the league to climb up to 3rd place and give themselves a very good chance at qualifying again for the Champions League. They extended the streak to 8 thanks to a 2-1 win over Udinese. Edin Dzeko opened the scoring in the 15th minute.  Then Florenzi gave them some breathing room.  Bruno Fernandes scored with just 5 minutes left, but it was too late.  Roma took all 3 points and give them a nice lead on fourth place Fiorentina.  They are now 5 points behind Napoli and could potentially continue their climb.  They do have a game against Napoli coming up in a couple weeks.  We will see how big that game is in a couple weeks, but Roma have really turned their season around.
  3. Watford, Crystal Palace, and Everton – At the start of the season, all three of these teams would be dreaming about a trip to Wembley. Well that is a reality now. Crystal Palace defeated Reading 2-0 on Friday.  They have continued their good form in the cup, despite recently having poor form in the league.  The goals were scored by Yohan Cabaye and Fraizer Campbell.  The game was tight until Jake Cooper was sent off in the 85th minute for preventing Yannick Bolasie from running on the a ball in the box.  Cabeye finished the penalty cooly and Palace is on their way to Wembley.  Everton got 2 goals from Romelu Lukaku as they went on to win the game 2-0.  It got interesting towards the end as Costa was sent off for what looked like a bite on Gareth Barry, but I do not think that he did.  Barry was then sent off later for his second yellow card. In the end Everton moves on. The third team heading to Wembley is Watford.  They have had a great return to the Premier League and just put the cherry on top with their 2-1 win over Arsenal.  They scored twice in the second half as Troy Deeney set up Ighalo and the Guedioura.  Arsenal did put up a fight and Danny Welbeck score two minutes from time, but it was too little too late.  If West Ham can beat United in the replay, it will be a final four at Wembley without any of the big 4 clubs.
  4. Hertha Berlin – In their bid to make it to the Champions League, they got a huge win against one of their close rivals, Schalke. The two teams were separated by just 1 point before the game and now the gap is 4 points. While Hertha is by no means guaranteed a spot in the Champions League, this win does help their odds of playing in the competition for the first time.  Berlin got a first half goal from Vedad Ibisevic and a second half goal from Niklas Stark.  They played some great defense, despite not having the majority of possession.  Thanks to this win, they now have a head start on their competition and a big carrot at the end of the stick that is Champions League.
  5. Sevilla – While they might not be able to win on the road, they are very good at home and are now within 5 points of Villarreal for the fourth and last Champions League spot. This will be an interesting race to watch for the rest of the season, especially if Sevilla can get a couple wins on the road. If they had done that before now, they would probably be in the top four already.  Sevilla took the lead thanks to Iborra, but then Bakumbu scored twice too in the first half.  In the second half, Victor Ruiz scored an own goal to draw the game level at 2.  Konoplyanka scored the winner 14 minutes later.  Ever Banega was sent off with 11 minutes to go, but Sevilla was able to hold on and put the game to bed in extra time as Jose Antonio Reyes scored.  They would win 4-2 and make the race for fourth a lot more interesting.

Losers

  1. Aston Villa – Alright I am calling it, I do not think they can escape relegation anymore. With just 8 games to play, Villa is 9 points from safety and two of the teams above them have games in hand. They will be lucky to reach the 20 point mark, let alone 26 which is the minimum they would need.  They have looked awful this season and this weekend was no exception to that.  Tottenham controlled the game and Harry Kane scored on either side of half time.  Villa managed just 2 shots on target the whole match.  They have flirted with relegation a lot recently and now they are doomed to play in the Championship next season.
  2. Fiorentina – While they might not have lost this weekend, drawing 1-1 with Hellas Verona might as well have been one. The team they were chasing, Roma, won again to widen the gap to 5 points. The team chasing them, Inter, also won to close that gap to 0. The two teams above Roma also won, so just getting 1 point was not what Fiorentina needed especially against the team on the bottom of the table. The race for the third Champions League spot looks all set to go to Roma and if they are not careful, they will have to go through the qualifying round for the Europa League.
  3. Getafe’s Goal Difference – Coming into this weekend, Getafe had conceded 45 goals with a goal difference of – 18. That was giving them some breathing room at the bottom of the table. However, this weekend, their defense was abysmal.  They let in 4 first half goals and 2 in the second half as Barcelona ran away with an easy 6-0 win.  It could have been worse, as Messi missed another penalty.  That might be the new way to stop Barcelona.  Just give them a penalty kick.  They have been awful, but back to Getafe, they now sit just one point above Granada and level on goal difference.  If they get relegated those 6 goals could be the reason why.
  4. Schalke 04 – I already talked about this game in the winners section, but Schalke had a great opportunity to get back into the Champions League places and they really dropped the ball. They had more possession, almost the same number of shots, and were just not able to beat Rune Jarstein in goal for Hertha. The loss means that they are on the outside looking in and will need to come ready to play in the last 8 games.
  5. Fans of French Football – This is starting to become something that should scare the fans of Ligue 1. PSG seem to be winning the league earlier and earlier. They were never really pushed this season and to date have lost just once in the league.  They are in the final of the Coupe de la Ligue and the semifinals of the Coupe de France.  They won the domestic treble last season and look set to do it again this season.  Something needs to change, or it could be a sad state of affairs for the fans of French football.

Goals of the Weekend

Here are two goals from this weekend.  First is Arda Turan and his nice bicycle kick, and second is a great curler from Paulo Dybala.

Champions League Preview

The final four spots are up for grabs this week.  Here is a quick preview of each game.

Manchester City vs. Dynamo Kyiv – Tuesday – Manchester City is the only English hope left it seems with Chelsea and United already out and Arsenal in trouble and having to score 3 goals in Barcelona.  City won the first leg 3-1 in the Ukraine.  I think they will easily advance. 2-0 to Manchester City.

Atletico Madrid vs. PSV Eindhoven – Tuesday – The first leg ended 0-0 and that is not a surprise since Atletico have one of the best defenses in the world.  I think it will be really tough for PSV to score in Madrid.  Atletico should show their quality and advance to the quarter finals, 2-0 to Madrid.

Barcelona vs. Arsenal – Wednesday – The first leg ended with a 2-0 win for Barcelona in London and that pretty much means this should be very straightforward for Barcelona.  They are in spectacular form and look set to advance to the quarterfinals.  I think it is going to be another clean sheet for Barcelona, 2-0.

Bayern Munich vs. Juventus – Wednesday – This is the big tie for this week.  Juventus came back to draw the first leg at home 2-2.  One of the biggest teams in Europe will be out of the competition.  I think this will go Bayern’s way since they are at home for the second leg and have 2 away goals.  I think it will be a 1-1 draw.

 

FA Cup and Champions League Spots on The Line

  1. Everton vs. Chelsea (FA Cup) ~ Goodison Park, Liverpool

Saturday, March 12th at 12:30 pm EST on Fox Sports 2

The FA Cup returns this weekend as the quarterfinals of the competition take place.  One of the headline matchups is Everton vs. Chelsea.  Chelsea is the seven-time winner of the cup and this is now their only hope for winning a trophy this season.  Chelsea will look to continue their great road form in this competition as they have only lost one game on the road since March 2008.  Their only defeat came at Manchester City in this competition.  Chelsea is now out of the Champions League following back to back 2-1 defeats against PSG.  Everton, meanwhile, has struggled as they sit in 12th place in the table, two points behind Chelsea.  However, this is the FA Cup and Everton has not look that bad in this competition.  Browning and Hibbert are both out injured for Everton.  Mirallas is suspended so Oumar Niasse looks set to start.  Barry, Cleverly, and Lennon are all doubtful for the game.  Costa, Hazard, and Terry are all doubtful for Chelsea and might miss this game.  Look for Traore to start in Costa’s place.  Everton has been poor at home and Chelsea is playing better.  This could be a close and tough game.  Everton will look to counter, but Chelsea might not let them.

Betting Odds

Match Result – Everton 8/5, Chelsea 8/5, Draw 12/5

First Goalscorer – Lukaku 15/4, Costa 5/1, Remy 6/1

Predictions

My Pick – Everton 1, Chelsea 1: Goals by Lukaku and Traore

James’ Pick – Everton 1, Chelsea 2: Goals by

  1. Manchester United vs. West Ham United (FA Cup) ~ Old Trafford, Manchester

Sunday, March 13th at 12:00 pm EST on Fox Sports 1

This is the second FA Cup quarterfinal we are taking a look at.  Manchester United hosts West Ham.  United had won 4 straight before losing their last two games against West Brom and Liverpool.  This is going to be a huge week for Louis Van Gaal.  On Sunday they face West Ham in the FA Cup and then Thursday is the second leg against Liverpool in the Europa League.  They could be out of the Premier League, FA Cup, and Europe all by the end of this week.  It is going to be an interesting week for him.  West Ham United meanwhile has won 4 straight in all competitions and are on the brink of possibly being in a Champions League place.  They have not played for a while and are going to be the more rested side going into this game.  Wayne Rooney is still out injured and Mata is suspended.  Herrera could be pushed forward.  Schweinsteiger and Carrick should be in contention for a start.  Lingard should return to the lineup.  For West Ham, Collins and Tomkins are out injured.  Sam Byram is ineligible to play having played for Leeds earlier in the competition.  Victor Moses, Enner Valencia, and Joey O’Brien should all return to the lineup.  This is going to be a big game and could be a big factor in Louis Van Gaal’s future.

Betting Odds

Match Result – United 19/20, West Ham 31/10, Draw 27/10

First Goalscorer – Martial 9/2, Rashford 5/1, Sakho 7/1

Predictions

My Pick – United 1, West Ham 2: Goals by Rashford, Emenike, and Payet

James’ Pick – United 2, West Ham 1: Goals by

  1. Sevilla vs. Villarreal ~ Estadio Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan, Sevilla

Sunday, March 13th at 11 am EST on beIN Sports Connect

In Spain, the fourth and fifth place teams meet.  Right now the gap is 8 points between them, but a win for Sevilla could make this one a little bit more interesting.  Neither team is in great form lately, as Sevilla continues to struggle on the road.  At home they have won 12 straight games so that should give them some hope this weekend.  Villarreal, meanwhile, has drawn their last 4 road games and kept 3 straight clean sheets.  This should be a hotly contested game with a lot on the line.  Pareja, Andreolli and Vitolo are all out for Sevilla.  Krychowiak is getting closer to fitness but will probably only be on the bench.  For Villarreal, Soldado will miss due to suspension.  Leo Baptistao should start.  Samuel, Jonathan dos Santos, Costa and Muscachio are out injured.  Sevilla are struggling to score and Villarreal has one of the best defenses.  This could be a tough match up for the Rojiblancos.

Betting Odds

Match Result – Sevilla 4/6, Villarreal 4/1, Draw 11/4

First Goalscorer – Gameiro 12/5, Munoz 3/1, Llorente 5/1

Predictions

My Pick – Sevilla 2, Villarreal 2: Goals by Gameiro, Banega, Baptistao and Bakambu

James’ Pick – Sevilla 2, Villarreal 1: Goals by

  1. Borussia Dortmund vs. Mainz ~ Sigunal Iduna Park, Dortmund

Sunday, March 13th at 12:30 pm EST on Fox Sports 2

The two hottest teams in Germany meet this weekend when Dortmund host Mainz.  The two teams have each won 4 of their last 6 games.  Dortmund is in the middle of an 8 game unbeaten run following their 0-0 draw with Bayern Munich last weekend.  They will also be boosted by their 3-0 win over Tottenham in the Europa League.   Mainz, meanwhile, has gone 3 games unbeaten and is right in the middle of the race for 4th place.  They are 2 points behind Hertha in third and 1 point behind Schalke in fourth.  This is a big game for both teams as they look to either stay in the title race or the race for Champions League.  Dortmund is very healthy, but we might see some rotation after the Europa League game on Thursday.  Sokratis is the only injury doubt this week.   Mainz on the other hand has Soto, Berggreen, Muto, Pengtsson, and Bungert out injured.  Giulio Donati is suspended.  Stefan Bell should return this weekend.  This should be a competitive and passionate game.  Both teams could really use the win this weekend.

Betting Odds

Match Result – Dortmund 3/10, Mainz 15/2, Draw 9/2

First Goalscorer – Leitner 14/1

Predictions

My Pick – Dortmund 2, Mainz 1: Goals by Reus, Aubameyang, and Cordoba

James’ Pick – Dortmund 3, Mainz 1: Goals by Aubameyang (2) and Reus

  1. Udinese vs. Roma ~ Stadio Communale Friuli, Udine

Sunday March 13th at 10 am EST on beIN Sports

This week, we take a look at the new hottest team in Italy.  While Juventus is still in the midst of an 18 game unbeaten run and have kept 9 straight clean sheets, Roma has soared up the table and is now in third place having won 7 straight games.  They are still a ways away from Napoli and Juventus, but they are now in a Champions League place.  Their opponents are not having the best time lately, having won just once in their last 6 games.  A win for Roma could put them within touching distance of Napoli, but more importantly will keep some distance between them and Fiorentina.  Udinese will be missing three starting defenders as Felipe is doubtful, Wague is out injured, and Ivan Piris is suspended.  Merkel is also out injured.   Look for Thomas Heurteaux to start at center back.  For Roma, Nainggolan, Pjanicm and De Rossi are all struggling with injuries and could be rested this weekend.  However, Kevin Strootman might be fit enough to start. otherwise look for Seydou Keita and William Vainquer to start behind the attacking trio of Salah, Perotti, and Shaarawy.  These three have been huge lately.  They will most likely be the difference in the game.

Betting Odds

Match Result – Udinese 10/3, Roma 5/6, Draw 5/2

First Goalscorer – Dzeko 5/1, Totti 11/2, Pjanic 11/2

Predictions

My Pick – Udinese 0, Roma 2: Goals by Shaaraway and Salah

James’ Pick – Udinese 1, Roma 2: Goals by

Champions League Recap

The first four tickets to the quarterfinals have been punched this week. Wolfsburg advanced thanks to their 1-0 win over Gent.  Real Madrid got 2 goals in 4 minutes from Ronaldo and James to advance to the quarterfinals for the 6th straight year.  PSG will advance to the quarters for the fourth straight year thanks to Zlatan Ibrahimovic.  Lastly, Benfica advanced thanks to a late comeback, which saw them score twice after the 85th minute.  The last four teams will be decided next week.

Other Games on TV This Weekend

England – Premier League

Norwich City vs. Manchester City – Saturday at 7:45 am EST on NBCSN

Stoke City vs. Southampton – Saturday at 10:00 am EST on NBCSN

Leicester City vs. Newcastle United – Monday at 4:00 pm EST on NBCSN

Spain – La Liga

Barcelona vs. Getafe – Saturday at 10:00 am EST in beIN Sports

Las Palmas vs. Real Madrid – Sunday at 3:30 pm EST on beIN Sports

Italy – Serie A

Empoli vs. Sampdoria – Saturday at 12:00 pm EST on beIN Sports

Internazionale vs. Bologna – Saturday at 2:45 pm EST on beIN Sports

Germany – Bundesliga

Borussia Monchengladbach vs. Eintracht Frankfurt – Saturday at 9:30 am EST on Fox Sports 2

Hoffenheim vs. Wolfsburg – Saturday at 9:30 am EST on Fox Soccer Plus

Bayern Munchen vs. Werder Bremen – Saturday at 12:30 pm EST on Fox Soccer Plus

Bayer Leverkusen vs. Hamburger SV – Sunday at 10:30 am EST on Fox Sports 2

England – FA Cup

Arsenal vs. Watford – Sunday at 9:30 am EST on Fox Sports 1

 

Winners and Losers from This Weekend

5 Winners and 5 Losers from this weekend…

Winners

  1. Leicester City Football Club

They have to be the biggest winners in all of England thanks to their 1-0 win over Watford and the draw in the North London Derby (more on that later).  They are currently on top with 60 points and have a 5-point lead over Tottenham.  There are only 9 games remaining, and they have the best run in of them all.  It is getting closer and closer to one of the most remarkable finishes in the league and a historic season.  Leicester and Claudio Ranieri deserve a lot of praise, no matter how the season finishes.  As Ranieri said himself, “We are playing with house money.”

  1. UD Las Palmas

The Spanish club from the Canary Islands looks to have given themselves a great chance at survival thanks to their 1-0 win over Villarreal.   They are now four points clear of the relegation zone with 10 games to play.  This was also a bad result for Villarreal since they were the only team to lose in the top 4.  Barcelona dominated Eibar 4-0 to stay top.  Atletico Madrid defeated Valencia to stay on pace with Barcelona.  Real Madrid scored 7 against Celta Vigo.  So in a weekend where the big three all looked dominant, the little side from Las Palmas defeated one of the top 4.

  1. Paris Saint-Germain

They are not a winner because they won or even looked great this weekend, but more because Monaco drew this weekend.  The draw for Monaco means that PSG could win the league next weekend.  They have 74 points and Monaco has 51.  With 9 games to play, Monaco can only earn 27 more points for a total of 78 points.  That means that a PSG win and Monaco loss clinches the title for PSG.  It should be interesting next weekend as Monaco host Stade de Reims and PSG travel to Troyes.  Will they clinch the league?

  1. Schalke 04

In what is starting to become a revolving door, Schalke is the newest team to sit in that coveted final Champions League spot.  This weekend, they defeated Köln 3-1 thanks to Klaas Jan Hutelaar, Max Meyer, and Franco Di Santo.  This win, coupled with Mainz 05 drawing 0-0 with Darmstadt and Monchengladbach losing 2-1 to Wolfsburg, got them in the final spot.  This is going to be a dog fight for the final spot and Hertha might get sucked into this race, making 2 spots open.  The teams from 3rd to 8th are separated by 6 points.  This should be a good watch and Schalke got a big win this weekend.

  1. Roma

The team from the Italian Capital has strung 7 wins in a row following their 1-0 loss at Juventus.  Roma faced their nearest rivals Fiorentina.  Coming into the weekend, they were separated by goal difference only.  Roma went on to defeat Fiorentina 4-1.  Mohamed Salah scored a brace.  Stephan El Shaarawy and Diego Perotti both scored.  Josip Ilicic scored the penalty for Fiorentina.  There are 10 games to play and these two teams seem destined to battle out for this final Champions League place.  It was a huge win for Roma.

Losers

  1. Tottenham Hotspur, Sunderland, and Crystal Palace

All of these teams dropped points this weekend from a winning position despite having 11 men against 10.  It all started with the North London Derby.  Arsenal was reduced to 10 men when leading 1-0 after a silly tackle from Francis Coquelin. Within 5 minutes Tottenham were level thanks to Alderweireld and then two minutes later the lead through a beauty from Harry Kane.  They looked set to win the game but just 14 minutes from time, Alexis Sanchez leveled the score.  In fact from that moment on, Arsenal looked more likely to win the game and if not for a match saving tackle by Wimmer in stoppage time, probably would have.  Southampton went down to 10 men with just 11 minutes left against Sunderland.  Defoe gave them the lead, but Virgil van Dijk would save the day in the 4th minute of stoppage time and give Southampton a point.  Lastly, with Crystal Palace leading 1-0 thanks to Joe Ledley, James Milner would see his second yellow for Liverpool.  However, they looked the better side after that and Alex McCarthy gifted Firmino the ball and he leveled the score.  In the 4th minute of stoppage time, Christian Benteke was brought down in the box and he sealed the points from the spot.  It was not a good weekend for sides with 11v10.

  1. AC Milan

With a chance to cement themselves in the race for a European place and distance themselves from midtable, Milan struggled this weekend.  They were facing Sassuolo, who was 6 points behind them and 1 place.  Now Sassuolo is just 3 points behind them and Inter Milan is now 4 points clear of their rivals.  Sassuoloa got a first half goal from Joseph Duncan and then another one in the second half from Nicola Sansone.  With 13 minutes to play, Milan was handed a lifeline when Gregoire Defrel was sent off for his second yellow.  However, Milan did not score a goal and the match finished 2-0.  Milan will need to step their game up if they want to get back into European competitions.  This weekend was a big step back.

  1. Borussia Dortmund

With the opportunity to cut Bayern’s lead at the top to just 5 points and make the last 9 games even more important, Dortmund were not able to find a goal.  They did create some shots but had very little possession.  Dortmund had only 3 shots on target all night, despite getting 8 shots from inside the box.  They also had just 37% possession.  While their defense played spectacularly, the offense let them down and the title race is now over, it will be 4 in a row for Bayern Munich.

  1. Sevilla FC

Sevilla have not won a game on the road.  They were facing a team in the bottom 3 of the league this weekend and had the perfect opportunity to get their first win.  Sevilla took the lead with 11 minutes left in the game thanks to Ever Banega.  They just needed to hold on to this lead but they could not.  Emiliano Valezquez sent in the equalizer with just four minutes to play.  The winless streak on the road continues for Sevilla.  They did remain in 5th place in the table, however.

  1. Reims and Guingamp

These two teams are currently safe from relegation, but this weekend they lost and saw their point advantage decrease on 18th place Ajaccio.  Ajaccio was able to pick up a point thanks to their 1-1 draw with Bordeaux.  This means that they are now just 3 points behind Guingamp and Reims.  Guingamp lost big at Lyon.  Reims lost 2-0 to Lille.  This, in a weekend in which over half the teams picked up at least a point.  Ajaccio now faces a midweek match against Marseille which could pull them level on points with these two teams, and send Guingamp into the relegation zone.  They both might survive, but they took a stumble this weekend.

Picture of the Weekend

Pep Guardiola was obviously not happy with Joshua Kimmich following the draw with Borussia Dortmund.

GettyImages-513978026.0

Goal of the Weekend

My pick is Harry Kane’s beautiful finish in the North London Derby.

Champions League Matches This Weekend

Wolfsburg vs. Gent – Volkswagen Arena, Wolfsburg – Tuesday at 2:45 pm EST on Fox Sport Region

The first leg of this tie ended 3-2 to the road side Wolfsburg.  They now return home looking to advance.  I think the Cinderella story of Gent ends on Tuesday as the Germans are just too much. 3-1 to the Germans

Real Madrid vs. Roma – Santiago Bernabeu, Madrid – Tuesday at 2:45 pm EST on Fox Sports 1

The first leg ended 2-0 to the Spanish giants, and it should be very straight forward for them this time around.  This is Real Madrid’s focus for the rest of the season and they might look to make a statement here.  I think it will get ugly despite Roma’s great form.  4-0 to Real Madrid.

Zenit Saint Petersburg vs. Benfica – Petrovsky, Saint Petersburg – Wednesday at 12:00 pm EST on Fox Sports 1

Benfica left it really late in the first leg grabbing a small 1-0 lead.  This leg in Russia will be a tough one as the weather will play a factor.  These teams seem very equal and could end up going to extra time after this leg if it ends 1-0.  I think that is what will happen.  Zenit to advance winning the game 2-0 after extra time.

Chelsea vs. Paris Saint-Germain – Stamford Bridge, London – Wednesday at 2:45 pm EST on Fox Sports 1

Last but certainly not least is Chelsea vs. PSG, the headline matchup of this week’s games.  The first leg ended 2-1 to the Parisians, but Chelsea got a vital road goal.  A 1-0 win will send them through.  PSG have stumbled lately, but their focus seems to be on the Champions League.  I think the Paris side will advance, but it is tight. 1-1 draw to send PSG to the Quarterfinals on aggregate 3-2.

Europa League

The first leg of the Round of 16 is this Thursday.  Some of the big games are Liverpool hosting Manchester United, Dortmund hosting Tottenham, Athletic Bilbao hosts Valencia, and Villarreal hosting Bayer Leverkusen.  These should be some fantastic matches and worth your time if you are free.

Der Klassiker and the North London Derby

Der Klassiker and the North London Derby are the headline matches this weekend.  We also take a look at a team hoping for their first road win in Spain, two teams hoping to get into Europe in Italy and if PSG can pull within 2 wins of the title.

  1. Borussia Dortmund vs. Bayern Munich ~ Signal-Iguna Park, Dortmund

Saturday, March 5th at 12:30 pm EST on Fox Soccer Plus

Der Klassiker is this weekend as Munich travels to Dortmund.  The title race was blown wide open as Munich lost only their second game of the season this week.  Mainz 05 defeated Munich 2-1.  This, coupled with Dortmund’s 2-0 win over Darmstadt, means that the difference is just 5 points.  The title race will either be over or be on after this weekend.  Both teams come in on great form.  Dortmund is unbeaten in their last 7 and has only conceded just 2 goals during this run.   Bayern, on the other hand, has won 3 straight before they suffered defeat during the week.  The last time these two team met went 5-1 to Bayern Munich with Müller and Lewandowski each scoring a brace.  Both teams are relatively healthy, but Dortmund is without Sokratis.  It will either be Sven Bender or Neven Subotic in his spot.  Marcel Schmlzer and Erik Drum will compete for the spot at left back.  Reus and Mkhitaryan were both rested mid week and should return.  For Bayern, they are completely healthy except for the center back position.  Boateng, Martinez, and Badstuber are all out.  Kimmich and Alaba will continue there.  This should be a hard fought contest but do not be surprised if we see some goals in this game.  The German title is essentially on the line.

Betting Odds

Match Result – Dortmund 21/10, Munich 13/10, Draw 12/5

First Goalscorer – Lewandowski 15/4, Muller 9/2, Aubameyang 5/1

Predictions

My Pick – Dortmund 2, Munich 1: Goals by Aubameyang, Mkhitaryan, and Lewandowski

James’ Pick – Dortmund 2, Munich 2: Goals by Aubameyang, Mkhitaryan, Lewnadowski, and Mueller

  1. Tottenham vs. Arsenal ~ White Hart Lane, London

Saturday, March 5th at 7:45 am EST on NBCSN

This could be the biggest North London Derby in the Premier League Era.  Tottenham has finished above Arsenal in the table only twice since the start of the Premier League and that last time was in 1994/95.  This year, Tottenham is 3 points clear of Arsenal heading into this weekend.  A win for Tottenham would all but guarantee they finish above Arsenal.  Spurs, however, probably have their eyes on a bigger prize than just finishing above Arsenal.  They are 3 points behind Leicester and their first title since 1960/61.  Arsenal, meanwhile, have not been in the best of form as they have lost two straight including a 2-1 loss at home to Swansea this week.  Tottenham also lost on their last time out to fellow Londoners, West Ham.  This is going to be a massive game.  Tottenham are without Clinton N’Jie and Jan Vertonghen for the derby.  Arsenal, meanwhile, is without Wilshere, Rosicky, Cazorla, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Koscielny, Cech, and Arteta.  This means that we will see Ospina in goal with Mertesacker and Paulista trying to defend Kane.  This game will go a long way in deciding who will challenge Leicester for the title.  It should be a cagey affair and Arsenal is in need of a huge victory.

Betting Odds

Match Result – Tottenham 7/5, Arsenal 11/5, Draw 12/5

First Goalscorer – Kane 4/1, Giroud 11/2, Chadli 6/1

Predictions

My Pick – Tottenham 2, Arsenal 1: Goals by Kane, Son, and Welbeck

James’ Pick – Tottenham 2, Arsenal 1: Goals by Kane, Erikson, and Sanchez

  1. Getafe vs. Sevilla ~ Coliseum Alfonso Perez, Getafe

Saturday, March 5th at 2:30 pm EST on beIN Sports Connect

Is this going to be the first road win of the season for Sevilla? They have currently played 13 road games and drawn 8 and lost 5.  This could be their best chance for a win as they face relegation struggles, Getafe.  Getafe is located just outside of Madrid and is trying to stay in the top flight.  Currently they are in 18th place but are level on points with Granada and Rayo Vallecano.  They have lost their last 7 games and failed to score in their last 6.  Despite Sevilla’s poor road form, they are currently in 5th place in the table, in the final of the Copa del Rey, and in the quarterfinals of the Europa League.  The race for 5th is very tight so Sevilla will need to figure out how to win on the road if they want to hold on to that spot.  Getafe gets Emiliano Valezquez back from suspension to partner Juan Cala at the center of the defense.  Lago and Vigaray are out injured; Alvaro Pereira is out with a suspension.  Pareja, Andreolli, and Krychowiak are all out injured for Sevilla.  Otherwise, Sevilla should make few changes beside the return of Timothee Kolodziejczak from suspension.  This is a great opportunity for Sevilla to get themselves closer to Villarreal and a place in the Champions League.  For Getafe, a win or even possibly a draw could take them out of the relegation places.

Betting Odds

Match Result – Getafe 14/5, Sevilla Evens, Draw 5/2

First Goalscorer – Gameiro 11/4, Munoz 10/3, Llorent 11/2

Predictions

My Pick – Getafe 1, Sevilla 1: Goals by Sarabia and Vitolo

James’ Pick – Getafe 0, Sevilla 2: Goals by Gamiero (2)

  1. Sassuolo vs. Milan ~ Stadio Citta del Tricolore

Sunday, March 6th at 9:00 am on beIN Sports Connect

In Italy this week, the surprise team of the season hosts one of the Italian Giants in a midtable clash.  Sassuolo was promoted to the Serie A three years ago and they have slowly climbed up the table.  This year they have been in and around the top 7 all season.  They have played some great football and been a constant threat.  AC Milan, meanwhile, is trying to get back into Europe this season as they did not participate this year in any European competitions.  These two teams enter the weekend in 6th (Milan) and 7th (Sassuolo) place in the table.  Sassuolo is 6 points behind Milan and will need a win to get back in the race for a spot in the Europa League.  Milan, meanwhile, is one spot and one point behind their neighbors Inter Milan for the last Europa League spot.  Both teams will come into the game looking to win so they can move closer to a European spot.  Milan has gone on a 9 game unbeaten run to close the gap with Inter.  Sassuolo is on a 4 game run of their own right now.  Both teams come into the game on fairly good form.  Sassuolo is only without Karim Karibi, but Domenico Beardi is doubtful with an ankle injury.  Simone Missiroli is back available for manager Eusebio Di Francesco.  Milan is still without Diego Lopez and Rodrigo Ely.  M’Baye Niang got in a car accident and is set to miss the next two months due to his injuries from the accident.  This means that either Balotelli or Menez will partner Bacca up front.  Ignazio Abate is out with a suspension.  Sassuolo is looking confident and strong again.  Look for a good showing from them in this match against the Milan giants.  Should be a good watch.

Betting Odds

Match Result – Sassuolo 2/1, Milan 29/20, Draw 9/4

First Goalscorer – Degrel 9/2, Berardi 11/2, Bacca 11/2

Predictions

My Pick – Sassuolo 2, Milan 1: Goals by Berardi, Defrel, and Menez

James’ Pick – Sassuolo 0, Milan 1: Goal by Bacca

  1. Paris Saint–Germain vs. Montpellier ~ Parc des Princes, Paris

Saturday, March 5th at 11:00 am EST on beIN Sports Connect

Paris Saint–Germain lost for the first time all season last weekend as they came away from Lyon with a 2-1 defeat.  Now they must circle the wagons and get back on form as they have a big match against Chelsea coming up next week.  Before that they face Montpellier.  Montpellier has won 3 games in a row, which has helped them move away from the relegation zone.  They are now 7 points clear and look to be trending in the right direction to remain in the top flight.  PSG, meanwhile, still has a massive 23-point lead on Monaco.  With just 10 games remaining for each team, Monaco can only earn 30 more points.  That means the magic number is 80 points.  PSG needs to win just 3 of their final 10 games.  PSG are without Verratti and Matuidi this weekend.  Van der Wiel and Di Maria are both doubtful.  Jourdren and Lasne continue to be sidelined for Montpellier.  Souleymane Camara is also out injured with Sanson and Marveaux doubtful.  PSG should bounce back, but they face a very confident team who is looking to put more distance between them and the relegation zone.

Betting Odds

Match Result – PSG 4/9, Montpellier 8/1, Draw 3/1

First Goalscorer – Ibrahimovic 11/4, Cavani 9/2, Moura 11/2

Predictions

My Pick – PSG 3, Montpellier 1: Goals by Cavani, Moura, Pastore, and Boudebouz

James’ Pick – PSG 3, Montpellier 1: Goals by Ibrahimovic (2), Di Maria, Camara

Other Games on TV This Weekend

England – Premier League

Manchester City vs. Aston Villa – Saturday at 10:00 am EST on NBCSN

Everton vs. West Ham United – Saturday at 10:00 am EST on USA

Watford vs. Leicester City – Saturday at 12:30 pm EST on NBCSN

Crystal Palace vs. Liverpool – Sunday at 8:30 am EST on NBCSN

West Bromwich Albion vs. Manchester United – Sunday at 11:00 am EST on NBCSN

Spain – La Liga

Real Madrid vs. Celta de Vigo – Saturday at 10:00 am EST on beIN Sports

Eibar vs. Barcelona – Sunday at 10:00 am EST on beIN Sports

Italy – Serie A

Napoli vs. Chievo – Saturday at 2:45 pm EST on beIN Sports

Internazionale vs. Palermo – Sunday at 2:45 pm EST on beIN Sports

Germany – Bundesliga

Wolfsburg vs. Borussia Monchengladbach – Saturday at 9:30 am EST on Fox Sports 2

Augsburg vs. Bayer Leverkusen – Saturday at 9:30 am EST on Fox Sports 1

Eintract Frankfurt vs. Ingolstadt – Saturday at 9:30 am EST on Fox Soccer Plus

Mainz 05 vs. Darmstadt 98 – Sunday at 9:30 am EST on Fox Sports 1

Hamburger SV vs. Hertha Berlin – Sunday at 11:30 am EST on Fox Sports 1

 

Winners & Losers From This Weekend

Winners

  1. Marcus Rashford, Manchester United – About 7 days ago, very few Manchester United fans knew who Marcus Rashford was, or what position he played. Now the 18 year old is the player on the mind of every United fan. He made his debut on Thursday against Midtjylland and scored two goals in the second half.  Then he got the start this weekend against Arsenal and played brilliantly, scoring two goals within the first 3 minutes.  He was the man of the match and has given United fans some hope.  While he still needs to grow and get some play time, he was phenomenal this weekend.
  2. Juventus – The Italian giants are now 3 points clear at the top following their win in the Derbi d’Italia and Napoli’s 1-1 draw with Fiorentina. This gives Juve a leg up in their bid for their 5th straight title. Leonardo Bonucci opened the scoring and the Alvaro Morata put the game out of reach with a late penalty kick.  Then on Monday, Marcos Alonso gave Fiorentina a lead in the 6th minute.  However, the lead lasted just one minute as Gonzalo Higuain leveled the score.  The tie would help Juventus move 3 points clear.  Juventus are the big winners this weekend.
  3. Diego Simeone, Atletico Madrid – After 14 years without even one win in the Madrid derby, Simeone has now won on their last 3 trips to the Bernabeu, and are unbeaten in their last 6 clashes. Simeone is the mastermind behind all of this and he has really changed the culture at Atletico.  He has turned them into a powerful team in Spain.  He has taken Atleti to the final of the Champions League and won them a league title.  He got his tactics spot on again in what was a typical Atleti performance.  They were strong at the back and hit Real on a lethal counterattack.  Simeone may be moving on after the season, but his mark will not be forgotten.
  4. Louis Van Gaal’s Flop, Manchester United – If you missed this, I have included a picture of it, but I recommend the video. Following a tackle on Alexis Sanchez that led to him theatrically falling down, Louis van Gaal came flying down from his seat in the stands to get right in the face of the fourth official and then he fell to the ground.  This set the ground to a roar as the fans have been waiting to see some passion and fire from Van Gaal.  He finally showed them this.  It also sent the internet ablaze as there have been some great memes created.
  5. Bruno Genesio, Lyon – The Lyon manager finally got his tactics right and Lyon were able to defeat PSG following defeats in the Coupe de France and the Coupe de la Ligue. He set up his side perfectly and they looked great from start to finish.  He has slowly started to turn Lyon around and has them in a Champions League place.  This was a great result and Genesio has Lyon looking really good.

Losers

  1. Fiorentina Perez, Real Madrid – The Real Madrid president has been under pressure all season but now the pressure is boiling over. The team that he has built is not performing and not a balanced side. On the day that Perez got rid of Rafa Bentiez, Real Madrid were just 2 points behind Barcelona.  They are now 12 points behind them.  The team is not very balanced and a lot of that comes down on Perez and his signings.  The fans are not happy and there are rumors that he will bring forward the presidential elections by a year.  He will need to shift his focus this summer and not just buy some big name in the attack.  This is going to be a massive summer for the legacy of Perez and the future of Real Madrid.
  2. Raheem Sterling, Manchester City – While he was on the winning side of the League Cup final, Raheem Sterling was a big reason as to why this game went to penalties. The former Liverpool player really struggled in front of goal, missing a handful of clear cut chances. Sterling was then not picked to take a penalty kick.  He was on the winning side, but he really struggled in this game.
  3. Arsene Wenger, Arsenal – How can he not be on the losing end after getting so much wrong this weekend? This was supposed to be the year that Arsenal ended their league title drought, but it looks like they have blown their chance. Wenger was not able to find the winning formula this weekend and that hurt him.
  4. PSG – They are only on the losing end of the weekend because their unbeaten season is over. They lost for the first time this season after going 27 games unbeaten in the league. They looked tired and really off the pace.  Thiago Silva and Thiago Motta really looked bad.  They will still have the title clinched by the end of the month, but this weekend was not a good one for them.
  5. Hoffenheim – This German side had a 1-0 lead against Borussia Dortmund before Dortmund were able to kick their game into high gear and were able to overcome Hoffenheim and win the game. This result coupled with Hannover beating Stuttgart 2-1 means that Hoffenheim are closer to the bottom of the table and look to be in some trouble.  This relegation battle just got a lot tighter.

Picture of the Week

What else could I pick…

IMG_5711

Goal of the Week

My goal of the week has to go to the best player in the world, Lionel Messi.  This suburb free kick is amazing.