El Clasico & The Roman Derby

This week the football world lost a legend as Johan Cruyff passed away at the age of 68.  Johan Cruyff was simply a legend who changed the game and the world of football.  As a player, he helped his Ajax team to win 8 Eredivisie titles and 3 European Cup titles.  In Barcelona, he won the league title in 1974 and the Copa Del Rey in 1978.  As a manager, he guided Barcelona to 4 league titles and their first ever European Cup in 1992.  He won the Ballon d’Or 3 times.  He was a legend as a player and a legend as a manager.  He is known as the architect of total football and La Masia.  He changed the world of football and will be remembered forever.

  1. Barcelona vs. Real Madrid ~ Camp Nou, Barcelona

Saturday, April 2nd at 2:30 pm EST on beIN Sports

All the eyes of the footballing world will shift to Catalunya this Saturday as El Clasico takes place in the Camp Nou.  The Camp Nou will be a very emotional stadium this Saturday following the passing of club legend, Johan Cruyff.  It is fitting that the first match since his passing is El Clasico.  The Dutchman changed the fortunes of Barcelona and it all started with his phenomenal performance against Real Madrid in a 5-0 win at the Bernabeu.  Barcelona is currently 10 points ahead of their rivals with 8 games to play.  A win for Barcelona will effectively end the title race.  Real Madrid will hope to win the match to give them a small glimmer of hope for a league title.  Jordi Alba has a minor ankle problem but should start.  Andres Iniesta is also expected to start.  Real Madrid is set to go with Sergio Ramos and Pepe in the heart of their defense.  Carvajal should get the nod over Danilo at right back.  Casemiro should start in the midfield with Kroos and Modric.  Real Madrid has won 5 straight in all competitions and scored 4 goals their last time out against Sevilla.  This should be an amazing game full of brilliant football.  My prediction is in honor of Johan Cruyff!

Betting Odds

Match Result – Barcelona 4/7, Real Madrid 17/4, Draw 7/2

First Goalscorer – Messi 12/5, Suarez 15/4, Neymar 15/4


My Pick – Barcelona 5, Real Madrid 0: Goals by Messi (2), Suarez, Neymar, Rakitic

James’ Pick – Barcelona 3, Real Madrid 2: Goals by Suarez, Messi, Neymar, Benzema, and Ronaldo

  1. Lazio vs. Roma ~ Stadio Olimpico, Rome

Sunday, April 3rd at 9:00 am EST on beIN Sports

The Roman Derby is the headline matchup in Italy this weekend as Lazio hosts Roma.  The two clubs in the capitol of Italy started the season with the goal of Champions League football and only one of the two has a shot of reaching the tournament this season.  Roma is currently in third place.  They have a 5 point lead on Fiorentina for the third and final Champions League spot.  Lazio is in 8th place.  They are safe from relegation but are 13 points away from a Europa League spot.  Lazio has a long injury list right now with 5 defenders out for this game.  Senad Lulic is suspended for the game.  Antonio Candreva and Felipe Anderson should both start this weekend despite the fact that they have been rotating.  Dzeko might start for Roma this weekend due to Daniele De Rossi facing a late fitness test.  If Luciano Spalletti wants to go with his 3 man midfield, then he could start Seydou Keita instead.  Totti might also see some play time as this might be his last Roman derby.  Roma has been the better of these two teams and they should get another 3 points in what will be a heated derby.

Betting Odds

Match Result – Lazio 23/10, Roma 6/5, Draw 12/5

First Goalscorer – Dzeko 11/2, Totti 6/1, Pjanic 13/2


My Pick – Lazio 2, Roma 3: Goals by Anderson, Candreva, Salah, Pjanic, and Shaarawy

James’ Pick – Lazio 1, Roma 3: Goals by Anderson, Salah, Pjanic, and Dzeko

  1. Borussia Monchengladbach vs. Hertha Berlin ~ Borussia-Park, Monchengladbach

Sunday, April 3rd at 9:30 am EST on Fox Sports 1

The surprise team of the season has to be Hertha Berlin.  Last season they finished in 15th place, level on points with Hamburger, who were in the relegation playoff.  This season, they are currently in 3rd place with just 7 games remaining.  They have a four point lead on 4th place Schalke and a 6 point lead on Borussia Monchengladbach and Bayer Leverkusen in 5th and 6th place respectively.  They have been stellar defensively, conceding just 27 goals all season.  That is the third best defense.  However, Hertha is yet to win on the road against any of the top 6 teams this season and they have won just one of their last 10 games against Gladbach. Gladbach, on the other hand, is looking to return to the Champions League this season.  Fabian Johnson is close to returning for Galdbach as is Raffael.  John Brooks is a major doubt for Hertha and looks to be replaced by Sebastian Langkamp.  This will be a tough game for both teams and a win for either will go a long way towards getting them Champions League football.

Betting Odds

Match Result – Gladbach 5/6, Berlin 10/3, Draw 13/5

First Goalscorer – Raffael 5/1, Hazard 5/1, Hrgota 5/1


My Pick – Gladbach 1, Berlin 1: Goals by Hazard and Ibisevic

James’ Pick – Gladbach 1, Berlin 2: Goals by Stindl, Kalou, and Ibisevic

  1. Norwich City vs. Newcastle United ~ Carrow Road, Norwich

Saturday, April 2nd at 10:00 am EST on USA

This game has massive relegation connotations.  Norwich City is looking to spend a second season in the top flight of English football.  Newcastle is looking to avoid relegation for the first time since they went down in 2009.  Newcastle is currently in 19th place and is 3 points behind Norwich and safety.  Norwich is 2 points clear of Sunderland in 17th place.  A win for them could really give them some breathing room with just 6 games left.  Sunderland and Newcastle both have a game in hand on Norwich so this game is a must win.  Nathan Redman and Alex Tettey are still out for Norwich.  Robbie Brady and Ryan Bennett are close and will face late fitness tests.  Newcastle is not without their second string goalie as Rob Elliot suffered a serious knee injury on international duty.  Jack Colback is suspended.  Daryl Janmaat and Aleksandar Mitrovic face late fitness tests with the former unlikely to play.   Newcastle is yet to win or keep a clean sheet under Rafa, but this is a great opportunity to give them some hope about staying in the Premier League.

Betting Odds

Match Result – Norwich 5/4, Newcastle 13/5, Draw 23/10

First Goalscorer – Jerome 11/2, Bamford 11/2, Mbokani 6/1


My Pick – Norwich 1, Newcastle 1: Goals by Bamford and Wijnaldum

James’ Pick – Norwich 1, Newcastle 1: Goals by Mbokani and Wijnaldum

  1. West Ham United vs. Crystal Palace ~ Boleyn Ground, London

Saturday, April 2nd at 10:00 am EST on NBC Sports Live Extra

The final game for this weekend is a London derby as the Hammers of east London take on Crystal Palace of south London.  This is West Ham’s final season in Upton Park.  They are hoping to make it a magical season.  They have one more FA Cup game in the ground that could send them to the semifinals.  They have six more home games this season.  This match features two teams that are trending in different directions.  West Ham is on the brink of Champions League football.  They are currently in fifth place and unbeaten in their last 5.  They have won 3 straight at home and are in the midst of a 12 game unbeaten run at home.  The hammers are 1 point behind Manchester City for fourth place.  Palace, meanwhile, is getting closer and closer to the relegation zone.  They have failed to win in their last 13 games and lost their last 2.  Palace is just 7 points above the relegation zone.  They will need to find some points soon. Slaven Bilic looks set to name the same eleven that secured the point at Stamford Bridge last time out.  Dimitri Payet has been the standout performer of the season as he has scored 8 goals and has 8 assists.  Jason Puncheon has returned and Connor Wickham and Mile Jedinak are both close to returning for Crystal Palace.  This could be huge for Palace.  West Ham has been great this season and will look to send themselves into the top 4.

Betting Odds

Match Result – West Ham United 1/1, Palace 3/1, Draw 13/5

First Goalscorer – Carroll 5/1, Sakho 5/1, Valencia 5/1


My Pick – West Ham 2, Palace 1: Goals by Lanzini, Sakho, and Puncheon

James’ Pick – West Ham 2, Palace 1: Goals by Sahko, Payet, and Puncheon

Other Games on TV This Weekend

England – Premier League

Aston Villa vs. Chelsea – Saturday at 7:45 am EST on NBCSN

Arsenal vs. Watford – Saturday at 10:00 am EST on NBCSN

Liverpool vs. Tottenham Hotspur – Saturday at 12:30 pm EST on NBC

Leicester City vs. Southampton – Sunday at 8:30 am EST on NBCSN

Spain – La Liga

Atletico Madrid vs. Real Betis – Saturday at 10:00 am EST on beIN Sports

Italy – Serie A

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

Bologna vs. Hellas Verona – Monday at 2:45 pm EST on beIN Sports

Germany – Bundesliga

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

Ingolstadt vs. Schalke 04 – Saturday at 9:30 am EST on Fox Soccer Plus

Borussia Dortmund vs. Werder Bremen – Saturday at 12:30 pm EST on Fox

Hoffenheim vs. Koln – Sunday at 11:30 am EST on Fox Sports 2

France – Ligue 1

PSG vs. Nice – Saturday at 11:00 am EST on beIN Sports



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