Time for the Stretch Run!!

  1. Leicester City vs. West Ham United ~ King Power Stadium, Leicester

Sunday, April 17th at 8:30 am EST on NBCSN

The darlings of the Premier League take on West Ham United this weekend as Leicester looks to move 10 claer at the top.  Leicester is three wins away from clinching their first ever top flight title.  Their story has been amazing this season and I think the whole world is cheering for them now.  They have won 5 straight games and will look to take a big step towards the title.  West Ham had dreams of Champions League football three weeks ago, but three straight draws have seen them drop to 5 points behind City for fourth place.  They will be in desperate need of a win this weekend.  Leicester is very healthy for the stretch run.  They are without Matthew James who is unfit for the match.  Look for Ranieri to not tinker with the lineup this weekend.  For West Ham, Sam Byram continues to be out, meaning Michail Antonio will start at right back.  Diafra Sakho is a doubt with a knee injury.  Carroll should get the start upfront after his hat trick last weekend.  Leicester looks set to move within 6 points of the title, but it will not be easy.

Betting Odds

Match Result – Leicester 19/20, West Ham 16/5, Draw 13/5

First Goalscorer – Vardy 15/4, Mahrez 6/1, Ulloa 6/1

Predictions

My Pick – Leicester 2, West Ham 0: Goals by Mahrez and Vardy

James’ Pick – Leicester 2, West Ham 1: Goals by Vardy, Mahrez, and Payet

  1. Barcelona vs. Valencia ~ Camp Nou, Barcelona

Sunday, April 17th at 2:30 pm EST on beIN Sports

This has been an awful couple weeks for Barcelona that has seen them earn just 1 point in their last three La Liga matches, drop out of the Champions League, and lose El Clasico at home.  Now they have just two targets left, the Primera Division title and the Copa del Rey.  They will need to right the ship quickly if they want to maintain their lead at the top. When they kick off on Sunday with Valencia, they could be level on points with Atletico Madrid and just one point ahead of Real Madrid.  A win is a must for the Catalan giants.  Valencia got a vital win last weekend and should now be safe from relegation.  They could use a win to guarantee that and will think that Barcelona is ripe for the taking.  Luis Suarez returns from a ban as Arda Turan is banned for collecting yellow cards.  Sandro, Vermaelen, and Mathieu are all out injured.  For Valencia Bakkali and Piatti are out injured.  Sofiane Feghouli will also be out.  Cheryshev face a late fitness test.  This will be a big test for Barcelona.  They need all three points.  Messi is in the midst of a slump.  Can Barcelona turn it around? Who will provide the spark?

Betting Odds

Match Result – Barcelona 1/8, Valencia 14/1, Draw 8/1

First Goalscorer – Messi 9/4, Suarez 3/1, Neymar 10/3

Predictions

My Pick – Barcelona 2, Valencia 1: Goals by Messi (2) and Alcacer

James’ Pick – Barcelona 3, Valencia 1: Goals by Messi, Suarez, Neymar, and Alcacer

  1. Bayern Munich vs. Schalke 04 ~ Allianz Arena, Munich

Saturday, April 16th at 12:30 pm EST on Fox

Bayern Munich takes on Schalke this weekend in the headline grabbing match in the Bundesliga.  Bayern is currently 7 points clear at the top and will look to maintain their lead.  Schalke meanwhile are in the midst of the race for 4th place.  They are currently level on points with Monchengladbach and Mainz at 45 and just 3 points behind Leverkusen in 4th place.  Schalke will need to find some way to pick up points if they want to maintain in the race for fourth place over the next 5 games.  Javi Martinez is fully fit and should probably come into the starting 11.  Xabi Alonso is suspended for the game.  The major question with Munich is whether or not Pep will rest some players for the stretch run, including the Champions League semifinals.  For Schalke, Uchida, Howedes, Sam, and Goretzka are all out injured.  Kolasinac is suspended.  Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg should get the chance to show his parent club his talents with Goretzka out.  Bayern should dominate the game from the start, but Schalke should come in with some confidence.  This should be a classic Bundesliga heavyweight match.

Betting Odds

Match Result – Munich 1/6, Schalke 12/1, Draw 13/2

First Goalscorer – Lewandowski 12/5, Muller 3/1, Costa 5/1

Predictions

My Pick – Munich 2, Schalke 1: Goals by Lewandowski, Coman, and Sane

James’ Pick – Munich 2, Schalke 1: Goals by Muller (2) and Huntelaar

  1. Inter Milan vs. Napoli ~ Stadio Giuseppe Meazza, Milan

Saturday, April 16th at 2:45 pm EST on beIN Sports

Roberto Mancini said today that Inter still believe they can finish in third place and qualify for the Champions League.  In order to make this happen, Inter will need to catch Roma in the last 6 games of the season.  They are currently 6 points behind Roma.  This weekend, Inter faces another one of the 3 teams above them in the table as they host Napoli.  Napoli is currently in second place and is 6 points behind leaders Juventus.  So by Mancini’s logic, Napoli can catch Juventus and win the title.  This should be a very good game.  Adem Ljajic is the only player that is out for Inter Milan.  Stevan Jovetic is set to return to the lineup for Inter.  Gonzalo Higuain is out suspended but he has appealed the decision.  I think he will lose the appeal which means Gabbiadini is set to start.  This should be a very tight affair, but Napoli should have the quality to come out of the game with all three points.

Betting Odds

Match Result – Inter 2/1, Napoli 6/4, Draw 11/5

First Goalscorer – Icardi 5/1, Eder 11/2, Manaj 6/1

Predictions

My Pick – Inter 2, Napoli 3: Goals by Icardi, Biabiany, Insigne, Allan, and Gabbiadini

James’ Pick – Inter 1, Napoli 1: Goals by Icardi and Higuain

  1. Monaco vs. Marseille ~ Stade Louis II, Monaco

Sunday, April 17th at 3:00 pm EST on beIN Sports Connect

The race for the final two Champions League spots has really heated up lately with Monaco losing two straight games.  They were jumped by Lyon thanks to goal differential.  They are also just 2 points above Nice.  Nice and Lyon are playing today so I chose to go with this game as it will have an impact on who is in the Champions League next season.  Monaco could need to win this game to keep their place in the top 3.  Marseille meanwhile have been plummeting down the table.  They are just 6 points above the relegation zone and have not won a game in their last 9.  Both of these two teams will need a good result this weekend, or some help from their rivals.  Monaco is without Coentrao due to injury, Echiejile due to suspension, and Traore due to him being unfit.  Moutinho is doubtful for the game.  Marseille is without Lass Diarra and Mauricio Isla due to injury and Alessandrini due to suspension.  Abou Diaby is facing a late fitness test.  Monaco is the better team and should came away with all three points.

Betting Odds

Match Result – Monaco 11/10, Marseille 13/5, Draw 12/5

First Goalscorer – Batshuayi 4/1, Love 11/2, Cavaleiro 6/1

Predictions

My Pick – Monaco 1, Marseille 1: Goals by Love and Batshuayi

James’ Pick – Monaco 2, Marseille 0: Goals by Lamar and Silva

Champions League Recap

Real Madrid 3 – Wolfsburg 0 (Real Madrid wins 3-2 on aggregate) – The Spanish giants came back in this tie to win in dominating fashion on Tuesday thanks to three goals from Cristiano Ronaldo.  This was his fifth hat trick in the Champions League, tying him with Leo Messi for the most all time.  His team needed a big performance and the Portuguese striker delivered.

Manchester City 1 – Paris Saint-Germain 0 (Manchester City wins 3-2 on aggregate) – There is hope for an English team to win the competition.  The Manchester side looked strong defensively and Joe Hart put in a great performance.  Kevin De Bruyne has been the difference.  Since his return from injury, City has looked a much better side and are a couple good results away from the final.

Atletico Madrid 2 – Barcelona 0 (Atletico Madrid wins 3-2 on aggregate) – Atletico Madrid has knocked out the holders with a very good performance in the Vicente Calderon.  Antoine Griezmann opened the scoring in the first half and then finished the tie with a penalty kick in the final 2 minutes.  They are in to the semifinals for the second time in four years.  Simeone has his team poised to make another trip to the final.

Benfica 2 – Bayern Munchen 2 (Bayern Munchen wins 3-2 on aggregate) – Benfica made it tough for Munich.  After a slim 1-0 win at home, Munich advances thanks to that advantage.  The Portuguese side took the lead in the first half but it was quickly canceled out by Vidal.  In the second half, Muller put Munich up 2-1 and basically ended the chances for Benfica.  Talisca did level the game with 14 minutes to go, but Benfica could not find the two more goals they needed.

The draw happened this morning and we now have a couple weeks to digest these matchups.  They are Manchester City vs. Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid vs. Bayern Munchen.

Europa League Update

The quarterfinals of the Europa League were amazing this week with a total of 20 goals scored on Thursday.  Villarreal defeated Sparta Prague 4-2 to advance to the semifinals.  Shakhtar Donetsk defeated Sporting Braga 4-0 to advance on a 6-1 aggregate win.  Sevilla and Athletic Bilbao went to extra time and both teams won 2-1 on the road.  The game went to penalty kicks and Sevilla advanced winning the penalty kicks 5-4.  The final quarterfinal ended 4-3 to Liverpool despite them being down 2-0 at half and 3-1 with just over 30 minutes left in the game.  The semifinals will be Villarreal vs. Liverpool and Shakhtar Donetsk vs. Sevilla.  Can Sevilla go to a third straight final and potentially win the Europa League three years in a row?

Other Games on TV This Weekend

England – Premier League

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

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

Chelsea vs. Manchester City – Saturday at 12:30 pm EST on NBC

Arsenal vs. Crystal Palace – Sunday at 11:00 am EST on NBCSN

Stoke City vs. Tottenham Hotspur – Monday at 3:00 pm EST on NBCSN

Spain – La Liga

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

Italy – Serie A

Juventus vs. Palermo – Sunday at 9:00 am EST on beIN Sports

Germany – Bundesliga

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

Augsburg vs. Stuttgart – Saturday at 9:30 am EST on Fox Soccer Plus

Borussia Dortmund vs. Hamburger SV – Sunday at 9:30 am EST on Fox Sports 1

Mainz 05 vs. Koln – Sunday at 11:30 am EST on Fox Soccer Plus

France – Ligue 1

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

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