Penultimate Weekend of the Season

This weekend we take a look at some major clashes across the continent with either title implications or Champions League Qualification implications. However, I have to start with a quick word on what is the greatest moment in sporting history that I have experienced.   To put this in perspective for you, Leicester City were 5000/1 odds to win the title, but I am sure you have heard that already. How about these odds…Simon Cowell was 500/1 to be the Prime Minister of the UK, the Loch Ness monster is 500/1 to be discovered, and Kim Kardashian is 2000/1 odds to be the US president in 2020. Have Leicester changed football? I am not sure if they have or if this is just a one off, but it goes to show you what belief and spirit can really do for a team and for a city. Congrats to Leicester, thanks for making us all believe again that anything is possible in sports.

  1. Barcelona vs. Espanyol ~ Camp Nou, Barcelona

Sunday, May 8th at 11:00 am EST on beIN Sports Connect

The Derbi Barceloni takes place this weekend with a ton of pressure on the hosts to come away with all three points. Their title rivals, Atletico Madrid, travels to Levante this weekend and Real Madrid hosts Valencia. Barcelona needs 3 points, as they are 6 points away from the title. If they win their remaining two games they are Champions. Barcelona has won 5 of the last 6 Catalan Derbies and will look to make it 6 out of 7. Espanyol, meanwhile, is in 14th place, 5 points above the relegation zone. 1 more point for them would basically guarantee that they are safe from relegation. Marc-Andre Ter Stegen should start for Barcelona in goal with Bravo out injured. Sergi Roberto and Dani Alves will be in competition for the right back spot. Vermaelen, Samper, and Sandro continue to be out and Mathieu is a fitness doubt. Alvaro Gonzalez and Oscar Duarte are both suspended for the visitors. Arbilla and Abraham are out injured. This should be a cagey affair but Barcelona has the title in their sights.

Predictions

My Pick – Barcelona 4, Espanyol 0: Goals by Suarez (3) and Messi

James’ Pick – Barcelona , Espanyol : Goals by

  1. Lyon vs. Monaco ~ Stade de Gerland, Lyon

Saturday, May 7th at 3:00 pm EST on beIN Sports Connect

Second and third meet this weekend in France as Lyon and Monaco play for the title of best of the rest. According to Jean-Michel Aulas, Lyon’s president, “It is good to have a final to the French championship because Qatar is not part of France.” A win for either team will guarantee them a spot in the Champions League next season. If Lyon wins, then they will be guaranteed second place. In January, Lyon opened their new stadium and has gone unbeaten in their new stadium, winning 7 of the 9 games. Sergi Darder should come into the side for Lyon with Corentin Tolisso out with injury. Valbuena and Bedimo are doubtful for the game with Malbrangue and Fofana out injured. Coentrao, Pasalic, and Toure are all injured. Fabinho is suspended. Moutinho and Toulalan will face late fitness tests. This is the biggest game in the new stadium between the best two teams in France not named PSG. This should be a very close affair with both teams willing to take a point and need just a point on the final weekend to qualify for the Champions League.

Predictions

My Pick – Lyon 2, Monaco 1: Goals by Lacazete, Ghezzal, and Love

James’ Pick – Lyon , Monaco : Goals by

  1. Ingolstadt vs. Bayern Munchen ~ Audi-Sportpark, Ingolstadt

Saturday, May 7th at 9:30 am EST on Fox

Bayern Munich had to wait to clinch the title as they drew last weekend with Borussia Monchengladbach. A point is really all they need as Dortmund can only amass 83 points the rest of the season and Munich are on 82. Munich also has an 11 goal lead in goal difference which will be tough to overcome for Dortmund. They should clinch their fourth title in a row as the Pep Guardiola era comes to an end. This era will most likely go down as a disappointment since he was never able to win the Champions League, despite making the semifinals each of his three seasons in charge and winning the league each season, plus a cup title and possibly a second one later this month. Ingolstadt meanwhile has enjoyed a very nice first season in the Bundesliga. They are staying up as they are currently in 9th place, 7 points above the relegation zone. Ramazan Ozcan should come into the goal this weekend. Robert Bauer is suspended which means Markus Suttner should start at left back. Boateng and Martinez should start at center back for Munich. Badstuber still remains on the sidelines. Gotze is likely to drop to the bench as speculation continues about his future. Robben is also still sidelined with an injury. The champions of the 2.Bundesliga last season will most likely see the champions of the Bundesliga celebrate another title on their ground, but they are staying up!

Predictions

My Pick – Ingolstadt 1, Munich 3: Goals by Lewandowski, Muller, Costa

James’ Pick – Ingolstadt , Munich : Goals by

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

Sunday, May 8th at 11:00 pm EST on NBC Sports Live Extra

Third and fourth meet in England this weekend. Arsenal is hopeful that they can catch Tottenham and possibly finish above them again this season. A win for Arsenal means that they are guaranteed Champions League football next season. Manchester City needs to win to maintain their spot in the Champions League. Silva, Zabaleta, and Kolarov are out injured. Kompany only lasted 10 minutes against Real Madrid before coming off with an injury. Arsenal is without Oxlade Chamberlain and Mertesacker. City was just eliminated from the Champions League on Wednesday and it was not a great display. They have United right on their tails going into the final two weeks of the season. Arsenal has their sights on Tottenham and should use this to give them some motivation for the rest of the season.

Predictions

My Pick – City 1, Arsenal 2: Goals by Aguero, Welbeck, and Sanchez

James’ Pick – City , Arsenal : Goals by

  1. Borussia Monchengladbach vs. Bayer Leverkusen ~ Borussia-Park, Monchengladbach

Saturday, May 7th at 9:30 am EST on Fox Soccer Plus

To go along with the theme, third and fourth meet in Germany this weekend. There is a lot on the line this weekend. Leverkusen has already clinched their spot in the Champions League next season, but Gladbach still has some work to do. They are currently level on points with Hertha Berlin, just 1 point ahead of Schalke, and 3 ahead of Mainz with 2 games left. If they drop points this weekend, they might not be in a Champions League place at the end of the weekend and could be in trouble. Schulz, Alvaro Dominguez, and Jantschke are all injured. Ibrahima Traore should start over Fabian Johnson in the right wing. Lars Stindl should come back into the starting 11. Christoph Kramer could start at center back with Papadopoulos, Boenisch, and Tah all out injured. Wendell is still out injured as well. Bellarabi is suspended for the game. Gladbach need the points in a bad way. Leverkusen is safe and could have their heads turned towards the summer and resting. This should be a hard fought game at both ends of the school.

Predictions

My Pick – Gladbach 2, Leverkusen 2: Goals by Stindl, Xhaka, Chichariot, and KieBling.

James’ Pick – Gladbach , Leverkusen : Goals by

Champions League Recap

The final is all set and it is a replay of the final two years ago, as it is an all Madrid affair. Atletico clinched their spot in the final first thanks to away goals. Bayern Munich won the second leg 2-1 thanks to goals from Xabi Alonso and Robert Lewandoski. However, Antoine Griezmann was able to find the net as well and that goal sent Atleti back to the final. Muller missed a penalty in the first half that could have sent Munich to the final. Torres missed one in the second half after the game was 2-1. Real Madrid followed up their city rivals with a 1-0 win over Manchester City to give them their 18th European finals appearance and chance for the club’s 11th Champions League/European Cup title.

Europa League Recap

Two teams that are very familiar with the Europa League/UEFA Cup title are Liverpool and Sevilla. Sevilla has won 2 straight and a total of 4 titles. Liverpool has won this competition 3 times. They will battle this month for the chance to add to those totals thanks to dominant home performances. Sevilla defeated Shakhtar Donetsk 3-1 at home to give their fans their third trip in a row to the Europa League finals. Liverpool scored 3 goals in what is quickly becoming fortress Anfield again, as they won 3-0. This will give both of these teams a shot at qualifying for the Champions League next season, as they both are outside the Champions League spots in their respective divisions.

Other Games on TV This Weekend

England – Premier League

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

Sunderland vs. Chelsea – Saturday at 10:00 am EST on USA

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

Leicester City vs. Everton – Saturday at 12:30 pm EST on USA

Spain – La Liga

Real Madrid vs. Valencia – Sunday at 11:00 am EST on beIN Sports

Italy – Serie A

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

Germany – Bundesliga

Eintracht Frankfurt vs. Borussia Dortmund – Saturday at 9:30 am EST on Fox Sports 1

France – Ligue 1

Gazelec Ajaccio vs. PSG – Saturday at 3:00 pm EST on beIN Sports

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