Photo by Paul Greenwood / ISIPhotos.com
By JUSTIN FERGUSON
The road to the English Premier League title will run right through historic Anfield this weekend.
First-place Liverpool are hunting for their 10th consecutive league victory this Sunday when they host third-place Manchester City, who are four points behind the league-leading Reds but have two matches in hand. Both squads still control their own destiny in the race for the EPL title, but this weekend’s matchup on Merseyside will be the difference maker in their individual paths to the trophy.
Liverpool, who have scored 90 goals in 33 league matches this season, defeated Manchester City 2-1 at Ethiad Stadium on Boxing Day earlier this season. The full-strength Reds have also won 12 of their last 13 matches at Anfield, but Manchester City have earned draws in five of their last six trips to Liverpool’s historic venue. Manchester City are also unbeaten in their last 10 matches away from home, scoring 24 goals in that span.
The league title is already decided in Germany, but that probably will not diminish the importance of Bayern Munich’s home match against Borussia Dortmund this weekend. While Bayern are already Bundesliga champions and are eyeing a repeat of their Champions League title this season, Dortmund are looking to deliver a rare second straight loss for their biggest domestic rivals. Bayern defeated Dortmund 3-0 at the Signal Iduna Park earlier this season, but they are coming off a stunning 1-0 loss to Augsburg that ended the defending champions’ long unbeaten run in league play.
Here is a closer look at the weekend’s action from the top leagues in Europe:
After first-place Liverpool and third-place Manchester City collide at Anfield on Sunday, second-place Chelsea will look to keep up their pace in the EPL title race with a road victory at Swansea City. Chelsea are coming off a remarkable comeback at Stamford Bridge in the Champions League quarterfinals against Paris Saint-Germain, but they will have to improve from their current road form to get the result they want Sunday. The Blues have lost back-to-back road league matches to bottom-half sides, and Swansea City will be aiming for an important result in their fight to stay clear of the relegation fight.
The biggest match in the relegation battle this weekend will be between 17th-place Norwich City and 18th-place Fulham at Craven Cottage. Fulham sit five points behind Norwich for the crucial safe spot directly above the relegation zone, and they will need to pick up all three points from their home match this weekend. Norwich City recently fired manager Chris Hughton and have only won twice away from home in their current EPL campaign heading into their match with a Fulham squad that has won two of its last four league matches.
Here are this weekend’s matches in the English Premier League:
Crystal Palace vs. Aston Villa
Fulham vs. Norwich City
Southampton vs. Cardiff City
Stoke City vs. Newcastle United
Sunderland vs. Everton
West Bromwich Albion vs. Tottenham Hotspur
Liverpool vs. Manchester City
Swansea City vs. Chelsea
Here are the weekend’s FA Cup Semifinal matches:
Wigan Athletic vs. Arsenal
Hull City vs. Sheffield United
First-place Atletico Madrid are fresh off knocking out second-place Barcelona in the Champions League quarterfinals, and now they will look to keep their distance in La Liga this weekend. Atletico take their one-point lead atop the league table into 18th-place Getafe, who are still in the relegation zone because of goal differential. Atletico are unbeaten in their last seven La Liga matches, and they will fondly remember their last matchup against Getafe—Atletico routed the threatened club 7-0 in their first matchup at the Vicente Calderon this season.
Barcelona and third-place Real Madrid are also facing teams in trouble of relegation as they prepare for next week’s Copa del Rey final. While Barcelona are trying to move past their Champions League exit, Real Madrid are fighting to stay in the domestic title race without injured star Cristiano Ronaldo. Barcelona are on the road against 15th-place Granada, who they beat 4-0 earlier this season, and Real Madrid host Almeria, who they beat 5-0 earlier this season, at the Santiago Bernabeu.
Here are this weekend’s matches in La Liga:
Osasuna vs. Real Valladolid
Celta Vigo vs. Real Sociedad
Villarreal vs. Levante
Granada vs. Barcelona
Real Madrid vs. Almeria
Real Betis vs. Sevilla
Valencia vs. Elche
Getafe vs. Atletico Madrid
Espanyol vs. Rayo Vallecano
Third-place Schalke kick off the Bundesliga weekend this Friday with a home match against 11th-place Eintracht Frankfurt. Schalke, who trail Dortmund by three points for second place in the league, are on a six-match unbeaten run in Bundesliga play since their 5-1 thrashing at the hands of Bayern Munich last month at the Allianz Arena. Frankfurt should be clear of any relegation issues this season, but they are also out of the hunt for a repeat appearance in European competition for next season.
There are a few important matches in the Bundesliga battle to avoid relegation this weekend, but the most important might be 14th-place Freiburg against last-place Eintracht Braunschweig. Freiburg sit just three points above the drop zone heading into this weekend and defeated Braunschweig 1-0 earlier this season. Braunschweig have come on strong at the end of the season, losing just one of their last seven matches to keep their dreams of staying in Germany’s top division alive.
Here are this weekend’s matches in the Bundesliga:
Schalke vs. Eintracht Frankfurt
Borussia Monchengladbach vs. Stuttgart
Hannover vs. Hamburg
Mainz vs. Werder Bremen
Freiburg vs. Eintracht Braunschweig
Wolfsburg vs. Nurnberg
Bayern Munich vs. Borussia Dortmund
Bayer Leverkusen vs. Hertha Berlin
Hoffenheim vs. Augsburg
With first-place Juventus playing on Monday, second-place AS Roma can put some more pressure on the two-time defending champions this weekend with a home victory against eighth-place Atalanta. AS Roma are on a six-match winning streak in Serie A after their close loss to Napoli, and they still have an outside shot at the league title after clinching a Champions League spot. Atalanta have posted three straight road wins to stay in the hunt for a place in next season’s Europa League as they sit four points behind sixth-place Parma.
Third-place Napoli are at home this weekend to face seventh-place Lazio, who are also in the thick in the race for European qualification. Napoli defeated Parma 1-0 last weekend, but Rafa Benitez’s squad should maintain their Champions League spot through the final few matches of the Serie A schedule. Lazio will try to turn things around away from the Stadio Olimpico as they have lost back-to-back road matches by a score of 2-0, hurting their chances to make it back to the Europa League next season.
Here are this weekend’s matches in Serie A:
Sassuolo vs. Cagliari
AS Roma vs. Atalanta
Bologna vs. Parma
Hellas Verona vs. Fiorentina
Livorno vs. Chievo Verona
Napoli vs. Lazio
Sampdoria vs. Inter Milan
Torino vs. Genoa
AC Milan vs. Catania
After their shocking loss to Chelsea in the Champions League quarterfinals, first-place Paris Saint-Germain are now focused on wrapping up their second straight Ligue 1 title to finish the season. PSG hit the road this weekend to take on fellow French giants Lyon, who are in fifth place and fighting hard for a European spot after their Europa League loss to Juventus. The two sides meet again in the French Ligue Cup next week, and the capital club will be looking to pull off a repeat of their 4-0 smashing of Lyon in league play earlier this season.
Here are this weekend’s matches in Ligue 1:
Montpellier vs. Marseille
Lille vs. Valenciennes
AC Ajaccio vs. Bordeaux
Evian Thonon Gaillard vs. Bastia
Nice vs. Lorient
Sochaux vs. Toulouse
Stade Rennes vs. AS Monaco
Nantes vs. Guingamp
Stade de Reims vs. Saint Etienne
Lyon vs. Paris Saint-Germain
Which European matches are you looking forward to the most this weekend? Think Liverpool notch another home win against Manchester City? See Borussia Dortmund pulling off the upset of Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich? Think there will be any shakeups this weekend in the race for La Liga’s title?
Share your thoughts below.