Manchester City and Bayern Munich to successfully retain league titles
The likes of Manchester City and Bayern Munich are poised to wrap their neck-to-neck title challenges, while domestic giants Juventus and Barcelona aim to step out of their rough patches. Here is a consolidated preview of all the action and drama you can expect from Europe’s elite leagues this weekend.
The Premier League will draw curtains on yet another sensational campaign, with all 20 clubs simultaneously getting into action this Sunday. Title-chasing duo Manchester City and Liverpool, separated by a mere point, play Brighton and Wolverhampton Wanderers, respectively. Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur face tricky ties against Leicester City and Everton, while Arsenal and Manchester United are up against Burnley and Cardiff City.
In the La Liga, Barcelona squares off against Champions League hopefuls Getafe at the Camp Nou on Sunday. Zidane’s Real Madrid travel to Real Sociedad as an injury-struck Atletico Madrid entertain Sevilla at the Wanda Metropolitano. In Italy, Serie A champions Juventus travel to the capital to take on AS Roma. AC Milan goes away to Fiorentina and city rivals Inter Milan invite rock-bottom club Chievo to the San Siro. Fourth-placed Atalanta crosses swords with Genoa in a crucial fixture that will decide if they play Champions League football next season.
Elsewhere, Bundesliga holders Bayern Munich hope to wrap up their title challenge when they go away to RB Leipzig on Saturday. Borussia Dortmund, who are still hopeful of a late dramatic twist in the title race, host Fortuna Dusseldorf at the Signal Iduna Park.
Match of the week
Nuno Espirito Santo’s Wolves have enjoyed an outstanding Premier League season, registering maximum points against the top six opposition and now well-placed for playing continental football next season. Raul Jimenez, the leading scorer this season, was on the scoresheet when his team defeated Liverpool 2-1 in the fourth round of the FA Cup and is primed to find the net once again at Anfield.
The Reds, meanwhile, are on a high after staging one of the greatest European comebacks against Barcelona to move into the Champions League final for the second year in a row. Jurgen Klopp’s men have lost just one league game this season and are on course to finish a second consecutive campaign without a loss at home. Based on their overall head-to-head record against Wolves, Liverpool are likely to emerge victorious but won’t let their guard down against the visitors at any cost.
Player to watch – Lucas Moura
The Brazilian’s sensational performance in the Champions League semi-final against AFC Ajax was simply him repaying the faith shown in him by manager Mauricio Pochettino, given his struggle to breakthrough into the first team. After sealing his transfer from Paris Saint-Germain in January 2018, Moura initially featured just 11 times across all competitions thereby leading to questions of him being a panic buy.
Come the 2018-19 season, Moura has now played 47 times under Pochettino and has scored 15 goals across all competitions, including the match-winning hat-trick that sent the Lilywhites into their first-ever European final. While he has successfully filled in for the injured captain Harry Kane, the former PSG attacker is thriving in his preferred central role and will be the key player in Spurs’ campaign for the rest of the season.
Manager to watch – Ernesto Valverde
The 55-year-old Spanish manager is currently on the verge of being shown the door by Barcelona’s hierarchy, as his team were beaten 4-0 by Liverpool in the Champions League semi-finals and were sent packing from the tournament. Liverpool’s complete turnaround of the first leg advantage is similar to what AS Roma did last year, which ended the Blaugrana’s hopes of claiming a treble this season. Having been under scrutiny in this entire campaign for his tactical decisions, the loss to the Reds is almost like a final nail in the coffin and only time can tell if the former Athletic Bilbao boss will remain in the hot seat at Camp Nou.
Team to watch – Manchester City
The Citizens are currently in the driving seat of the Premier League title race and need a win at Brighton to not only win the English top-flight league but also become the first team since neighbours Manchester United to retain the crown. Pep Guardiola’s men have been a force to reckon with and are well-placed to end the current campaign with a double, as they play Watford in the FA Cup final next weekend. Yet with so much on the line, Guardiola has instructed the Sky Blues that any result other than a win will cost the club dearly, while also spelling the end for some at the blue end of Manchester.
Words: William Paul