FA Cup Semi Final
Manchester United v Manchester City
We have one semi final on Saturday and another on Sunday. Of the four teams involved three should make sure that their form of transportation come equipped with GPS as it has been a long time since any of them appeared at Wembley – new or old.
The Manchester derby has been moved to Saturday to reduce the problems that might have been associated with Liverpool playing at Arsenal on the same day.
Nonetheless it would still have made more sense to have played this match closer to home you would have thought.
With Wayne Rooney suspended and Carlos Tevez injured both managers have some key decisions to make.
If City win this game, go on to win the Cup but fail to make it to the Champions League the City board will have an interesting decision to make in terms of Roberto Mancini’s future at Eastlands.
Real Madrid v Barcelona
On Saturday we will see the first of four games between these two teams over just 18 days.
This first game and the Copa del Rey Final (coming up in midweek) to a lesser degree are just sideshows to the Champions League semi-final.
No matter what happens on Saturday at the Bernabeu Barcelona will still retain a five point lead at the top of the Spanish league at a minimum and almost certainly a head-to-head advantage as well.
A win in the Copa Del Rey offers limited bragging rights.
Be assured that whoever moves on to play in the Champions League Final in May will be considered the winner of the four game series – Champions League trumps all else.
Barclay’s Premier League
We also have five Premier League matches on Saturday.
Perhaps the most interesting games are the head-to-head relegation tussles. After a 1-0 win against Newcastle, Aston Villa is at West Ham.
In another, Blackpool plays at home to Wigan. Wigan is at the bottom of the Barclay’s Premier League with Blackpool one place out of the bottom three and two points above Wigan.
Neither side has enjoyed much success in 2011. In their 15 games played this year so far Blackpool has collected 8 points; Wigan in 13 games have 11 points and their combined wins number only four.
Blackpool has also conceded 37 goals in the 15 games while Wigan has struggled to score with only 29 over the entire season. Remember it was an opening day 4-0 win at Wigan that set Blackpool on their way in the Premier League and garnered them so much attention.
Other Saturday matches include; Everton v Blackburn, West Brom v Chelsea (another potentially interesting tussle) and Birmingham against a plummeting Sunderland.
Toronto FC v DC United
Toronto is host for another home game – their fourth out of their first six and over their first 14 MLS games this season Toronto will be at home for nine.
In a league that has traditionally favoured home sides to an even greater extent than normal Toronto need to start putting some wins together.
Two draws in their first three is enough to claim an unbeaten home record but it seems to mimic a similar pattern to other seasons in which unbeaten runs at home masked an inability to turn draws into wins.
There are a number of changes to a DC United team that was pretty much a disaster last season. The man getting the most attention has yet to start a MLS game but none the less he has scored four times albeit three have come from the penalty spot.
Charlie Davies may get his first start in this match and if he does his speed against a Toronto FC back four that may see centre back Nana Attakora left out again might be pivotal to the outcome.
Other matches on Saturday include – Columbus Crew v Sporting Kansas City, New York Red Bulls v San Jose Earthquakes, Philadelphia Union v Seattle Sounders and the Vancouver Whitecaps v Chivas USA.
Roma will look to build on their dramatic late win over Udinese last weekend when they play Palermo who will have Delio Rossi in charge……for this week anyway.
Milan will look to take another Zlatan-less step to the Serie A title when they are at home to Sampdoria. Sampdoria’s slump has been upgraded initially from a problem then to a concern and now to a full-blown crisis. Six losses and two draws in their last eight games has Sampdoria just one point out of the relegation zone.
After this game Samp have the bottom two teams in consecutive weeks – Bari and Brescia.
Another team haunted by the prospect of demotion is Parma and they are at home to Inter. Parma are on the same points as Sampdoria but face a terrifically difficult run-in. All of their last six matches are going to be against teams currently 11th or higher in the table. Only seven points from their last 11 matches have them teetering on the abyss.
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Last second addition to el clasico from contributor Michael Sebold
As I write this we’re an hour away, and the traditional GolTV hype is consistent with years past, but with a particular focus on the Ronaldo-Messi match-up. But for this particular edition, the real story is at the other end of the respective formations.
For Madrid, it starts with Casillas, who hasn’t been having a particularly stellar season – notwithstanding the defensive crapshoot that’s been sitting in front of him this year. And that’s the other question for today: which Pepe will show up today? Will it be the seasoned, cool and collected defender, who provides timely interventions when one of his line-mates gets burned? Or will it be the hothead, who dives in rashly (with the invariable result that it costs his side dearly)?
And for that matter, which Ramos will show up? The one who’s focused on the task at hand, or the one who’s lost track of what his role on this year’s Real needs to be? Which Marcelo will we see? The one who plays wisely out his own third before surging forward to provide Real with that extra level of offensive potency, or the one who’s reverted to giving away the ball 90% of the time? At least with Carvalho we’ll know what we’ll get – the only question: will he stay on the pitch for the full 90?
By contrast, Barca’s back line have had it comparatively easy this season, as the overwhelming possession dominance of their midfield enables them to remain more “fresh-legged” than is typically the case for their opposition. With injuries creeping into the side in recent rounds, there have been signs of vulnerability that stronger teams might finally find a way to exploit. That said, a maturing Valdez has relatively consistently shut the door at some crucial points throughout the season.
So, now for the chess, as the mathematical meaningless of this season’s second edition renders it a set-up match for the now more important Copa and Champions Leage fixtures. And by all reports the games have begun with an out-of-match-fitness Puyol testing his knee, while Mourinho rests Özil – Real’s creative engine and the player through whom more markers have come than anybody else in La Liga.
How will it all turn out? We’ll start getting the first answers in five minutes.
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