Chelsea v Manchester City
This is a very important test for Manchester City and Roberto Mancini that goes beyond three points. Three points, or even a point, are important for City but there is a large dollop of credibility hanging on this one.
A win over Manchester United in the FA Cup semi-final and a subsequent win in the final might be enough to maintain the fans’ admiration just as a Europa League would have been.
But what the fans heard loud and clear at the beginning of this season (and last season when you come to think about it) was that a top four place was the primary objective.
Success in the FA Cup may provide temporary cover but failure to finish in a Champions League spot would be nothing but a gigantic failure for all at the club.
It would also call into question City’s ability to get onside of UEFA’s Financial Fair Play regulations – something that some suspect might even be a balance sheet too far even with Champions League money flowing.
Any interesting side note to this one is in relation to the run in City faces and it offers some good news. This will be the last time Manchester City leaves the North-West of England on Barclay’s Premier League business this season.
After this Sunday’s trip to Stamford Bridge City has four N-W “derbies” away, two games at home to London opposition (Spurs and West Ham) and visits from Sunderland and Stoke.
Chelsea finally seems to have turned that almost infinite corner alluded to so often by Carlo Ancelotti. With a two-legged Champions League quarter final match-up against Manchester United to go along with a Premier League visit in May Chelsea will be tested over the next few weeks.
Can Ancelotti rally his troops to scale the equivalent of the twin peaks of Kilimanjaro – the Premier League and the Champions League?
Liverpool overtook Sunderland a few weeks ago and travels to the Stadium of Light on Sunday. Sunderland maintained realistic hopes of an Europa Cup place but four straight losses and a draw appear to have put paid to their ambitions.
Liverpool are now in a position where they are unable to control their destiny and they have to hope for a cataclysmic collapse by a team ahead of them in order to return to Europe next season. At present the only legitimate route to Europe for Liverpool players seems to be a summer holiday on the continent.
Udinese v Catania
There is close to a full schedule in Serie A with eight games on Sunday. The team of the moment is not Milan or Inter or Roma or Juventus but little Udinese.
Udinese moved into 4th place last Sunday with 4-0 away win at Cagliari – that brought their unbeaten run to 12 games with 9 wins and 3 draws.
The goals have flowed with Antonio Di Natale and Alexis Sanchez leading the way. Di Natale scored 29 league goals last season and is again Serie A’s top scorer again with 24 goals from 29 games.
Strike partner Alexis Sanchez has 12 and looks to have successfully filled in the weakest part of his play this season – scoring goals. The pair has scored 15 of the last 17 goals for Udinese.
The defence has done a much better job over the last few matches as well – 5 consecutive shut outs.
Once the face of it this weekend’s opponents Catania should put up little resistance. They are without an away win this season and a limp wristed attack has only scored 7 goals away from home in 14 games.
With Real Madrid and Barcelona both playing on Saturday attention will likely fall on Valencia v Sevilla (3rd v 8th) and Athletic Bilbao v Villarreal (6th v 4th).
SCOTTISH LEAGUE CUP FINAL
Another opportunity for Celtic and Rangers to play out centuries of perceived injustice and wrongs this time with the League Cup Final as a backdrop. There were the usual outcries from the authorities when these two “clashed” literally just a few weeks ago. Rangers finished on the losing end of a 1-0 scoreline in a Scottish Cup replay and with only nine men on the field.
Players get sent off and it doesn’t necessarily have to be in the most hostile of games for that to happen. We know that and can accept it as being part of the game. What was most disturbing was the coaching staffs getting ready to mix it up with Ally McCoist and Neil Lennon the chief protagonists.
These two have been around for too long to be excused their behaviour and showed as much brightness as two black light bulbs.
The Los Angeles Galaxy will play their second game of the new MLS season and their first home game against the New England Revolution.
A reminder that if you watched or attended a MLS game this weekend can you post a quick comment and nominate a player of the game. I can then take that under consideration when I vote bright and early on Monday morning on the MLS Player of the Week.
Thanks in anticipation
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