Barclays Premier League
The schedule is split this weekend and we are at the stage of the season when our attention is the same way. We are concerned with the top and the bottom and no one cares about the middle – unless they act as spoilers.
But for the supporters of West Brom and Aston Villa there must be a sense or relieve that this Midland’s derby will be played out without the dark spectre of relegation hanging their clubs.
Although not mathematically safe West Brom and Villa are six and seven points above the three drop spots and both enjoy relatively good goal differentials.
West Brom have only lost once in their last 9 games and Villa are unbeaten in four.
Fulham and Sunderland are another pair with little or nothing to worry about. The same cannot be said about Blackburn, Blackpool and Wigan who are all battling to avoid the drop and all are at home this Saturday. Their opponents are Bolton, Stoke and Everton.
Blackburn have still to play both West Ham and Wolves away and Manchester United at home. A win against Bolton appears almost mandatory with a cardiac run in approaching.
After Blackpool plays Stoke they too have a match against Bolton together with matches against Manchester United and Spurs.
Wigan have only one game against a relegation revival and that is West Ham. The other two games are against Stoke City and Aston Villa.
The pressure on Spurs is all about making a repeat appearance in the top four at the end of the 38-game schedule while for Chelsea is about maintaining some sort of pressure on Manchester United. Spurs have still to travel to Eastlands and Anfield and so even a draw might turn out to be a bad result.
There are only two games remaining in the marathon that is the Championship. Nothing is yet decided except for Preston being relegated but Scunthorpe and Sheffield United will need divine intervention in order to avoid the drop given they both trail Doncaster Rovers and Crystal Palace by six points.
Queens Park Rangers will almost certainly lay stake to an automatic promotion spot – probably as champions – this weekend. They are away to Watford but lead second place Norwich (away to Pompey on Monday) by 5 points and third place Cardiff (home Boro on Monday) by six points.
Cardiff and Norwich occupy that nerve racking position of being on the cusp of an automatic spot but one where they could so easily be sucked back into the torturous promotion play offs.
Swansea are already assured of a place in the promotion show down while opponent’s Millwall are just one place and a couple of points away from the sought after sixth spot. Reading are only a point away from joining Swansea (they are away to Coventry) and Nottingham Forest are in a strong position having to play Scunthorpe and Crystal Palace.
Leeds and Burnley both still have a chance but at best only one still will after Saturday.
With a five point lead and three games remaining Borussia Dortmund could be the 2011 Bundesliga Champions by Saturday evening. They are at home to Nurnberg.
Second place Bayer Leverkusen are away to Cologne and Bayer could also cement their finishing position. However, much of the attention will be on the third and final Champions League qualifying spot. Current occupants Hannover are a point better than Bayern Munich but with a dramatically poorer goal difference.
Hannover are at home to Borussia Monchengladbach who shocked Dortmund last week by beating them 1-0. Hannover finish with games against Stuttgart and Nurnberg.
Bayern will be hoping that the Schalke 04 side that played against Manchester United will turn out on Saturday at the Allianz Arena. After Schalke comes St. Pauli and Stuttgart.
It is close to impossible for Milan to throw away an eight point advantage at the top of Serie A with four games left. Second place Inter (away to Cesena) and Napoli (home to Genoa) are fighting for the runners up spot.
There is even less to play for a the top of the Spanish league. Real Madrid are destined to finish second and are at home to Real Zaragoza and champions-to-be Barcelona are away to Real Sociedad.
Seattle Sounders v Toronto FC
After having 5 of their first seven matches within the friendly confines of BMO Field, Toronto travels to the west coast to play the Seattle Sounders.
Home advantage has meant little with Toronto collecting only 7 points from 7 games. More bad news is that during their five year existence in MLS TFC have rarely been convincing road-warriors.
One thing TFC have been noted for, is having players they’ve casted adrift, prospering at new clubs.
They might have run into another this weekend in the shape of a former first round draft pick O’Brian White.
White has a couple of goals already this season for a Sounders side that has recovered nicely from losing their first two games of the season and are now unbeaten in their last 5. But White will miss this match after suffering a blood clot in his leg.
The other Saturday games in MLS are Philadelphia Union v San Jose Earthquakes; Columbus Crew against Vancouver Whitecaps; Sporting KC are away to New York Red Bulls; Colorado Rapids and the Chicago Fire hook up; Portland Timbers host Real Salt Lake; New England Revolution travels to the west coast to play Chivas.
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