With the final international break of the 2021/2022 season well and truly over, attention now turns to club football action which is set to take place in various European football leagues as we near the business end of the current campaign.
The just-concluded free window afforded players the chance to represent their countries as they finalised qualification for the FIFA Men’s World Cup in Qatar later this year.
With just eight game-weeks of the Premier League remaining, every single match, goal and point could make a huge difference in determining which team wins the title, who will secure qualification for European continental competitions and who will end up relegated come the end of the season.
In this piece, Apex Football brings you the Weekend preview of what to look out for as the club football makes its return – both in the Premier League and in other major European leagues.
MANCHESTER UNITED VS LEICESTER CITY:
The Old Trafford outfit are well aware that the last nine games of the season may truly well define how their summer transfer window and the next few seasons will pan out. The Red Devils plays host to a Leicester City side who have been plagued by inconsistencies and injuries this season, knowing that anything less than a victory might just see them begin to entertain the thoughts of playing Thursday night football.
United are currently out of the Top Four but could make a late push for it. The contract renewal of Portuguese international Bruno Fernandes should bring positive vibes plus they can capitalize on the absence of Leicester City midfield star Wilfred Ndidi to wreak havoc on the Foxes.
CHELSEA VS BRENTFORD:
A proper London derby awaits this Saturday at Stamford Bridge as Chelsea takes on Brentford. The Bees’ visit is the first of ten remaining Premier League fixtures for the European and world champions – six of them at Stamford Bridge, where Thomas Tuchel’s side have found the net in all but one match.
Huge credit must be given to the players and coaching staff, who have continued to provide results despite the uncertainty surrounding the club’s ownership and sanctions. The Blues have won five league games on the spin (six across all competitions).
On the other hand, Thomas Frank’s Brentford team arrive on a run of five defeats in eight games. The Bees have come out second-best in seven of their nine encounters with teams in the current top six, losing all four on rival grounds. They lost the reverse leg 1-0 courtesy of a Ben Chilwell strike.
LIVERPOOL VS WATFORD:
The Reds have the chance to move into the summit of the Premier League albeit temporarily, if they can fashion a win against visiting Watford at Anfield in Saturday’s early kick-off.
Liverpool have been nothing short but breath-taking and are seeking a tenth straight league win on the spin. Strugglers Watford may pose a challenge for Jurgen Klopp’s men but the attacking threat the Reds possess should get them over the line, though a lot will depend on how talismanic forward Mo Salah shrugs off the disappointment of having failed to qualify for the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar with his native Egypt.
BURNLEY VS MANCHESTER CITY:
Manchester City will be aiming to return to winning ways when they travel to Turf Moor to take on relegation-threatened Burnley. The Citizens are currently one point clear of second-placed Liverpool at the top of the standings and could swap places temporarily with the Merseysiders, if the Reds win at home to Watford.
Meanwhile, Burnley occupy 19th spot on the log – four points behind 17th-placed Everton heading into this weekend’s fixtures but face a daunting task against the Cityzens on home patch. Anything short than a victory would really make fans feel concerned about their Premier League status. Though, a point will most certainly be welcomed by Clarets boss Sean Dyche.
BARCELONA VS SEVILLA:
Catalan giants FC Barcelona welcomes Sevilla to the Camp Nou in a clash that could prove pivotal in the business end of La Liga this campaign.
Both sides played out a 1-1 draw at the Estadio Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán last December, when current boss Xavi Hernández’s reign at the helm was still in its infancy and before the Catalans’ new signings bolstered their attacking power.
Since then, the Blaugrana have stepped up to the plate with impressive performances and results which has seen them ascend the table rapidly to reach third place and they are hoping to move up to second with a win over the Andalusians. Sevilla FC have 57 points from 29 matches, while Xavi’s men have 54 points but have played a game less.
As for Sevilla, the Andalusian side have not been in good form – winning just one of their last five games, but the tricky clash at the Camp Nou Stadium could be just the turning point Julen Lopetegui’s team needs for the run-in.
JUVENTUS VS INTER MILAN:
The latest chapter of the Derby d’Italia (Italian Derby) returns this weekend at the Allianz Stadium, as a resurgent Juventus side battles a faltering Inter Milan side in Turin with all to play for asides bragging rights.
Massimiliano Allegri’s Juventus head into the derby having extended their unbeaten run in Serie A to 16 games before the international break. The Bianconeri’s impressive domestic run has heaped the pressure on the Top-Three and will usurp Inter Milan to third position on the log with a win on Sunday.
The Nerazzurri broke Bianconeri hearts last February to win the Supercoppa Italiana (Italian Super Cup), with Alexis Sanchez striking late on but the current Serie A defending champions have endured a torrid month of March where they exited the Champions League at the hands of Liverpool and won just one of their last seven league games.
Inter coach Simone Inzaghi will be hoping that the just-concluded international break would be a profitable one for his side. They are in desperate need of a resurgence, and what better way to reignite their Scudetto charge than by claiming victory on the road in the Derby d’Italia against the country’s most winningest outfit.
Victory for the hosts, however, will compromise the Nerazzurri’s title charge further while thrusting the Old Lady into serious contention.