The weekend is here once again and that means premium football entertainment from Europe’s major leagues. This week, a whole lot is set to go down as domestic titles will be contested for in the French Ligue 1 (PSG) and in the German Bundesliga (Bayern Munich).
In the English Premier League, the Top-Four battle reaches fever pitch levels as Arsenal welcomes Manchester United to the Emirates Stadium, as Liverpool gears up to face neighbours and fierce rivals Everton for the latest instalment of the Merseyside Derby while there is the small matter of a Jose Mourinho Derby – as his AS Roma side takes on his previous team Inter Milan in Serie A’s biggest fixture.
As usual, Apex Football takes you through the action as we bring you our preview for the weekend. Let’s go!!!
ARSENAL VS MANCHESTER UNITED:
This clash is definitely a winner-takes-all as both sides continue their push for a spot in next season’s UEFA Champions League. North London side Arsenal will face Old Trafford outfit Manchester United at the Emirates Stadium in buoyant mood, following their 4-2 victory over fellow Londoners Chelsea in midweek.
Gone are the days when this particular clash was a top-of-the-table fixture between both teams but there’s plenty riding on this latest instalment for both clubs. The hosts have the upper hand as they’re ahead by three points with a game in hand following Wednesday’s win against Chelsea but the same can not be said for Manchester United who were hammered 4-0 by title-chasing Liverpool at Anfield during the week.
The only lift for the Red Devils supporters came on Thursday with the official appointment of Dutchman Erik ten Hag as the club’s new manager on a three-year deal and it is hoped that news of his coming will spur the team into getting a positive result against the Gunners. United’s major blow is the absence of French midfielder Paul Pogba who is out for the rest of the campaign through injury he picked up in the 4-0 loss to Liverpool last time out.
Furthermore, Manchester United will be boosted by the return of Portuguese international Cristiano Ronaldo. The cub’s top scorer this season missed the 4-0 drubbing to Liverpool at Anfield on compassionate grounds, following the death of his infant twin son. His availability could spell doom for the Gunners and elevate team spirit.
LIVERPOOL VS EVERTON:
The red and blue halves of Merseyside are set to collide once again when Anfield forms the backdrop for the 240th meeting between Liverpool and Everton, with possibly the biggest disparity between form and status the Merseyside derby has ever seen.
The Reds are in the midst of chasing a historic quadruple and are only a point off Manchester City at the summit, while the Toffees are simply fighting to maintain their Premier League status for next season as they are only a point and a spot off the relegation places.
Jurgen Klopp’s side extended their unbeaten streak in the Premier League this year to 13 games (W11, D2) by hammering rivals Manchester United 4-0 and also strengthened their undefeated PL home record this season, out-scoring their last 11 league visitors 33-2 in total, while keeping nine clean sheets in this time!
Considering the form of the two sides and Liverpool’s 4-1 win in the reverse fixture, this could be a painful affair for the blue half of Merseyside, whose historic 2-0 win in this fixture last season serves as their only victory in the last 25 head-to-head meetings (D12, L12). Everton have at least put together back-to-back PL results without defeat for the first time since October (W1, D1), giving Frank Lampard’s men the edge in the relegation battle.
Although this is one of the shortest away trips across the globe, the ‘Toffees’ form on their travels has been anything but sweet. They’ve lost their last six PL away matches while accumulating the least away points this season with six, meaning Everton fans will more than likely be looking beyond this game in the battle for safety.
BAYERN MUNICH VS BORUSSIA DORTMUND:
Saturday’s ‘Der Klassiker’ aka “The Classic” is of significant importance to Bayern Munich, as a win will see them emerge champions of the 2021/2022 Bundesliga season.
Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund will be meeting for the 133rd time with the hosts knowing a victory will seal a record-extending 31st Bundesliga title. After winning their last four league games while conceding just once, the stage appears set for them to complete a tenth successive top-flight success.
It would be all the sweeter for ‘Die Roten’ fans if they can do so against their rivals and as Bayern are unbeaten in home league action since January (W4, D1), they’ll expect to end the evening celebrating one way or another. Also instilling confidence is their record of seven straight home league H2H wins, with Bayern scoring 4+ goals in six of those fixtures.
Despite that dire recent record, Dortmund won’t be disheartened ahead of this big clash as they’re in decent form, hammering Wolfsburg 6-1 to make it just one defeat across their last nine competitive fixtures (W5, D3), just about keeping them still in title contention. That impressive run helped them all but guarantee Champions League football next term despite a host of injuries.
Any lingering fitness concerns will be severely tested here though and as they last won a Bundesliga H2H as the away side back in April 2014 (L7), maintaining those slim title hopes could be beyond them. If they’re to manage it with a rare Klassiker win in Munich, they’re going to need to channel every ounce of the form that’s seen them go unbeaten in league away games this calendar year (W5, D2).
PARIS SAINT GERMAINE VS RC LENS:
PSG’s task is simple and straightforward on Saturday: win this match and they will be crowned French champions for the tenth time in their history! The Parisians have been on fire since the beginning of April with their 3-0 win away to Angers in midweek making it four consecutive Ligue 1 victories.
Though PSG coach Mauricio Pochettino stated after the game against Angers that he would have liked to secure the title that night, winning the league at the Parc des Prince could be the best way of reconciling with their fans after another Champions League failure. Confidence in terms of getting the job done should be high given that PSG haven’t lost a home against Lens since 2006 (W5, D2).
Lens’ 2-0 home win against Montpellier in midweek made it four wins across their last five Ligue 1 outings, putting them firmly back in the race for the European spots. Battling for a first European appearance since 2007/2008, Lens coach Franck Haise didn’t hide his enthusiasm ahead of this clash, saying that he has a team “ready to go into battle”.
INTER MILAN VS AS ROMA:
Current Serie A defending champions Inter Milan have completely turned the tide around, following inconsistent displays and performances. The Nerazzurri have won their last three games since the end of the final international break for the season and have now completed a ten-game unbeaten streak.
In midweek, Inter put themselves in line to win the domestic double by beating fierce rivals AC Milan 3-0 (also on aggregate) in the Coppa Italia semi-finals second leg to reach the Final of the Italian Cup where they will take on Juventus. They currently trail their city rivals AC Milan by only one point with a game in hand most importantly, and will now face AS Roma against whom they are unbeaten in ten competitive head-to-head encounters (won four, drawn six).
A recent 1-1 draw against title-contenders Napoli saw Roma maintain their two-point advantage above sixth-placed Lazio, and once more prove that they never accept defeat. A fourth straight finish outside the top-four still seems likely though, especially with the looming distraction of UEFA Europa Conference League semi-finals set to split their priorities.
Roma coach José Mourinho has fond memories of a 2010 treble with Inter, but there is no room for sentiment when he returns to his old fortress. Any attempt to win – or at least avoid a third defeat against his former club Inter this season, may rely on a good start.