The weekend is here once more and that means – another round of exciting football action across Europe’s major leagues as the season winds down in less than a month from now.
Last week saw winners emerge in both the French Ligue 1 and in the German Bundesliga. Les Parisiens secured a tenth top-flight title in their history after a 1-1 draw against visiting RC Lens at the Parc des Princes Stadium, with Argentine superstar Lionel Messi netting in the encounter to win his first Ligue 1 crown with the capital outfit.
In the German Bundesliga, the Bayern Munich became the first team in Europe’s top-five major leagues to win ten successive domestic top-flight titles on the spin. This they did by dispatching rivals Borussia Dortmund 3-1 in their latest instalment of Der Klassiker (The Classic) at the Allianz Arena in Munich to seal the achievement.
This weekend, there is so much to play for – especially for teams still battling to reach their set targets for the campaign. But the eyes of most football world will most likely be focused in Spain, where Real Madrid will welcome Espanyol to the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu as they seek to scoop the domestic league title. Apex Football serves you all you need to know about this clash as well as other high points in a loaded weekend. Let’s go!!!
REAL MADRID VS ESPANYOL:
Fresh from their midweek exertions in the UEFA Champions League where they lost 4-3 to Premier League side Manchester City in their semi-final first leg, Los Blancos returns to action on home turf in the knowledge that only a single point will see them emerge champions of La Liga for the 2021/2022 season.
The first leg earlier in the season saw Espanyol beat Los Blancos 2-1 and with a host of first-team players out due to being rested or injuries, Madrid must put up a better defensive performance if they hope to come through. The biggest attraction in this fixture is the fact that manager Carlo Ancelotti is set to enter the record books as the first man to secure top-flight titles in each of Europe’s ‘Big Five’ leagues.
Madrid remain the overwhelming favourites going into this fixture, as they are yet to lose a home head-to-head clash since April 1996 – winning each of the last eight meetings.
As for Espanyol, they surely have no interest in keeping city rivals Barcelona’s faint title hopes alive, but they do have hopes of ending the campaign in the top half of the table. They have been on a stuttering form of late, having lost three of their last four league matches.
EVERTON VS CHELSEA:
This clash could be tagged “The return of the prodigal son” in the sense that under-pressure Everton manager Frank Lampard will be facing his former team Chelsea at Goodison Park, as he bids to steer his current side out of the murky waters of relegation.
Things are surely not looking up for the Toffees, who are having a dismal season and find themselves on the wrong end of the Premier League table – in the drop zone. However, they can take solace from their previous outing against Liverpool in the Merseyside Derby last time out, in which they put up an impressive performance though they still lost 2-0 to the Reds.
As for the Blues, they seem destined to seal third spot on the log following their 1-1 draw with Manchester United at Old Trafford on Thursday night and coach Thomas Tuchel will use the fixture to build momentum ahead of next month’s FA Cup Final clash with Liverpool.
NEWCASTLE UNITED VS LIVERPOOL & LEEDS UNITED VS MANCHESTER CITY:
The ongoing battle for the 2021/2022 Premier League title continues this weekend with both Liverpool and Manchester City being involved in tricky away fixtures.
The Reds will kick off the Matchweek with an away trip to Tyneside to face Newcastle United. They Kop will be buoyed by the fact that coach Jurgen Klopp has extended his stay at Anfield until the summer of 2026, which will give the fans and players confidence of the project being in good hands.
As for the Magpies, they have turned their season around and look set to preserve their Premier League status for next season, but will most surely be looking to throw a spanner in the wheel of Jurgen Klopp’s side.
Liverpool have successfully navigated the month of April in which many critics thought would be the ultimate test that will define their season and with the side in imperious form, the Magpies may end up being their latest victims. Also, a win for the Reds will see them go top temporarily until rivals Manchester City play Leeds United much later.
In the other fixture involving Leeds United Manchester City, it has been a topsy-turvy season for Leeds United, who have definitely suffered from ‘second-season syndrome.’ They have had to change managers this campaign but after going eight Premier League matches without victory (D1, L7) they have now gone five PL games undefeated (W3, D2) to distance themselves slightly from the relegation zone. Back-to-back clean sheets shows they are hitting form in all areas too, and they will now aim for three successive top-flight shutouts for the first time since August 2002.
Despite a frantic and entertaining 4-3 Champions League win over Real Madrid in midweek, City should be fully focused on the homefront as they hunt down their fourth PL title in the last five seasons, amid a one-point advantage over Liverpool with five games left to play. While their goalscoring is clearly at a peak with 14 goals scored in their last four matches, possessing the league’s best defence with only 21 goals conceded shows Pep Guardiola’s men are firing on all cylinders.
The Cityzens hit the road after three consecutive home matches, hoping to build on their league best away points tally of 39. City have remained unbeaten in the league this season since losing their opening away game (W12, D3), winning all 11 away Premier League matches in which they have opened the scoring.