BY JUSTIN FERGUSON
After an exciting return to continental play during the midweek, English clubs will be starting another round of cup competition this weekend in the Fifth Round of the FA Cup.
The upset-filled Fourth Round left only seven Premier League clubs alive in the tournament, and there will only be one matchup between top-flight sides this weekend. Manchester United will host Reading on Monday night as the Red Devils will look to avoid the seven-goal drama with the Royals that they experienced back in December. An upset from Reading would secure the club’s third trip to the quarterfinals in the last four years.
The Fifth Round will kick off early Saturday when fifth-tier Luton Town hosts the Championship’s Millwall. Both clubs knocked off Premier League sides to make it to the final 16 of the competition. The Hatters became the first non-league club to advance past the Fourth Round since the 1993-94 edition of the Cup.
The biggest league match in Europe this weekend can be found in Germany. Second-place Borussia Dortmund, coming off of a thrilling midweek tie with Shakhtar Donetsk, turns its attention to fourth-place Eintracht Frankfurt. The Eagles have soared above expectations so far this season, following up their second-place finish in 2. Bundesliga last season by contending for a Champions League spot. Frankfurt is only two points behind Dortmund in the league table, so a road win Saturday could go a long way in securing a place among Europe’s best.
Here’s a closer look at the major competition in Europe this weekend:
While most of England will be wrapped up in the battles between the final 16 in the FA Cup, two of the country’s weekend matches will take place outside the tournament’s Fifth Round.
Chelsea and Brentford will be locked in a replay of their Fourth Round match on Sunday. The Blues have turned it around since the last meeting with the League One contenders, winning last weekend against Wigan and Thursday against Sparta Prague. Rafa Benitez’s squad will be back in the familiar confines of Stamford Bridge for the winner-take-all replay. The club that wins Sunday’s clash will face the Championship’s Middlesborough on Wednesday in the Fifth Round.
Also on Sunday, former Swansea boss Brendan Rodgers will welcome his old club to his new home at Anfield in EPL play. The two sides met in Wales back in November and played a scoreless draw. The Swans are fresh off of a 4-1 win against QPR last weekend while the Reds try to end its four match winless skid, which includes Thursday’s Europa League loss against Zenit.
Here is the full list of fixtures for this weekend’s FA Cup action:
Luton Town vs. Millwall
Arsenal vs. Blackburn Rovers
MK Dons vs. Barnsley
Oldham Athletic vs. Everton
Chelsea vs. Brentford
Manchester City vs. Leeds United
Huddersfield Town vs. Wigan Athletic
Manchester United vs. Reading
Here is the lone EPL match this weekend:
Liverpool vs. Swansea City
Before La Liga-leading Barcelona can make a trip down to Italy for Champions League action, the club must stop at 14th-place Granada on Saturday. With a 12-point lead over Atletico Madrid and a big match with AC Milan on Wednesday, it will be interesting to see what kind of lineup Tito Vilanova will send out to face the bottom-half Rojiblancos.
Meanwhile, Real Madrid welcomes sixth-place Rayo Vallecano on Sunday to the Bernabeu. After a somewhat disappointing home draw with Manchester United during the midweek, Real will look to put some more distance between themselves and fourth-place Malaga with a win. European hopeful Vallecano is coming off of a big 2-1 win over second-place Atletico Madrid last weekend.
Here is the full list of fixtures for this weekend’s La Liga action:
Sevilla vs. Deportivo La Coruna
Getafe vs. Celta Vigo
Malaga vs. Athletic Bilbao
Granada vs. Barcelona
Osasuna vs. Real Zaragoza
Real Sociedad vs. Levante
Valencia vs. Mallorca
Real Valladolid vs. Atletico Madrid
Espanyol vs. Real Betis
Real Madrid vs. Rayo Vallecano
Bayern Munich is the only major European club that is still undefeated away from home this season. The runaway league leaders open up this weekend’s Bundesliga play with a trip to 12th-place Wolfsburg, a club that has done well this season against clubs near the top of the table. Bayern put away Wolfsburg 3-0 at the Allianz Arena earlier this season, but the Wolves have posted wins over Dortmund and Bayer Leverkusen since that meeting.
Leverkusen, who is riding a four-match winless streak in all competitions, will get a great chance to bounce back this weekend. The third-place club hosts 19th-place Augsburg, a side that has only won once on the road this year. Leverkusen will look to break its opponent’s streak of three straight draws on Saturday.
Here is the full list of fixtures for this weekend’s Bundesliga action:
Wolfsburg vs. Bayern Munich
Bayer Leverkusen vs. Augsburg
Fortuna Dusseldorf vs. Greuther Furth
Hamburg vs. Borussia Monchengladbach
Mainz vs. Schalke
Werder Bremen vs. Freiburg
Borussia Dortmund vs. Eintracht Frankfurt
Nurnberg vs. Hannover 96
Hoffenheim vs. Stuttgart
League-leading Juventus is five points ahead of second-place Napoli heading into this weekend. Juve will face a dismal AS Roma outfit that is winless in its last six Serie A matches. Roma’s best chance at European qualification may now be in the Coppa Italia, but Saturday’s home crowd will definitely want to see better results in league play.
Napoli will face a tough challenge this weekend in hosting Sampdoria. Since the beginning of the new year, Sampdoria has changed from relegation favorite to a side firmly planted in the midtable. The Blucerchiati has won three, drawn two and only lost one match in 2013. The hosts will come into Sunday’s league match following a shocking 3-0 Europa League loss to Czech side Viktoria Plzen.
Here is the full list of fixtures for this weekend’s Serie A action:
AC Milan vs. Parma
Chievo Verona vs. Palermo
AS Roma vs. Juventus
Catania vs. Bologna
Genoa vs. Udinese
Napoli vs. Sampdoria
Torino vs. Atalanta
US Pescara vs. Cagliari
Fiorentina vs. Inter Milan
After being tied at the top of the Ligue 1 table two weeks ago, PSG and Lyon are two clubs currently heading in opposite directions.
League-leading PSG has won eight out its last nine league matches and is coming off of a 2-1 first leg win at Valencia during Tuesday’s Champions League action. The Parisians, who have only allowed one goal in their current unbeaten streak, face a relegation-zoned Sochaux club that has scored only 23 times in 24 Ligue 1 matches. Manager Carlo Ancelotti told reporters earlier this week that he will most likely save David Beckham’s debut for next week’s rivalry clash with Marseille.
Lyon, on the other hand, has dropped its last two league matches and is coming off of a 2-1 defeat in the first leg of its Europa League matchup with Tottenham. After losing back-to-back matches to bottom-half clubs, OL will have to turn it around Sunday when it travels to European hopeful Bordeaux. The host Girondins sit just two points back from fourth-place St Etienne.
Here is the full list of fixtures for this weekend’s Ligue 1 action:
Lille vs. Stade Rennes
Marseille vs. Valenciennes
Bastia vs. Nice
Brest vs. Ajaccio
Lorient vs. Evian Thonon
Montpellier vs. Nancy
Toulouse vs. Troyes
Bordeaux vs. Lyon
Stade de Reims vs. St Etienne
Sochaux vs. PSG
What matches are you looking forward to most this weekend? Think there will be some more big upsets in the FA Cup? How do you think Eintracht Frankfurt will do in the club’s biggest match of the season? See any league leaders lose ground this weekend?
Share your comments below.