Photo by Paul Greenwood / ISIPhotos.com
By JUSTIN FERGUSON
The top four teams in the English Premier League will collide this weekend, taking a break from their fight for the league title for two massive fixtures in the Fifth Round of the FA Cup.
On Saturday, Chelsea will return to the Ethiad Stadium to take on Manchester City, who they defeated 1-0 in an important league matchup less than two weeks ago. The first-place Blues have defeated Man City twice this season, with both matches decided by just one goal. Because Man City’s midweek match against Sunderland was postponed, the hosts will be well-rested and ready to secure their first victory of the season against their fellow title contenders.
The Citizens’ high-powered offense, which has scored 19 goals in the last five matches at the Ethiad Stadium, will look to attack the heart of the Chelsea defense, which will be without center back Gary Cahill. Fellow center back and club captain John Terry could also be missing for this Round of 16 matchup for Chelsea, who are unbeaten in their last five road matches across all competitions.
On Sunday, it will be a rematch of last Saturday’s eye-opening 5-1 scoreline at Anfield when Liverpool take on Arsenal at Emirates Stadium. After the big loss at Liverpool and a disappointing home draw with struggling Manchester United, the Gunners would love to get revenge and momentum ahead of next week’s Champions League matchup with German giants Bayern Munich. On the other side, high-scoring Liverpool are coming off a dramatic 3-2 victory against Fulham to keep them in the thick of the EPL title race.
Here is a closer look at the weekend’s action from the top leagues in Europe:
Sunday’s other matchup between EPL clubs in the FA Cup will be between Everton and resurgent Swansea City at Goodison Park. Everton, whose match with Crystal Palace from earlier in the week was postponed due to weather, have won five of their last six home matches against league competition heading into this weekend’s matchup with the Swans. The Welsh visitors fought back to a road draw with Stoke after a 3-0 rivalry victory against Cardiff City, and they will be looking for another big result ahead of their Europa League tie with Italian powers Napoli.
Although Sunderland’s impressive run of form suffered a hit in the midweek with a 2-0 loss to Hull City, they currently have a seven-match unbeaten streak going against their weekend opponents, Southampton. The Black Cats, who have already qualified for Europa League next season, will be boosted by the extra rest from their postponed match with Manchester City heading into their home match at the Stadium of Light. However, the Saints are on an eight-match unbeaten run of their own across all competitions and have posted back-to-back shutouts away from home.
Here are this weekend’s matches in the FA Cup Fifth Round:
Sunderland vs. Southampton
Cardiff City vs. Wigan Athletic
Sheffield Wednesday vs. Charlton Athletic
Manchester City vs. Chelsea
Everton vs. Swansea City
Sheffield United vs. Nottingham Forest
Arsenal vs. Liverpool
In their last home league match, Barcelona lost control of first place in La Liga in a 3-2 loss to Valencia. Two weeks after the defeat to Los Che, Barcelona have reclaimed the top spot and will look to defend it again this Saturday against 19th-place Rayo Vallecano at Camp Nou. While Lionel Messi and Barcelona are returning to some of their best form all season in the last week, Rayo will face the defending champions on the heels what was probably their best win of the year, a 4-1 thrashing of Malaga to move them closer to safety in the league table.
Second-place Real Madrid, now tied with Barcelona in points but trailing on goal differential, will look to take advantage of a possible slip-up from their biggest rivals in their Sunday match at 13th-place Getafe. Los Blancos lost at Getafe last season, but they are playing some of their best soccer at the moment after defeating city rivals Atletico 5-0 over two legs of the Copa del Rey semifinals and scoring four goals in their league win over Villarreal last weekend. With Getafe currently on an eight-match losing skid in league play that stretches back to November, Real Madrid will undoubtedly be favored to collect all three points Sunday.
Here are this weekend’s matches in La Liga:
Elche vs. Osasuna
Atletico Madrid vs. Real Valladolid
Levante vs. Almeria
Barcelona vs. Rayo Vallecano
Villarreal vs. Celta Vigo
Granada vs. Real Betis
Getafe vs. Real Madrid
Athletic Bilbao vs. Espanyol
Sevilla vs. Valencia
First-place Bayern Munich have outscored opponents 16-1 so far in 2014, and they will get one final tuneup before their Champions League Round of 16 matchup against Arsenal this weekend when they host relegation-threatened Freiburg. The 15th-place visitors are one of only two teams in Bundesliga play to not lose to the unbeaten champions as Nicolas Hofler rescued a point in the 86th minute of their first meeting of the season. But Freiburg only one two of their next 12 matches after their draw with the defending champions, and they will try to be the first league team to get a point at the Allianz Arena this weekend in order to maintain their position above the drop zone.
The top matchup in the Bundesliga this weekend is Saturday’s clash between second-place Bayer Leverkusen and fourth-place Schalke at the BayArena. Leverkusen have won back-to-back league matches to maintain their position behind Bayern, but they are fresh off a 1-0 German Cup loss to second-division Kaiserslautern earlier in the week. Schalke, who defeated Leverkusen 2-0 in their first meeting this season, have won four of their last five Bundesliga matches and trail third-place Borussia Dortmund by two points heading into this weekend’s action.
Here are this weekend’s matches in the Bundesliga:
Mainz vs. Hannover
Bayern Munich vs. Freiburg
Borussia Dortmund vs. Eintracht Frankfurt
Hoffenheim vs. Stuttgart
Eintracht Braunschweig vs. Hamburg
Werder Bremen vs. Borussia Monchengladbach
Bayer Leverkusen vs. Schalke
Augsburg vs. Nurnberg
Hertha Berlin vs. Wolfsburg
First-place Juventus are nine points ahead of second-place AS Roma heading into this weekend’s match with lowly Chievo Verona in Turin. Juve needed a second-half own goal to grab the victory against Chievo in their first meeting of the season, but they will be expected to handle their 17th-place opponents in the rematch this Sunday. Chievo are winless in their last eight Serie A matches and sit just one point above the drop zone, needing a big road point to help their survival chances this season.
Saturday’s match in Serie A could have a lasting impact on the league’s European qualifiers as fourth-place Fiorentina hosts fifth-place Inter Milan. Inter, who hold the league’s last Europa League spot, are tied with Hellas Verona in points and are also eight points behind Fiorentina ahead of their trip to face the Coppa Italia finalists. A win for the Viola Saturday could go a long way in cementing their spot in Europe and in keeping their Champions League hopes alive as they trail third-place Napoli by three points.
Here are this weekend’s matches in Serie A:
AC Milan vs. Bologna
Fiorentina vs. Inter Milan
Catania vs. Lazio
Atalanta vs. Parma
Cagliari vs. Livorno
Genoa vs. Udinese
Juventus vs. Chievo Verona
Sassuolo vs. Napoli
AS Roma vs. Sampdoria
After last weekend’s 1-1 draw with second-place AS Monaco, first-place Paris Saint-Germain are still five points ahead of the pack in Ligue 1 heading into this weekend’s home match against 18th-place Valenciennes. Edinson Cavani scored the defending champions’ lone goal in their 1-0 victory earlier this season at Valenciennes, who beat Nice last weekend to inch closer to safety. Valenciennes delivered a shock 2-1 victory the last time they hit the road against a title contender — Monaco, to be exact — and they will look to repeat some of that same magic Friday at the Parc des Princes.
Second-place Monaco will look to maintain pace behind PSG when they hit the road to face eighth-place Bastia, who have won three of their last four matches in league play. Monaco had no problems with Bastia in their visit to the Stade Louis II earlier this season, but that was when the Monaco offense had a healthy Radamel Falcao, who scored two goals in that match. Bastia boast one of the top home records in Ligue 1 this season, winning eight and drawing just two of their matches with only one loss at the Stade Armand-Cesari-Furiani.
Here are this weekend’s matches in Ligue 1:
Paris Saint-Germain vs. Valenciennes
Bastia vs. AS Monaco
Lorient vs. Toulouse
Nice vs. Nantes
Sochaux vs. Guingamp
Stade de Reims vs. Bordeaux
Stade Rennes vs. Montpellier
Lyon vs. Ajaccio
Evian Thonon Gaillard vs. Lille
Saint Etienne vs. Marseille
Which European matches are you looking forward to the most this weekend? Think Manchester City can get their first win of the season against Chelsea? See Liverpool repeating their rout of Arsenal? Who do you think will be the first-place team in La Liga after this weekend?
Share your thoughts below.