FA Cup highlights weekend in European soccer

What to watch in the leading soccer competitions in Europe this weekend:

 

ENGLAND

The FA Cup semifinals provide a brief break from the title race, but with added spice thanks to the tightening of the pursuit of the Premier League trophy.

Tottenham faces Chelsea in the first semifinal on Saturday having already reduced its London rival’s 13-point league lead to four points in recent weeks.

Chelsea still has some breathing space, with six games remaining to secure the title for the second time in three seasons. Tottenham, though, has an unexpected opportunity of winning the league for the first time since 1961.

For a club that has won only the League Cup twice and the FA Cup in the last 26 years, Tottenham is hungry for silverware. Especially, Mauricio Pochettino to have something to show for the exploits of his vibrant, youthful side.

“To beat Tottenham is a big challenge for everyone. That is very good news for us,” Pochettino said. “It means that something is growing up here.”

SPAIN

Barcelona is reeling from being eliminated by Juventus in Champions League. Now the focus in on Sunday’s clasico against Real Madrid at Santiago Bernabeu Stadium and wiping out the host’s three-point lead.

Barcelona, chasing a third straight title, will be without the suspended Neymar. Madrid is expected to welcome Gareth Bale back from injury.

Third-place Atletico Madrid, 10 points off the lead, plays at Espanyol on Saturday. Fourth-place Sevilla, three points behind Atletico, plays host to Granada today.

FRANCE

Paris Saint-Germain has found an unexpected goal-scorer to take some of the pressure off striker Edinson Cavani.

Midfielder Blaise Matuidi has three goals in the last three league games and is finding his best form just at the right time, following a difficult start to the season where he was stopped from joining Juventus and was then unhappy at being in and out of coach Unai Emery’s plans.

Matuidi, 30, is becoming the player he was before, when he was crucial for both club and country.

Matuidi scored twice on Tuesday in a 3-2 win away to Metz, including the winner in the third minute of injury time with an opportunist header.

He will look to do that at home to mid-table Montpellier on Saturday.

GERMANY

Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund return to the Bundesliga chastened after Champions League exits to Real Madrid and Monaco, respectively.

Bayern, though, is at least on course for a record fifth consecutive Bundesliga title, holding an eight-point lead with five games remaining heading into Saturday’s game against relegation-threatened Mainz.

Dortmund, on the other hand, has been plunged into uncertainty by its inconsistent season and the effects of the attack on the team bus last week.

Fourth-place Dortmund is pushing for third and the last place to guarantee Champions League qualification, currently occupied by a Hoffenheim side enjoying its best-ever season under Julian Nagelsmann.

Fourth brings only a playoff to make Europe’s elite competition.

Dortmund faces a tough game at Borussia Moenchengladbach on Saturday, while Hoffenheim opens the 30th round at Cologne on Friday. Darmstadt is likely to be the first side relegated at Hamburger SV on Saturday.

ITALY

A week ago Roma was still hoping to beat Juventus to the Serie A title. Now it is looking nervously over its shoulder as it tries to cling onto second spot.

A 1-1 draw against Atalanta last weekend left Roma eight points behind Juventus, with six matches remaining. Third-place Napoli beat Udinese 3-0 to close the gap to just two points.

Roma isn’t playing until Monday against Pescara and it could start the game in third place if Napoli wins at Sassuolo the previous day.

Napoli is hitting its stride, having won five of its past six matches. It has also scored three goals in each of its past four victories as Lorenzo Insigne, Jose Callejon and Dries Mertens rip defenses apart, led by captain Marek Hamsik, who is closing in on Diego Maradona’s club record number of goals.

Roma has the tougher run in as, after Pescara, it faces Lazio in the capital derby, AC Milan and Juventus in succession. Its final two matches are against Chievo Verona and Genoa.

Napoli visits Inter before matches against Cagliari, Torino, Fiorentina and Sampdoria.

Also this weekend, Juventus hosts Genoa, while AC Milan welcomes Empoli hoping to give its new Chinese owners a win after their first match in charge ended 2-2 in the derby against Inter Milan.

 

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Thu, 08/17/2017 - 23:20

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