I know it’s going to take a day to get back up for the games this weekend. The past 3 days of Champions League and Europa League action has been the ultimate high and to come back to league action over the weekend can be a little let down and here we are and we still have things to play for for. To be honest we couldn’t ask for a better weekend so many huge and good games.
Liverpool/Bournemouth (Saturday 1230PM EST NBC)
Liverpool is coming off the ultimate high midweek by beating Manchester City 2-1 to advance to the semifinals of the Champions League with a 5-1 win on aggregate.
Jurgen Klopp will have his job cut out to get this team up and at their best for this game. No doubt finishing in the top 4 looks like a formality at this point with a 10 point gap over Chelsea.
As I’m sure everyone knows Liverpool drew Roma for the semifinals of the Champions League and the first leg is at home on April the 24th so that gives them time to get the wins they need to shut the door on the top 4 but be healthy and rested for the Champions League showdown with Roma.
It will be very interesting to see who sits and who plays on Saturday after playing such a high intensity game on Wednesday.
My guess is that Mo Salah would probably be given the game off. He gave it everything he had in the second leg, but you have to wonder if he is at 100% at this point and the only reason he played is because of how high the stakes on Tuesday were. So, he would be the first I would sit.
I would like to rotate the center backs. Sit one of van Dijk or Lovren this week against Bouremouth with Ragnar Klavan stepping in and then next week against West Brom sit the other and play Ragnar Klavan again.
This way both Lovren and van Dijk get a game off between now and the first leg against Roma.
I would also look to see him rotate the full backs, midfielders, and Mane and Firmino in these next two games to make sure no one plays more than 1 game of the next two before the first leg against Roma.
The injuries will make it complicated but if Klopp gets creative he should be able to pull this off while still sending a strong side out against Bouremouth and West Brom.
Right now Bournemouth is one of those mid table teams that has nothing much to play for. When you’re still playing for something like Liverpool these are the types of teams you want to see. A team that really comes in with no motivation, which should make getting the 3 points a very attainable task. Even if we rest a few lads with a thin bench we should still have the edge in this game especially that this game is at home.
On the injury front Bournemouth is relatively healthy only missing Adam Smith, Junior Stanislas, and Tyrone Ming’s.
The first meeting between the two this season saw one of Liverpool’s better performances of the season up until that point with a 4-0 win at Vitality Stadium. Liverpool outshot the Cherries 21-6 on the day.
Eddie Howe is one of my favorite managers in the Premier League. Most managers when they first come into the EPL after promotion tend to play a more defensive style so they can try to grind as many points as possible with the only thing that matters is safety. But not Eddie Howe, he knows one way to play and that way is to play with the ball on the ground and work the ball from the back.
This is their third season in the top flight with finishes of 16th and 9th in their first two seasons. Last season they opened a lot of eyes by finishing in the top half and doing it their way, which is the type of attack orientated style that will win neutrals over.
Bouremouth is currently sitting 11th with 38 points, only 3 points out of 9th but that doesn’t tell the whole story.
If you look at expected points they would be 16th in the league. Defense is their problem, they are tied for 15th in goals against and if you look at expected goals against they would be 19th, so just like Burnley you could say that Bournemouth has been a team that has relied on some good fortune this season.
You can think what you want to think about advanced stats but they usually tell you something and a lot of times it backs up what your eyes tell you, which is this team is closer to being a team that should be closer to the relegation fight than the top half of the table. For a large part of the season they definitely seemed it.
The reason for this is obvious they are a really bad defensive team, a team that likes to attack and can attack but it leaves a rather poor defensive team very vulnerable in the defensive end.
Bournemouth’s current form is what you would expect from a team in 11th place. In their last 10 they are 3 wins, 2 losses and 5 draws. They are actually a decent team on the road with 3 wins, 7 losses, and 6 draws, that’s not going to get you to Europe or anything but its definitely something that will keep you up. They went 7 games unbeaten in January which got them heading in the right path but since then they have 7 wins 2 losses and 7 draws in their last 16 league fixtures. It has been good enough to take them from being a team worrying about relegation to a team that is easily safe.
This is the type of team Liverpool usually doesn’t give Liverpool any real problems. Liverpool is a good defensive team now and Bournemouth isn’t the type of team that will be parking the bus especially now that they have that nothing to lose attitude. With the first semi against Roma not until the 24th what healthy bodies Klopp has he will play. If anyone has a knock that he could play if this was the Roma game they may sit but I still feel like this should be a stronger side than we saw against Everton last Saturday.
This is still important it is important for Liverpool to keep winning to keep Chelsea dead and buried so I have no doubt you will see a motivated club come Saturday. Sports are all about matchup’s and I see Bournemouth as a good matchup for the Reds so I think this is a pretty easy win.
Now let’s go through and tell you the best of the rest to watch this weekend with some picks. As this is an incredible weekend with some real high quality games with large meanings.
Tottenham/Manchester City (Saturday 2:45PM EST NBCSN)
A rare Saturday night game this week in England so there will be 11 hours of straight coverage between NBCSN and NBC which despite it being the nicest day in months coming tomorrow, tomorrow is a great day to settle in for some football. I know I will.
The final game of this quadruple header will be between Spurs and City. Now City can’t clinch the title by winning this, however if they win on Saturday and United would lose on Sunday they would be champs.
Spurs these days are more worried about if Harry Kane gets credit for every goal ever and we know City is in a bit of a funk having lost 3 straight (2 to Liverpool and 1 to United)
Spurs are still in a bit of a battle for a top 4 spot. They have a 10 point lead which should be insurmountable but they definitely want this in front of their fans to pretty much guarantee that top 4 spot.
However I can’t see this City team losing 4 in a row. They will be a pissed off team and take it out on Spurs. This is the game of the week and one of the best games all week in a week with a lot of big games but I think City wins this in a potential classic.
- Chelsea/Southampton (Saturday 745am NBCSN)
Southampton needs this real bad. They come into the week 3 points from safety but played pretty well last week against Arsenal in a 3-2 loss.
Chelsea just like Southampton has their backs against the wall. It is a little different as Chelsea is worried about top 4 but Southampton has to worry about safety.
Chelsea is just about done at this point, they are on life support basically waiting for the family to pull the plug. If they don’t win here any miracle chance they had is over. They didn’t play that poorly in the draw last week against West Ham but this team gives off the feeling of a team that is done and their manager gives off the same vibe. This game would be so huge for Southampton so I’m riding with then.
- Crystal Palace/Brighton (Saturday 10am)
Probably the biggest game in the relegation fight this weekend. You know one of those 6 pointers. Brighton has a 7 point lead for safety and Palace only has a 3 point lead.
Palace has blown a lot of points this season and lately. They should be better than what they are. I still think they stay up but if the keep dropping points like last week they may blow this.
Brighton is about at the point where if they get another win or two they are going to survive with no problems.
Of all the games in the league this week this is the one head to head matchup for relegation. The game is at Palace and Brighton is basically a Trainwreck away from home, so I think this is where Palace gets their much needed huge victory which will put them on the right track to safety.
- Burnley/Leicester (Saturday 10am)
I have felt all season Leicester was the best of rest, meaning not part of the top 6 and I ultimately thought they would pass Burnley and get that Europa League spot, but it’s looking more unlikely by the week. Leicester last week lost at home 2-1 to Newcastle and Burnley somehow beat Watford 2-1 at Watford in the millionth time this season Burnely won a game they had no business winning.
Leicester seems to do better when they can counter attack which won’t happen against Burnley, plus I feel Leicester has packed it in for the summer, so I would expect a typical Burnely game.
Leicester dominates from start to finish, they will outshoot them 400-2, but Burnely will get two goals off of long balls off of someone’s head and find a way to win to virtually punch their ticket to the Europa League (as long as Southampton doesn’t win the FA Cup)
- Huddersfield/Watford (Saturday 10am)
Huddersfield is right in the mud of the relegation race with only a 4 point edge over Southampton. Huddersfield had to be happy with the draw at Brighton last week. On the other hand we know Watford is playing out the string. They had a solid performance last week against Burnely but ran into the Burnley luck train.
This time is on the road against a team that has everything to play for. I just feel like this is Huddersfield’s day, they will come out with an inspired effort to get the much needed 3 points.
Swansea had a tough 1-1 draw at West Brom last week, their lead is slipping and I’ve felt like all season this was the worst team in this league. They have a 4 point lead, so we’re at the point for the Swans that every game is important.
After today their last 5 games are against City, Chelsea, Bournemouth, Southampton, and Stoke.
I almost feel like if they don’t take advantage of Everton at home relegation is where they will finish.
Everton is 17th in the league in road points, so if you’re going to get points this is the week if you’re Swansea.
Everton was pathetic in their draw against Liverpool last week, so I really don’t see Everton offering much in this. Part of me says draw but I’m going to roll the dice and say Swansea gets the win .
- Newcastle/Arsenal (Sunday 830am)
Newcastle is coming off a huge win that put them in a great position to survive. They’re up to 10th in the league with a 10 point gap, so they should be good but one more win should all but do it.
Arsenal is in better form, but should be a good opponent here for Newcastle. Arsenal is coming off a trip to Moscow and will definitely be rotating some guys as the Europa League is now their top priority.
Arsenal is also a poor team on the road so I expect this to be a fun day at St James Park.
- Manchester United/West Brom
Probably the game I least care about. Neither have anything to play for and neither are fun to watch. But if United gives any effort they will have no problem here.
Best of the rest
Plenty of good stuff happening outside of England this weekend.
In Spain we have Sevilla/Villarreal which always has the chance to be a wonderful game even though neither have much to play for.
Also in Spain we have Barcelona/Valenica. Barca is still going for the unbeaten La Liga campaign and Valenica is currently in 3rd over Real Madrid and no doubt they want to keep their dream season going, beat Barca and finish ahead of Real Madrid, but no doubt they will be in the Champions League next season.
Also the first game between the two was an absolute beauty.
In France we have PSG/Monaco. PSG has a 14 point lead over Monaco and Monaco has a 7 point lead on third place Lyon so this one is about pride but these two sides hate each other so this will be a good one.
Huge one on Saturday between Leverkusen and Frankfurt. Right now Leverkusen is in 4th with 48 points and Frankfurt is in 5th 46 points. Leverkusen is coming off a huge win Monday when they beat Red Bull Leipzig 4-1.
The other big match in Germany is Sunday when Schalke face off with Dortmund in the Revierderby. This is a big one with Schalke in second holding a one point lead over Dortmund in third. This one should be great if you remember the last meeting Dortmund held a 4-0 lead after 25 minutes. Held the 4 goal lead until the 61st minute when Schalke scored goals in the 61st, 65th, 86th, and 94th minute to pull off one of the best comebacks i have ever seen. So, no doubt Dortmund will want revenge.
Schalke is coming off of a tough 3-2 loss at Hamburger last week so this will be a big one as it’s important for both sides with Leverkusen, Frankfurt, and Leipzig breathing down their necks.
Juventus still holds a 4 point lead over Napoli but it’s far from over and you have to wonder how the devastating fashion Juve lost on Wednesday could affect them.
The big games here are Atalanta/Inter. Atalanta is always a pain in the ass to play against so it’s worth your time to watch, but Inter is in 5th with 59 points with Roma/Lazio tied for 3rd/4th with 60 points. Who btw the way play each other this weekend. So needless to say with those two playing each other this is a huge one for Inter to take advantage, but it won’t be easy.
Roma and Lazio is a fierce of a rival as their is. They are tied in points with 60 and both are coming in feeling a bit differently. We all know Roma beat Barca 3-0 to get to the semis of the Champions League. For the first time ever. One of their biggest wins in their historic history. Lazio is coming in off a low blowing a 5-2 aggregate lead in losing the game 4-1 and 6-5 in aggregate to Red Bull Salzburg, so it will be very interesting to see the emotional response from both, but this is the Derby Delle Capitale which should eliminate any hangovers the two had from mid week Europe. Plus like I said as they are in a 3 team race for 2 Champions League spots so it doesn’t get better than this.
In the title race Juve is at home with Sampdoria and Napoli travels to the San Siro to face Milan. Which isn’t easy and Napoli is at the point that they likely have to win out if they want to win the Scudetto.
Dont forget about these
Two other huge games of note I won’t miss and neither should you.
PSV hosts Ajax in one of the best rivalries world wide and Benfica hosts Porto.
PSV has a 7 point lead over Ajax so if Ajax wants to have any chance to getting back into this race they have to win here.
Benfica/Porto is as good as it gets. Benfica has a 1 point lead over Porto with only 5 games to play so this one might decided the title in Portugal. It is definitely a game you don’t want to miss.
There are so many huge games and good games this weekend so I would bunker up on the couch from 7am to 5pm on Saturday and Sunday. Good news is weather should be gorgeous and you should get two hours of sunlight each day to enjoy. Enjoy the football it is going to be incredible. Too many good games for it not to be.