Football Across Europe: February 25 – 26

League Cup (England)

Manchester United vs. Southampton: José Mourinho has his first opportunity for silverware at Manchester United this Sunday when his Red Devils clash with Southampton in the EFL Cup Final. Though their league hopes may be left to a top-four fight, United eye this weekend’s match at Wembley as a proverbial launching pad. They’ll be without Henrikh Mkhitaryan, who was injured in the mid-week, while Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Paul Pogba look to secure the first trophy of the Mourinho era at United.

Premier League (England)

Chelsea vs. Swansea: Chelsea cannot afford to get caught sleep-walking atop the table Saturday when Swansea City come to town. The Blues remain runaway title favorites, but Manchester City have cut their lead to eight points and are red-hot, hoping to close the gap further. Swansea are no longer the step-over club they were throughout the first half of the season, having won three of their last four. Diego Costa, Eden Hazard and crew will have their hands full as they hope to keep their distance at the top.

Tottenham vs. Stoke City: It’s been a busy February for Tottenham, who play their sixth February match in all competitions on Sunday when they welcome Stoke to White Hart Lane. It has been a month of mostly dismal results. Despite advancing to the FA Cup quarterfinals, Spurs lost their last Premier League match to Liverpool and, on Thursday, were dumped from the Europa League by Belgian club Gent. Harry Kane and company will be looking to get back on track against a Stoke side that sits ninth in the table and is coming off a win in their last outing.

Leicester City vs. Liverpool: Probably the biggest story in English football this week was the decision by Leicester owners to sack manager Claudio Ranieri. Less than a year removed from their historic Premier League title, and despite still being alive in the Champions League, Leicester welcome Liverpool to King Power Stadium on Monday evening exactly one point clear of the relegation zone. As of this writing, it is still unclear who will lead Leicester on the touch line on Monday, but whoever it is will face a Liverpool side who have not played a match since February 11, a 2-0 thumping of Spurs which saw Sadio Mané register a brace. Liverpool currently sit a point outside the top four.

La Liga (Spain)

Atlético Madrid vs. Barcelona: Lionel Messi and crew eye a golden opportunity to climb back into the La Liga race with a weekend visit to the Vicente Calderón. Barcelona’s spirits are down after an embarrassing 4-0 Champions League defeat to Paris Saint-Germain, but the potential of moving atop the league table will keep them focused. For Atleti, it’s likely a must-win to revitalize their title hopes as they enter the weekend seven points down and in fourth place.

Villareal vs. Real Madrid: Los Blancos are in a free fall and desperately need three points at Villarreal to turn the tide. Cristiano Ronaldo and company have seen their league lead dwindle to just one point, although they still have a game in hand over challengers Barcelona. Gareth Bale is fresh off his return following a long injury absence and his impact will be critical. Sitting in sixth place, Villarreal are far from a pushover and will command Madrid’s full attention.

Bundesliga (Germany)

Bayern Munich vs. Hamburger SV: Bundesliga leaders Bayern Munich welcome Hamburger to Allianz Arena over the weekend. It’s that time of year when Bayern Munich distance themselves in Bundesliga, but this year requires more fight than usual with a slim five-point lead over RB Leipzig. Bayern have their eyes on a 2017 treble in Carlo Ancelotti’s first season at the helm, while Hamburger are trying desperately to avoid the drop zone with only 20 points in 21 games.

SC Freiburg vs. Borussia Dortmund: SC Freiburg welcome Borussia Dortmund to the Schwarzwald-Stadion on Saturday afternoon. They’ve run the gamut recently, registering a loss, win, and draw in their last three league matches. The mid-table side welcome a Dortmund club who has realistically seen the end of their title hopes, as they sit 13 points behind leaders Bayern Munich. Dortmund will now face a fight to stay in the top four and are facing a goal deficit in their second-leg Champions League match in early March.

Serie A (Italy)

Juventus vs. Empoli: Juventus is flying high going into their Saturday match against lowly Empoli. They have won five straight in all competitions, including a 2-0 Round of 16 first leg win over Porto on Wednesday in the Champions League. Empoli have only a draw to go with three losses since their last win in January. A curious stat? Juventus have still not drawn all season. One can be sure Empoli would be glad to take a point from Turin.

Inter Milan vs. Roma: Inter Milan welcome Roma to the San Siro on Sunday for a clash of Italian heavyweights. Inter come in on the heels of two straight league wins and currently fourth in the table. They welcome a Roma club who sits second, seven points behind leaders Juventus. Roma have been in top form of late, ripping three straight commanding wins in the league. They lost 1-0 to Villareal on Thursday in the Europa League, but still advanced to the Round of 16 on aggregate.



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