Football Across Europe: March 17-18

Premier League (England)

West Brom vs. Arsenal: Reeling Arsenal desperately need to avoid a complete implosion of their season when they visit West Bromwich Albion in an early Saturday affair. The Gunners have dropped three of four in all competitions after yet another embarrassing exit in the Champions League round of 16, and now sit five points out of the top four. Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil will have to rebound from their recent lows and pick up a critical three points at The Hawthorns against eighth-placed West Brom to get Arsenal back on track or risk a complete demolition and more questions about manager Arsene Wenger’s future.

Stoke City vs. Chelsea: Chelsea head to bet365 Stadium on Saturday afternoon on quite a roll. They maintain a ten point lead in the EPL table late in the season and have advanced to the FA Cup semifinals. They are 3-2-0 in their last five and have not lost since the 4th of January. Stoke is coming off an inspired defensive effort, holding City scoreless at the Etihad in their last outing. They will have their hands full with the leaders, though, as Diego Costa, Eden Hazard, N’Golo Kanté, and company will be looking to keep it rolling.

Middlesbrough vs. Manchester United: As Manchester United excel in other competitions, they remain stuck in sixth place in the league entering a key road trip to Middlesbrough on Sunday. The ultra-competitive top four hasn’t been this close in months as Wayne Rooney, Paul Pogba and crew sit six points back of fourth with two games in hand. Middlesbrough could claw their way out of the relegation zone with a surprise win, and United will need to match their desperation despite missing Zlatan Ibrahimovic due to suspension.

Tottenham vs. Southampton: Tottenham will look to continue their offensive demolition at home against a Southampton side known for its defensive structure. Spurs have outscored their last three opponents a combined 13-2, but still sit 10 points back of league-leading Chelsea and are only six points shy of falling out of the top four altogether. The Saints are stuck in mid-table, but have won two straight in league play and certainly boast a defense capable of keeping the potent Tottenham attack to a low-scoring affair.

Manchester City vs. Liverpool: The marquee bout of the weekend takes place at the Etihad Stadium when Manchester City and Liverpool clash in primetime. The always precarious Reds have some momentum after winning three of four in the league and reigniting their top-four chances. City are a point up on Liverpool with a game in hand, but Kevin de Bruyne and company enter emotionally deflated from a Champions League exit to Monaco on Wednesday. The Citizens’ reeling defense will need to handle the explosive attack of Philippe Coutinho, Sadio Mane and company to avenge a New Year’s eve loss to Liverpool and get back on track.

La Liga (Spain)

Athletic Bilbao vs. Real Madrid: Real Madrid head to Basque country on Saturday for an afternoon kickoff at San Mamés. Though Barcelona is only two points back, Real Madrid have a game in hand and are coming off both a convincing aggregate victory over Napoli in the Champions League and a league win last weekend which saw goals from Cristiano Ronaldo and Sergio Ramos. Bilbao have won their last two league matches and their last four at home and will be looking to pull the upset.

Atlético Madrid vs. Sevilla: Atlético Madrid welcome Sevilla to the Vicente Calderón Stadium on Sunday in a match with a number of story lines. Atléti advanced to the quarterfinals of the Champions League this week while Sevilla were dumped from the competition by Leicester City. Sevilla also sits third in the La Liga table, three points behind Barcelona and five points ahead of Madrid who, in turn, sit only four points ahead of Villareal. It should be a nerve-wracking match for all parties involved, with thoughts of both this and next year’s Champions League on everyone’s mind.

Barcelona vs. Valencia: A few days after making Champions League history, overcoming a 4-0 deficit to PSG to win 6-5 on aggregate to advance to the Champions League quarterfinals, Barcelona stumbled to a 2-1 loss on Sunday, which hampered their chase of Real Madrid atop the La Liga table. They will look to right the ship as they welcome 13th place Valencia to Camp Nou with the last of the weekend’s La Liga kickoffs on Sunday. The world class attack of Lionel Messi, Neymar, and Luis Suárez will seek to put their mark on yet another pivotal match for Barca.

Bundesliga (Germany)

Borussia Mönchengladbach vs. Bayern Munich: After being chased closely for much of the season, Bayern Munich have yet another Bundesliga title all but wrapped up, with a ten point lead over RB Leipzig heading into this weekend. That said, there is always intrigue when the perennial powerhouse visits one of Germany’s other storied and historic clubs, Mönchengladbach. Gladbach lost their last time out in the Bundesliga after winning two straight. They will need to execute flawlessly, as Bayern have ripped off three straight league wins by a combined score of 14-0.



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