Friday, March 30, 2012

Weekend highlights

As we enter crunch time on most leagues in Europe, the upcoming football weekend will be packed with exciting matches and unpredictable outcomes. Let's take a quick look at some of the most promising match-ups.

In Portugal, Braga leads the championship, one point ahead of FC Porto and two from Benfica. Benfica and Braga will meet on Saturday at Estádio da Luz, while FC Porto entertain Olhanense at home in a must-win match, a couple of hours earlier. Will Benfica be able to get ahead of Braga, who haven't defeated Benfica away in a few decades? Next week: Braga vs FC Porto and Sporting vs Benfica.

In Italy, there will be a classic match that's decisive for both teams playing it - Juventus vs Napoli. The bianconeri are four points off Milan and can't afford to waste any more points, if they're to win the league. Napoli, in turn, sit fourth (level with Udinese), three points behind Lazio, in a fight for the last Champions League place. This means that neither team will be able to do their usual thing of sitting and waiting.

In Spain, the most interesting match pits Barcelona against Bilbao, not least because only 48 will have elapsed since the Basques' amazing win (2-3) in Schalke's own turf. Since neither team can afford to drop points and both base their game on pressing the opponent, what will it mean? Will Bilbao change half the team and maintain their pressing? Will Barça?

Finally, in England, there's some expectation as to what Roberto Di Matteo will do in the match against Aston Villa. Will he change half the team that won in Lisbon last Tuesday or will he stick to his guns and leave his winning eleven untouched? On Sunday, Newcastle will face Liverpool, hoping Chelsea have dropped points the day before, so that they can keep dreaming about Champions League football for next year. As for Liverpool, having ensured the return to European competition via their League Cup win, they are clearly waiting for the season to finish.

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