Padraig Whelan·25 February 2022
Padraig Whelan·25 February 2022
There is silverware up for grabs and some crucial clashes across the continent this weekend.
Here are the five games you must tune in to.
Barcelona have looked resurgent in recent weeks under Xavi, who appears to be getting what he wants from his players.
But in Athletic Club, they face a direct rival in their bid for Champions League football – and one who’ve made things notoriously difficult for them in recent years too.
In the last 11 meetings between the teams covering the last four years, the Basque side have won three, drawn three and lost four. That’s indicator of how close these contests have been.
There’s also the small matter of their last meeting in January too, when Athletic dumped Barça out of the Copa del Rey after an extra-time thriller. Revenge may be in the minds of the Catalan giants.
Many Napoli fans were upset about how Maurizio Sarri’s time at the club ended but that became real hurt and anger when he joined hated rivals Juventus upon his return to Italy after one season at Chelsea.
He’s now in the dugout at Lazio where he has mixed fortunes in his maiden campaign at the capital to put it mildly.
But he could sour his relationship with his former fanbase, one who once worshipped him, even further when he welcomes the title-chasing Partenopei to the Stadio Olimpico on Sunday night where a win would land a big blow to their Scudetto chances.
Although they’re only two points off the top, they’ve drawn each of their last two games and there are signs of fatigue ahead of a tough trip to Rome, where things have been given an extra edge with the man waiting to greet them.
Victory will see either Jürgen Klopp or Thomas Tuchel become the first German coach to win a domestic cup competition in England.
The intrigue has increased with the Chelsea boss claiming he has a fully-fit squad for the occasion, while his compatriot is likely to be without both Diogo Jota and Roberto Firmino.
It is a chance for Tuchel to claim an incredible fourth trophy in just over a year in charge, while Klopp’s charges look back to their all-conquering best. It’s too close to call.
This one has it all. It is a spicy local derby between two teams who haven’t faced each other at this venue for some time with some extremely high stakes.
It would be a tense and dramatic occasion at the best of times given how much these sides hate each other but add in the fact that just a point separates them at top of the 2. Bundesliga and you have all the ingredients for a classic.
HSV won the previous meeting 2-0 this season and in case you thought the players won’t be as riled up as the support, that was a game which featured a total of 11 yellow cards and two reds. It could get feisty.
Admittedly, we are recommending two fixtures from the same division but when it is Sevilla-Real Betis, it comes with good reason.
This is as spicy as Spanish football offers when these two meet and the heat will be increased further following the events of their most recent meeting.
That toxic Copa del Rey clash memorably ended in abandonment when Sevilla’s Joan Jordán was struck in the head by a pole thrown from the crowd.
It was replayed the following day under protest at an empty stadium and Betis came out on top, although their celebrations were overshadowed by Andrés Guardado mocking the incident from the day before.
With Sevilla at home this time, an extremely nasty reception will be waiting the Verdiblancos, who could also land a potential fatal blow to their rivals’ title hopes with a win.