Padraig Whelan·28 April 2023
Padraig Whelan·28 April 2023
From derby showdowns to potential title deciders, there’s another big weekend in store in the footballing calendar.
Borussia Dortmund’s local animosity is largely reserved for Schalke further to the west in North Rhine-Westphalia but, a little closer to home, there is still a considerable rivalry with Bochum.
Although it lacks some of the intensity of their meetings with Schalke, BVB head coach Edin Terzić made his thoughts quite clear on its significance in the build-up to this one.
“It is a Revierderby,” he stated quite simply. “We remember the Pokal game under the floodlights in Bochum very well. We know that the atmosphere will be heated again.”
There’s no doubt about that last part, with both teams in big need of the points, albeit for very different reasons.
For the home side, they are sitting precariously above the danger zone, two points ahead of Stuttgart in the relegation play-off spot, while Dortmund are top with their title destiny in their own hands.
Five wins from five would bring the Bundesliga trophy back to the Westfalenstadion and they are out to start that charge on Friday night.
Expect fireworks aplenty on and off the field in Athens this weekend from a colossal title decider from the Greek Super League.
One thing is for certain as the season races towards a dramatic conclusion: there will be a new name on the trophy as Olympiacos’ run of three straight titles will come to an end.
And the championship will return to the capital, with only the final destination of Panathinaikos or AEK left up for grabs.
They are currently level on points at the top ahead of this encounter and with just three games remaining after this one, it would see the victor take a huge step towards glory.
AEK last got their hands on the big prize in 2018 in what was their first title for 24 years, while The Shamrock’s most recent win was 13 years ago – too long for a club of their size.
With neither side likely to win a league title which looks destined for Rotterdam this season, this offers both a last shot at silverware for the campaign.
For interim Ajax boss John Heitinga, it could also go some way to convincing the powers that be that he is deserving of the job on a long-term basis.
But he’ll have to improve upon their showing a week ago when the sides met in Eredivisie action when Luuk de Jong’s brace inspired PSV to a 3-0 victory in Eindhoven.
They were also victorious when the teams met in the season’s traditional curtain-raiser last July, the Johan Cruyff Shield, coming out on top 5-3 on that occasion.
Will history repeat itself with a trophy at stake?
Prior to kick-off, things couldn’t be closer between them. Milan occupy the all important fourth place but are level on points with Roma and even their goal difference is identical, while in the prior meeting between the teams this season, they also couldn’t be separated.
That was arguably the beginning of the Rossoneri’s domestic struggles as they let two late goals in at San Siro to draw 2-2. Prior to that game, they’d dropped points in just five games all season but since that collapse, they’ve slipped up in nine of their 14 fixtures.
Those problems haven’t impacted their European form and like the Giallorossi in the Europa League, they too have a European semi-final to look forward to – a mouthwatering Champions League Derby della Madonnina against Inter.
But before any of that, there is one of the most exciting fixtures from the Serie A run-in for both to navigate. No matter what the result, it will have a huge impact on the top four fight.
One of world football’s biggest and fiercest derbies takes centre stage in the Scottish Cup semi-final on Sunday.
Celtic take on holders Rangers at Hampden Park, where they are aiming to keep their treble ambitions alive in a superb second season under Ange Postecoglou.
With the Hoops a win away from adding the Scottish Premiership to the League Cup they won in March by defeating Rangers in the final, the pressure is on Michael Beale’s side to find a way to stop their old rivals.
He has lost two and drawn one of the derby fixtures since taking over from Giovanni van Bronckhorst and it is a year since they last tasted success against Celtic, although that did come after extra-time in the semi-final of last year’s Scottish Cup.
With Falkirk taking on Inverness Caledonian Thistle in the other fixture, the victor here will be big favourites to go on and lift the trophy, one which will be huge in the context of both club’s seasons.