La Liga’s top two are both away from home this weekend, in matches broadcast live on SuperSport
With seven games of the Spanish season to go, there’s almost nothing to separate Real Madrid and Barcelona, who are neck and neck at the top of the table on 68 points.
Zinedine Zidane’s side leads the table by virtue of a greater head to head record against their old nemesis, having taken four points from Barca this term.
With La Liga placements ultimately decided on head to head results rather than goal difference–which Barca lead +39 to +38—that 2-0 victory at the Bernabeu on March 3, when Vinicius and Marcelo secured a late victory, could prove vital.
Real have been relentless since football resumed following the coronavirus lockdown, having won all of their last four matches, scoring 10 in the process, and have thoroughly made amends following their 2-1 defeat by Real Betis back in March.
They didn’t have things all their own way against Real Mallorca in midweek, with Vinicius again the hero with the opener, and Sergio Ramos adding a second early in the second half to take all three points.
The impressive Ramos, in particular, is keen for Real to silence the doubters, and end the speculation that they’re being ‘assisted’ to the title, and will surely be desperate for all three points against bottom-club Espanyol on Sunday.
“All the noise that’s being made is because we’re leaders now,” Ramos told Movistar.
“When we weren’t, people didn’t talk so much. Referees and VAR are here to help… I don’t think they take any predetermined decisions.
“The noise needs to stop,” he added. “It’s as if we should be thanking the referees for being leaders. People shouldn’t be imagining things.”
Thursday 25 June Article – Games to be covered:
Thursday 25 June – Chelsea vs Manchester City (Premier League)
Friday 26 June – Juventus vs Lecce (Serie A)
Saturday 27 June – Lazio vs Fiorentina (Serie A)
Saturday 27 June – Celta Vigo vs Barcelona (LaLiga)
Sunday 28 June – AC Milan vs Roma (Serie A)
Sunday 28 June – Espanyol vs Real Madrid (LaLiga)
Sunday 28 June – AC Milan vs Parma (Serie A)
Saturday/Sunday – FA Cup fixtures
With Espanyol nine points from safety and staring relegation in the face, it’s imperative Real let their football do the talking on Sunday.
By this point, they may well have dropped to second place, with Barca set to face Celta Vigo away on Saturday.
While Quique Setien’s side is overwhelming favourite, they were unconvincing against Athletic Bilbao in midweek—requiring Ivan Rakitic to come off the bench to net a late winner—and their attacking unit appeared worryingly short of invention and menace.
Even more concerning for the reigning champions, they face a Celta side who appear to have turned the corner in their battle against the drop.
The Galicians have won both of their last two matches and will represent a stern foe at the Estadio de Balaidos.
In Premier League action over the coming days, Manchester City are away at Chelsea on Thursday evening, as they look to keep Liverpool waiting for their inevitable title for another week.
Pep Guardiola’s side has been rampant since the league resumed, cruising past Arsenal 3-0 in their opener, before thrashing Burnley 5-0 on Monday.
The Spanish coach made a litany of changes before that second match, as Sean Dyche’s team was brushed aside, with both Phil Foden and Riyad Mahrez starring as the Claret and Blue were dispatched in style.
While Chelsea responded well to falling behind against Aston Villa on Sunday—with Christian Pulisic and Olivier Giroud scoring to bag all three points—the Blues have looked vulnerable at the back, and risk being exposed by the reigning champions.
Will Chelsea’s Champions League aspirations be dented by this free-flowing City side, or will the Blues hand Liverpool the title already by taking points from City on Thursday?
If City don’t drop points, then they will take the title race to another fixture—the clash with Liverpool on July 2—and could then extend the Reds’ wait for the championship a little while longer.
Chelsea are also in action in the FA Cup when they are away at Leicester City on Sunday, while Manchester City are away at Newcastle United later on the same day.
Before that, both Manchester United and Arsenal are in action, with the pair both viewing the FA Cup as a rare opportunity for silverware this season.
The Red Devils are away at struggling Norwich City, looking to extend the fine form that saw them dispatch Sheffield United emphatically earlier in the week, while Arsenal must put aside their dire recent form when they travel to the Blades.
There’s also four Serie A matches to look forward to this weekend, with title contenders Juventus, Lazio and Internazionale in action against Lecce, Fiorentina and Parma respectively.
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Juve took a major step towards the title without playing on Wednesday, as Inter conceded in the 89th minute against Sassuolo—dropping two points in a 3-3 draw—while Lazio threw away a 2-0 lead to fall to a 3-2 victory at Atalanta.
The league leaders would open up a seven-point lead if they dispatched struggling Lecce, who have lost their last three.
On Sunday, eighth-placed AC Milan can also boost their hopes of European qualification when they host Roma, who are nine points ahead of them in fifth, in the day’s early kickoff.