It may be an off-weekend for the English Premier League, but there’s plenty of compelling soccer to watch, and I’m not talking about USA v. Honduras.
In Germany, sixth place Werder Bremen take on third place Bayern Munich on Saturday. Werder have been struggling of late, winning one of the last eight matches, but sit only ten back of Bundesliga leaders Bayer Leverkusen. A resurgent Bayern (coming off of seven straight victories in Germany and Europe) find themselves only two back from the top spot, and welcome back French international Franck Ribery from a long spell out with a knee injury and a nasty sounding toe knock. [Reuters]
Later on in the day, Juventus host Roma at the Stadio Olimpico. Juve trail Roma by two points, and under-fire gaffer Ciro Ferrara can only hope for a result, to save his job in the least, losing four of the last five league matches. I haven’t watched a lot of Juve this season, probably because there hasn’t been a reason to, and the Old Lady doesn’t look to be in the running for the scudetto this year, but only trail fourth place by a point. In the end, Ferrara probably won’t last the season, Juve should qualify for the Champions League, and we’ll do it all over again, that is, until they buy another title. Roma, on the other hand, have been on a recent run of good form, passing Juve to take third place last weekend, and the Giallorossi haven’t lost a league match since October. Throw in a returning Francesco Totti and newly-acquired Luca Toni, and there should be enough overrated players there to at least safely achieve a top four spot. Honestly, this could be a snooze, but it gets the blood running for . . . [ESPN]
The Milan derby kicks off on Sunday, when Milan attempt to make up some ground in the six-point gap between them and Inter. The Rossonieri have a game in hand, and the return of David Beckham (yeah, I know), and a hot Ronaldinho has given Milan some belief that they can topple Inter and Jose Mourinho from the top spot. New manager and World Cup winner Leonardo has seen some of the heat die down after turning around an ugly start to the season for Milan, and will definitely want to avenge the 4-0 thumping Inter gave them earlier in the season. There’s always a chance of seeing a dour, apprehensive match, but with all the drama and tension, this derby should be exciting enough. [Guardian Blog]
And we cannot forget about La Liga, where Barcelona visit Valladolid on Saturday, and Real Madrid host Malaga on Sunday. While hardly matches that burn up the airwaves on paper, watching Barcelona (and Real Madrid expensively falter) is always an event. With a five-point gap over the free-spending Merengues, Barca look on par to achieve similar results to last year’s historic treble season. Guardiola’s re-upping with the Blaugrana should put all the speculation over his future to rest, at least for the remainder of the season, and it’s his side’s trophy to lose with Real Madrid struggling to match the free-flowing Catalan side. In my opinion, not winning the league and/or Champions League would amount to disappointment for Real Madrid this year, after spending so much cash on Kaka and Cristiano Ronaldo. There are still a lot of matches to be played, so the tension is still there between the Spanish giants, making for compelling table-watching.
Don’t forget about the FA Cup: Football’s oldest competition continues this weekend, with the fourth round of the FA Cup. [FA]