Ahead of the latest weekend of football, Jon Turner picks the five must-see matches. Note: All kick-off times UAE.
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Chelsea v Manchester City, Saturday, beIN Sports HD, 8.30pm
In August, this would have been earmarked as a potential title decider, but such has been the craziness and unpredictability of this season, instead it is 10th v 4th. Much has been made of Chelsea’s disaster of a season, but the soon-to-be deposed champions can still have a say in how the season ends, starting against City on Saturday. City occupy the final Uefa Champions League qualifying spot and a win at Chelsea will go some way to securing their place next season. Of course, City, who advanced to the semi-finals of the Uefa Champions League on Tuesday, could still go on and win it this season, rendering their league position irrelevant.
Bayern Munich v Schalke, Saturday, beIN Sports HD, 8.30pm
After a slight wobble that allowed Borussia Dortmund back into the title picture, Bayern Munich have reasserted their dominance in the Bundesliga and can, and likely will, take another step towards the title against Schalke on Saturday evening. Five matches remain in the Bundesliga and, with a seven-point gap, it would be a mighty shock if Pep Guardiola does not leave the Allianz Arena with a flawless record of three consecutive league titles. Schalke, who damaged Dortmund’s title hopes last weekend, have ambitions of their own and despite occupying seventh place, sit three points off fourth-placed Bayer Leverkusen in the final Champions League spot. Despite that, this should be a straightforward evening’s work for Bayern.
Inter Milan v Napoli, Saturday, beIN Sports HD, 10.45pm
For much of the season, Italy’s Serie A offered the most competitive and enthralling title race in Europe’s top five leagues. That was until recent weeks when Juventus opened up a six-point lead to seemingly march toward a fifth straight title. If second-placed Napoli are to have any realistic hope of a first title since 1990, victory at fourth-placed Inter Milan is essential. Especially as Juve host third-from-bottom Palermo. Napoli’s task will be made all the tougher by the absence of leading striker Gonzalo Higuain, with the 31-goal Argentine serving the second of a three match ban for his moment of madness in the defeat to Udinese.
Leicester City v West Ham United, Sunday, beIN Sports HD, 4.30pm
The dream that was supposed to fade a long time ago is now very much a reality. Indeed without tempting fate, it seems almost a forgone conclusion. Leicester City, who propped up the Premier League table with 10 games to go last season, are now three victories away from the unlikeliest title triumph in English football history. While form, and practically every neutral fan, is on their side, Claudio Ranieri’s side host a West Ham team more than capable of mixing it with the best. Four of the six nominations for PFA Player of the Year will be in action: Jamie Vardy, Riyad Mahrez, and N’Golo Kante for Leicester, and Dimitri Payet for West Ham, and it is the French playmaker that will need to be the difference for the visitors if they are to emerge victorious.
Barcelona v Valencia, Sunday, beIN Sports HD, 10.30pm
Could Barcelona be about to lose their once cast-iron grip on the Primera Liga title? At one point 10 points clear and seemingly motoring to a successful title defence, Barca have been pulled to within four points after successive defeats to Real Madrid and Real Sociedad, preceded by a draw against Villarreal. To call this blip a crisis may be a stretch, but defeat to a Valencia side that have endured a woeful season may just transform it into one. Lionel Messi has failed to score in his last four league appearances so surely the time is right for the world’s best player to do what he does best and win matches for Barca, just like he has done hundreds of times before.