Weekend of big football fixtures

 

This is a weekend of big football fixtures in Europe as big clubs are scheduled to do battle both in Spain and England.

The football fiesta starts today at 16:55 hours in Madrid, Spain where there is the Madrid derby match that pits Real Madrid against Atletico Madrid. The first-round meeting of the two at Vicente Calderon ended in 1-1 draw.

Zinedine Zidane’s men have fallen nine points behind leaders and reigning champions Barcelona (63) in La Liga, while they are trailing second-placed Atletico (57) by one point with 13 games to go.

Real know that a loss will leave them 12 points behind leaders Barcelona who play Villareal on Sunday from 21:50 hours. Real will be without Gareth Bale, but have enough firepower in Cristiano Ronaldo, Benzema and James Rogriguez.

In England, Super Sunday kicks off in grand style at 15:00 hours at Old Trafford where Manchester United will rekindle their age-old rivalry against Arsenal. United may have 16 players on injury, but the young players are taking good advantage of the situation to showcase their talent.

I need not mention 18-year-old Marcus Rashford whose brace sank Danish club Midtjylland on Thursday night to help United sail through to the Europa last 16. If I were to be opinionated, I would say Luis Van Gaal haters, who are speaking out of emotions than football nous, had a terrible night.

Arsenal, who are third with 51 points, will be keen to return to winning ways after being dismissed by Barcelona on Wednesday. Besides, they know that if they lose against United, they could be overtaken by Manchester City and it will render meaningless their victory against leaders Leicester. But Arsenal who have a full house should not underrate LVG’s kids.

Arsenal’s weak mental mindset came to haunt them in the FA Cup when they failed to beat championship side Hull City. Not only does it create congestion on their fixtures but it adds fatigue to the players at this stage of the season when every team wants to get it right.

Another mouth-watering match on Sunday is the Capital One final between Man City and Liverpool. Both teams know this is their best chance for silverware this season and both are buoyed by good results in Europe.

However, I give slight advantage to Man City. Manuel Pellegrini showed his shrewdness when he played a makeshift team against Chelsea in the FA, but the move was justified later when his fresh first 11 squad beat Dynamo Kiev in the Champions League after getting enough rest. The return of Vincent Kompany will mean more discipline at the back.

A few weeks ago, I mentioned that playing in four competitions will soon have repercussions on Manchester City; have I been vindicated? Man City lost two key games against title contenders Leicester City and Tottenham leaving them stranded in fourth position and seven points adrift of the Foxes who are at the summit.

It is clear City were suffering from too much football. They were in the finals of the Capital One (Feb 28), FA Cup 5th round, Champions League last 16 and the English Premier League as a result they were playing during weekends and midweek.n

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