Welcome to the Weekend Commentary Thread
Crunch Time Part 4: The amount of time and number of matches is shrinking rapidly, no time for a bump in the road, its win and go forward. In the EPL, Manchester United have won the league with games to spare, Manchester City look like a lock for one of the remaining UCL spots. Everton seemed to be faltering, so the European slots are being contested by London’s Big Three. Separated by two points London’s giants Arsenal, Chelsea and Tottenham are battling it out. Arsenal and Chelsea play Sunday, so Clint Dempsey and Co. have an opportunity to pass them both. Sounds good, with the opposition, Wigan, being a bottom three team, easy win huh! Not so fast Wigan are the perennial survivalists, and never a walk over at the DW Stadium. But Tottenham should do Brad Guzan and Aston Villa a favor. One to watch. Tim Howard will lead Everton out to face Fulham and although mathematically still in the hunt for a Europa League spot, one game and five points behind Tottenham, Everton will have a tough task to make it. Stoke and Norwich round out our Saturday EPL action in a game that has little meaning, both teams would like the points and move a little higher, realistically neither are in relegation trouble, and have very little to play for. Aston Villa play Monday, against a resurgent Sunderland (2W-2L-1D in the last five) in what’s best described as season defining.
With just two weeks left in the Championship, Cardiff, have the first automatic promotion spot to the EPL locked up. Jozy Altidore’s old club Hull and Watford are vying for the other automatic spot. Hull have the edge by one point with a game in hand. Positions four through nine are separated by just six points (position three through six enter the promotion playoff’s). From a US Overthere perspective, Bolton are #6 and Leicester #7, separated by one point. Bolton have the edge with an extra game, but find themselves away to leaders Cardiff, who will be wanting to celebrate promotion at home – tough nut for Bolton this weekend. It looks like it will all come down to next weekend’s final Championship matches to decide the final playoff spots.
In Germany, the Bundesliga has four weeks left. Bayern Munich are the champions, with Dortmund and Leverkusen looking to be the other two automatic UCL representative’s from Germany in the UCL. Jermaine Jones and Schalke, currently in the UCL qualifiers spot, do not seem to be hitting form at the right time, and sit just one point ahead of the pack, for the final spot and chance at UCL soccer. Realistically Hannover at #9 could catch them, if the stars are aligned correctly, as only five points separate #4 Schalke from #9 Hannover, so its up for grabs and Schalke’s to lose. At the bottom half of the table Hoffenheim are at home to Nurnberg and Tim Chandler. On Sunday Mainz will face off against Frankfurt. Mainz are mathematically still in the Europa League hunt, but with four games left and six points behind Frankfurt it realistically is a slim chance.
On Sunday, Michael Bradley and Roma will do all they can to entrench themselves in the Europa League hunt as one of Italy’s Serie A representatives. Currently out point out of the EL spot, they face relegation battling Siena, Roma should get the three points from this game. Nothing for us this weekend, in Holland, as AZ played at Heerenveen Friday, with Jozy Altidore scoring two and setting up a third in a 4-0 win. AZ are now six points out of a Europa League place with two games left, but it would seem unlikely that they will make it. In Austria, #3 Rapid face #2 Salzburg, with the expected return of Terrence Boyd, who missed last week’s action with a suspension (yellow card accumulation). Rapid need some points from this game to maintain their lead of Sturm Graz who are three behind. A massive game for Anderlecht and Sasha Kljestan as they face nemesis Club Brugge on Sunday. In the wacky world of Belgium playoffs, Anderlecht have now slipped from their #1 spot and now have a battle on their hands to make the UCL from a charging Standard Liege. Not often mentioned, Tony Taylor and Estoril are knocking on the door for a Europa League place in Portugal. They won 2-1 against #4 Sporting Braga on Friday and now hold the #5 final spot, with three weeks left.
So there you have it, the major leagues in Europe as they approach their final few games. Of course this weekend we have many other games to follow, in Scandinavia, the lower European leagues and elsewhere around the world. So join me on the thread, rant and rave, discuss and debate or just make a comment, but join in, its what makes it fun.
Following last weekend I am assured by Comcast that the Internet will be available in Washington DC this weekend so join me Saturday Morning for all the games you can handle.