Charles Kazlauskas and Helmond Sport in Eerste Divisie Promotion Playoff
Welcome to the Weekend Commentary Thread – Sunday Edition
Crunch Time: Decision Day. Germany closed out its seasons on Saturday, and the tension at Schalke and Hoffenheim was palpable. Today its England, Italy,Turkey, Portugal and Belgium.The potential for drama abounds as teams battle for a European place for next season or fight to stave off relegation into the lower leagues.
Yesterday I called it Germany Day, but no-one dominates today, so lets call it Euro Day. Lets start with England’s EPL, and lets key in on London specifically, where three teams #3 Chelsea, #4 Arsenal and #5 Tottenham, are chasing each other. One slip now will make the difference between the UCL and the Europa League next season. The matrix of possibilities is mind boggling, lets look at the matches. None of the games is easy (this is the EPL) Chelsea though seem to have the biggest task to maintain there position. #6 Everton and Tim Howard have had some success against Chelsea over the last few years, Everton cannot catch the front-runners any longer but a win at Chelsea would cap off a season, where they grabbed bragging rights from Liverpool, and David Moyes will like to have a win to see him off the Manchester United next season. I have a feeling Everton Wins. Arsenal visit lowly #13 Newcastle, on paper Arsenal should have no problem, but a 7-3 loss at The Emirates will be stuck in Newcastle’s craw, and a win would be something to sooth their fans frustrations for the summer months. I don’t believe Newcastle will win/ Draw. Now on to the match that all US fans will be following, Tottenham at White Hart Lane and #17 Sunderland. Gareth Bale and Clint Dempsey along with their team mates will want to do their bit to reach the UCL, win first, check on the teams around you later. Interestingly its been four years since a game between these two teams has had a spread greater than one goal, Tottenham did win 2-1 at the Stadium of Light, earlier this season. Sunderland’s woeful away record v Tottenham’s excellent home record says it all. I will buck recent history, Tottenham Wins by at least three goals.
In Belgium, its finale day in the “Championship Playoff” All six teams will be playing, and five of the six have an opportunity to reach European competition next season. The final games fell into one of the strangest configurations I can remember (this is points based league) #1 plays #2, #3 plays #4 and #5 plays #6 – What are the odds on that? Anderlecht and Sasha Kljestan play Zulte-Waregem for the automatic spot in the UCL. Both teams have the same post season record of 4W 2D 3L – Anderlecht are top based on the post season point system that gave them 34 points to start, Zulte-Waregem received 32 points (based on final positions in regular season ) Are you still with me? A win or draw and Anderlecht get the automatic spot, a loss and a 2+ goal win by #3 Club Brugge would knock Anderlecht out of a UCL spot, and into Europa league. Its wacky, but the drama it produces is unique to Belgium. History between the teams has Anderlecht with four wins, one draw and two losses over the past three years and with Zulte-Waregem winning the last two games (including a 2-1 home win on April 20th) I’m pulled toward a draw, but Anderlecht seem to have re-found its form of late. Anderlecht Wins.
In Portugal, Estoril and Tony Taylor have a famous opportunity, from what I can see Estoril has never been in European competition ( you can email me or comment if I’m wrong) On Sunday they will be playing Gil Vicente in the finale of the Portuguese Primeira Liga, they are two points above Vitoria Guimaraes, so a draw is all that Estoril need to play in the Europa League next season. Estoril are hardly a “big” club by anyone’s standards (example; their stadium capacity is 8K) and a chance of hosting some of Europe storied teams must be exciting the team and the fans. Lets hope they don’t choke, and make the jump. Gil Vicente are a nemesis for Estoril, you have to go back to 2009 since Estoril have beat them and have a lifetime six wins, two draws, nine losses record. Still I think that the moment will not be lost on the team. Estoril Wins
My last two teams are Bursaspor in Turkey and AS Roma in Italy. One has qualified for Europe already, the other cannot. The Ultras in Bursaspor “Texas” have made Maurice Edu a favorite, and whether Maurice plays in today’s game at Genclerbirgli they have pushed the management at Bursaspor to request of Stoke a full transfer. Bursaspor are sitting in the final Europa League place in Turkish Superliga, they can’t be caught or move higher. European competition is not new to them, although you might say European success would be. Genclerbirgli has not beaten Bursaspor since 2009, although there last meeting produced a scoreless draw. With little to play for by either team another draw wouldn’t surprise. The Green Crocodiles,Bursaspor Wins. AS Roma cannot reach European competition this year through the league, but I included them here because they play Naples and because they had a horrendous earlier part of the season that took them out of contention early. Sunday they play one of the hottest teams in Italy Serie A, Napoli. This is their European test. AS Roma v Napoli is a historical match-up that tends to end up split each season. Napoli walloped Roma in Stadio San Paolo 4-1 where Uruguay’s Roberto Cavani struck for three goals. AS Roma and Michael Bradley, but without Totti (red card) will want to have a good showing against the UCL bound team in their home finale. To Close to Call.
One other game to talk about, In Holland, Helmond Sport will visit Rotterdam in the Promotion Playoff 2nd leg. Unfortunately Charles Kazlauskas and co. are down on aggregate after a 4-2 home loss in the first leg. Still if the opposition can score four, why not you. Rotterdam and Helmond ended the season tied on points, with Rotterdam getting the edge through goal differential. Helmond did go to Rotterdam and beat them 3-0 last year, so they have done it in the recent past. Optimistically, I think this one goes to penalties.
So that’s my take on Sunday’s games. Agree? disagree? Let me know, be proactive if you don’t like the prediction then have one ready
Looking forward to you joining me early on Sunday morning for “The Thread” see you then.