Football Preview – Can Newcastle Sink Southampton?
There are big games in England this weekend. Manchester United take on Liverpool in the Premier League, whilst Wolves take on third-placed Villa in the Championship, and leaders Luton take on their nearest rival Accrington in League 2. There’s also some interesting action in some of Europe’s other big leagues.
The main match of the weekend sees Manchester United host Liverpool in the Saturday lunchtime kick-off on Sky Sports. Both teams may only be playing for second place, however both teams will not want to finish behind the other in what is one of the most longstanding and bitter rivalries in the Premier League.
If you’re thinking this might be a humdinger of a match with so much at stake, I hope you’re right, but the last four matches between the two teams have been dour draws that have produced just four goals between them. However, whatever happens on Saturday, both teams should finish in the top-four and book their place in next season’s Champions League unless they implode over the final few matches of the season.
There’s much more at stake at the other end of the Premier League Table and there are some significant double-headers this weekend. The first of those is Huddersfield vs Swansea and both teams are currently on 30-points for the season. A win for either could them some significant breathing space over the other and it was Swansea who won the reverse fixture 2-0 earlier in the season.
It’s a similar scenario for Newcastle and Southampton who take each other on at St James’ Park this weekend. Newcastle have 29 points and Southampton 28 points. They shared a 2-2 draw at Southampton in October, as they did the last time they met at Newcastle in August 2015. The two teams currently sit in sixteenth and seventeenth positions and, as Crystal Palace and Stoke respectively have to play Chelsea and Man City this weekend, they may think they could pull clear of the relegation zone with a win. However, it’s worth noting that Crystal Palace have beaten Chelsea the last twice they visited Stamford Bridge.
Wolves remain six-points clear of Cardiff at the top of the Championship and 10 points clear of this weekend’s opponents Aston Villa in third place. Victory over Villa would surely turn the Championship into a two-horse race, however Villa haven’t been beaten at home in the Championship since November. The pair also drew 0-0 at Wolves in October.
Cardiff will certainly be hoping that Villa do them a favour as they don’t have the best of records against Saturday’s opponents Birmingham having failed to win any of their last five against them. Birmingham who, admittedly, are in the relegation Zone beat Cardiff 1-0 earlier this season.
It’s also a big match between Preston and Fulham with both teams still very much in the hunt for a play-off place. The two drew at Fulham in October but have very much had the upper-hand of late having won on their last two visits to Preston. There have also been at least three goals in the last four matches involving Preston and Fulham.
Title-chasing Wigan will be relishing hosting Scunthorpe this weekend as they won this fixture 3-0 last time it was played and have already beat Scunthorpe 2-1 in this season’s reverse fixture despite having a player sent-off. Scunthorpe have a play-off place to play for though so shouldn’t be pushovers.
Blackburn will be hoping to keep the gap between them and Wigan to six-points though as they take on Blackburn. They beat Blackburn twice in 2017 with a 2-0 home win in the FA Cup, whilst they won 4-2 on their travels this season.
Wigan could easily leapfrog Shrewsbury this weekend if past form is anything to go on though, as Shrewsbury host one of their bogey teams in Walsall. Shrewsbury haven’t won any of the last seven matches between the two teams and Walsall have won five of them.
There’s also a massive top-of-the-table match in League two on Saturday as leaders Luton take on their closest rivals Accrington. The pair met three-times in 2017, all at Accrington, with Luton winning both their league matches. They also beat Accrington the last time they played them at home.
Barcelona, Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid looks an obvious treble this weekend but, with Barcelona’s impending Champions League match against Chelsea to come and Real Madrid having no chance of winning La Liga, you wonder just how much either team will be up for this weekend’s matches.
Therefore, the most interesting match could be Sevilla vs Valencia. Valencia may sit one place and eight-points above their rivals but it’s Sevilla who have won the last two renewals of this fixture and 10 of the last 12.
As suggested last week, Schalke 04 leapfrogged their closest rivals in the Bundesliga to go into second spot and they’ll be hopeful of maintaining that position as they travel to Mainz 05. Schalke have won the last three matches between the two teams including a 1-0 win in this fixture last season and a 2-0 win in the reverse fixture this season.
Meanwhile, third and fourth placed Borussia Dortmund and Eintracht Frankfurt take each other on. They drew 2-2 earlier this season, whilst Dortmund won both matches the previous season by one goal and Frankfurt won both matches the season before that by one goal. All suggesting it should be a close affair. There have also been at least three goals in the last four matches between the two teams.
Juventus should be on a high after their Champions League defeat of Tottenham and its possible they could top the Serie A table by Sunday Night. An afternoon kick-off against Udinese, who they have won 9 of their last 12 games against, gives them every chance of piling the pressure on Napoli who don’t play until Sunday evening. Napoli also have to travel to Inter. However, whilst the teams only drew 0-0 earlier this season, Napoli did win both the matches between them last season.