European Look Ahead: Dortmund close in on title, FA Cup derbies and more

Dortmund reuters


By JOHN BOSCHINI

As the Bundesliga turns down the home stretch, rivals become allies as Borussia Dortmund threaten to run away with another league title.

Dortmund's 1-0 victory over Bayern Munich Wednesday saw the defending champions move six points clear at the top of the table with only four games to play. Now Bayern must hope third-place Schalke can get a result when they welcome Dortmund on Saturday.

Schalke has plenty of incentive to get a victory, as they try to hold off a challenge from fourth-placed Borussia Monchengladbach. That feat could be made a bit more difficult as Mario Goetze could make his return for Dortmund after missing two months with a pubic bone fracture. 

A pair of derbies highlight a weekend at Wembley Stadium, as the semifinals of the FA Cup are on tap. The chance for a cup trophy will add some additional flavor to a pair of rivalries in the world Liverpool and Everton face off in a Merseyside derby, while Chelsea and Tottenham meet in a London derby.

Here is a look ahead to all the action from around Europe this weekend:


ENGLAND

Manchester United gave their cross-town rivals a glimmer of hope with their first-ever loss to Wigan in mid-week action, but Manchester City still have a lot of ground to make up, and time is running short. United welcome Paul Scholes back into the lineup and shouldn't have much trouble with a home match against Aston Villa. City will have to take care of business without the suspended Mario Balotelli as they travel to Norwich City.

As for the FA Cup, Liverpool and Everton are two teams heading in opposite direction, as Liverpool, despite winning the Carling Cup, have struggled mightily in 2012, while Everton is up to seventh in the Premier League. Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish's future at the club might depend on winning his second trophy of the season.

Chelsea and Tottenham face off in Sunday's semifinal match. Chelsea are about to begin a nightmare run of fixtures beginning with Sunday's game, which is followed by a pair of games against Barcelona in the UEFA Champions League and a league clash with Arsenal. Tottenham have their own worries as fourth place in the Premier League seems to be slipping away. Both teams might take the occasion to field slightly weakened sides.

PREMIER LEAGUE

SATURDAY

Norwich City vs. Manchester City, 7:45 a.m.
Sunderland vs. Wolverhampton Wanderers, 10 a.m.
Swansea City vs. Blackburn Rovers, 10 a.m.
West Bromwich Albion vs. Queens Park Rangers, 10 a.m. 

SUNDAY

Manchester United vs. Aston Villa, 11 a.m. 

MONDAY

Arsenal vs. Wigan Athletic, 3 p.m.

FA CUP SEMIFINALS

SATURDAY

Liverpool vs. Everton, 7:30 a.m.

SUNDAY

Tottenham vs. Chelsea, 1 p.m. 

SPAIN

All eyes have already turned to next weekend's Clasico, but Real Madrid will be desperate to keep the defending champions at arm's length. Madrid shouldn't have much trouble at the Bernabeu against Sporting Gijon, but things might not be so easy for Barcelona. Lionel Messi and Co. head to Levante as the surprise team of the season is still battling for a Champions League spot. Barcelona's dodgy away form makes three points far from assured.

Villarreal can all but assure their survival with a win over last-placed Racing Santander on Sunday. Real Zaragoza's last real chance of making a push for survival comes when they welcome Granada. Zaragoza is seven points from safety with six games to play.

SATURDAY

Real Madrid vs. Sporting Gijon, 2 p.m.
Levante vs. Barcelona, 4 p.m.

SUNDAY

Espanyol vs. Valencia, 6 a.m.
Malaga vs. Real Sociedad, 10 a.m. 
Real Betis vs. Osasuna, 10 a.m. 
Real Zaragoza vs. Granada, 10 a.m. 
Villarreal vs. Racing Santander, 10 a.m. 
Athletic Bilbao vs. Mallorca, 12 p.m.
Rayo Vallecano vs. Atletico  Madrid, 3:30 p.m.

MONDAY

Getafe vs. Sevilla, 3 p.m.

GERMANY

Aside from the title race, there isn't much drama left in the Bundesliga. Borussia Monchengladbach holds a seven-point cushion in fourth place over Stuttgart and welcome Cologne. The relegation battle does hold some intrigue as four teams, separated by four points, battle to avoid two relegation places.

FRIDAY

VfB Stuttgart vs. Werder Bremen, 2:30 p.m.

SATURDAY

Bayer Leverkusen vs. Hertha Berlin, 9:30 a.m.
Hamburg SV vs. Hannover 96, 9:30 a.m.
Kaiserslautern vs. Nurnberg, 9:30 a.m.
Schalke 04 vs. Borussia Dortmund, 9:30 a.m.
VfL Wolfsburg vs. FC Augsburg, 9:30 a.m.
Bayern Munich vs. Mainz, 12:30 p.m. 

SUNDAY

Borussia Monchengladbach vs. FC Cologne, 9:30 a.m.
SC Freiburg vs. TSG Hoffenheim, 11:30 a.m.

ITALY

The title is Juventus' to lose after a late goal from Alessandro Del Piero salvaged a 2-1 win over Lazio on Wednesday. AC Milan are now a point behind, and the two teams have nearly identical goal differentials, setting up a thrilling sprint to the finish. Lazio benefited from Udinese's loss to AS Roma and retain their three-point cushion in third place.

AS Roma has a shot of sneaking into the Champions League as they sit in fifth place, four points off third.

SATURDAY

AC Milan vs. Genoa, 12 p.m.
Udinese vs. Inter Milan, 2:45 p.m.

SUNDAY

Novara vs. Lazio, 6:30 a.m.
Atalanta vs. Chievo Verona, 9 a.m.
Cesena vs. Juventus, 9 a.m. 
Lecce vs. Napoli, 9 a.m. 
Palermo vs. Parma, 9 a.m. 
Siena vs. Bologna, 9 a.m. 
AS Roma vs. Fiorentina, 2:45 p.m.

MONDAY

Cagliari vs. Catania, 2:45 p.m. 

FRANCE

Silverware is on the line Saturday, as Lyon and Marseille do battle in the Coupe de la Ligue final. In league play, Montpellier has officially taken advantage of their game in hand and hold a three-point lead over Paris Saint-Germain. They should have no trouble maintaining that lead with an away trip to relegation-threatened Lorient. PSG shouldn't have any problems either with a matchup against last-place AJ Auxerre.

SATURDAY

Lyon vs. Marseille, 3 p.m.

SUNDAY

AS Nancy Lorraine vs. Bordeaux, 11 a.m.
Lille vs. AC Ajaccio, 11 a.m.
Lorient vs. Montpellier, 11 a.m.
Sochaux vs. Dijon FCO, 11 a.m.
St Etienne vs. Brest, 11 a.m.
Valenciennes vs. Evian Thonon Gaillard, 11 a.m.
AJ Auxerre vs. Paris Saint-Germain, 3 p.m. 

MONDAY

Stade Rennes vs. Nice, 3 p.m.

NETHERLANDS

There's a little more separation in the Eredivisie than a month ago but six teams still have a realistic chance at taking home the title. Ajax holds a three-point lead atop the table and hosts 17th-placed De Graafschap on Sunday. The biggest matchup opens the weekend when PSV Eindhoven welcomes AZ Alkmaar. A loss for AZ could not only put them out of the title race but see their Champions League place disappear. 

SATURDAY

PSV Eindhoven vs. AZ Alkmaar, 12:45 p.m.
Feyenoord Rotterdam vs. Excelsior, 1:45 p.m.
NEC Nijmegen vs. Heerenveen, 1:45 p.m.
FC Twente vs. NAC Breda, 2:45 p.m. 

SUNDAY

FC Groningen vs. Roda JC Kerkrade, 6:30 a.m.
Ajax vs. De Graafschap, 8:30 a.m.
FC Utrecht vs. VVV Venlo, 8:30 a.m.
Citesse Arnhem vs. ADO Den Haag, 8:30 a.m.
SC Heracles Almelo vs. RKC Waalwijk, 10:30 a.m. 

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Do you think Dortmund has the title all wrapped up? Who are you rooting for in the FA Cup? Will either Real Madrid or Barcelona slip up prior to the Clasico?

Share your thoughts below.

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10 Responses to European Look Ahead: Dortmund close in on title, FA Cup derbies and more

  1. G? says:

    Probably worth mentioning that schalke and dortmund are rivals in one of europe’s best and biggest derbies. The one where dortmund traumatized schalke by winning late in the season just five years ago
    Schalke want revenge, I imagine.

  2. the soccer faithful says:

    Oh Lord, we beseech thee, tell us that Dempsey speaks German. Ah-men.

  3. that's cause GOD'S a MURICAN says:

    take that smiting, o Rossi you traitorous traitor…

  4. that's cause GOD'S a MURICAN says:

    whoops, wrong article. sorry….

  5. al17 says:

    The race in France will come down to the last weekend. Ligue 1 should be called Bizarro since matches that should be guaranteed wins are anything but…makes my head hurt thinking about it. Hope like Hell that Lyon waxes OM in tomorrow’s Coupe de la Ligue Final. Always nice to see Faux Bleu lose.

  6. PD says:

    it’s such a great league to watch. I’ve followed Olympique Marseille for a few years and they’ve been a disapointment this season the whole league is anything but boring. I wish more young americans would get oportunities to play there… it’s nice level to prepare for the big 4 or Spain England Germany and Italy

  7. Spectra says:

    Pubic Bone? Is his junk OK?

  8. GorillaWearsJockStraps says:

    the guy in the picture above in the far right in yellow was in a picture yesterday with Robben. there should be some policy from SBI that the same person cannot be in a featured picture two days in a row.

  9. PetedeLA says:

    Exactly.

    “Schalke has plenty of incentive to get a victory, as they try to hold off a challenge from fourth-placed Borussia Monchengladbach.”

    Ha…

    They don’t need any added incentive.

    Those teams HATE each other!

    It’s far and away the biggest rivalry in the Bundesliga.

  10. Ara says:

    Most Euro leagues are dominated by just a few teams. The real competition is in France and Germany. I’d like to see more French and Germans come to play in the states.