European Weekend Preview: Everton host Arsenal; Real Madrid face Sociedad; and more

Arsenal's Mikel Arteta battles with Everton's Kevin Mirallas

Photo by Michael Zemanek / ISIPhotos.com

By JUSTIN FERGUSON

Arsenal’s draw with Manchester City last weekend may have kept them alive in a crowded race for the English Premier League title, but a road loss this weekend could do more than keep them out of contention—it could keep them out of the Champions League next season.

Fourth-place Arsenal are four points of fifth-place Everton heading into Sunday’s trip to Goodison Park, where Everton have only lost once in league play this season. Everton, who have a match in hand on Arsenal, have won six straight at home and will be looking to move closer to a Champions League spot with a victory Sunday. The Toffees could be boosted by the return of Phil Jagielka to the starting lineup, but bright young midfielder Ross Barkley might miss Sunday’s clash after leaving last weekend’s match against Fulham with an injury.

Arsenal are slowly getting back to health as Aaron Ramsey and Nacho Monreal return to Arsene Wenger’s squad this weekend. Although Everton will enter the match with more momentum, the two sides battled to a 1-1 draw at Emirates Stadium and have played extremely tight matches in recent seasons. In the last eight EPL fixtures between Arsenal and Everton, neither side has won a match by more than one goal, making for another intense battle at Goodison Park on Sunday.

In Spain, third-place Real Madrid have rallied from their short slump with a 5-0 rout of Rayo Vallecano in league play and a 3-0 first-leg victory against Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League quarterfinals. This weekend, Los Blancos look to stay within striking distance of crosstown rivals Atletico when they visit fifth-place Real Sociedad. Madrid had no problem with Sociedad in their 5-1 smashing earlier this season, but Sociedad have won three of their last four home matches—including a 3-1 victory against Barcelona—to keep them in the hunt for a Champions League spot.

Here is a closer look at the weekend’s action from the top leagues in Europe:

ENGLAND

First-place Liverpool take their two-point lead atop the EPL table into Upton Park this weekend for a road match against 11th-place West Ham United, who have won four of their last five matches at home. Liverpool have won eight league matches in a row and are on a remarkable offensive tear, scoring three or more goals in seven of those victories. While West Ham have cemented themselves in the midtable of the EPL after a solid run of form, they will definitely have their hands full against a Liverpool side that controls its own destiny in the race for a league title.

Second-place Chelsea are looking to stay unbeaten at Stamford Bridge in league matches under Jose Mourinho this weekend, when they take on a 10th-place Stoke City side that defeated Chelsea 3-2 earlier this season. The Potters have also won four of their last five league matches to put them into the top half of the league table, but they also sport won of England’s worst home records—just two wins in 16 trips away from the Britannia. Mourinho’s Blues have lost back-to-back matches after their 6-0 destruction of Arsenal and will need to get back to their winning ways this weekend.

Here are this weekend’s matches in the English Premier League:

Saturday:
Manchester City vs. Southampton
Aston Villa vs. Fulham
Cardiff City vs. Crystal Palace
Hull City vs. Swansea City
Newcastle United vs. Manchester United
Norwich City vs. West Bromwich Albion
Chelsea vs. Stoke City

Sunday:
Everton vs. Arsenal
West Ham United vs. Liverpool

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SPAIN

First-place Atletico Madrid are winners of five straight in La Liga, and they hope to stay ahead of Barcelona and Real Madrid with a victory against Villarreal at the Vicente Calderon. Atletico also grabbed a precious road goal against Barcelona earlier this week in the Champions League, a competition that could lead to some interesting lineup decisions for manager Diego Simeone. Villarreal forced Atletico to share points in their meeting earlier this season, but the league leaders will most likely need all three from the match to stay on top in La Liga.

Second-place Barcelona will hope to end their rough week on a high note against last-place Real Betis at Camp Nou. On top of the club’s 1-1 home draw with Atletico in the Champions League quarterfinals, Barcelona now have to deal with the news of a transfer ban for the next two windows. Barcelona handled Betis 4-1 in their first meeting of the season, and they should have no problem posting another victory at home as they prepare for an all-important second leg with La Liga’s leaders next week.

Here are this weekend’s matches in La Liga:

Friday:
Almeria vs. Osasuna

Saturday:
Atletico Madrid vs. Villarreal
Barcelona vs. Real Betis
Real Sociedad vs. Real Madrid
Rayo Vallecano vs. Celta Vigo

Sunday:
Malaga vs. Granada
Elche vs. Getafe
Sevilla vs. Espanyol
Real Valladolid vs. Valencia

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GERMANY

Before Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich return to the Allianz Arena for the second leg of their Champions League quarterfinal against Manchester United, the title holders must visit eighth-place Augsburg in league play. Bayern had no problem with Augsburg in their 3-0 meeting earlier this season, and Augsburg will enter Saturday’s match on a four-match winless skid. With the title already sealed for Bayern, the storyline surrounding this match will be if Bayern can continue their impressive domestic unbeaten run and get ready for the visit from Man United.

The match of the weekend in the Bundesliga will be second-place Borussia Dortmund vs. fifth-place Wolfsburg at the Signal Iduna Park. While Dortmund hold a one-point lead over Schalke for the runners-up spot in the league, Wolfsburg are one point behind fourth-place Bayer Leverkusen for the final Champions League spot in Germany. Wolfsburg have not lost since their 6-1 demolition at the hands of Bayern Munich, and they will have more momentum heading into a match against a Dortmund side that was humbled 3-0 at the Bernabeu earlier this week.

Here are this weekend’s matches in the Bundesliga:

Friday:
Hamburg vs. Bayer Leverkusen

Saturday:
Eintracht Frankfurt vs. Mainz
Augsburg vs. Bayern Munich
Nurnberg vs. Borussia Monchengladbach
Stuttgart vs. Freiburg
Werder Bremen vs. Schalke
Borussia Dortmund vs. Wolfsburg

Sunday:
Eintracht Braunschweig vs. Hamburg
Hertha Berlin vs. Hoffenheim

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ITALY

Second-place AS Roma can put extra pressure on league-leading Juventus, who play Monday, when they visit 15th-place Cagliari. The two sides battled it out to a scoreless draw, the only one of the season for Cagliari, in their first matchup at the Stadio Olimpico earlier this season. Roma are rolling on a five-match winning streak as they try to keep their long-shot chance at a league title alive, while Cagliari have done just enough in an up-and-down run of form to stay five points above the drop zone.

Sixth-place Parma are gunning for a return to European action next season, and they will have a tough matchup standing in their way this weekend when they host third-place Napoli. Rafa Benitez’s squad is fresh off a 2-0 victory against league-leading Juventus, but Parma managed to squeak out a 1-0 road win against Napoli earlier this season. Parma have dropped three straight close matches against top Serie A competition, and they are hanging onto their Europa League spot by a thread heading into Sunday’s match.

Here are this weekend’s matches in Serie A:

Saturday:
Chievo Verona vs. Hellas Verona
Inter Milan vs. Bologna

Sunday:
Lazio vs. Sampdoria
Atalanta vs. Sassuolo
Cagliari vs. AS Roma
Catania vs. Torino
Fiorentina vs. Udinese
Parma vs. Napoli

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FRANCE

First-place Paris Saint-Germain will start their stretch of matches without star striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic when they host seventh-place Stade de Reims this Saturday. Ibrahimovic was injured in PSG’s victory against Chelsea in the Champions League, and now they will have to go a few weeks without the Swedish goalscorer. The capital club should have few problems against a side it beat 3-0 away from home earlier this season, but they will have to replace the offensive production of a dynamic playmaker like Ibrahimovic.

Second-place AS Monaco will try to bounce back from their 1-0 loss to Evian Thonon Gaillard this Sunday when they face 14th-place Nantes at the Stade Louis II. Monaco are 13 points behind league-leading PSG and nine points ahead of fourth-place Saint Etienne in the race for Champions League qualification, but they will want to finish their grand return to Ligue 1 strong with only seven matches to play. Nantes are unbeaten in their last four matches and sit a safe eight points above the drop zone and will be looking for a better result than their 1-0 loss to Monaco earlier this season.

Here are this weekend’s matches in Ligue 1:

Friday:
Marseille vs. AC Ajaccio

Saturday:
Paris Saint-Germain vs. Stade de Reims
Bastia vs. Sochaux
Bordeaux vs. Stade Rennes
Guingamp vs. Montpellier
Lorient vs. Evian Thonon Gaillard
Toulouse vs. Lille

Sunday:
Saint Etienne vs. Nice
Valenciennes vs. Lyon
AS Monaco vs. Nantes

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Which European matches are you looking forward to the most this weekend? See Everton getting an important win at home Sunday against Arsenal? Think Real Madrid continue their turnaround against Real Sociedad? See any potential upsets this weekend?

Share your thoughts below.

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12 Responses to European Weekend Preview: Everton host Arsenal; Real Madrid face Sociedad; and more

  1. Brian says:

    Reports out of Liverpool this morning say that Barkley will be available but Jagielka will not be. In John Stones we trust.

  2. Paul says:

    Really rooting for Everton to grab fourth and a Champions League spot, and not just because of Timmy. They play great soccer, they’re making the Prem ever more competitive, and their success illustrates just how mediocre David Moyes was during his tenure. If they can hang on to Martinez, they’ve got a bright future.

    • Brian says:

      As an Everton fan I couldn’t agree more. I believe Everton plays one of the most attractive styles of football with their balance of possession and aggression. Players like Mirallas and Deulofeu who can work the ball around but then turn and take on defenders on the break make them a dangerous team, especially when you add in the fact their back 4 is one of the top 3 in the Premier League, even without Jagielka.
      I just hope we can score early to get us into a groove.

      • CamRahn Bay says:

        You guys think Lukaku will stay? As a Spurs fan I would love to see him at the Lane next year, but I also kind of like Everton and wouldn’t mind him staying up North.

        What’s the word amongst Evertonians?

        • Paul says:

          Dunno, but it’s pretty clear at this point that Mourinho doesn’t want him.

        • Everton Fan says:

          I think it could come down to whether or not we make the champions league. I think we have the 20-25 million required to purchase him, but if we don’t make the champions league I am not sure Lukaku would be interested. You also have to wonder if Lukaku is worth 25 million. He has a decent strike rate and great potential, but his hold up game is often hit and miss. Further, when we play European football next season, which it appears we will, we are going to need to increase the size of the squad. The $25 million may need to be spent on 4 or 5 players instead of just one. In conclusion, it is impossible to know if we or will not stay considering all the different factors. Personally, I would like him to stay and I would estimate there being around a 30% chance of him doing so (fairly arbitrary estimate).

          With all due respect, I don’t see Lukaku going to Spurs. Frankly, Everton have demonstrated they are the superior team over the course of the season and it appears they will finish above Totenham. If Everton and Totenham are both playing in the Europa League, with Lukaku already settled in Liverpool, I don’t think he would go to Totenham over Everton unless he was offered significantly more wages (which is a possibility).

          • CamRahn Bay says:

            Great insight, and much appreciated. Thanks!

            You make a great point about depth; it’s amazing how much of a factor that is when you are playing so many games. Spurs have been so bad at the back, especially against the top 4, so it’s easy to overlook some of the successes they have had against the rest of the league. On the whole though, I agree that Everton have been the better squad this year. Look no further than the goal differential (let alone points)

            I always figured Spurs would get Benteke in the summer, but he is damaged goods now and I believe he signed on long term for Villa. Spurs kept talking about a replacement for Defoe but we haven’t seen one yet, and we all know how poor Soldado has been. I don’t think Adebayor comes back so a replacement is needed. I had never heard Lukaku until now – only other striker I have heard for Spurs is a straight swap Lamela for Balotelli. Not sure how I feel about that.

    • Everton Fan says:

      It is very harsh to suggest that Moyes was mediocre. Yes, he failed to win any trophies and he failed to push the team onwards over the course of his last few seasons, but he helped revive Everton upon his arrival and purchased most of the players who are contributing the Everton’s sucess at the moment. Sometimes a new manager coming in and doing well is not evidence of the previous manager’s failings, but of the new manager’s brilliance.

      • Ian says:

        Agreed. Perhaps mediocre by “top four” standards, but Moyes kept Everton in the top 10 during most of his tenure. Mediocre coaches end up in the Championship.

  3. reignman says:

    If Arsenal avoids losing this game they will be in good shape to make the CL taking their remaining schedule into consideration. If Everton wins the game though it could be a real nailbiting finish

  4. Nate says:

    Ives, PLEASE start editing your posts on here. Not easy on the eyes.

    And Arsenal host Everton? At Goodison Park?

  5. Sly says:

    Saints vs Man City will go a long way in deciding the premier league winners. I need stoke if not to win outright exhaust Chelsea we play them next week a match against stoke followed by PSG then Liverpool. It would be awesome.