European Weekend Preview: Barca host Atletico in title decider; Arsenal battle Hull in FA Cup final; and more

AtleticoBarca (Getty Images)

By JUSTIN FERGUSON

This Saturday, for the first time in more than 60 years, there will be a title-decider between the top two teams in La Liga.

First-place Atletico Madrid have battled with traditional powerhouses Barcelona and Real Madrid throughout the season, trying to become the first team outside of the El Clasico duopoly to win La Liga since Valencia in 2003-04. With a two-point lead on second-place Barcelona heading into the final weekend, they can clinch that coveted trophy with a result at the intimidating confines of Camp Nou.

In their five previous meetings this season, including a two-legged matchup in the Champions League quarterfinals, Barcelona have failed to record a win against Atletico. But Tata Martino’s men will need just to end that streak to capture back-to-back league titles and end the dreams of a historic double for Atletico. The defending champions have only lost once and only drawn once inside their home stadium this league season, and they will put it all on the line Saturday against a determined Atletico side that still has a meeting with Real Madrid in the Champions League Final coming next week.

In England, Arsenal will look to end their nine-year trophy drought at Wembley Stadium, where they will take on underdogs Hull City for the FA Cup Final. The Gunners defeated Hull 3-0 toward the end of the English Premier League season, which ended with four losses and a draw for Hull. Arsenal will be heavily favored to lift up the trophy Saturday, but they will remember last season’s final, when relegation-bound Wigan Athletic stunned Manchester City to get their first domestic cup title.

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

SPAIN

With all the European spots in La Liga already settled heading into the final weekend, the most important matches outside of Barcelona-Atletico Madrid will be a pair of relegation battles. Eighteenth-place Osasuna needs a win against last-place Real Betis, who are already relegated, and some help to keep themselves in Spain’s top division for next season. Both teams have had a dreadful second half this season, but Osasuna should have the advantage with something to play for against an uninterested and banged-up Real Betis squad.

Nineteenth-place Real Valladolid are unbeaten in their last 11 home matches in La Liga, and they will need a victory against 17th-place Granada to avoid relegation. Granada’s survival will be confirmed with at least a draw, so they will be hoping for their first win since their upset against Barcelona a few weekends ago. The 17th-place side cruised to an easy 4-0 win against Valladolid earlier this season, but that feat will be tough to repeat against a determined Valladolid side playing in front of its own fans.

Here are this weekend’s matches in La Liga:

Friday:
Malaga vs. Levante

Saturday:
Real Madrid vs. Espanyol
Barcelona vs. Atletico Madrid
Valencia vs. Celta Vigo

Sunday:
Real Sociedad vs. Villarreal
Almeria vs. Athletic Bilbao
Osasuna vs. Real Betis
Rayo Vallecano vs. Getafe
Real Valladolid vs. Granada
Sevilla vs. Elche

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ITALY

Sixth-place Torino will face a tough fight this weekend against fourth-place Fiorentina as they try to secure a spot in the Europa League next season. Torino hold a one-point advantage ahead of the pack of contenders ahead of their trip to face the Viola, who ended a losing streak last weekend with a 1-0 victory against Livorno. Torino are on a seven-match unbeaten run and will have something to play for this weekend, so look for them to go for all three points against a Fiorentina team that is already in the Europa League for next season.

Eighth-place AC Milan will need a win and a few more results to go their way if they are to avoid an absence from European play next season. Milan, who have posted four straight shutout home wins in league play, host 16th-place Sassuolo this weekend at the San Siro. Sassuolo stunned Milan with a upset earlier this season thanks to four goals from striker Domenico Berardi, so Milan will be itching to get revenge and keep their Europa League hopes alive on the final day of action in Serie A.

Here are this weekend’s matches in Serie A:

Saturday:
Udinese vs. Sampdoria

Sunday:
Catania vs. Atalanta
Genoa vs. AS Roma
Juventus vs. Cagliari
AC Milan vs. Sassuolo
Chievo Verona vs. Inter Milan
Fiorentina vs. Torino
Lazio vs. Bologna
Napoli vs. Hellas Verona
Parma vs. Lazio

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FRANCE

The final Champions League spot in Ligue 1 will be decided on the final day of the season as third-place Lille and fourth-place Saint Etienne will both be in action. Third-place Lille, who have struggled down the stretch this season, can only guarantee a berth in the Champions League with a victory against red-hot Lorient. Lille’s two-point lead on Saint Etienne will surely be put to the test at Lorient, who are unbeaten in their last seven matches and looking to send off manager Christian Gourcuff with a positive home result against a top side.

Saint Etienne, who are hoping Lorient will get at least a point against Lille, will have a much easier draw this weekend. With a greater goal differential, Saint Etienne could punch their ticket to the Champions League with a win against last-place and already-relegated AC Ajaccio, who have lost 12 of their 18 road matches this season. Saint Etienne have kept their continental dreams alive with an eight-match unbeaten run, and they will have a great chance to make their return to Champions League play on a dramatic final day in France.

Here are this weekend’s matches in Ligue 1:

Saturday:
AS Monaco vs. Bordeaux
Bastia vs. Nantes
Lorient vs. Lille
Marseille vs. Guingamp
Nice vs. Lyon
Paris Saint-Germain vs. Montpellier
Sochaux vs. Evian Thonon Gaillard
Saint Etienne vs. AC Ajaccio
Stade de Reims vs. Stade Rennes
Toulouse vs. Valenciennes

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Which European matches are you looking forward to the most this weekend? Think Atletico Madrid takes care of business with a result at Camp Nou this weekend? See Barcelona pulling off the win? How do you see the FA Cup Final playing out?

Share your thoughts below.

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6 Responses to European Weekend Preview: Barca host Atletico in title decider; Arsenal battle Hull in FA Cup final; and more

  1. Soccer Blood says:

    Uhh you mention Arsenal then forget to include them in your Sat time schedule?
    Does anyone know what channel that game will be on please?
    thanx

  2. Soccer Blood says:

    Thank you guys. Not a Gunners fan tho I do see them ending their draught @ expense of Hull

  3. DaBeaz says:

    Unfortunate that the FA Cup and Barca/Athletico both start at noon eastern tomorrow.