El Clasico takes place this weekend
Barca - Real: 3am on Monday, March 20, Hanoi time
The El Clasico match in round 26 is likely to decide the La Liga championship race this season. Nine points ahead of the opponent, Barca will hold a hand to the Championship Cup if they win three points. Meanwhile, Real has no choice but to win, if they want to hold onto the hope of defending the throne. Barca won 1-0 in the last encounter between the two teams, in the first leg of the semi-finals of the King's Cup. The return leg will take place in early April.
However, recent confrontation history is in favor of Real. They beat Barca in five of the last six encounters in La Liga, including twice as a guest at the Nou Camp. Before that, "White Vulture" went through seven consecutive matches without winning a rival (lost four, drew three). Real only won three consecutive matches at Barca in La Liga, between January 1963 and February 1965.
Barca have the best home form in La Liga this season. They won 32 points after 12 matches (won 10, drew 2). This achievement contributes to two records Xavi's teachers and students have set, including the most clean sheets (19) and the least number of goals conceded (8) after the first 25 rounds. Barca lost to Almeria at the end of February, but since then, they have won the last two rounds against Valencia and Bilbao.
Meanwhile, Real are unbeaten in the last five rounds (won three, drawn two). This is the longest unbeaten streak of Carlo Ancelotti's teachers and students this season since they did not lose the first 12 rounds. If Barca is strong at home, then Real has achieved impressive away form when winning 28 points after 13 matches. The first leg of this match has a 3-1 result in favor of Real at the Bernabeu.
The two teams will have the strongest force for this competition. Barca only lacks Ousmane Dembele while David Alaba is the only case that can be absent from Real's side due to a muscle injury.
Man City - Burnley: 0h45 Sunday, March 19
The quarter-finals of the FA Cup at the Etihad Stadium saw a reunion between Vincent Kompany and Man City. The former Belgian midfielder is helping Burnley lead the First Division with a distance of 13 points. And if he beats the Premier League champions to reach the semi-finals, it will be the first milestone in his career.
Kompany played for Man City from 2008 to 2019, used to wear the captain's armband of this club. He won four Premier League titles, two FA Cups and four League Cups in 11 seasons with Man City. Kompany is one of three legends erected outside the Etihad Stadium. The best memory he left behind is probably the long-range goal scored in the 71st minute, helping Man City beat Leicester and thereby make an important step to the 2018-2019 Premier League title.
Pep Guardiola's teachers and students ran the momentum for the match with a bold 7-0 victory over RB Leipzig in the second leg of the 1/8 Champions League round. Erling Haaland scored those five goals but is likely to be rested this weekend. If they win, City will reach the semi-finals of the FA Cup for the fifth time in a row, while Burnley has not been able to do this since the 1973-1974 season.
Man City have full force for this match. Burnley is without Taylor Harwood-Bellis, Josh Brownhill and Darko Churlinov but Benson Manuel and Jay Rodriguez could return after appearing in recent training sessions.
Man Utd - Fulham: 23:30 Sunday, March 19
Midfielder Casemiro once admitted with admiration that he was surprised by the extent of Erik ten Hag's obsession with winning. That was before Man Utd won their first title this season in the League Cup. Therefore, beating Fulham to take another step to a second title must be a priority for the Dutch coach.
Ten Hag will be without Casemiro after the Brazil international received a red card in the draw against Southampton last weekend. He could put Fred in a central midfield pairing with Marcel Sabitzer or Scott McTominay, or use an interceptor like the one against Southampton.
Being a guest at Old Trafford is the next challenge for Fulham, after losing 0-3 to Arsenal in the Premier League a week ago. Marco Silva's teachers and students are in danger of losing their third match in a row, despite having gone through seven consecutive matches without knowing the smell of defeat.
Alejandro Garnacho has just joined Man Utd's injury list and will sit out alongside Donny van de Beek and Christian Eriksen. Aside from Casemiro's suspension, the hosts are at risk of missing Antony and Anthony Martial. Fulham is without Tom Cairney, Layvin Kurzawa and Neeskens Kebano. Willian was absent from the Arsenal defeat and will need to wait for the results of a medical to see if he can play.
Southampton - Tottenham: Saturday, March 18 at 10pm
Usually, in mid-March, there will be a team deep in the bottom of the table and firmly hold the relegation ticket. This year, Southampton are in that position. But the gap between them and the 17th team West Ham is only two points. In fact, up to eight teams are in the relegation race when the gap between this group is only five points. Southampton can rise from the bottom of the table to 15th if they win Tottenham.
But to do that, the Saint Mary's home team needs to score. Southampton are resurgent under the leadership of Ruben Selles having picked up seven points from five games, but scored just two goals in that streak. In the previous round, they played more than Man Utd from the 34th minute but could not concede the opponent. Southampton have been without a true striker since letting Danny Ings leave and their main weapon is James Ward-Prowse's free-kicks.
With Man Utd busy playing the FA Cup this week, Tottenham will take third place if they win three points. Winning Nottingham Forest 3-1 in the previous round partly revived the spirit of Antonio Conte's teachers and students after three consecutive matches failed to do this. What is more encouraging for Tottenham fans is to see the duo of Harry Kane and Son Heung-min scoring together for the first time in a long time.
Ryan Sessegnon, Rodrigo Bentancur, Hugo Lloris and Yves Bissouma have not yet scheduled a return date on the Tottenham side and the visitors may lose Emerson Royal. Southampton lack Tino Livramento and Juan Larios while the ability of Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Kyle Walker-Peters is still open.
Chelsea - Everton: 0:30 on Sunday, March 19
After three consecutive defeats and failure to score, Chelsea are back with three consecutive wins. That could be the turning point for Graham Potter's reign at Stamford Bridge. The pressure is significantly relieved for the 47-year-old coach. In the middle of last week, Potter even jokingly said that Chelsea will aim to win the Champions League.
Potter used a 3-4-3 formation in the three games Chelsea won. Before that, he used a 4-2-3-1 formation in three defeats. This seems to be the best recipe for Chelsea's current staff, helping them to hide their weaknesses and promote their strengths. Chelsea's system will be tested against Everton, who are also gradually improving after Sean Dyche adopted a five-midfield formation. Everton were more solid in midfield. In the last seven matches, they won three and drew one.
Chelsea have been unbeaten at home to Everton for 29 years. This is the longest unbeaten streak against an opponent in this club's history. Everton have not won 27 times away at Stamford Bridge in the Premier League and five times away from home in 2023, they have all conceded at least two goals.
There are only two cases that are definitely absent from the Chelsea side: Armando Broja and Thiago Silva. But the ability of N'Golo Kante, Edouard Mendy, Cesar Azpilicueta, Mason Mount, Reece James, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Raheem Sterling is all unclear. Everton are without Andros Townsend but Nathan Patterson and Dominic Calvert-Lewin could return.
Arsenal - Crystal Palace: 9pm on Sunday, 19/3
In October 2021, under the direction of Patrick Vieira, Crystal Palace played at Arsenal at the Emirates and unfortunately only won a draw. At that time, someone commented that Vieira's future as a coach was brighter than Mikel Arteta. But 15 months on, everything changed, Vieira was sacked by Palace just before returning to the Emirates Stadium to face the club that made him famous as a player.
Vieira paid the price when Palace did not win in the last 12 matches. This is a somewhat harsh decision for the former French midfielder because Palace is still ranked 12th. However, the club's leadership wants to quickly tighten the rules before things get worse. The distance between Palace and the group holding the red light at this time is only three points.
Being eliminated by Sporting Lisbon in the 1/8 round of the Europa League is not necessarily a bad thing for Arsenal. Because they will have the conditions to focus all their efforts on the English Premier League race. The task of the "Gunners" will be to preserve the five-point gap with second-place Man City before the two teams face off at Etihad next month. However, Arsenal have not won the last four times against Palace in the Premier League and they have not beaten this opponent twice in a year since the 2017-2018 season.
The home team is without Mohamed Elneny and Eddie Nketiah. The duo of defenders William Saliba and Takehiro Tomiyasu were reluctant to leave the field in the middle of the week, so it is unlikely that they will be able to play. Palace are missing Nathan Ferguson and Sam Johnstone due to injury while Albert Sambi Lokonga is unavailable due to loan from Arsenal.
Inter - Juventus: 2:45pm Monday, March 20
The 180th Derby d'Italia took place in the context that Juventus and Inter have both won tickets to the quarterfinals of the European Cups. In Serie A, Inter is 12 points more than rivals, due to a penalty of 15 points that Juventus had to receive at the beginning of the season. Inter will be determined to pay the debt of losing 0-2 in the first leg, when two goals in the second half of Adrien Rabiot and Nicolo Fagioli engulfed Simone Inzaghi's teachers and students.
In fact, it is only a rare defeat of Inter in recent encounters. After defeating the opponent to win Serie A 2020-2021, Inter won Juventus in the Italian Super Cup match and the Italian National Cup final a year later. After this match, Juventus and Inter will meet again in the two semi-finals of the Italian National Cup next month.
In terms of the tournament situation, Inter needs points under pressure from the teams behind. Despite being second in the group, Inzaghi's teachers and students no longer hope to chase the top of Napoli when the gap is 18 points. Their priority is to secure their place in the top four with just three points ahead of fifth-place AS Roma. Meanwhile, Juventus hopes to win a place in the European Cup. The gap between them and the top four is eight points.
Confrontation history favors Juventus with 86 wins, 45 draws and 48 losses. "The old lady" will have the opportunity to beat Inter in both turns for the first time since the 2019-2020 season. Even if they win and keep a clean sheet, Juventus will repeat the feat in the 1976-1977 season.
Midfielder Alessandro Bastoni is out until the end of the month due to a muscle injury. This is the only absence on the Inter side. Juventus are without Arkadiusz Milik, Alex Sandro and Paul Pogba due to injury and Moise Kean is suspended.
Leverkusen - Bayern: 23:30 Saturday, March 19
Dortmund's draw at Schalke in the previous round created conditions for Bayern to take the lead in the championship race. They create a two-point gap with the opponent and another victory at Leverkusen will ensure the first place for teachers and students Julian Nagelsmann before the national team gathering.
However, that is not an easy goal. A 2-0 victory at the Hungarian club Ferencvaros has just put Leverkusen into the quarter-finals of the Europa League. They are one of two German clubs still fighting in the European arena this season, next to Bayern. The top priority for Xabi Alonso's teachers and students is to chase Frankfurt in sixth place when the gap between the two teams is six points.
A win could put Leverkusen up to seventh after round 25, but they have lost four of their last five home games to Bayern. In fact, since the 3-1 win in February 2019, Leverkusen have lost three consecutive home matches against Bayern. Historically, they have lost only four consecutive home matches against Bayern (from 2005 to 2008) and Wolfsburg (from 2018 to 2021).
Leverkusen is without backup goalkeepers Andrey Lunev and Charles Aranguiz due to injury and Karim Bellarabi and Patrik Schick are unlikely to play. On the Bayern side, Eric Choupo-Moting is sidelined by a back injury while Manuel Neuer and Lucas Hernandez cannot return.
PSG - Rennes: 23:05 Saturday, March 19
After being knocked out of the Champions League by Bayern, PSG almost dropped points at Brest in the previous round. They needed Kylian Mbappe's 90th minute goal to win 2-1. Anyway, that victory also helps PSG to widen the gap with the group behind to 10 points, helping them keep the advantage in the race with Marseille and Lens.
Rennes drew Auxerre 0-0 in the previous round. It was the second game in a row they didn't score. The form of the army led by Bruno Genesio has been relatively poor recently with only two victories in the last six rounds, making them drop to fifth. The rare positive for the visitors is that they kept three clean sheets in the last four matches in Ligue 1, but Rennes won only three of the last 15 away matches. In contrast, there have been 35 consecutive matches PSG have not lost at home.
In the first leg, Rennes surprised when he beat PSG 1-0. It was the only game PSG lost without scoring this season. In fact, the last six encounters in Ligue 1 have head-to-head results in favor of Rennes with three wins, two draws, one loss. To avoid repeating a bad result, PSG need to improve their defense, because they have conceded at least one goal in eight of the last nine matches in Ligue 1.
Achraf Hakimi has just joined PSG's injury list, alongside Marquinhos, Neymar, Presnel Kimpembe and Nordi Mukiele. Rennes is also without Jeremy Doku, Martin Terrier, Xeka and Warmed Omari is suspended.