Gunners Targeting Weary Blues
Targeting Weary Blues
A big London derby kicks off Premier League play on Saturday, as Arsenal hosts Chelsea, with both teams battling for a place in the Champions League.
Despite recent wobbles against QPR and Wigan, Arsenal is still sit-ting in third place with a bit of a cushion. A loss to Chelsea though would make for a nervous final few weeks of the season.
The team has already suffered one blow this week, with news that influential Spanish midfielder Mikel Arteta is out for the season with an ankle injury.
Chelsea, meanwhile, is on a bit of a roll, but remains two points behind Tottenham and Newcastle for that all-important fourth spot. And while qualifying for next sea-son's Champions League is a high priority, it still sits second to reaching this edition's final.
With Didier Drogba starting in Wednesday's win over Barcelona, it's expected he will give way to
Fernando Torres on Saturday. The strain of Chelsea's Champions League play should give an advantage to the Gunners, yet the Blues have won their last seven league matches following European play.
Barcelona hosts Real Madrid on Saturday in one of the biggest matches of the year. The Cla-sico between these two powers is reportedly the second most watched club match in the world after the Champions League final.
In recent weeks, Real Madrid has seen its lead atop La Liga drop from 10 points to just four, so a loss on Saturday would see the title go down to the wire. A Madrid win on the other hand, and it's pretty much game over.
Barcelona has home advantage and recent history on its side, as it has been beating Madrid regularly in these contests. Barca has six wins and a draw in its last seven league meetings with Real.
The league title isn't the only thing at stake, as the league scoring race is very much on. Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi come into the match level on 41 goals.
Real also has Gonzalo Higuain and Karim Benzema in La Liga's top five scoring chart, and in fact Madrid's next goal will set a new Spanish scoring record.
After Barcelona and Madrid are done battling each other, they will start gearing up to host the deciding matches in the Champions League semifinals next week.
Both Spanish powers face must-win matches after losing their opening games.
Under the greater pressure is Barcelona, as it has to contend with Chelsea's tough physical play and doesn't even have the luxury of an away goal under its belt. If the Blues manage to find the net on Tues-day, then Barca will need to score at least three to advance.
Bayern Munich meanwhile are the visitors in Wednesday's clash in Madrid.
Bayern did well in the first leg, winning most of the midfield battles and attacking effectively down the flanks, particularly on the right.
Madrid left back Fabio Coentrao struggled, while Cristiano Ronaldo rarely tracks back, making him a defensive liability.
It was no surprise then that the winning goal came from Bayern right back and captain Philipp Lahm pushing forward and beating Coentrao.
It remains to be seen though whether Bayern will see enough of the ball in the rematch to employ similar tactics.
I'm delighted that my old club Reading has secured promotion to the Premier League, and will make its return to the top flight after a four-year absence.
Reading leads the Championship by three points over Southampton with two rounds remaining, and can clinch the title this weekend.
This is also music to the ears of incoming new owner Anton Zin-garevich, as the Russian business-man's takeover of the club nears completion.
Reading was in the bottom half of the table when the deal was first negotiated, with the team then turning it around and winning 15 of its last 17 league games.
It means Zingarevich gets a Premier League club at a Championship price, but he will now also have Premiership-sized responsibilities to live up to.
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