Sandwiched between cup ties and European games, an exciting round of league-fixtures await us this weekend. From El Clasico to North London derby, we will be treated to a wide range of footballing extravaganza.
As always, we will help you plan your weekend by picking out the best of the bunch.
FIXTURE: Real Madrid v Barcelona
WHERE: Santiago Bernabeu
WHEN: 2nd March 2019, Saturday
TIME: 11:45 PM, GST on beIN Sports 2&11HD
The last of three Clasicos to be played in a month, this one promises to be a cracker. A six-point gap to Atletico Madrid and a nine-point lead over Madrid has Barcelona firmly on course to defend their La Liga crown. But this game could maybe change things, although it will require the hosts to massively outscore their eternal rivals.
The Catalan giants have enjoyed playing at the Bernabeu in the past couple of years, winning three of their last four encounters in the league.
However, Vinicius Junior and Karim Benzema are peaking at a crucial time so could hand Los Blancos the initiative. But if this season – or rather this decade – has thought us anything, Lionel Messi will be the one deciding which team will bags points and pride.
While a win for Madrid will put pressure on Barcelona, three points for the visitors practically ends Madrid’s league campaign. A 12-point deficit at this point of the season is nearly impossible to recover.
FIXTURE: Tottenham v Arsenal
WHERE: Wembley stadium
WHEN: 2nd March 2019, Saturday
TIME: 4:30 PM, GST on beIN Sports 1&11HD
A second London derby in four days sees Spurs host North London rivals Arsenal in an early kick-off on Saturday afternoon.
In the last six fixtures between the two teams in the Premier League, both teams have won two games each. The reverse fixture had it all – sparks flying between the Spurs players and the Arsenal bench, Lucas Torreira revealing his sculpted physique after a well-taken goal and Jan Vertonghen seeing red.
Spurs had their revenge for the 4-2 defeat as they eliminated Arsenal from the League Cup just two weeks later.
There are no favourites in a derby and recent form of both teams suggest that this could go to the wire.
FIXTURE: Borussia Monchengladbach v Bayern Munich
WHERE: Borussia Park
WHEN: 2nd March 2019, Saturday
TIME: 9:30 PM, GST on beIN Sports 3HD
It’s a battle between number two and number three in Bundesliga as Bayern Munich take the road in an attempt to close in on league leaders Borussia Dortmund. Niko Kovac’s men capitalised on Dortmund’s dull run of three draws and are now breathing down their neck with just a three-point deficit.
Monchengladbach cruised to a three-goal win over their rivals when the two teams met in the reverse fixture. But deeming them favourites would not be in accordance to their current form. The hosts have not won a game in their last three and will be desperate to get out of their slump.
Thorgan Hazard and Robert Lewandowski are likely to make the front-page of German newspapers on Sunday morning.
FIXTURE: Lazio v Roma
WHERE: Stadio Olimpico
WHEN: 2nd March 2019, Saturday
TIME: 11:30 PM, GST on beIN Sports 3HD
The Rome derby is back this weekend, as Lazio take on Roma at the Stadio Olimpico. The fact that both teams are fighting for European spots only makes an already tense derby all the more exciting.
With 44 points, Roma are just one point adrift from a Champions League spot, while Lazio are one point away from entering the Europa League qualification places after securing 38 points.
The reverse fixture saw Roma thump Lazio 3-1, thanks to goals from Lorenzo Pellegrini, Aleksandar Kolarov and Federico Fazio. Revenge will be on Lazio’s mind as they look to put a disappointing run of results behind them with a derby win.
Two of the best strikers in the league, Edin Dzeko and Ciro Immobile, will go head to head in an attempt to earn their team three points.
FIXTURE: Marseille v Saint Etienne
WHERE: Stade Velodrome
WHEN: 4th March 2019, Monday
TIME: 12:00 AM, GST on beIN Sports 4HD
It’s a ‘winner takes European spot’ tie in Ligue 1 as fourth-placed St Etienne travel to the Velodrome, the home of fifth-placed Marseille. Only two points separates the two teams and the winner will positioned in the last of the European spots after the fixture.
St Etienne have beaten Marseille twice this season – in a friendly and in the reverse fixture in Ligue 1. But recent form places Marseille -who are on a four-game unbeaten run – as favourites.
Wahbi Khazri and World Cup winner Florian Tauvin will be crucial for St Etienne and Marseille respectively in this crunch fixture.
In what is a huge week for Spanish football, Real Madrid host eternal rivals Barcelona twice in four days. The first tie – the second leg of the Copa del Rey – will be played on Wednesday, while the La Liga Clasico is scheduled for Saturday.
Over the past few years, we have seen a lot of battles as a sub-plot to the magical show that takes centre-stage. Cristiano Ronaldo has got the better of Gerard Pique numerous times, while Lionel Messi has consistently had Sergio Ramos wiped out from the game – sometimes literally.
We take a look at some of the key battles that could bask in the limelight on Wednesday.
Vinicius Junior vs Nelson Semedo
This was the most interesting battle in the first leg of the semi-finals and the return leg could produce something just as exciting.
Vinicius Junior has been a revelation for Los Blancos ever since he became a regular name in the team-sheet. His ability to get past players with ease and accelerate, while dropping shoulders makes him a threat on Barcelona’s right flank – their weaker flank ever since Dani Alves parted ways with the club.
Luckily for Barcelona, they have a speed-monster themselves in Nelson Semedo. The Portuguese might not have a great reading of the game like Sergi Roberto does. But his pace and ability to track back after advancing forward means that Vinicius will not have it easy.
Will Vinicius make the difference, or will the Portuguese successfully shut him out of the game?
Luis Suarez vs Sergio Ramos
It’s true that Luis Suarez is enduring a rough patch, given how woeful he’s been in front of goal lately. But that should – in no way – rule him out as a potential man of the match in this huge tie.
When the two teams locked horns at the Camp Nou earlier this season, the Uruguayan made a meal out of the Madrid defence and netted three past a hapless Thibaut Courtois.
The kind of fighter he is, the lone goal against Sevilla is sure to fuel his confidence and psychologically prepare him for El Clasico.
Tasked to stop him, Sergio Ramos will be eager to put his best foot forward and assert dominance on the Uruguayan.
The centre-back has had his own share of problems avoiding the referee’s book in the last few weeks and clasicos and will have to choose his tackles carefully.
Nevertheless, it’s a massive game and one can expect Ramos to step up and prevent Suarez from returning to his goal-scoring self.
Luka Modric vs Ivan Rakitic
With Sergio Busquets controlling the flow of play from deep and Casemiro acting as a screen in front of the Madrid defence, the Croatians could decide who wins the midfield battle.
Luka Modric has had his hits and misses in El Clasico. The Ballon d’Or holder dictated terms for majority of the time in the first leg that ended 1-1, despite Madrid being the better team.
This has really not been Modric’s season, but on his day, Modric is capable of pushing Barcelona’s midfield to the edge and turning the game in Madrid’s favour. His ability to take accurate shots on goal from distance will keep Barcelona custodian Marc-Andre ter Stegen on his toes.
Often under-appreciated, Ivan Rakitic has made it a habit to step up to a whole new level in El Clasicos. In Barcelona’s 5-1 win over Madrid, the former Sevilla man and Arthur completely shut down Madrid’s midfield and played a massive role in handing the hosts a thumping win.
He also played a key role in Barcelona’s 3-0 win during their last visit to the Bernabeu.
A midfield tussle between the two Croatians who will be playing on the same side of the pitch can set the tone for the game.
Chelsea goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga has been fined one week’s wages and admitted he made a “big mistake” after refusing to be substituted during Sunday’s Carabao Cup final.
Kepa, who twice required treatment in extra-time at Wembley, waved away a substitution before Manchester City won the shootout and lifted the trophy.
Kepa and Blues manager Maurizio Sarri insisted it was a misunderstanding, but the club announced the 24-year-old would be fined one week’s wages, which would be donated to the Chelsea Foundation.
The Blues confirmed the news late on Monday night with a statement which included further reaction from Kepa and Sarri who both want to move on from the incident.
Kepa admitted he had handled the situation poorly and apologised after remaining on the field when Sarri was attempting to send on Willy Caballero as a replacement.
“I have thought a lot more about yesterday’s events,” said Kepa, who broke the transfer record for a goalkeeper when he joined the Blues in August.
“Although there was a misunderstanding, on reflection, I made a big mistake with how I handled the situation.
“I wanted to take the time today to apologise fully and in person to the coach, to Willy, my team-mates and to the club. I have done this and now I want to offer the same apology to the fans.
“I will learn from this episode and will accept any punishment or discipline the club decides is appropriate.”
Sarri said: “Kepa and I have spoken about the incident. It was a good conversation.
“There was a misunderstanding yesterday but he realises he made a big mistake in the way he reacted. He has apologised to me, his team-mates and the club.
“It is up to the club if they want to discipline him according to the club rules, but for me this matter is now closed.
“The team performance as a whole was extremely positive and it is a shame to see how this incident has overshadowed our efforts in what was a very competitive cup final. Everyone’s focus is now on the next game and we must all now put this behind us.”
Chelsea return to action in the Premier League on Wednesday night, when they host Tottenham.
Sarri will face the media at his pre-match press conference on Tuesday afternoon.