Iago Aspas will be out to prove why he's as important to Celta Vigo as Lionel Messi is to Barcelona

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Celta Vigo talisman Iago Aspas

The domestic fixtures this weekend acts as a reprieve from the European action ahead of semi-final second legs in the Champions League and Europa League.

And while Serie A, La Liga and Ligue 1 have all crowned their 2018/19 champions, there is still everything to play for in the Bundesliga and the Premier League.

Yet, intrigue does lie elsewhere as well and to help you decipher which contests to put on the box this weekend, we’ve put together the games to watch.

SERIE A

MATCH: Juventus v Torino

WHERE: Allianz Stadium

WHEN: Friday @ 10:30PM (GST)

Cristiano Ronaldo

Cristiano Ronaldo

Last weekend saw the two Turin sides take on the twin Milan outfits as Juve drew 1-1 with Inter while Torino secured a massive 2-0 victory over AC. Those results means there are huge ramifications for this local fixture. The Derby della Mole has long been a one-sided affair with Torino unable to win at Juventus since 1995 with just one victory since then arriving a decade later. However, bar Cristiano Ronaldo aiming to top the league goalscoring charts, the Bianconeri have little play for having already been crowned champions. Torino by contrast are well in the hunt for a European spot and so victory is absolutely pivotal.

PREMIER LEAGUE

MATCH: Newcastle v Liverpool

WHERE: St James’ Park

WHEN: Saturday @ 10:45PM

Rafael Benitez

Rafael Benitez

The Premier League title race is resembling a frozen tug of war. Liverpool continue to have the slight advantage of playing before leaders Manchester City, but then Pep Guardiola’s men own the one-point advantage. This week’s fixtures are brimming with narrative. The Reds travel to Rafa Benitez’s Newcastle, the Spanish boss fondly remembered by Liverpool supporters and also one of the club’s nearly-men in regards to ending the title drought. His side came close in 2008/09, but Brendan Rodgers’ iteration was even closer in 2013/14 and he takes his Leicester City outfit to City on Monday. Could this be the turning point in the title race?

LA LIGA

MATCH: Celta Vigo v Barcelona

WHERE: Balaidos

WHEN: Saturday @ 11:45PM

Iago Aspas

Iago Aspas

Again you may wonder why a fixture involving already-crowned champions features, but like Juve’s clash, it’s the team on the other side which intrigues most. Indeed, Celta Vigo were staring relegation square in the face with their deity Iago Aspas enduring an injury hell. The striker returned to the team in late March and has since scored six goals in seven games, including four assists. Aspas has wrestled his side away from the drop zone but they are not completely safe just yet with the gap at just two points. If there is one single player more important to his team than Barcelona’s Lionel Messi, it’s Aspas and he’ll need to prove that again on Saturday.

BUNDESLIGA

MATCH: Bayer Leverkusen v Eintracht Frankfurt

WHERE: BayArena

WHEN: Sunday @ 8PM

Peter Bosz

Peter Bosz

Ignore the absolute chaos which is the title race and dip your toes into the top-four contest for a weekend. There is one spot available for Champions League football next season and four teams all want it. Two of them face off on Sunday as fourth-placed Eintracht travel to sixth-placed Bayer with three points separating the pair. Peter Bosz’s young and thrilling Bayer have flamed at the right time after three damaging defeats were followed by a trio of wins. Eintracht, though, have struggled balancing their Europa League hopes with the league and have failed to win after both quarter-final legs with Benfica. They travel to Chelsea on Thursday and so Sunday could arrive with either a bounce in their step or a hangover.

LIGUE 1

MATCH: Monaco v St Etienne

WHERE: Stade Louis II

WHEN: Sunday @ 7PM

Mathieu Debuchy

Mathieu Debuchy

Monaco are still hanging above the relegation zone while St Etienne continue to push for a Champions League spot. Contrasting targets for the two teams but equal significance on this one game. St Etienne are three points off third-placed Lyon and given they take on Lille who are spot above them, any dropped points must be eaten up by Jean-Louis Gasset’s men. Full-back Mathieu Debuchy is confident of securing a lucrative and unexpected route into Europe as he recently said: “There is no panicking in this team, we know that at any moment, if we put our gameplan in place, we are going to have chances. We are calm.”

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European Teams of the Week: Rayo Vallecano shock Real Madrid to top the rankings

Sooraj Kamath - Writer 15:00 29/04/2019
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In a week of upsets, no team positioned between third and sixth in the Premier League and the La Liga table managed to win their game.

Barcelona clinched the Liga title as Manchester City inched closer to defending the Premier League crown.

Objectively picking the top teams of the week is not easy, especially with some teams performing well to make a bid for a Champions League spot and others pulling themselves out of the danger zone at the bottom of the table.

However, each week we pick out the 10 best teams from Europe’s top-five leagues (minus cup competitions).

It’s not cumulative, the rankings is based on a team’s performance in that particular game week.

So, who makes the top-10 this week? Check out below.

1. Rayo Vallecano (Beat Real Madrid 1-0)

Defeating Real Madrid is not as significant an achievement as it used to be, with Los Blancos suffering 10 defeats in the league this season. But basement side Rayo Vallecano deserve all the credit they can get for completely outplaying the 13-time European champions. It’s interesting to note that they achieved this without the services of their best player Raul de Tomas – a Madrid loanee who is bound by is contract to not play against his parent club. This also provides Vallecano some hope of survival in the top flight, although one defeat in the remaining three games can all but push them to the second division.

2. Schalke (Beat Borussia Dortmund 4-2)

Having won just one of their previous five games, Schalke were not in the best place heading to the Ruhr derby. But a brace from Daniel Caligiuri – including a glorious second-half free-kick – and goals from Salif Sane plus Breel Embolo earned them an important away win. Dortmund were reduced to nine men after Marco Reus and Marius Wolf were rightly given their marching orders as they fell further behind leaders Bayern Munich. This win provides Schalke some solace after what has been a woeful season. It’s more than three points for the Dortmund-based club, it’s about earning the bragging rights.

3. Leicester City (Beat Arsenal 3-0)

Leicester have managed to steady the ship after a poor start to the season and are on course to finish on a high. A dominating performance at home against a shambolic Arsenal side saw them emerge 3-0 winners in a rather one-sided contest. Youri Tielemans opened the scoring on the hour mark and Jamie Vardy struck twice at the death to provide insurance as Arsenal succumbed to yet another away defeat. This result could heavily influence the top-four race, with Manchester United and Chelsea also dropping points.

4. Torino (Beat AC Milan 2-0)

Mathematically, two of the four Champions League spots are still up for grabs but Inter are favourites to clinch one of those. This leaves Roma, Torino, AC Milan, Atalanta and Lazio – all separated by just three points – fighting for one spot. Of all the teams, Torino made the biggest bid for qualification, defeating fellow top-four contenders AC Milan 2-0 at home, their first win over the Rossoneri  in 18 years. Goals from Andrea Belotti and Alex Berenguer helped Torino assert themselves over the visitors and position themselves at a vantage point, ahead of their rivals.

5. Girona (Beat Sevilla 1-0)

Halfway through the season, Girona were on course to challenge for a spot in the Europa League. The trajectory slowly directed downwards in March and the club from Barcelona were on the back of a six defeats in a row as they took to the field against a rampant Sevilla side. Portu’s goal in the second half and an inspirational performance from centre-back Bernardo Espinosa handed Girona three vital points. This result lifted Girona from the relegation zone and prevented Sevilla from climbing into the top four.

6. Barcelona (Beat Levante 1-0)

Barcelona

Barcelona defended the La Liga crown to make it eight league titles in the last 11 years. The performance from the Spanish giants was anything but convincing, but they managed to get the job done and lay their hands on the trophy before facing Liverpool in the semi-final of the Champions League. Lionel Messi came off the bench to put Barcelona ahead in the second half after Ousmane Dembele did well to start the move with some eye-catching dribbling. The Blaugrana proved their tag as the most consistent team in Spain by recording yet another title-win and by some margin.

7. Manchester City (Beat Manchester United 2-0 and Burnley 1-0)

In a span of just five days, Manchester City reclaimed and maintained their spot at the Premier League table with important wins over city rivals United and Burnley. On Wednesday, Pep Guardiola’s men eased their way past a United side which offered no resistance thanks to goals from Bernardo Silva and Leroy Sane. City then followed the derby win by grinding out a 1-0 win against a resilient Burnley. They are now two wins away from defending the title and in the right dynamics to achieve it.

8. Liverpool (Beat Huddersfield 5-0)

Liverpool

Mohamed Salah inspired Liverpool to a thumping 5-0 win over bottom-placed Huddersfield. The Egyptian scored two and created Naby Keita’s opener to provide the Reds a massive boost ahead of their Champions League date with Barcelona. This win also ensured Liverpool kept the pressure on City in the Premier League title and are positioned well to pounce on any slip-ups from Guardiola’s men. The top players peaking at the right time should definitely do a lot of good to the remainder of the season for Jurgen Klopp’s outfit.

9. Nuernberg (Drew Bayern Munich 1-1)

Next season Nuernberg will play second division football but they go down with a memorable draw against a Bundesliga behemoth. League leaders Bayern failed to capitilise further on Borussia Dortmund’s slip up as they were held by a mightily impressive Nuernberg. In truth, Bayern were somewhat fortunate to escape with a draw after Tim Leibold passed up a glorious opportunity to secure all three points after his late penalty hit the post. Prior to that, Matheus Pereira had fired the home side into a shock lead three minutes after the restart until Serge Gnabry equalised.

10. Roma (Beat Cagliari 3-0)

To their standards, Roma have not had a great season so far. After slipping out of the top-four and facing elimination from the Champions League, Roma had a tough hill to climb as they looked to end their season on a high. The Romans finally entered the Champions League zone in the Serie A table with an emphatic 3-0 win over Cagliari. Federico Fazio, Javier Pastore and Aleksander Kolarov netted to cap a dominating performance, the best since Claudio Ranieri took temporary charge.

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Saudi Professional League: Talking points as its all change at Al Hilal for high-pressure title clash

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(Twitter/@Alhilal_FC).

Extremes of humiliation and pressure have forced holders Al Hilal into a dramatic change ahead of Monday’s, potentially, Saudi Professional League-defining clash with King’s Cup destroyers Al Taawoun.

Friday’s 5-0 semi-final defeat – a record loss in the Crescent’s modern history – against the same opponent saw embattled coach Zoran Mamic dismissed after less than three months in charge.

Al Faisaly’s Pericles Chamusca immediately got the call to finish off an unwinding season, beginning with a critical game in hand. With a spot in the 2020 AFC Champions League on the line for Taawoun, here are the talking points:

HILAL’S NEW HOPE

It was a night that will live in infamy.

An admittedly depleted and fatigued Hilal, shorn of some key players such as ex-France striker Bafetimbi Gomis, were swatted aside by opponents who, also, clearly had one eye on Monday’s fixture.

Mitigation by the fact this was an eight match out of nine in April was not enough to save Mamic.

Loanee Chamusca offers a required switch in direction and emphasis. The well-travelled Brazilian has moved Faisaly from 11th upon arrival in October to sixth.

Influential Saudi Arabia midfielder Abdullah Otayf’s return from injury was also the only positive from the Taawoun humiliation.

TAAWOUN’S TIME

This is not an exclusively must-win fixture for Hilal.

Taawoun have generated momentum after losing just once in their last 12 games. Win at King Saud University Stadium, it would be a ninth in this run, and they’ll be just one point behind third-placed Al Shabab in the Asian race.

Taawoun held plenty in reserve when they trashed Hilal. They could lay waste to their ambitions for a second time in 72 hours.

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