The Big Seven Matches This Weekend

The first major trophy of the English football season will be decided on another big weekend of football when Arsenal take on Manchester City in the EFL Cup final on Sunday.

It is not the only notable match taking place in the coming days, though, with a top-four showdown in the Premier League and crucial battles in the Championship too as the race to make the playoffs and to avoid relegation rages on.

France, Germany, Italy, Turkey and Greece will all host important games too, while there are also derbies in South America and Australia to look forward to.

Here, we round up the biggest, best and most important games this weekend from around the globe.

Sunderland vs. Middlesbrough
Saturday, 4pm

Things look increasingly bleak for Sunderland as they welcome North-East neighbours Middlesbrough to the Stadium of Light on Saturday, with the Black Cats rooted to the bottom of the table following the midweek results.

Hopes of survival have by no means evaporated with only three points separating them from safety, but their inferior goal difference effectively makes that four points and they will need to turn their form around significantly if they are to dig themselves out of this hole.

Chris Coleman’s side have picked up just one point from the last 15 on offer in the Championship, and their only victory so far in 2018 came at home to fellow strugglers Hull City.

That result did at least help to improve their woeful home record, but Sunderland have still only won two of their last 27 matches in front of their own fans across all competitions.

Middlesbrough are more concerned with matters at the other end of the table, with Tony Pulis having steered the club to within three points of the playoff places, while goal difference is currently in their favour too.

Boro have also won their last five meetings with Sunderland across all competitions, including two without conceding already this season, although both of those came at the Riverside in the league and FA Cup.

Feyenoord vs. PSV Eindhoven
Sunday, 2.30pm

Netherlands also plays host to one of its biggest games on Sunday afternoon as defending champions Feyenoord host top-of-the-table PSV Eindhoven at the Stadion Feyenoord.

The hosts took the title off PSV last season as they lifted the trophy for the first time since 1998-99, but their defence of that crown has been poor and they go into this weekend’s match sitting 20 points adrift of Sunday’s opponents.

Indeed, Feyenoord are 15 points off the Champions League places and have lots of work to do simply to book guaranteed European football next season, with AZ currently eight points ahead in the only automatic Europa League spot.

The Rotterdam outfit are yet to record back-to-back wins this calendar year, whereas PSV have picked up 22 points from the last 24 on offer and have only lost one of their last 20 league games to storm five points clear of Ajax.

Both of their league defeats this season have come away from home, though, while Feyenoord have won their last four home outings in the Eredivisie and are unbeaten in eight.

PSV have also only won one of their last seven league visits to Feyenoord, although they did inflict the Rotterdam club’s heaviest-ever defeat as recently as 2010 when they ran out 10-0 winners.

Manchester United vs. Chelsea
Sunday, 3.05pm

While two of the top six turn their attention to cup duties at Wembley, the race for Champions League football rages on at Old Trafford on Sunday when second-placed Manchester United host reigning champions Chelsea.

Both teams have seen their form stutter of late, with United winning just two of their last five games across all competitions and Chelsea just four of their last 14 inside normal time.

Both remain in the top four, though, and this weekend’s match is sure to have a big impact on the order of those Champions League places, with Chelsea able to draw level on points with United with a victory, despite the speculation over Antonio Conte’s future.

There will be few games this season that Conte wants to win more either, with the bitter war of words between himself and his Chelsea predecessor Jose Mourinho adding yet more spice to an already mouth-watering tie.

The champions could begin the match outside the top four should Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool both win prior to this match kicking off, but if Chelsea then also win there would be only two points separating second from fifth.

United did win the corresponding fixture between these two sides last season, but that is their only triumph in the last 14 meetings across all competitions, including a 1-0 win for Chelsea at Stamford Bridge earlier this term.

Bayer Leverkusen vs. Schalke 04
Sunday, 3.30pm

The race to finish second behind Bayern Munich in the Bundesliga is one of the most hotly-contested in European football at the moment, with five teams separated by only three points from second to sixth.

There are only four Champions League places on offer too – three if you take out runaway leaders Bayern Munich – and Sunday’s match between Bayer Leverkusen and Schalke sees two teams currently separated by that all-important dotted line go head to head.

Leverkusen are currently only in the top four on goal difference ahead of RB Leipzig, while sixth-placed Schalke are just a point behind but could end the weekend as high as third with a victory.

The hosts have lost just two of their last 21 matches across all competitions – a run which stretches all the way back to September – whereas Schalke have stuttered in recent weeks and are looking for back-to-back wins for the first time since November.

Indeed, Domenico Tedesco’s side have won just three of their last 11 Bundesliga outings and only one of their last six away from home.

Schalke did win the corresponding fixture last season, although that is their only victory in the last seven meetings between these two sides home or away.

Besiktas vs. Fenerbahce
Sunday, 5pm

Two of Turkey’s traditional ‘big three’ face off on Sunday afternoon with title hopes, Champions League aspirations and bragging rights all on the line.

Besiktas and Fenerbahce are two of four Istanbul-based sides fighting it out at the top end of the table this season, with only five points separating the top four and just two Champions League places up for grabs.

Incredibly, all four are also level on goal difference, but it is two-time defending champions Besiktas who have the most work to do with three points separating them from Galatasaray and Fenerbahce and five keeping them from leaders Istanbul Basaksehir – a club looking to become only the second outside the ‘big three’ to win the title since 1984.

Besiktas must bounce back from their heavy Champions League defeat at the hands of Bayern Munich in midweek, but in domestic action they are unbeaten in seven and have lost just one of their last 14 Super Lig matches.

Fenerbahce, meanwhile, are unbeaten in any competition since September and, with the leaders not in action until Monday night, would climb top of the table with a win if Galatasaray slip up against Bursaspor on Friday night.

Despite Besiktas’s recent title successes they are winless in their last five meetings with Fenerbahce and have won just one of the last 10, although Sunday’s visitors have not won away to their city rivals in the league since 2014.

Arsenal vs. Manchester City
EFL Cup final
Sunday, 5.30pm

Manchester City saw their quadruple hopes go up in smoke at the hands of League One Wigan Athletic of all teams last weekend, but there would be no better way to bounce back then to get their first trophy of the season in the cabinet this weekend.

Pep Guardiola’s side are still on course for the treble this season, and they can wrap up the first leg of that against Arsenal at Wembley in the final of the EFL Cup.

The Gunners have an exemplary recent record in cup finals at the national stadium, though, winning the FA Cup three times in the last four seasons and also adding three Community Shields to that tally.

Indeed, prior to Arsenal’s 1-0 defeat at the hands of Tottenham Hotspur in the North London derby earlier this month, Arsene Wenger’s side had won nine consecutive games at Wembley, so this will feel like a home game for the Gunners.

This trophy is the only major silverware Wenger is yet to get his hands on in English football, with the most recent of Arsenal’s two triumphs coming in 1993, whereas Man City lifted the trophy as recently as 2016.

Both teams have reached the final without winning any of their previous EFL Cup games this season by more than one goal, and they will quickly be reunited whatever happens on Sunday, with a Premier League meeting also scheduled for next Thursday.

Paris Saint-Germain vs. Marseille
Sunday, 9pm

The 27th round of Ligue 1 fixtures will end with a bang on Sunday night when Paris Saint-Germain host Marseille in Le Classique – the biggest and fiercest rivalry in French football.

The contest pits France’s two biggest cities and two most supported clubs against each other, while also having the extra spice of a north-south divide thrown in to add to the hatred between the two sets of fans.

It also represents France’s new dominant force against its old one, with 10-time champions Marseille still the most successful side in Ligue 1 history but PSG having taken up the mantle with four of the last five titles.

The capital outfit look set to regain the title again this season too, currently sitting 12 points clear at the top of the table having won 15 of their last 16 domestic matches in the league and cup.

Marseille have not won the title since 2010 but are right in the race for Champions League football this season, now sitting six points clear of out-of-form Lyon and only one behind defending champions Monaco in second.

However, they have a dismal recent record against their most bitter rivals, failing to win any of the last 15 editions of Le Classique and being denied their first victory since November 2011 by Edinson Cavani’s stoppage-time equaliser in the reverse fixture.