The Big Seven Matches This Weekend

With a little over two months remaining in the majority of leagues around Europe and further afield, clubs are gearing up for the home straight of their domestic seasons.

Many divisions are beginning to split into championship and relegation rounds, whereas others are now coming to the stage where every result could have a potentially pivotal say on matters at both ends of the table.

This weekend sees some of Britain’s biggest derbies take centre stage, where there are also notable showdowns in South America, Central America and Asia to look forward to.

Here, we round up all of the biggest, best and most important upcoming contests from across the globe.

Manchester United vs. Liverpool
Saturday, 1.30pm

Battles between English football’s two most successful clubs need no extra spice to make them special occasions, but when Manchester United welcome arch-rivals Liverpool to Old Trafford on Saturday lunchtime it could have a decisive say on which team finishes as runners-up behind Manchester City on the Premier League table.

United currently occupy that spot, two points clear of Liverpool courtesy of their stirring late comeback from two goals down to beat Crystal Palace 3-2 at Selhurst Park on Monday night.

Jose Mourinho’s side would extend that gap to five points with a win on Saturday, and perhaps just as importantly would temporarily climb 12 points clear of fifth-placed Chelsea in the race for a Champions League spot.

Liverpool make the trip to Manchester in fine form, though, losing just one of their last 20 Premier League games and safely booking their place in the quarter-finals of the Champions League in midweek.

Man City are the only visiting team to have beaten United at Old Trafford since January 2016, though, while all three of Liverpool’s league defeats this season have come away from home.

United are also the only team Klopp is yet to beat in the Premier League as Liverpool manager, although the Reds are also unbeaten in their last five meetings with Saturday’s hosts across all competitions, with each of the last four ending as draws.

Rangers vs. Celtic
Sunday, 1pm

Perhaps the only match in British football which can eclipse Manchester United vs. Liverpool is the Old Firm derby between Rangers and Celtic, and the Glasgow rivals will lock horns again on Sunday lunchtime.

After a long time in which Rangers had to fight their way back up to the top of Scottish football, the Premiership table once again has a familiar look about it at the moment, with these two sides occupying the top two places.

Celtic continue to lead the way, though, and Rangers still have a lot of work to do before they can break the Bhoys’ monopoly of the title, which has seen them crowned champions in each of the last six seasons.

The current gap of only six points is a lot better than the 39-point difference which separated the two sides at the end of last season, though, and Rangers will welcome their arch nemeses to Ibrox having won their last six games and nine of their last 10 across all competitions.

Celtic do still have a game in hand, but the air of invincibility around Brendan Rodgers’s side has been damaged in recent months and they have only won three of their last seven away games in the league – that after a run of 22 wins and one draw in their 23 prior to that.

Rangers have not beaten Celtic in normal time since March 2012, though, and the Bhoys have won all three of their league visits to Ibrox since Sunday’s hosts returned to the top flight.

Borussia Dortmund vs. Eintracht Frankfurt
Sunday, 6pm

The race for the Champions League places in the Bundesliga has been fascinating throughout the season, and it still remains unclear which of the five teams directly behind runaway leaders Bayern Munich will earn their place in the top four.

Borussia Dortmund and Frankfurt are two of the teams right in the mix, with only goal difference separating them in third and fourth respectively ahead of this weekend’s action.

If the season stopped now, one would imagine both would be content with the top-four finish, but Bayer Leverkusen are just one point behind while RB Leipzig – two further points off the pace – are also waiting to pounce on any slip-ups.

Frankfurt are on course for their best top-flight finish since 1992-93 as things stand and may even still harbour hopes of finishing in the top two of the Bundesliga for the first time ever, but including this match they still have to face every other team in the top five this season.

Dortmund will welcome them to the Westfalenstadion as a team still unbeaten in 2018, although there have been too many draws in that time for them to nail down their place in the top four just yet.

The reverse fixture ended 2-2 in October, but Frankfurt have not won away to Dortmund since 2010 and lost this fixture in the final of the DFB-Pokal last season.

Aston Villa vs. Wolverhampton Wanderers
Saturday, 6.30pm

Saturday afternoon sees a top-of-the-table Midlands derby take place as in-form Aston Villa welcome a Wolves side who have just begun to flounder with the finish line in sight.

A 3-0 win over Leeds United at Elland Road in midweek was a timely return to form after a three-match winless streak which had seen second-placed Cardiff City close the gap at the top of the table to just three points.

Both teams have suffered defeats at the hands of fellow promotion hopefuls Fulham recently, but for Villa that is their only loss in their last 11 Championship outings – a run of form which includes nine wins.

That form has catapulted Steve Bruce’s side up to third in the table, although they are still four points adrift of the automatic promotion places and know that defeat to their near-neighbours on Saturday could undo a lot of their hard work since the turn of the year.

Villa have only lost one of their 17 Championship home games this season, though, whereas Wolves have only won two of their six away games this calendar year and are looking for back-to-back victories on the road for the first time since before Christmas.

Wolves have won the last two meetings between the sides – including a 2-0 victory at Molineux in October – but you have to go back to March 2011 for their most recent triumph at Villa Park.

Nottingham Forest vs. Derby County
Sunday, 3.30pm

Sticking with the Championship – and the Midlands – Nottingham Forest and Derby County will face off in the East Midlands derby on Sunday afternoon.

The two clubs, who were largely shaped by the late great Brian Clough, have endured contrasting fortunes this season and this weekend’s contest is a much bigger one for the visitors than it is the hosts.

Nottingham Forest have little but pride left to fight for in the final 10 games of the season, sitting equidistant between the playoffs and the relegation zone with 14 points separating them from both.

Forest would still relish the chance to put a dent in Derby’s playoff hopes, though, with the Rams currently sitting in fifth place and only four points clear of seventh-placed Bristol City.

The formbook is in stark contrast to their league positions, though. The hosts go into the game on a five-match unbeaten run having lost seven and won just one of their 10 league games prior to that, whereas Derby are winless in their last six and have only come out on top three times in their 12 outings since the turn of the year.

The Rams have won three and lost none of the last four meetings between the two sides, including a 2-0 win in the reverse fixture, but they have not triumphed at The City Ground since September 2012.

Shanghai Shenhua vs. Shanghai SIPG
Saturday, 1.35pm

There will be a Shanghai derby in just gameweek two of the new Chinese Super League season as a Shenhua side with Fredy Guarin and Obafemi Martins on their roster welcomes the likes of Oscar and Hulk, who got their campaign off to a flying start with an 8-0 win last weekend.

There’s not more to elaborate as regards form seeing as the league has just begun.

The away side scored eight goals on Matchday 1 and would definitely be looking to build on last season’s second place finish and they can go on a roll if they overcome Shanghai neighbours.

The last five games between both sides have averaged four goals a game with SIPG just edging it on 3 wins and two losses.

Sevilla vs Valencia
Saturday, 4.15pm

5th-placed Sevilla host high-flying Valencia in a clear win or bust encounter in their chase for a champions league spot via the La Liga.

Valencia are just a place above their hosts but critically, they are 8 points clear but will definitely see this game as a chance to cement their top 4 place.

Los Che started the season in fantastic form, spending 9 weeks in second place behind Barça and anything less than a champions league spot would put a negative damp on what has been a surreal season for them.

Sevilla travel to Old Trafford in midweek with only a slim chance of progression in the Champions League so it would be left to be seen how Vincenzo Montella would approach this game at the Ramon Sanchez Pizquan.