Champions League spots;
Bayern were ran close but have yet again clinched the Bundesliga title with Leipzig set to finish second. Julian Nagelsmann is leaving the latter for the Bavarian giants though as is French defender Dayot Upamecano, American coach Jesse Marsch being the man to take charge at Leipzig coming from their partner club Salzburg. As it stands, the pair will be joined in next year’s Champions League by Wolfsburg and Eintracht Frankfurt, but a late push for Edin Terzic’s Dortmund could change all of that. Sancho’s return to fitness has coincided with the conclusion of this below-par season and they are just one point behind Frankfurt in fourth. Can the star power of Haaland, Sancho and co overcome Adi Hutter’s side or even the surprise package of Wolfsburg?
Dortmund may have underperformed this season but that is nothing close to that of their rivals, the disastrous Schalke, a historic Bundesliga club who will no-longer be plying their trade in the top division. With just four games left, the Gelsenkirchen outfit have had their fate sealed for a long time whilst the remaining relegation spots are far from decided. In Germany, two sides face the drop automatically whilst a third clashes in a play-off with the third best team in the division below; as it stands Hertha Berlin would join Schalke and FC Koln would meet Hamburg. Hamburg have some pretty favourable fixtures remaining but they’re unlikely to catch second-placed Furth. Meanwhile Schalke can still leave their mark on the relegation battle as they have games against both Hertha and Koln remaining, not to mention the team from Berlin will play Arminia Bielefeld this weekend, the side who currently occupy the last remaining spot of guaranteed safety.
Champions League spots;
Next, to Italy where Juventus’ nine-year dominance of the Scudetto has come to an end, courtesy of a former manager of theirs. Antonio Conte lifted the title with the Bianconeri and has now prevented them from making it ten-in-a-row, his Inter side being spearheaded by the superb strike partnership of Romelu Lukaku and Argentine Lautaro Martinez. Not only have Juve missed out on the title but they may miss out on the top four all together, Atalanta and Milan are either side of Pirlo’s men on the same points tally whilst Napoli are hot on their coattails. Juve host Milan this weekend which will be a hugely enthralling game, a Napoli win against Spezia meaning they will jump back into the coveted UCL spots no matter what the outcome is of that one. Still to come, Juve have to play champions Inter, Napoli face a testing visit to Fiorentina in their penultimate game and Milan themselves will clash with second placed Atalanta on the final day. All is still to play for!
As is the case with Schalke in the Bundesliga, Crotone and Parma have an insurmountable gap to overcome if they are to maintain their Serie A status. On the other hand, eighteenth-placed Benevento are in touching distance of Cagliari and have the likes of Spezia and Torino on the horizon also. As previously mentioned, Spezia’s next fixture is versus Napoli whilst Benevento will go toe-to-toe with Cagliari in a true six-pointer. Cagliari still have to travel to the San Siro to play Milan and Benevento have huge games against Atalanta, rock-bottom Crotone and a Torino side who aren’t yet out of the woods themselves.
Barcelona fought back from a goal down thanks to some Messi magic at the Mestalla to beat Valencia and lose Javi Gracia his job in the process as they continue to gnaw at the heels of the two Madrid giants. Talking of the pair from the capital and whilst Real Madrid will probably still be reeling from their UCL elimination at the hands of Tuchel’s Chelsea, Atleti will visit Camp Nou in a monster fixture on Saturday. All three have played the same amount of games and have some difficult ones to see the season out; Barcelona and Real on seventy-four points each, chasing the team to beat, Simeone’s Atleti, who are two points better off. Sevilla are still on the outskirts of the title race but if there were to succeed it would be miraculous, the final UCL spot being theirs for certain.
Kike Garcia’s superb hat-trick for Eibar saw them beat fellow strugglers Alaves 3-0 on the weekend as they keep their hopes of survival alive. The side from the Basque region of Spain remain at the foot of the table but the two sides above them; Huesca and Elche, are only four points ahead now with Real Valladolid and Alaves just one point above them. Eibar’s next game will see them visit Getafe who aren’t safe themselves and then will finish their season with three tough fixtures; Betis, Valencia and then title hopefuls Barcelona will be the away side at Ipurua on the final day. Elche, one of the other two sides that would be relegated as we speak have possibly their biggest game of the run-in the week after next- they will host Alaves who are well within their reach. It is certainly going to go down to the wire at both ends of Spain’s top division!
PSG put on a valiant display in the first-leg of their UCL semi-final with Man City but unravelled at the Etihad, their tempers getting the better of them as they felt the game slipping through their fingers. A slight positive of this though is that Poch’s side can now turn their full attentions to a nail-biting title race in which they currently trail an electric Lille side. Christophe Galtier has masterminded a challenge to PSG’s authoritarian nature when no one else could, the likes of Canadian Jonathan David and the experienced Turk Burak Yilmaz playing monumental roles on the goals front. PSG beat high-flying Lens 2-1 on the weekend without Mbappe whilst Yilmaz and his fellow countryman Mehmet Celik scored to see Lille past Nice, keeping their place in top-spot. One point separates the pair and PSG have the superior goal difference, plus on the topic of Lens, their role in the race for the title isn’t over as they’ll host Lille next time out. Other upcoming fixtures include PSG visiting a Rennes side who can be quite hit and miss whilst Lille’s penultimate game will see St Etienne as the away side at the Stade Pierre-Mauroy. Can Lille do what all neutrals want done?
Champions League spots;
The two sides below PSG and Lille aren’t exactly far off but it’s unlikely either of them will top the tree, the pair in question being Lyon and Monaco. The latter hosted Lyon on Sunday night and Kevin Volland scored the only goal of a rather quiet first 45, the away side springing into action after the break despite Caqueret’s dismissal to win 3-2, seventeen-year-old Rayan Cherki scoring the winner. Madness ensued after the final whistle that saw two players from either sent off as tempers flared but regardless, Lyon move to within one point of Niko Kovac’s side with the reward being the third and final UCL spot. In the remaining few games, Monaco have the slightly harder games that include Lens and Rennes whilst hosting Nice on the final day is probably the biggest challenge for Memphis Depay and co.
Given the reputation that Ligue 1 has courtesy of primarily English fans, to have everything still to play for throughout the division is quite impressive. Dijon have been officially relegated recently but it seemed very likely for a while now and they also can still have a say. They will play Nantes, the former club of Claudio Ranieri, on the final day and they are currently eighteenth, needing four points to catch Strasbourg and Lorient who would be safe as it stands. Nimes make up the bottom three but their survival hopes are very thin, games against Lyon and Rennes are still to come and they have six points plus to make up. Bordeaux are a historic side in French football but they themselves could be nervously glancing over their shoulder; the club is plagued with off the field issues and also has a woeful run of results counting against them. Could Nantes pull off a miraculous escape?