6 World Football Games to Watch This Weekend
This is the article that flies you around the world on a footballing odyssey, attempting to seek out the matches that matter this weekend.
We start in Germany, then take a short hop to England's northwest, where two historic heavyweights will come together with much to gain and two of the Premier League's most potent attacking talents at their behest.
From there we travel to Rome, as the battle for European qualification in Italy's Serie A enters the home stretch. Every three points are vital; every defeat a heavy blow in the quest to secure Europa League or Champions League football next season.
Then it's a long flight to Brazil, where one of the world's hottest teams should be in for a comfortable afternoon against a struggling opponent who've made defeat on the road a habit.
From Brazil, it's a trip north to MLS, before we conclude our dizzying journey close to where we started. FA Cup knockout football calls on Sunday, with two of England's biggest teams looking for a reason to be cheerful.
Here are my five games to watch...
6. Schalke vs. Borussia Dortmund
When: Saturday, 9.30 a.m. ET (no U.S. TV listing found)
In by popular demand, the Revierderby was initially an oversight in this list. What was I thinking?
Despite being set adrift by Bayern Munich in the Bundesliga, Borussia Dortmund have been among the most impressive sides in the the Champions League this season. They're into the quarterfinals after swatting aside Shakhtar Donetsk in the last 16 and Jurgen Klopp's team boast some of the best young players on the planet.
In full flow, Dortmund are great to watch.
On Saturday they'll be up against local rivals Schalke, who won 2-1 in the reverse fixture earlier this season and could really use three points to boost their hopes of European qualification this season.
Schalke won 4-1 against Wolfsburg last time out. Dortmund have taken 11 points from their last five away games in the German top flight.
5. Liverpool vs. Tottenham
When: Sunday, 12 p.m. ET (Fox Soccer Plus)
This one will be headlined as the battle between two of the Premier League's three best players this season—Liverpool's Luis Suarez and Tottenham's Gareth Bale.
Bale has scored 10 goals in his last eight games for Spurs—the most recent a header in their 3-0 Europa League win against Inter Milan. The Welshman is arguably the hottest player in Europe right now, and Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers will undoubtedly have hatched a plan to counter his influence at Anfield.
Tottenham manager Andre Villas-Boas will be equally concerned about the threat of Suarez, who is the Premier League's top scorer with 21 goals and helped himself to a hat-trick last time out against Wigan.
With Manchester City in FA Cup action this weekend, Spurs have a chance to move within two points of the second spot with a victory. A win for Liverpool would move them ahead of Everton on goal difference and within two points of Arsenal in fifth.
Liverpool have won their last two in the league, Spurs their last four. These two teams are looking to end their seasons with a burst, and we should be in for fast-paced, technically impressive action with plenty of quality on show.
4. Lazio vs. Fiorentina
When: Sunday, 3:45 p.m. ET (no U.S. TV listing found)
The fight for European qualification is fierce in Italy's Serie A. Just eight points separate AC Milan, in third, from Udinese, all the way down in ninth.
Sunday's meeting between Lazio and Fiorentina could have big implications for the two teams' aspirations of playing European football next season. Lazio are currently fifth, two points clear of Fiorentina in sixth.
A win for either would keep alive their hopes of finishing inside the top three and earning a Champions League spot. A defeat could leave either battling to stay amongst the Europa League spots.
Fiorentina are a team on the rise. Michael Cox, writing for Whoscored.com, has tipped them as possible title contenders next season. Also in their favor is the 2-0 victory they enjoyed over Lazio earlier in the season. That was at home though; they've lost their last three away games in Serie A.
Lazio were beaten 3-0 by Milan last week, but they will come into this one buoyed by their Europa League win against Stuttgart in midweek.
3. Sao Paulo vs. Palmeiras
When: Sunday, 3 p.m. ET (GolTV USA)
Sao Paulo are the form team in Brazil's Paulista. They've won five in a row, scoring 14 goals in the process and taking their position atop the table.
Brazil international Luis Fabiano has been among the goals, while 19-year-old striker Ademilson got himself on the scoresheet in their most recent 2-0 victory against Penapolense.
Palmeiras will their opponents on Sunday. They've not won in five straight away games in all competitions and were beaten 3-0 when this fixture was played in Serie A back in October.
This one is worth a look to take in the quality of Brazilian club football and catch one of the world's hottest teams right now.
2. Portland Timbers vs. Montreal Impact
When: Saturday, 10:30 p.m. ET (MLS Live)
Portland Timbers produced a rousing comeback to draw 3-3 with New York Red Bulls on MLS opening weekend. A raucous crowd at Jeld-Wen Field brought them home, and the same fans will be out in force for Saturday's late-night clash with Montreal.
Montreal had a dreadful end to the 2012 season, but started 2013 with a hard-fought 1-0 win away at Seattle Sounders.
Among their number is Italian veteran defender Alessandro Nesta, who played his part in keeping that clean sheet and will be looking for the same outcome in Portland.
Caleb Porter's new-look Timbers fired off 21 shots against the Red Bulls. They also enjoyed 65 percent possession in the second half, which tells you they're capable of controlling games this season.
Saturday should tell us more about Portland's chances of making a big impression in 2013.
1. Manchester United vs. Chelsea
When: Sunday, 12.30 p.m. ET (Fox Soccer)
It was not too long ago this was English football's decisive rivalry, but the rise of Manchester City has relegated Chelsea from title contenders to a team fighting for their place inside the Premier League top four.
Chelsea, whose defence of their Champions League title ended in the group stages, are a club at war with their "interim" manager in desperate need of a fillip.
The Blues are still fighting on two cup fronts, though the fact they trail Steaua Bucharest after the first leg of their Europa League tie makes FA Cup progress against United vitally important for the ever-popular Rafa Benitez.
United, meanwhile, will be seeking out the antidote to Tuesday's painful Champions League loss to Real Madrid. All eyes will be on Wayne Rooney, who was dropped by Sir Alex Ferguson for that game and whose future has dominated the football agenda in England in the days since.
Expect Rooney to start on Sunday. And expect United to come out swinging after their midweek disappointment.
United have won the last three meetings between these teams at Old Trafford. That said, they were beaten 5-4 at Stamford Bridge when the two came together in the Capital One Cup earlier this season.
Chelsea have far too much quality to be written off, but they'll need to considerably improve on the Thursday performance they offered up in the Europa League.