It has been just 48 hours-ish since the ball was struck for the final time in the last Premier League fixture of the weekend – Manchester United’s lethargic 1-0 win over Everton – but the Armchair Fan is already suffering from withdrawal symptoms.
AF has tried to cure the itch with a six-hour session on Football Manager (signing the next Lionel Messi before losing to Southampton in the FA Cup final) but it’s just not the same as the real deal, even if you’re in full shirt and tie yelling ‘GEGENPRESS NOW’ at the computer screen. Wayne Rooney just doesn’t listen.
So hoping a quick run through of the coming week’s most important fixtures could prove more effective in curtailing the addiction, AF has spent the afternoon assembling a guide of the best football on television over the next seven days – as well as a few games that unfortunately won’t make the small screen.
Before you start making plans with the wifey, make sure you’re clued up on this week’s footballing schedule.
Tuesday night brings the much-welcomed return of the Champions League, with the first leg of Barcelona and Atletico Madrid’s all-La Liga quarter-final heading the billing.
History suggests the Catalans will come out on top, winning all six of their last encounters with the Mattress Makers, but they looked out of sorts as Real Madrid recorded a 2-1 win in Saturday’s instalment of the El Clasico and only a fool would rule out Diego Simeone’s pragmatic opportunists.
Meanwhile, Bayern Munich face Benfica in what looks set to be a relatively simple home leg for the Bundesliga champions, especially when comparing Pep Guardiola’s European pedigree with the Portuguese outfit’s legendary curse on the continental stage.
But if watching two of the best sides in world football isn’t your thing, the Championship offers some exciting alternatives. Sixth-place Derby County play fourth-place Hull City in a Yorkshire derby that could have an enormous impact on the playoff schedule come the end of May, whilst Rotherham’s clash with Bristol City represents a fixture of equal importance for the other end of the table.
With both sides just a handful of points clear of the drop zone, a win for either could see them escape the relegation battle entirely. A draw, meanwhile, would claw them both back in.
You can watch:
Barcelona vs Atletico Madrid – 7pm on BT Sport Europe
Championship updates – Sky Sports News from 7.30pm onwards
Whilst Real Madrid will fancy their chances of getting a few away goals to secure a spot in the Champions League semi-finals upon travelling to Wolfsburg on Wednesday night, the other European clash between PSG and Manchester City represents a considerably more relishing encounter.
Two clubs propped up my middle-east oil fortunes, desperate to become European powerhouses after emerging from mid-table mediocrity, Wednesday’s game feels like an incredibly important fixture in the histories (and futures) of both sides
No doubt, PSG enter this one as favourites. They professionally swept aside Chelsea over two legs and have assembled an incredibly talented squad – containing talents like Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Thiago Silva, Marco Veratti and Angel Di Maria – whilst the Citizens will be without captain Vincent Kompany, goalkeeper Joe Hart and midfielder Yaya Toure.
But City’s formidable attack remains intact (Aguero, Silva and a returning Kevin de Bruyne), and if they get their act together they could cause a real upset at Parc de Princes.
You can watch:
PSG vs Manchester City – 7pm on BT Sport Europe
Champions League highlights – 10.45pm on ITV1
The AF has never been the biggest fan of the Europa League but is willing to make an exception with Thursday in mind. Braga vs Shakhtar Donetsk, Villarreal vs Sparta Prague and Athletic Bilbao vs reigning champions Sevilla are all decent enough fixtures if you’re looking for a few games to flick through whilst pulling an all-nighter on Football Manager, but Liverpool’s visit to Borussia Dortmund remains the headline act.
A fixture enthused in the sub-plot of Jurgen Klopp returning to his former club, expect ‘the yellow wall’ to produce placards, effigies and posters worshiping their iconic ex-manager upon Liverpool’s arrival at Westfalenstadion.
Dortmund have to be the favourites for this one; they absolutely demolished an admittedly weakened Spurs side in the last round, winning the home leg 3-0, and are almost twenty points ahead of third-place Hertha Berlin in the Bundesliga table.
But Klopp must know a few intrinsic weaknesses of his former team and this is very much a season-defining fixture for Liverpool. Out of the top four race, the FA Cup and Capital One Cup, the Europa League is all they have left to play for this season.
You can watch:
Dortmund vs Liverpool – 7.15pm on BT Sport Europe
Europa League highlights – 10.40pm on ITV1
There’s no standout fixture for Friday night but if you’re a footballing hipster who prefers the obscure European derbies to the English top flight, then this is the evening for you.
Indeed, in the battle for the best team in Scotland apart from Celtic, who are the best team in Scotland by quite some distance, third-placed Hearts play hosts to second-place Aberdeen.
Meanwhile, relegation-threatened Granada face mid-tablers Malaga in La Liga, shock Champions League qualifying contenders Hertha Berlin play rock-bottom Hannover in Germany, third-placed Lyon face Ligue 1 rivals Montpellier, Zwolle take on Rode in the Eredivisie and Genk host Oostende in the second matchday of the Jupiler League’s Group A playoff.
Away from senior mens football, defending champions Chelsea face Blackburn Rovers in the FA Youth Cup, always worth a watch in the hope of spotting a future first-team gem, whilst England Women continue their qualifying campaign with a crunch match against Belgium.
You can watch:
Hertha Berlin vs Hannover – 7.15pm on BT Sport Europe
Hearts vs Aberdeen – 7.15pm on BT Sport 1
Chelsea vs Blackburn Rovers FA Youth Cup – 7.30pm on ITV4
England vs Belgium Women’s Euro 2017 qualifiers – 7.30pm on BBC2
Another Saturday, another fine afternoon of Premier League football. Indeed, the English top flight is back in full swing and the coming weekend is filled with a series of mouth-watering fixtures, starting off with Arsenal and West Ham’s firey London derby – the final time the Gunners will visit the soon-to-be-vacated Upton Park.
The 3pms are perhaps a little more disappointing; Swansea City vs Chelsea, Southampton vs Newcastle, Aston Villa vs Bournemouth and Watford vs Everton all lack the intoxicating sub plots that make the Premier League so exciting. But Norwich City have a fantastic chance to make Crystal Palace an official part of the relegation battle, welcoming the struggling South Londoners to Carrow Road.
Around the world, meanwhile, Juventus face AC Milan in a classic Serie A fixture and Wolfsburg will look to close the six-point gap between themselves and sixth-placed opponents Mainz in the Bundesliga, whilst Atletico Madrid, Barcelona and Real Madrid will expect to pick up all three points against Espanyol, Real Sociedad and Eibar respectively.
Moving away from top flights and into the Championship, Leeds face Burnley in a traditional Yorkshire vs Lancashire festival of shin-shattering challenges from Joey Barton.
You can watch:
Score updates with Soccer Saturday – 12pm onwards on Sky Sports News
West Ham vs Arsenal – 12pm on BT Sport 1
Man City vs West Brom – 5pm on Sky Sports 1
AC Milan vs Juventus – 7.45pm on BT Sport 1
Football League Tonight – 9pm on Channel 5
Match of the Day – 10.20pm on BBC1
Leicester City will get yet another chance to prove their bubble isn’t going to burst in the early kickoff against Sunderland, which could see the Premier League’s shock leaders move an incredible ten points clear of Tottenham Hotspur before the chasing north Londoners get a chance to respond.
And there’s no guarantee they will; Spurs play hosts to Manchester United later in the day, who are now amid a run of four wins from their last five Premier League outings following consecutive 1-0 victories over Manchester City and Everton.
So expect another pragmatic victory from Leicester and a performance played at Vardy velocity, although Sunderland have a knack of pulling off miracles at this point in the season, followed by Spurs attempting to work a win against a tough-to-beat United outfit.
Around the continent meanwhile, Dortmund square off against Schalke in the ever-ferocious Revierderby, Athletic Bilbao take on Rayo Vallecano in La Liga and underwhelming mid-tablers Bordeaux and Marseille will battle it out in Ligue 1.
You can watch:
Leicester City vs Sunderland – 12.30pm on Sky Sports 1
Napoli vs Verona – 2pm on BT Sport
Spurs vs Man United – 3.30pm on Sky Sports 1
Cologne vs Bayer Leverkusen – 4.30pm on BT Sport 1
Athletic Bilbao vs Rayo Vallecano – 7.25pm on Sky Sports 2
Marseille vs Bordeaux – 8pm on BT Sport 1
Match of the Day 2 – 10.30pm on BBC 1