A Week of Must-Watch Football

Now that we’re reaching the sharp end of the European season, it’s not surprising to have a lot in play. Even so, the next seven days offer a particularly tantalizing line-up, with at least one must-see match every day this week. Saturday is a particular treat, with major games from the three biggest leagues.

Monday, May 3rd

11:00 AM Mainz – Hertha Berlin (ESPN+). Premier League homers may prefer West Brom hosting Wolves (12:00 PM on Peacock) but this is legitimately a make-or-break week for Hertha Berlin. In what may prove one of the last significant Covid-era stories, Hertha compounded what has already been a dreadful, relegation-tempting season by becoming the first Bundesliga team forced to reschedule matches because of an outbreak at the club. With their last three matches canceled as a result of the outbreak, Hertha now face five matches in thirteen days to try and escape the relegation zone. While three of those games are against other teams struggling at the bottom, Hertha will no doubt be desperate to make a good start against 12th place Mainz.

2:00 PM Sevilla – Athletic Bilbao (BeIN Sports). In the final game of the matchday, 4th place Sevilla will seek to keep in touch with the big three at the top of the table against an Athletic Club that beat La Liga leaders Atlético last weekend.

Tuesday, May 4th

2:00 PM Manchester City – Paris Saint Germain (CBS Sports Network). Pep Guardiola will look to hold onto a one-goal lead (albeit with two away goals) against last year’s finalists to reach his first Champions League final since his days at Barcelona. Last week’s match was a ding dong game of two halves, and while City dominated the second of them, both of their goals had significant elements of good fortune.

Wednesday, May 5th

2:00 PM Chelsea – Real Madrid (CBS Sports Network). Thomas Tuchel’s Chelsea hold an away goal in this finely-poised tie to determine who will be the underdog in the Champions League final. As with the first semifinal, this one could easily tilt either way.

Thursday, May 6th

11:30 AM Hertha Berlin – SC Frieburg (ESPN+). Hertha’s second game of five, against their best opponent in the final run-in, Christian Striech’s over-achieving Frieburg.

2:00 PM Arsenal – Villarreal (Paramount+). Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal have an away goal, but trail Unai Emery’s Villarreal by a goal. Emery, who won the Europa League three consecutive times while in charge of Sevilla, would love to pip his replacement as manager of Arsenal to yet another final showdown, likely against Manchester United (barring a four-goal collapse by the Red Devils against Roma in the other semifinal). You can also watch both semifinbal second legs in a simultaneous broadcast on The Golazo! Show on CBS Sports Network.

Friday, May 7th

2:00 PM RC Lens – LOSC Lille (BeIN Sports). With only three games remaining, Lille remains atop the Ligue 1 table, one point ahead of perennial winners PSG. 5th Lens are the toughest of their remaining opponents (though neither Saint-Étienne or Angers are likely to prove pushovers).

Saturday, May 8th

6:30 AM Leeds United – Tottenham Hotspur (NBCSN). While Leeds looked exhausted in this weekend’s loss to Brighton, this should still be a tasty appetizer for an over-stuffed Saturday of mission-critical football.

8:30 AM Borussia Dortmund – RB Leipzig (ESPN). Trailing Bayern by seven points and leading Wolfsburg by the same margin with three games left, RB Leipzig honestly don’t have that much to play for.  5th place Dortmund, on the other hand, remain a point outside the Champions League positions they desperately need to reach if they wish to have any chance of holding onto wunderkind Erling Håland (Jadon Sancho is believed to be Premier League-bound regardless). And given his impending move to Bayern Munich in the summer, Leipzig manager Julian Nagelsmann would certainly love to handicap a perennial opponent—if not cash in on some of the departing players for his own new club. This is one of the four Bundesliga games—yes, you’re reading that number correctly—that ESPN has chosen to broadcast on a cable network this season. Fuck those assholes. Especially since you have a Sophie’s choice to make right around the end of the first half . . .

9:15 AM Barcelona – Atlético Madrid (BeIN Sports). In a three-way title race separated by only two points, this battle between 3rd place Barcelona and 1st place Atlético is really a must win for both teams. In addition to trailing the leaders by two points, Barcelona have lost the tie-breaker to 2nd place Real Madrid, with whom they are tied on points. With only four games remaining, a loss in this match would leave them dependent on an improbable amount of good fortune to see their way back to the winner’s circle. But on the other side, Diego Simeone’s Atleti have managed to fritter away a ten point lead—with a game in hand—at the beginning of February, and another big loss would be a difficult hurdle to overcome. If you can only watch one game between this and the second half of Dortmund-Leipzig, you should probably choose this one; but for goodness sake, record the other game (or remember that ESPN+ offers replays).

11:30 AM Manchester City – Chelsea (NBC). Any way you cut it, this will be an important game. Chelsea will be looking for a win to secure their hold on the final Champions League spot, which could be as narrow as 3 points if West Ham defeat Burnley on Monday; while City can win the title with a victory against Tuchel’s side. But there is a fairly good chance that there may be even bigger fish to fry. Though we won’t know for certain until Wednesday, this has a reasonable chance of offering a preview of the Champions League final. If that’s the case, Guardiola is almost certainly use the game as a potential mind-fuck, hoping to mislead Tuchel as to his intentions in their far more significant showdown to come. It would effectively be the opening act of what has every chance of becoming an iconic Champions League final.

2:15 PM Liverpool – Southampton (Peacock). While it is much harder to get excited about the last game of the day, it is true that this game may well be a must-win for Liverpool if they wish to keep hopes of a Champions League campaign next season alive on Merseyside. Coming off of ties against both Leeds United and Newcastle United, this game could be make-or-break time for last year’s Premier League winners.

Sunday, May 9th

6:00 AM AS Saint-Étienne – Olympique des Marseille (BeIN SportsXTRA). After Saturday’s tantalizing run of fixtures, you could be forgiven for deciding to sleep in on Sunday. But Marseille, now under the leadership of manager Jorge Sampaoli following the departure of André Villas-Boas in February, are battling RC Lens and Stade Rennais for a birth in the inaugural Europa Conference League. That’s something, right? If this one is too hard to find (and you aren’t just staying in bed), there’s always Wolves – Brighton, two teams that are usually entertaining, on Peacock.

8:00 AM Benevento – Cagliari (ESPN+). This is a relegation six-pointer between 18th and 16th place, separated by two points. In fact, the two are even closer, as 17th place Torino has two games in hand. Cagliari, however, have been on the move, with three wins and a tie against Napoli in their last four games. While a loss wouldn’t be the end for Benevento, it would be a critical setback, with only three more games after to right the ship.

11:30 AM Villarreal – Celta Vigo (BeIN SportsÑ). After a disastrous start to the season that saw them bottom of the table in late November, Celta Vigo have rebounded under new manager Eduardo Coudet, and now sit firmly mid-table. Given Villarreal’s mid-week exertions, this could prove a tasty and difficult match for the yellow submarine. The English-language BeIN Sports will join in broadcasting this game at 12:00 PM.

1:45 PM Juventus – AC Milan (ESPN+). Some viewers will reasonably choose to stay with La Liga’s final match-up of the weekend, a juicy Sevilla – Real Madrid (2:00 PM on BeIN Sports) showdown, especially if Madrid has a chance to take the lead in the title race. But Serie A’s final game is tempting regardless of other results. Milan, Juventus, and Atalanta are all tied on 69 points in the Champions League spots, but with Roma (and possibly Lazio as well, given their game in hand) trailing them by only two points. Though Antonio Conte’s Internazionale have effectively won the league, this game could prove the difference between a Champions and a Europa League campaign for one of these Italian giants. In truth, this is another time where you probably want to record one—or find a place where you can watch them both.

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