Frankly none of Saturday’s games are all that compelling, but if you must:
FA Cup Semifinal, Liverpool vs Everton (7:30amET; FSC & Fox Deportes): A Merseyside derby at Wembley. Liverpool have been in rotten form, in the league at least, winning just 2 out of their past 10 league fixtures, sinking to 8th in the table. Meanwhile, Everton has been experiencing their typical late-season resurgence–three wins and a draw in their past 4 league matches have actually put them one point above their rivals in the standings. There has much been written about the 10-year anniversary of David Moyes’s tenure at Everton–during which he’s generally been praised for guiding Everton to respectable finishes in the league, but which is conspicuously free of trophies. This FA Cup seems like a chance to finally remedy that.
Bundesliga, Schalke 04 vs Borussia Dortmund (9:30amET; GolTV): The Ruhr derby–or, in the German, the Revierderby—is the biggest rivalry in Germany. (Indeed, entire books have been written about it, it seems.) Dortmund are coming up a huge win over Bayern on Wednesday, which put them in the driver’s seat to win the Bundesliga. But Schalke, themselves 3rd in the table, will be looking to trip up their hated neighbors. Schalke are led by the legendary Raul and the prolific Klaus-Jan Huntelaar up front. Their battle against Dortmund’s center-back pair of Mats Hummels and Serbian(-American, albeit briefly) Neven Subotic will be interesting. The latter had a very good game Wednesday, shutting down Bayern’s Mario Gomez. At the other end, Dortmund’s attacking pair of Shinji Kagawa and Robert Lewandowski are equally dangerous.
Eredivisie, PSV vs AZ (12:45pmET; ESPN Deportes & ESPN3.com): PSV have had a very poor couple of months, dropping down to 5th in the table. But they’re still only 4 points behind 2nd place AZ Alkmaar, who are themselves 3 points behind 1st place Ajax. The player to watch on PSV is deep-lying playmaker Kevin Strootman, who’s been called “the future of the Oranje midfield“–and who has lately been linked with Manchester United.
La Liga, Levante vs Barcelona (4pmET, ESPN, ESPN Deportes & ESPN3.com): Barça are entering a challenging stretch, with the two Champions League semifinal ties against Chelsea next Wednesday and the following Tuesday–and El Clasico squeezed in between, next Saturday. But for the latter match to be of consequence, Barcelona has to keep winning. They should beat Levante, but they’ve looked vulnerable on the road, and Levante has much to play for–the sit 5th in the table, two points behind Malaga and a spot in next season’s Champions League.
Sunday, April 15
FA Cup Semifinal, Tottenham Hotspur vs Chelsea (1pmET, FSC & Fox Deportes): Another derby in the other FA Cup semifinal. The two London clubs are battling not only on this front, but also in the league–for the coveted 4th spot. And Chelsea is also, somehow, still alive in the Champions League, with Barcelona visiting Stamford Bridge this Wednesday.
La Liga, Rayo Vallecano vs Atlético Madrid (3pmET, ESPN Deportes & ESPN3.com): Atlético lost yet another Madrid derby last Wednesday on their home ground, against their biggest rivals Real Madrid. This is another Madrid derby, albeit a lesser one against lesser opponents. Atlético travels out to the Vallecas barrio of Madrid, to play at the 15,500-capacity Campo de Futbol de Vallecas. It certainly sounds like a great place to watch a game. From the afore-linked-to Sid Lowe column about Real Madrid’s visit to Vallecas a couple months ago:
A huge painted tarpaulin, weeks in the making, was passed over the supporters in the end. Republican flags, red, yellow and purple, were everywhere. The red and black of the anarchists. Ché Guevara banners and others appealing for the legalisation of cannabis. Not that it needed legalising on this evidence. Countless flags, Rayo’s red thunderbolt scorched across them. Song too: the Marseillaise, the Internationale, Yankee Doodle. It went round: end to the sunny side and back; end to shaded side and back again, like a drill sergeant, or Freddie Mercury yodelling with his audience. Lots and lots of noise. No one sat, not once. Instead they squeezed in, clapping and bouncing and singing. Even the half-time entertainment was different: a beast of a man celebrated his prize by parading bare-chested across the pitch waving a Republican flag. Minutes before, Mourinho had walked off down the tunnel and held a thumbs up to the end. Now, those are fans.
Their player to watch is Michu–nee Miguel Pérez Cuesta, who has been a revelation in his first season in La Primera. He started his career with his hometown club of Real Oviedo, before moving to Celta Vigo in the Segunda Division. He finally got to the big league via a free transfer to Rayo last summer. Also from Sid Lowe’s column:
Michu twice appeared to have missed his chance to play in primera – first he turned down the chance to play for Sporting because he is an Oviedo fan, then he missed a penalty for Celta in the play-offs – but now that he is here, he has been arguably the season’s revelation. He has 11 goals. Rayo have 32, more than any of the nine teams below them – all of them richer.
That was in late February. He’s since scored four more, to take his total to 15–even with Fernando Llorente for 6th in leading scorer list. Now he’s being talked about as a possible transfer target for some of the biggest clubs in Europe.