Champions League knockout play now committed to memory, we’re back into the domestic leagues with a touch of cup action in England, and the rest of the world getting on with earning points. As you may know, faithful readers, we tend to look to the Soccer Insider for our weekend tv listings, but seeing as so many of us watch matches through variously legal web outlets, we thought of expanding the list a bit this week. Fascinating, we know.
All times Eastern US. Click the teams to see on which channel the games are being shown in your country. Fancy!
Saturday, February 19th
7:30 am Chelsea vs Everton FA Cup The pick of the round. Everton has become a second-half-of-the-season team, and though they’ve lost the speedy little Bafana Bafana Steven Pienaar to Spurs, they’re still a dangerous side. Though saying that, Evra is out with another injury just when he was getting back into goal-scoring form—he was the man who put the Toffees ahead in the initial fourth round meeting between the teams. Chelsea struggled to equalize and bring the match back to Stamford Bridge, but they have…now let’s see if they can put it away.
9:30 am Hamburger SV vs Werder Bremen Bundesliga The Nordderby (or North Derby) sees the two most successful sides in Bundesliga history meet to add to what has been so far a pretty evenly matched rivalry. Neither team is setting the league on fire this year, and Die Werderaner is a little too close to the relegation zone for comfort, but over the course of the teams’ 139 meetings, 48 have gone to Hamburger, 50 to Werder, and the remaining 41 ended in draws.
10 am Nottingham Forest vs Cardiff City England Championship Two teams separated by two points battling for automatic promotion through to the Prem. A quick primer for those of you who ignore all but the Barclay’s-shielded teams, positions one and two of the Championship earn an immediately place in next season’s Premiership, while the third through sixth teams meet in playoff rounds to determine the final addition to the top flight. Currently Cardiff sit in second with Nottingham in fourth. This one promises to be a battle.
12 pm Valencia vs Sporting Gijón La Liga If for no other reason than that we enjoy the powerful mustache of Manuel Preciado. We’ll also be watching to see how well Los Che rebound from the midweek draw with Schalke. Sporting Gíjon will look to surprise another top team after having drawn with Barça last week.
12:15 pm Manchester United vs Crawley Town FA Cup We can’t imagine this will be too much of a match, but good for you Crawley Town! The gate receipts and television earnings for this match alone will be enough to keep the tiny club afloat for a couple more seasons (they’d been in administration in the 90s and nearly went kaput mid 00s). Other fun fact, this match will see the meeting of the red devils and the red devils.
12:30 pm FSV Mainz 05 vs Bayern München Bundesliga Bayern started the season slowly but have now climbed to third (though still thirteen points behind league-leaders Borussia Dortmund). Die Roten have had a rough go with Ribery and Robben both out for significant spells due to injury, though they are slated to play together come this weekend even though Robben pulled up in training. Mainz sit just two points behind the visiting side in fifth. This is a squad with a long history of not playing in the top flight, but the last decade has been something quite different for the team, which saw them playing top flight ball 5 non-consecutive years. Now they’re challenging for a place in Europe after starting the season with eight wins.
1 pm Olympique Marseille vs Saint-Étienne Ligue 1 We never point to the French league, so in the spirit of fairness let’s all have a quick look at two teams fighting for a place in Europe. Marsielle host Man United in Champions League play next week so would normally look to rest a few key starters, but the less-monied St. Étienne side are only a few points back from last year’s Ligue 1 champions, and though they haven’t produced the kind of quality on display in the mid 60s-70s or even the 90s (when they developed the likes of Laurent Blanc, and Michel Platini) they are sure to put up a solid front at home.
7:15 pm Racing Club vs Boca Juniors Primera División It’s the start of the clausura (the Argentine season is split in two, with a start “apertura” and a closing “clausura” season), and the Boca boys are in last place after one game on a -3 goal difference. It’s sure to turn around, there is plenty of time to find the top of the table, but if you’re going to commit to some league play why not start at the beginning?
Sunday, February 20th
7:30 am Celtic vs Rangers Scottish Premier League Old firm derby: A massive tie with plenty of history behind it, either of these teams is generally a lock for the league title, and this year Celtic (playing at home) are a comfortable five points clear of their Glaswegian neighbours. Rangers being the Protestant side and Celtic having Catholic ties, the derby tends to dredge up all the conflict between subsections of the rival systems…any excuse to beat each other with a bat:
The Old Firm rivalry fuels many assaults and many deaths on Old Firm Derby days; an activist group that monitors sectarian activity in Glasgow has reported that on Old Firm weekends, admissions to hospital emergency rooms increase ninefold over normal levels, and journalist Franklin Foer noted that in the period from 1996 to 2003, eight deaths in Glasgow were directly linked to Old Firm matches, and hundreds and thousands of assaults.
10 am Fulham vs Bolton FA Cup We expect this will be a very even game, both teams being very organized in back and having a very even midfield between them. We’ll be tuning in from Stateside as some US faves (in the form of Stuart Holden and Clint Dempsey) will be facing off in knockout action. Stu, well known for his hairstyle, has been both breaking attacks and serving the ball well, while Clint has moved with some success into a central striker role (classic #9 stuff).
3 pm Barcelona vs Athletic Bilbao La Liga You may have heard about Barça’s loss this week. Well they’re back at home and we’re wondering how they’ll react. Puyol is due back to shore up the center of their defense, and, well, what more can you say except that loss will probably just be treated as a blip. Though…of three teams to have never been relegated from the first division, the third is Athletic Bilbao (the first two Madrid and Barça, of course). Also, before their Basque neighbors started offering citizenship to foreign players to get around the max-three non-nationals on a team, Bilbao was a serious force, handing Barça a 12–1 loss, their worst ever defeat. There’s a lot of pride behind this match-up. Could be a shock or a blowout.