Roundup: No Fire? Still Plenty Of Soccer

Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

A look ahead at this weekends soccer action from MLS, Mexico, and the English Premier League

There are plenty of great matches coming up this weekend as the English Premier League inches closer to an exciting end to the 2013-2014 campaign. Mexico's Liga MX finishes their final round of the clasura this weekend before teams enter la liguilla playoffs. And Major League Soccer continues into week eight of their season that will see the Chicago Fire, LA Galaxy, and Toronto FC staying home on a bye while everyone else is out having fun. Let's take a look at some of the things we can look forward to this weekend. First stop, England.

EPL

With only three game weeks left in the Barclay’s Premier League, the remaining matches are sure to heat up as teams are fighting for top spots, their place in Europe, or just fighting to avoid relegation. There are a few interesting match-ups that will hold great implications in the final stages of the season.

Arsenal v. Newcastle

Coming off a 3-0 win at Hull last weekend and a three match win streak in all competitions, Arsenal look the heavy favorites to take full points from the visiting Magpies. But Newcastle despite their struggles at the club level, have still managed to stay at the middle of the table, safely away from relegation but not at all performing to the liking of their supporters. Newcastle’s last win came back in March 22 in what was a late great winner by Papiss Cisse in the 90+4 minute of stoppage time. That late winner saved Newcastle from what would now be a six-match losing streak. But right now the pressure is all on Arsenal, as they need to continue winning just to keep their distance from Everton, who is also fighting for that fourth spot in the table.

Everton v. Southampton

Everton is at the fifth spot in the Barclay’s Premier League table and just one point below Arsenal. Everton, who is coming off of a 2-0 win at home vs. now Moyes-less Manchester United, look to continue their winning ways against another mid-table team. Just like Arsenal, Everton need to continue collecting points in order to stay in the hunt for Europe, and they’ll both do it against mid-table teams this weekend. The fight for the fourth spot will undoubtedly be as exciting as the fight for first.

Liverpool v. Chelsea

It currently looks that the title is Liverpool’s to lose. Sitting atop the table and five points clear of second place Chelsea, this match means everything if Liverpool want to separate themselves further from Mourinho’s club. Liverpool has enjoyed a very impressive unbeaten streak of sixteen matches, with only two draws within that time. Liverpool suffered their last defeat back on December 29, to (you guessed it) Chelsea in a 2-1 match that saw Liverpool strike early on a Martin Skrtel goal, but Chelsea then responded with goals from Eden Hazard and Samuel Eto’o. Chelsea may have a different look to their squad as goalkeeper Petr Czech is out indefinitely with a dislocated shoulder he suffered in the first leg of the UEFA Champions League semifinal against Atletico Madrid. John Terry also is out for the rest of the domestic campaign after being stepped on by teammate David Luiz in the same match. Mourinho had already said that he planned on resting players against Liverpool, admitting that his title hopes were dampened with their loss to Sunderland. It’s clear that Chelsea have shifted focus away from the Premier League, which will only help Liverpool in their pursuit of the league title.

Manchester City v. Crystal Palace

Manchester City find themselves in an advantageous position, in third place but only one point behind Chelsea, still with a game in-hand, playing eleventh-place Crystal Palace. Crystal Palace are on a five game win streak of their own, and they’ve been known as a giant killer already this season, beating two top-5 teams in Chelsea and Everton already this season. City still have quite a bit of work to do to put themselves in a position to knock Liverpool from the top spot, but they do have a history of late season heroics. This year’s title may very well be decided on the final day…again.

Manchester United v. Norwich

This match is interesting only because it marks the beginning of the Post-Moyes era for Manchester United, and Norwich so far has only slightly escaped the relegation zone, staying just two points clear of the bottom three. Ryan Giggs has been appointed caretaker manager in the time Manchester United is taking to find Sir Alex Ferguson’s SECOND replacement in just under a year. It will be interesting if Ol’ Giggsy can win with the same group that Moyes had so much trouble getting on the same page. If you’re a Norwich fan, merely surviving will be your biggest concern in these last three match weeks. If the Canaries can take advantage of United’s managerial instability, it will make avoiding relegation that much easier. I personally hope Gary Hooper scores a hat-trick and leaves United fans shrieking #GiggsOut.

Liga MX

With the CONCACAF Champions League done and over with (Cruz Azul took the title with a 1-1 draw at Toluca), focus can now be switched back to the final round of the Mexican Clasura, before the playoffs begin.

Cruz Azul v. Pumas UNAM

Cruz Azul, coming off their exciting CCL win return home to host Pumas UNAM in what will undoubtedly be a victory lap for their fans as they get to see ‘los cementeros’ bring home that fancy new trophy. Cruz Azul are in first place in the table and have already cemented their spot in the liguilla, but they still have second place Toluca on their heels just two points behind. Cruz Azul were embarrassed last weekend at Morelia in a poor showing that ended 5-1 in favor of Las Monarcas. Pumas have had a decent season and are currently in third place in the table, but still eight points back from first, so they won’t be causing Cruz Azul too many problems. But still, either team will be looking to carry a win into the playoffs.

Toluca v. América

I admit, I am a Club América hater. But this match is interesting because anytime America plays, it’s bound to be an entertaining match. If not for the displays of skill on the field, then for the potential blow-ups from those same players. If America were to win this match they can get a late boost in the table, potentially as high as third place. But Toluca wants to bounce back from that CCL loss at home and redeem themselves in front of their fans in the last match of the season.

MLS

Chicago Fire are on a bye week, and when that happens I’ve got to feed my soccer fix with other matches from around the league. Now although my interest in the other teams around MLS is strictly a novelty, I have been paying a bit more attention because of the players I have on my MLS Fantasy Manager squad. Check out Jeff Engelhardt’s in-depth look at MLS fixtures for this weekend, along with some players to keep an eye on. Here are a few matches I’ll be sure to catch:

Red Bulls v. Crew

With Bradley Wright-Phillips coming off of his impressive hat-trick against Houston at mid-week, I’m excited to see if he can continue his remarkable form. I’m personally hoping that Eric Alexander has a good match. The west Michigan connection that we share always has me rooting for the area boy. Not to mention he’s on my fantasy squad and I captained him, hoping for big points on his double game week.

D.C. United v. FC Dallas

Chris Rolfe seems to have found a home in the capitol and has hit the ground running with the screaming eagles. A goal and a man of the match election means he’s doing just fine away from the Chicago Fire, and perhaps all he needed was a change in scenery. Chris in my eyes, will always be a Fire legend, and I’ll always root him no matter what jersey he wears (unless it’s yellow).

A women's football version of Leeds

Tyresö FF may be flying high on the field - the team, which employs former world player-of-the-year Marta as well as soon-to-be Red Star Christen Press, is in the final four of the distaff UEFA Champions League - but off the field, the noose continues to tighten. The club, which is in bankruptcy administration, announced today that it will not be able to pay the players their full bonuses should they win; apparently tax officials plan to get a first crack at any money coming in. Bummer.

Expansion-gate? Stadium-gate?

Interesting news has come out of the two cities that are set to enter MLS play next season as the latest edition of expansion teams to enter the league. Turns out city officials in Orlando aren’t pleased with the news of Atlanta’s expansion team being allowed to play in a football stadium and not a soccer-specific stadium, which was understood as one of the requirements for any team prior to being considered for expansion. Orlando City Soccer Club secured plans for a soccer-specific stadium, and the city agreed to contribute funds to the building of the stadium. When city officials heard about Atlanta’s plans to share a stadium with the Atlanta Falcons, they were less than enthused.

New York City FC also announced that they would play their first three seasons at Yankee Stadium while arrangements for a new stadium are still being made. News also came out Wednesday that finding a place for NYCFC to call home has become increasingly difficult, as potential stadium sites are being met with community disapproval and legal red tape. New York City FC executives have said that if a site within city limits isn’t a possibility, they are prepared to look elsewhere for a place to build. So much for building a team with an identity within the city. Who needs the first ‘C’ in NYC FC, anyway?

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