Saturday, May 25, 2024

Champions League and Europa League brought the drama; Can Bayer Leverkusen clinch Bundesliga this weekend?

Welcome to the weekend! Jonathan Johnson here to get you set for another feast of top soccer action ahead of a Friday to Sunday run which could see Bayer Leverkusen seal the Bundesliga title as Xabi Alonso’s men remain invincible. Arsenal vs. Aston Villa in the Premier League is another matchup with big potential implications so let’s get to it.

📺 Footy fix

All times U.S./Eastern

Friday, Apr. 12
USL One: One Knoxville SC vs. Union Omaha 6:30 p.m. ➡️ CBS Sports Golazo Network

Saturday, Apr. 13
🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿 EPL: Newcastle United vs. Tottenham Hotspur, 7:30 a.m. ➡️ USA Network
🇮🇹 Serie A: Torino vs. Juventus, 12 p.m. ➡️ Paramount+
🇪🇸 La Liga: Cadiz vs. Barcelona, 3 p.m. ➡️ ESPN+
🇺🇸 USL: El Paso Locomotive vs. Oakland Roots, 9 p.m. ➡️ CBS Sports Golazo Network

Sunday, Apr. 14
🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿 EPL: Arsenal vs. Aston Villa, 11:30 a.m. ET ➡️ USA Network
🇩🇪 Bundesliga: Bayer Leverkusen vs. Werder Bremen, 11:30 a.m. ➡️ ESPN+
🇮🇹 Serie A: Inter vs. Cagliari, 2:45 p.m. ➡️ Paramount+

⚽ The Forward Line

🇪🇺 UEFA quarterfinals deliver best action yet


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The past few days have provided some of the best soccer so far this season. Tuesday and Wednesday’s UEFA Champions League brilliance was followed by some equally impressive UEFA Europa League and UEFA Europa Conference League excitement. We did not think that Tuesday’s 3-3 between Real Madrid and Manchester City or Arsenal 2-2 Bayern Munich could be topped, but here we are on Friday having seen Barcelona edge Paris Saint-Germain 3-2 in France and Atletico Madrid 2-1 Borussia Dortmund. If that was not already good enough, there was a stunning 3-0 win at Anfield for Atalanta BC as well as Leverkusen’s 2-0 win at home to West Ham United and AS Roma’s 1-0 win in Milan.

Wednesday’s most surprising result was Barca getting the win over PSG despite a 134-second double from the French champions early in the second half which turned the game on its head. The Catalan outfit still managed to turn things around to emerge winners on a night when Luis Enrique made some questionable decisions and Xavi was rewarded for his patience and faith in many of Barca’s latest crop of young talents. Chuck Booth wrote as much after the game with Lamine Yamal and Pau Cubarsi earning particularly high praise for their mature showings at Parc des Princes. 

  • Booth: “The duo were both involved in Barcelona’s opening goal as Cubarsi began the play from deep with an excellent pass and Yamal’s cross was palmed by Gianluigi Donnarumma to the feet of Raphinha who didn’t miss with his finish. Under Xavi, they’ve gotten time to make mistakes and grow into their own as players so that didn’t feel out of place when it mattered most. Even for Barcelona’s equalizer, Pedri — who has also had some of his best form under the Barcelona legend — had the assist on another excellent Raphinha finish. Looking at Barcelona marching into Paris and leaving with a point, it’s understandable why they may prefer if Xavi reconsiders his decision to step down at the end of the season. He has been an excellent steward for preparing the next generation of Barcelona’s youth as letting them take their lumps in league play has them prepared for the biggest moments.”

Few could have predicted Liverpool falling apart so spectacularly on Thursday against Atalanta in the Europa League which not only damages their hopes of success in the competition but also impacts the UEFA coefficient as the Premier League and Serie A battle for an extra UCL berth as well as the Reds’ hopes of sending Jurgen Klopp off with more titles after this year’s EFL Cup win. Aston Villa beating Lille OSC was to be expected, but Leverkusen beating West Ham really makes the second legs crucial in terms of the EPL’s hopes for a fifth Champions League berth which could — ironically — be what Villa re playing for for the remainder of their Europa Conference League campaign.

Don’t miss USL on CBS Sports Golazo Network


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🔗 Midfield Link Play

🏆 Is this Leverkusen’s moment?


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The big news of the weekend could be Bayer Leverkusen winning their first German title when they host visiting Werder Bremen on Sunday. Xabi Alonso’s men are 16 points clear with six games to go so victory at BayArena this weekend, or a Bayern loss at home to Koln, would confirm that immense achievement for the Spanish tactician and his players. There have been some successes along the way, such as the 1988 UEFA Cup and the 1993 DFB Pokal, but there have been more near misses than triumphs with no shortage of late heartbreak in attempts to win the Bundesliga and even the Champions League since the turn of the century. Alonso and his player could end that wait and the speculation over his future is already over given that he has declared that he will remain in place beyond this summer. Pardeep Cattry does not think Die Werkself have anything to worry about in Europe either after leaving it late to nail the Hammers.

  • Cattry: “The Bundesliga leaders may have only scored in the final 10 minutes of the game, but the thing about Leverkusen this season is that they somehow always get the job done. It’s not like they did not have the performance to back up the scoreline — they had 72.5% of the ball, 33 shots, 13 on target and 2.36 expected goals when all was said and done, and limited West Ham to just one shot. Even if West Ham have the plus of playing at home in the second leg, Leverkusen are going to be hard to beat both in terms of their style of play and their two-goal advantage.”

Elsewhere, the Premier League’s top five could also see some change with league leaders Arsenal hosting former manager Unai Emery and his Aston Villa side on Sunday after Tottenham Hotspur’s trip to face Newcastle United on Saturday. The Magpies are down in eighth after losing major ground earlier in the season as their lack of squad depth undid their Champions League return but they will still be a tricky away day for Spurs who are level on points with Villa and will not want to offer the Birmingham giants any further incentive to beat the Gunners. Arsenal will be wary of a tricky doubleheader with Bayern Munich in their UCL quarterfinal second leg coming up but Villa’s flaky form suggests that the timing of this encounter is favorable for Mikel Arteta’s men.

🔗  Top Stories

😵‍💫 Luis Enrique’s indecision: The PSG head coach cost PSG, almost rescued them, then cost them again in defeat at home to former club Barcelona with a massive second leg showing in Catalonia now needed.

🐐 Messi and Miami fall short: Lionel Messi might have Inter Miami on the up but the MLS outfit was not at all ready for the CONCACAF Champions Cup. More on that loss to Brandon Vazquez’s Liga MX side Monterrey here. 

🪖 Josh Sargent’s Norwich success: USMNT star thriving under David Wagner with the St. Louis native enjoying his soccer in the “position that I’ve been playing since I was a kid.”

📉 USWNT stock watch: Sam Coffey closes on an Olympics roster spot, but Olivia Moultrie takes back seat after the USWNT won the SheBelieves Cup with victory over Japan and a penalty shootout success against Canada.

💰 The Back Line

💵 Best bet

  • La Liga: Mallorca vs. Real, Saturday, 12:30 p.m.
  • 💰 THE PICK: Draw and both to score (+400) — Although Real Madrid could open up a provisional 11-point lead at the top of La Liga on Saturday with a trip to RCD Mallorca, Carlo Ancelotti’s men drew 3-3 with Manchester City in the UEFA Champions League quarterfinals in midweek and face Pep Guardiola’s men next midweek. Mallorca lost in the Copa del Rey final to Athletic Club on penalties after a 1-1 draw after extra time and that combination of one team needing to bounce back and the other likely to rotate heavily with their eyes elsewhere could create a chance for an upset. Mallorca are now 15th in the table and just six points above the relegation zone, but just one loss in their last five which came against Barcelona. Javier Aguirre’s side will hope to catch Real focusing on their UCL quarterfinal second leg in England next week. Should Real be held or beaten by Mallorca, Xavi’s Barcelona could close the gap to five points with a win in Cadiz ahead of El Clasico later this month. Los Blancos are on a three-game winning streak themselves and have only lost once in the league all season, but Ancelotti should rotate a number of regulars like Dani Carvajal, Antonio Rudiger, Ferland Mendy, Eduardo Camavinga, Toni Kroos, Federco Valverde and Rodrygo.

📺 What’s on CBS Sports Golazo Network

☀️ Morning Footy (Weekdays 8-10 a.m.): Hosts Susannah Collins, Charlie Davies, Nico Cantor and Alexis Guerreros help fans get their day started on the network’s flagship morning show with highlights, interviews and the biggest soccer storylines. Morning Footy is also available in podcast form, so you’ll never have to miss an episode.

📦 Box 2 Box (Weekday afternoons): The news-driven show quickly recaps all the latest headlines from around the world with panelists previewing the top matchups of the day. Catch Box 2 Box on CBS Sports Golazo Network on the CBS Sports app, PlutoTV and Paramount+. 

3️⃣ Attacking Third (Monday, Thursday): The leading women’s soccer podcast and social brand is now a live studio show. The NWSL season is back and our coverage of the women’s game is stronger than ever. Our analysts will be breaking down the USWNT, NWSL and European domestic season all year long.  

👟 Kickin’ It (Tuesdays): CBS Sports Golazo Network’s new unfiltered interview show returns Tuesday Hosted by Kate Abdo, Clint Dempsey, Mo Edu and Charlie Davies, the group chat candidly with the biggest names from the Beautiful Game and share their stories from on and off the pitch. 

⚽ Call it What You Want (Monday night): A weekly podcast where Jimmy Conrad, Jesse Marsch and Charlie Davies cover all things USMNT and the state of the beautiful game in the United States.

🥅 Scoreline (Daily): Scoreline is the newest place for fans to catch up on all the biggest news and results impacting global football, match highlights from the top soccer competitions and all the can’t-miss goals from the day’s action, starting Thursday and airing seven days a week.

📺 How to watch: CBS Sports Golazo Network is a free 24/7 channel exclusively dedicated to offering unparalleled coverage of all the top soccer competitions worldwide. You can stream for free on the CBS Sports appPluto TV and Paramount+.

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