This weekend is a biggie – not only are there some colossal football rivalries taking place, but it’s that time of year again when Super Rugby gets underway. To say sports fans are getting some serious love this week is an understatement; but let’s look at the top 5 matches you can’t afford to miss this weekend:
Stormers v Jaguares
The Stormers get the 2018 Super Rugby season underway in Cape Town with the first match of the tournament against the ever-improving Argentinian Jaguares. The Stormers have picked up a few rogue players in the off-season, along with some youngsters coming through just in time to fill the void of some outgoing names. The Jaguares have also seen a few changes in their squad, but it’s likely that the Stormers will secure an easy first win of their campaign.
Predicted Result: Stormers by 10
Lions v Sharks
With the addition of Cheetahs’ star winger Makazole Mapimpi and the former Stormers playmaker Robert du Preez joining the Sharks, there’s no denying that the Durban side’s backline looks mighty impressive for the 2018 season. That said, the Lions will field a tried-and-tested side (along with the return of captain Warren Whitely) that will be all too familiar with themselves to let a home encounter slip through their grips. Expect a tough opener, but the Lions to seal this one in the second-half.
Predicted Result: Lions by 10
Atletico Madrid v Athletic Bilbao
Atletico Madrid have surged up the La Liga table lately due in part to their own good form, as well as the temporary dip in Barcelona and Valencia’s recent performances. They’re within seven points of Barcelona now, but they’re going to play against Athletic Bilbao, who are traditionally a gritty and physical team that tend to frustrate the big teams. Atletico’s scoring has picked up lately, but they’ll need to be at their attacking best to break down a Bilbao team that’s likely to stay compact and deny any easy chances. If Atletico can keep up pressure on Barca they could be in with a shout at the title, which is a significant turnaround for them looking at where they were a short while ago.
Predicted Result: Atletico Madrid 1 – 0 Athletic
Manchester United v Chelsea
Manchester United – and by extension Jose Mourinho, face a turning point in their season when they face Chelsea this weekend. United appeared to be comfortable occupants of second place, but after a shock loss against Newcastle last week the wheels on Jose Mourinho’s bus are well and truly coming off. Liverpool now sit on United’s heels with only two points separating the rivals, so a victory against Chelsea is imperative. Conte, on the other hand, is also suffering a difficult period at Chelsea with the Blues showing inconsistent form and a lack of desire. Conte and Mourinho have had a feud brewing for a few months now, so both will be highly motivated to get on over on the other.
Predicted Result: Manchester United 1 – 2 Chelsea
Real Betis v Real Madrid
Real Madrid’s terrible form came to a stuttering halt in midweek as they stormed to a 3-1 win over PSG in the Champions League – which should give manager Zinedine Zidane a brief reprieve from the pressure he’s been under. They do, however, face Real Betis who managed to beat Real Madrid at home at the beginning of the season in a shock loss for Los Blancos. Madrid hasn’t managed too well on the road in La Liga so far this season, so if their resurgence is going to continue they’re likely going to have to fight through a grueling match to get three points out of a Betis side that will look to do the double over their opponents.
Predicted Result: Real Betis 0 – 2 Real Madrid