Words by: Elan Solomon & Jeremy Proome
This weekend brings with it some much-needed pressure, with the Currie Cup hitting its semi-final stages and things heating in the football leagues around the world. All in all, it’s going to be a biggie, and we’ve rounded up the 5 biggest matches to keep your eyes on this weekend:
Chelsea v Manchester United
Saturday, 13:30 | Premier League
Despite the distraction of the international break, the heat on Jose Mourinho’s position as Manchester United manager hasn’t dissipated yet. Last time out, they managed a spirited comeback against Newcastle, but visiting a confident and capable Chelsea is a completely different proposition. Maurizio Sarri has drilled his team into playing intricate possession football, and their squad is in far better form than United’s disjointed and dejected team. In all likelihood, Mourinho will come away from his former stomping ground with no points and renewed pressure on his position.
Predicted result: Chelsea 2 – 0 Manchester United
Sharks v Golden Lions
Saturday, 14:30 | Currie Cup semi-final
After their initial 37-21 win in Durban over the Lions in the pool stages, the Sharks will be confidence once again hosting the Joburg side at home, but the men in red have seen a huge boost in reinforcements thanks to the return of Springboks Warren Whitely and Aphiwe Dyantyi; so it’ll be a much-different encounter to the one earlier in the season. The Sharks have been rather consistent throughout the season, though, while the Lions have been improving slowly, so it’ll be an interesting test of both side’s current state. On paper, the Lions have the players to tear apart any defence (as they did against the Pumas last week), but the Sharks’ squad is clicking excellently too, making for a tantalising battle.
Predicted result: Sharks by 3.
Western Province v Blue Bulls
Saturday, 17:00 | Currie Cup semi-final
Another exciting face-off in the Currie Cup semi-finals will see Western Province going head-to-head with the Blue Bulls at Newlands. Last week’s abandoned game due to the weather left a lot of questions around the Bulls’ ability to play in tougher conditions. Despite the difficult climate, Province managed to string together a stable performance, whereby the Bulls failed to capitalise. We wouldn’t read too much into the Occassion though, but it’s unlikely that the Cape side will falter at home on Saturday. That said, it’ll definitely be far more competitive than last week.
Predicted result: Western Province by 10.
Barcelona v Sevilla
Saturday, 20:45 | La Liga
First and second in La Liga are facing off this weekend, and surprisingly, second place is occupied by Barcelona and first by Sevilla. Barcelona are on a dismal run of four matches without a victory and need a serious adjustment to get out of their funk, particularly against a Sevilla side in dominant form with four successive victories. Barcelona’s manager Ernesto Valverde hasn’t gotten the team to play particularly electric football since joining the club, and a loss to Sevilla, that would allow both Madrid teams to potentially gain ground on the Catalans, will start raising questions about his suitability for the job. Several players will have had a rest during the international break, so Barcelona have zero excuses for losing this match.
Predicted Result: Barcelona 2 – 2 Sevilla
Arsenal v Leicester City
Monday, 21:00 | Premier League
Unai Emery has managed to get six victories out of six in his turnaround of Arsenal as a perennial under achiever. Whatever his methods have been, they’ve worked, and Arsenal’s inconsistent team seems to be playing with more control. They’ve had an impressive amount of attacking talent for a number of years, and Emery has managed to get the best of the likes of Lacazette, Aubameyang, Ozil, and Mkhitaryan while shoring up the defence. Depending on the result for their London rivals Chelsea, Arsenal could manage to cement a more solid top four position and they’re in a vein of solid form, so facing Leicester at home should be a golden opportunity for them to make it seven wins in seven matches.
Predicted Result: Arsenal 2 – 1 Leicester