Words by: Elan Solomon & Jeremy Proome
This weekend brings with it some much-needed optimism, with the Springboks flying high following a win over the All Blacks a fortnight ago, while the big-name football giants are forced into gear thanks to different pressures on the respective clubs. 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:
Western Province v Sharks
Saturday | 14:00
Western Province and the Sharks both showcased strong performances against the Griquas and Golden Lions respectively last weekend, and will both look to take a hold of the competition as they face off at Newlands on Saturday. Province have had their share of exciting attacking play this season, but have faltered on defence a number of times. In terms of sheer form, the Sharks are looking like the best of the bunch, playing well away from home, and having complete forward-dominance (as showcased against the Lions), which, if they can reproduce this weekend, will put them in a good position to outmuscle the WP pack.
Predicted result: Sharks by 5.
Springboks v Wallabies
Saturday | 17:05
The Springboks and Wallabies couldn’t have asked for more divisive weekends if they tried in Round 4 of the Rugby Championship. The Boks overcame the All Blacks with a solid performance, while the Wallabies were poor against Argentina. A homeground advantage and confidence from the Wellington victory should put Rassie Erasmus’ men in good stead to control this match from the get-go. That said, we’ve seen a wounded Aussie side come back with a vengeance too many times to count them out.
Predicted result: Springboks by 10.
Chelsea v Liverpool
Saturday | 18:30
Chelsea and Liverpool played out a dress rehearsal for this game during the week in the League Cup, where Chelsea managed to grind out a 2-1 win courtesy of some questionable VAR application, as well as a world-class finish from Eden Hazard. They’re also competing directly with one another in the Premier League, but Liverpool have a perfect record, comfortably on 18 points and six wins out of six, with Chelsea trailing just two points behind them. Chelsea will have taken some confidence from their away win in the Cup, but they’ll need to keep a level head about that result since Liverpool fielded far from a full-strength side, but the home advantage and boost of confidence may give them an edge in this match.
Predicted result: Chelsea 1 – 1 Liverpool
Barcelona v Athletic Bilbao
Saturday | 16:15
Barcelona enjoyed a good start to the season but suffered their first setback in midweek after losing 2-1 to a spirited Leganes side. Unfortunately, Barcelona have been creating a lot of their own problems, particularly with absent-minded performances from their defence. Their attack is slowly starting to build a competent understanding between the likes of Coutinho, Dembele, and Messi – but if they’re going to recover from their disappointment against Leganes, their defence is going to need to improve rapidly, and a short break of four days between matches won’t be doing them any favours.
Predicted Result: Barcelona 2 – 2 Athletic Bilbao
Real Madrid v Atletico Madrid
Saturday | 20:45
Real Madrid’s fortunes in midweek matched Barcelona’s, but their result and corresponding performance was substantially worse, albeit it against stronger opposition. The inability of their team to control a game sufficiently is becoming clearer and clear, despite the wealth of talent throughout their squad. Playing a Madrid derby could have far reaching consequences, both positive and negative. A loss at home to their city rivals would be a massive blow to Real’s confidence and could create further issues within the squad. On the other hand, a victory might galvanise them and provide the impetus to go on a good run. Atletico is only two points behind Real, so they’ve got all the motivation necessary to cause a huge upset.
Predicted Result: Real Madrid 0 – 2 Atletico Madrid