We are down to the last four in the oldest cup competition – the English FA Cup; will Watford make it to the final for the first time since 1984 or will Wolverhampton Wanderers end a 59 years drought for a place in the finals? Der Klassiker also known as the German Clasico has an extra motivation for this one as it could be the title decider in Germany between leaders Borussia Dortmund and current champions Bayern Munich at the Allianz Arena with two points separating both teams. Juventus can inch closer to their eight scudetto and in the process end Milan’s Champions League dream return while the top two in Spain (Barcelona and Atletico Madrid) face each other at the Camp Nou in game where the outcome is unlikely to affect the destination of this season LaLiga title.
We begin in France;
OLYMPIQUE LYON v DIJON – SAT. 06 APR 2019, 16.00HRS
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The future of Lyon’s coach Bruno Genesio seem to be grabbing the headlines more than this important game for Les Gones who need will favor from Reims and others to close in on second place Lille. Coupe de France semifinal defeat to Rennes hurts at Lyon but they will need to turn their attention to another significant fixture to secure Champions League football for next season. Struggling Dijon have lost their last three league matches and taken just one point from a possible 18 which leaves them rooted to at the bottom of the log. Dijon fans didn’t fail to register their displeasure at their coach Antoine Kombouaré who has eight games to save them from going down or at least move into the relegation play-off zone where anything is possible.
VERDICT – Lyon have the better head-to-head record between these two sides; five victories in the last seven meetings compared to Dijon solitary win. Dijon fans called for Kombouaré resignation following last week defeat to Nice; a trip to Lyon isn’t the ideal tonic to remedy a toxic situation. Lyon does not need to be at full throttle here to win but they need to be professional against a team fighting for its survival.
STADE REIMS v LILLE OSC – SUN. 07 APR 2019, 14.00HRS
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Reims excellent league run was halted by emphatic display by Strasbourg midweek. David Guio’s team still have European ambition for next season and are only three points behind fourth place Saint Etienne. Lille have maintained second spot on the log, they are in the hunt to securing Champions League football for next season winning three of their last six league matches. They are equally on an impressive unbeaten run away from home since end of November which makes it difficult for the home team who need a reaction following midweek setback. The visitors have better stats in offense and defense this season which makes them slight favorites. However, Reims sit sixth on the log on their merit and would be expected to produce a better display at home.
VERDICT – Christophe Galtier’s side must win at the Stade Auguste-Delaune to ensure that the Ligue 1 Conforama title is not decided before Lille host Paris Saint-Germain next weekend. Anything less than three points and the capital club will be confirmed as champions with a win at home to RC Strasbourg Alsace on Sunday evening. Lille required a 96th minute equalizer to salvage a draw at home when these sides met in December. Reims have the better head-to-head record but this well-rested Lille team have the quality to win away from home.
BAYER LEVERKUSEN v RB LEIPZIG – SAT. 06 APR 2019, 14.30HRS
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Two of Germany’s most emerging talents – Kai Havertz and Timo Werner face each other in the Bundesliga at the Bay Arena on Saturday. Leverkusen suffered back-to-back defeats to leave their European ambition hanging by a thread and they are up against a Leipzig side that is playing fantastic football in recent weeks. Die Bullen turned on the style last weekend in their five nil drubbing of Hertha Berlin and are unbeaten in the last six winning four during this period. Ralf Rangnick’s team has to be the barometer for defense in the Bundesliga – they have been stable, difficult to break down and conceded the fewest goals in the division. Leipzig played 120 minutes during the Cup game midweek to advance and might feel the strain during this game in Leverkusen.
VERDICT – Bayer and Leipzig have faced each other five times in the league with the host managing just one victory compared to the visitors three which includes the 3-0 win at the Red Bull Arena. Peter Bosz team is under pressure to win games and points to catch the final Europa League spot in Germany. Leipzig’s DFB Pokal exhaustion is likely to take its toll but on the back of their strong defensive structure, visiting RBL might not lose at Bay Arena.
BAYERN MUNICH v BORUSSIA DORTMUND – SAT. 06 APR 2019, 17.30HRS
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With just two points separating Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich, this upcoming Der Klassiker has more about it and it might just be the title decider in the Bundesliga. The last time Der Klassiker decided the title was in April 2012 with Borussia Dortmund winning. It was also the last time Die Borussen did a league double victory over their rivals Bayern. Can they repeat similar feat this campaign? Bayern surprisingly dropped points at Freibrug last weekend to allow Dortmund leapfrog them going into this crucial game. The reverse fixture offered us top quality football with a five goal thriller in favor of Dortmund and the visitors are well rested because they did not have midweek cup distraction compared to their host.
VERDICT – Bayern have been more successful in Der Klassiker over the years. In the previous 99, Bayern have 45 victories and have won three of the last six duels. Bayern Munich are always favorites at home and will require no extra motivation with top spot for grabs. We anticipate an intense game with several good chances at both ends of the pitch. Anything is possible in the game but we are guaranteed goals from both teams.
JUVENTUS v AC MILAN – SAT. 06 APR 2019, 17.00HRS
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Milan travel to Turin suffering a dip in form – they are without a league victory in their last three Serie A matches but the Juventus stadium isn’t a ground for opponents to find their form. The Old Lady can move within touching distance of winning their eight consecutive Scudetto title with a home victory against an old adversary. The Bianconeri have an almost perfect home record in league but with an eye next Wednesday Champions League game against Ajax, Max Allegri might be tempted to rotate his squad. The Pressure is building once again; Gennaro Gattuso and his troop have the hawks circling with Atalanta just a point behind them in the race for the final Champions League spot in Italy.
VERDICT – Juventus have won the last seven encounters against Milan in all competitions; they have beaten the Rossoneri twice this season including the narrow Super Cup win in January. With just one point from a possible nine, Milan can only hope for the best in Turin. The last time they managed a victory at Juventus was in March 2011 when Allegri was still the Rossoneri boss. With Krzysztof Piatek leading Diavolo’s attack, Milan will always have a chance of getting on the score sheet but a victory might be far-fetched.
INTER MILAN v ATALANTA – SUN. 07 APR 2019, 17.00HRS
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Mauro Icardi will return to the pitch at the Giuseppe Meazza on Sunday for the first time in weeks after being stripped of the captaincy and his injury. He played against Genoa and found the back of the net at Genoa which means he is probably the centre of attention for this tricky home game against Atalanta. Atalanta have won four of their last five league matches winning the last two at Parma and at home against Bologna. The Orobici can leapfrog a stuttering Milan to fourth spot with a victory at the San Siro which is a huge incentive for Gian Piero Gasperini’s team. We expect both teams to adopt an attacking approach for this highly anticipated encounter.
VERDICT – Inter have won their last three home league matches against Atalanta; the 7-1 home win in March 2017 is one the Nerazzurri fans enjoy with fond memories. Luciano Spalletti’s team were handed a beating in the reverse fixture at Bergamo earlier in the season and the goalscoring potential of this Atalanta team means it would be difficult to shut them out. Icardi’s presence guarantee Inter goals and Atalanta’s Duvan Zapata is the joint leading scorer in the Serie A. Both teams to score.
RAYO VALLECANO v VALENCIA – SAT. 06 APR 2019, 17.30HRS
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Valencia have turned their underwhelming season around in remarkable fashion. Los Che are in the final of Copa del Rey, one point behind Getafe who occupy the final Champions League spot – their objective for the season and are still in the hunt for European glory in the Europa League. The midweek victory over Real Madrid was their fourth league win in the last six and that should give Marcelino’s team supreme confidence ahead of their trip to Vallecas. Rayo are the underdogs for this game; they have lost five of their last six league matches and are six points from safety. New coach, Paco Jemez arrival is yet to improve their fortunes with Los Franjirrojos beginning to run out of games to beat the drop.
VERDICT – All the odds are against Rayo including head-to-head history. Valencia have 11 wins in the last 18 meetings against Rayo including a 3-0 victory at the Mestalla in the reverse fixture earlier in the season. The Vallecas have joint worst defense in the league shipping in 54 league goals in 30 matches. Paco Jemez team have a mountain to climb against one of the most in-form teams in the division. Valencia cannot afford to miss out on the opportunity to put pressure on Getafe for the final Champions League spot. Rayo play on the offensive but Valencia should be too good for the host.
BARCELONA v ATLETICO MADRID – SAT. 06 APR 2019, 19.45HRS
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It is the clash of the round in LaLiga – first versus second with the outcome likely to confirm Barca league title in principle or Atletico Madrid trying to reopen a forgone conclusion. The Catalan giants were on a winning run till Villarreal snapped it midweek in the thrilling 4-4 draw where Barcelona rallied back to share the spoils. Atletico travel to the Camp Nou with a better mind frame having won their last two league matches against Alaves and Girona but Diego Simeone knows Barcelona is a bigger fish to fry than their last two opponents. Real Madrid’s defeat in Valencia gives Los Colchoneros some breathing space; they can still maintain second position on the table even with a bad result from Catalonia.
VERDICT – Atletico Madrid are winless in last seven meetings with Barcelona, not scoring more than one goal in any of the games. Ernesto Valverde can recall Gerard Pique, Ivan Rakitic and Leo Messi back to starting line-up for this big clash even if he has an eye on next week Champions League game against Manchester United. Atletico need a victory to reopen to the title race but they haven’t won at the Camp Nou in the league since February 2006. Barca are not likely to lose this at home.
EVERTON v ARSENAL – SUN. 07 APR 2019, 14.05HRS
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Everton and Arsenal are both targeting a third consecutive victory as they meet at Goodison Park on Sunday afternoon. Can the Toffees make it three in a row without conceding which would be their first time of doing so since January 2017 under former manager Ronald Koeman? Arsenal are in the race for a Champions League spot thanks to their excellent home form – winning 10 straight Premier League home matches this season but their away record is only the 10th best in the top flight. This is a big test for the Gunners; Everton seem to have found a rhythm and will aim to produce similar performance like they did against Chelsea at home and away at West Ham.
VERDICT – Arsenal have won eight of their last nine matches against Everton in all competitions. The Gunners are in good form, winning five of their last six Premier League matches ahead of their trip to Merseyside. This is a big game for both sides with the hope of achieving their set goals for the season; Everton are back in the running for seventh spot while Arsenal are in the mix for a top four finish. Marco Silva will demand a repeat of similar performance like the second half of the Chelsea game. This should be an open game between two teams that play on the front foot. Expect goals; over 2.5 goals.
WATFORD v WOLVERHAMPTON WANDERERS – SUN. 07 APR 2019, 16.00HRS
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Wolves got the better of Liverpool and Manchester United in the FA Cup run to get to this stage and will hope they can cross one more hurdle in order to book their place in the Cup finals for the first time in 59 years. Several older Watford fans still have memories of the 1984 FA Cup final against Everton and will love to relive such an experience of playing in a Cup final. Both teams have had a good campaign till date with Javi Gracia edging closer to Graham Taylor’s exalted heights at Watford while Nuno Espirito Santo is revolutionizing Wolves with his managerial intelligence. Both teams have earned their places in the semis even though neither are the more glamorous teams in the country.
VERDICT – Watford have beaten Wolves at the Molineux this season and might be quite confident of ending their cup dreams at Wembley. However, Wolves have had a superior Cup run to get here; knocking out Liverpool and recently Manchester United. Both teams performances is not likely to count for much; this game will be about desire and guts with either sides believing they can secure a place in the final. We anticipate an attacking game with both teams getting on the score sheet and every other thing can happen in this game. This could go all the way to extra time and even penalties.
This wraps up our preview for the week. Predict and win big by visiting our Sports shop Babaijebu.ng for mouthwatering offers in league matches across top five European leagues and the English FA Cup this weekend.