The football gods have blessed the calendar this week with mouth-watering clashes across Europe.
Here are some of the best games you won’t want to miss.
Top four or (potential) bust for Milan
Napoli are already planning their Serie A title celebrations, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t anything worth keeping an eye on in Italy. The race for Champions League football is hot!
Fourth-place Milan sit right on the edge of qualifying for Europe’s top competition and face sixth-place Atalanta with only three points separating the two sides.
The reigning champions can’t win the title again, were eliminated from the Coppa Italia and lost the Supercoppa Italiana final. Therefore, finishing in the top four is a must for Stefano Pioli’s men if they don’t make it past Tottenham in this year’s Champions League campaign.
Milan have had a mild uptick in form as of late, with three consecutive 1-0 wins across all competitions. Perhaps this is where things start to turn around.
Atalanta, meanwhile, have only won one of their last four matches though they already picked up points against their upcoming opponents (1-1 draw). After finishing on the outside of Europe last season they will aim to seize more points against top-four opposition.
Spice rating: Mild 🌶
Star-studded PSG aim to avenge Marseille
We have another Classique within the span of two weeks as second-place Marseille host leaders Paris Saint-Germain.
Christophe Galtier’s side have been the recipient of heavy criticism lately, as their elimination from the Coupe de France at the hands of their upcoming opponents kickstarted a horrid run of three losses in a row in all competitions.
However, a reunited PSG side recently rallied against Lille to get back to winnings ways and if Lionel Messi and Kylian Mbappé combine again in the absence of Neymar, it would be the best possible situation.
The attacking talent often grabs the headlines in Paris, but a leaky defence has sneakily caused the reigning champions problems. They haven’t kept a clean sheet since 23 January, conceding 12 goals in seven games.
Marseille will again look to exploit this weakness as their front line have found the back of the net in 17 consecutive games dating back to October. They have subsequently only lost once in 14 games.
Alexis Sánchez and company already have the blueprint for beating their rivals, and if they do so again, it would bring the title race to two points.
Spice rating: Medium 🌶 🌶
Can Union make a statement against giants Bayern?
If you haven’t noticed what’s happening in Germany, tune in. The tightest title race in 53 years is upon us, with three teams in the running.
Union Berlin have quickly become one of the biggest stories in football with a real chance to win the Bundesliga title. They also continue to impress in Europe, having convincingly knocked Dutch giants Ajax out of the Europa League on Thursday.
This week they make the trip to the Allianz Arena where serial winners Bayern Munich await. The reigning champions, however, aren’t quite themselves this season, registering seven draws and two losses in the league.
Their most recent stumble was to Borussia Mönchengladbach last week, and now the hosts are without defender Dayot Upamecano (who received a red card), making matters even more difficult. A boost, however, sees Sadio Mané available on the bench.
Union have already picked up points against Bayern earlier this season with a 1-1 draw and head into this on a nine-match unbeaten streak.
A true test awaits this weekend and if they can make a statement against the German giants away from home, their run shouldn’t be considered a fairytale anymore.
1. FC Union Berlin
Spice rating: Hot 🌶 🌶 🌶
LaLiga title at stake in Madrid derby
The Santiago Bernabéu hosts one of this weekend’s most entertaining matches as the Madrid derby could shake up the title race in Spain.
If reigning champions Real Madrid want to snap Barelona’s lead to five points, a win against rivals Atlético de Madrid is a must. Otherwise, Xavi’s side move one giant step closer to the title.
Carlo Ancelotti’s men are coming off an inspired 5-2 comeback win over Liverpool and see Toni Kroos and Aurélien Tchouaméni back available.
They have only lost one of their last 11 games but are approaching a tough portion of the calendar with this derby, El Clásico and more Champions League action ahead – whether or not they survive that run could hinder on the result this weekend.
Diego Simeone’s side, meanwhile, are 18 points off top spot but will welcome any chance to rub salt in the wound of their city rivals and inch closer to securing a spot in the top four at the same time with Real Betis lurking.
According to the manager, former Real Madrid stars Marcos Llorente and Alvaro Morata (who scored in the Copa del Rey derby) are gearing up to be game-changers as Atlético de Madrid hope not to make it three losses to Los Blancos this season.
Atlético de Madrid
Spice rating: Fire 🌶 🌶 🌶 🌶
Rangers face Celtic in League Cup final
And finally, a title is on the line with the biggest game in Scotland taking centre stage once again as Rangers and Celtic go head to head in the Scottish League Cup final.
Rangers are hoping to win the title for the first time since 2011 while reigning champions Celtic look to claim their seventh title in nine years.
Michael Beale’s side head into this clash losing once in their last 17 games with two draws, but Ange Postecoglou’s men hold a slightly better record.
Celtic are 17 games unbeaten from 18, only dropping points in a 2-2 result against – you guessed it – their upcoming rivals.
A historically charged rivalry, this clash never fails to entertain and fans can expect flare on the pitch, a raucous crowd and scrappy moments.
Given the nine-point gap between these two sides in the league – it is a real test to see who can beat who to a trophy. Who will reach glory?