- Two must-see games are on this weekend’s schedule, one in England and the other in Spain.
- Chelsea desperately need all the points they can get, but it’ll take something special to beat Manchester City.
- Atletico are within reach of the Spanish title, and a win against Barcelona will truly spark their title hopes.
Get ready to hop around the continent this weekend. We’ve got two pivotal matches from two different leagues. Chelsea have been bumped down to fifth place in the Premier League, so they can’t afford to lose many more games. Problem is, their next match is against the hottest team in Europe. And Atletico Madrid look to close in on the Spanish League leaders when they take on Barcelona.
Odds courtesy of Bovada (Learn the advantages and drawbacks of Bovada’s sportsbook.)
Manchester City (-170) vs Chelsea (+450), Draw (+315)
Sunday, March 4th at Etihad Stadium
The coming weeks contain a handful of challenging (but ultimately inconsequential) league fixtures for Manchester City (23-3-1, 72 points). They face Arsenal again on Thursday after thrashing them 3-0 at Wembley over the weekend, and after that, they’ll host Chelsea (16-5-7, 53 points) at Etihad.
While Man City can afford to coast to the end of the domestic season, Chelsea are locked in a fierce battle for a top-four finish. The Blues are currently in fifth place, two points shy of a Champions League qualification spot. Their FA Cup campaign is still alive and they have a decent shot at advancing past Barcelona in the Champions League, but they’ve been free-falling lately in the Premier League.
With three losses in their last four league fixtures, Chelsea can’t afford many more slip ups. Their 2-1 loss to Man United last weekend allowed Tottenham to leapfrog the Blues into fourth place.
It was an unfortunate defeat. Chelsea started as the better side and managed to open the scoring, but their momentum slowly dwindled and Man United was able to steal the win. Antonio Conte was heavily criticized for his decision making throughout the match, and most of it is deserved.
As for Manchester City, well, their results speak for themselves. They’re the Carabao Cup winners, the Champions League favorite, and, unless the unthinkable happens, the upcoming Premier League titleholders. Their recent slate of performances have been slightly less dominant than we’ve come to expect, but they’re still a few notches above the rest of the league.
Man City’s league record at the Etihad this season is 13-1-0 and they’ve won their last 20 home games in all competitions. I’m picking that run to continue.
Pick: Manchester City (-170)
Barcelona (-160) vs Atletico Madrid (+425), Draw (+295)
Sunday, March 4th at Camp Nou
Only one club stands in the way of Barcelona (20-5-0, 65 points) and another La Liga title, and that club is Atletico Madrid (17-7-1, 58 points). The two sides face this weekend in Catalonia.
Barca’s steady lead over their Spanish counterparts has somewhat diminished after their back-to-back draws against Getafe and Espanyol, but they still hold a comfortable seven-point buffer over the rest of the league. Real Madrid are now completely out of contention after bukling against Espanyol, so all that’s left is Atletico Madrid. The race is on!
However, even if Atleti manage to beat Barcelona in their own backyard, there’s still a decent climb to the top. Barca have shown that even when they’re wildly under-performing, they’re still able to salvage points. Their knack for clinching a draw or a late winner is unparalleled.
Philippe Coutinho is settling in nicely and he’ll only improve once he adapts to the Barcelona system, and Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez are spectacular as usual. Overall, the outlook is pretty rosy for the league leaders.
Atletico have the best defensive record in Spain, conceding just 11 league goals so far in the season. But they often struggle to convert goal-scoring opportunities. That could all change with Diego Costa in the lineup. Costa and Antoine Griezmann have a nice chemistry up front, and if their 5-2 thrashing of Sevilla last weekend is any indication of what’s to come, we’re in for a treat.
Barcelona remains undefeated in the league and Atletico has only lost a single game. Atleti’s attack has improved since re-signing Costa, but I’m not ready to pick them to beat Barca at Camp Nou (even at +425 odds). A draw is definitely a viable outcome, though.
Pick: Draw (+295)