If you thought that just because the Round of 16 in the Champions League drew to a close this week that the world of football would draw breath, then you are mistaken. This weekend sees not just one, but two of the biggest games in world football taking place on the same day and there is a huge amount riding on each.
Both games take place on Sunday 22nd March with the first game kicking off at lunchtime and the eyes of the football world will be focused on Anfield as Liverpool host their most fierce rivals Manchester United in what promises to be a massive clash between the two Premier League giants.
As always, we will provide our insight into the best bets on these epic matchups. Our UK online sports betting site of choice is Bet365, where new signups will enjoy free sports bets from Bet365.
Liverpool v Manchester United preview
Liverpool come into the game with the best form in the Premier League over their last 13 games, having won 10 and drawn three. Their last defeat was away at their opponents on Sunday, Manchester United. United won that game at Old Trafford 3-0, but Liverpool also missed a host of chances, so much so that David De Gea, United’s Spanish goalkeeper, was voted man of the match on the day.
United’s form since then has been almost as impressive, even if their performances have not quite been as bright as Louis van Gaal would like them to be. However they were excellent at the weekend against Tottenham, cruising to a 3-0 victory and that excellent performance will put United in excellent spirits ahead of the trip to Anfield.
The position in the league could not be tighter. After a dismal start to the season, Liverpool have stormed back into contention for the Champions League places and lie just two points behind Manchester United, who occupy the fourth and final Champions League spot in the division. A win for Liverpool on Sunday would see them leapfrog their northwest rivals and move into the Champions League places with eight league games remaining.
On the other hand, a victory for Manchester United would move them five points ahead of Liverpool in fifth place and would give them a significant advantage in the race for a Champions League place.
Manchester United can welcome back Angel Di Maria after his suspension for getting sent off in the FA Cup game with Arsenal and Louis van Gaal will likely opt to keep a similar team that won so handsomely and impressively against Tottenham, with Marouane Fellaini keeping his place thanks to his impressive form of late.
Brendan Rodgers may have Mario Balotelli back for the game with Manchester United after the Italian star was ruled out of the game with Swansea on Monday night due to a bug. Steven Gerrard is also possibly in line for a recall, though Rodgers kept his captain on the bench for the game at the Liberty Stadium in midweek.
It promises to be a huge game at Anfield with all the usual passion and fervour you would come to expect from these two North West giants, with the added space of a place in the Champions League next season up for grabs.
Perhaps amazingly, as big as this game is in the Premier League, later that evening there is a game taking place that is without doubt the biggest domestic league clash anywhere in the world.
Billions of pairs of eyes will be glued to the TV as Barcelona welcome Real Madrid to the Nou Camp for a game, the outcome of which, may well decide the destiny of the La Liga trophy come the end of the season.
Barcelona v Real Madrid
If the Liverpool v Manchester United clash is about deciding which of the two has the best prospects to finish behind Chelsea in the Champions League places, then Sunday night’s clash at the Nou Camp is being seen as a showdown between the two biggest clubs in the world for the rights to move into pole position in the race for the La Liga title.
Currently, the top spot is occupied by Barcelona after manager Luis Enrique has finally found a way to galvanise his team. Barcelona didn’t start the season particularly well and at one stage, were several points off the pace set by Real Madrid during the first half of the season. There was also rumours of discontent with Lionel Messi reportedly unhappy with the manager and even, cryptically, tweeting about Chelsea FC at one point.
However, since the winter break, Barcelona have found a new gear and have been on an excellent run of form, winning all but one of their last ten games, scoring 36 goals in the process and as a result, they have rocketed to the top of La Liga table.
Part of that improvement has been down to better form by key players Messi and Suarez. The £75m signing from Liverpool endured a disappointing start to his career at the Nou Camp, but his double against Manchester City in the Champions League has really kick started the Uruguayan’s season and he is now linking up particularly well with Messi.
However, two teams have already won at the Nou Camp this season, Celta Vigo and most recently Malaga, who both won 1-0 and those results in particular will give Carlo Ancelotti’s visiting Real Madrid team some hope that they could take the three points here.
It has been a very odd season in many ways for Ancelotti’s men. Prior to the mid-winter break in Spain, Real went on a 22 match winning run and looked, by and large, almost unbeatable at times. However in their first game back after the winter break, Real suffered a defeat and since then Ancelotti’s men have struggled.
The lead they had built up in La Liga has been eroded and they now lie a point behind their fierce rivals, both having played 27 games.
Part of the problem has been a lack of form shown by Ancelotti’s preferred front three of Ronaldo, Bale and Benzema. The Italian manager has accused his team of being ponderous in their play at times and not bringing the best out of their fearsome attacking talent.
That will need to change this weekend against a Barcelona defence that, while improved, still looks very shaky at times.
With two such huge games in action this week, the bookies have Liverpool and Barcelona as the slight favourites for both games. However in each case, it looks just too close to call.