GW 43 – Ones to Watch
Ally: Well we really are getting to the business end of the season now, with some leagues completely finished and most others nearing completion, but that’s not to say there’s nothing still to play for.
Indeed, it’s far from being all over in Spain, which is my first port of call this week as the La Liga title is still up for grabs realistically by 3 and mathematically speaking, 4 teams. Currently in pole position are leaders Atletico Madrid, who welcome mid table side Osasuna to the magnificent Wanda Metropolitano stadium. Victory here for the hosts would leave them at least 2 points clear of their nearest challengers and great city rivals Real Madrid going into the final round of games. They have stuttered a little of late, but fortunately for Atleti their home record is excellent and they head into this game on a run of 5 straight wins in the capital. Diego Simeone’s sides are always built on solid defence rather than free flowing football, but they all have a knack of getting results and it’s sometimes easy to overlook the attacking talent they have, and while it’s not unexpected that they boast the league’s best defence they are also the third highest goalscorers. Sunday’s visitors Osasuna in theory have nothing to play for, but that can make them dangerous opponents when players are potentially playing for their futures or jostling for moves. It should also be noted I have previous with Atletico this season, when tipping them in a must win Champions League group game against Lokomotiv Moscow which they prompltly drew 0-0! However, when all’s said and done I expect them to get the 3 points here to put them in touching distance of being crowned Spanish champions for an 11th time.
My second game comes from Germany, where Borussia Dortmund are in a battle to secure the vital Champions League qualification place and the financial riches that brings. They face an awkward looking tie at in-form Mainz, but Dortmund are themselves on a fine run of five successive Bundesliga wins and on Thursday evening clinched the German Cup with a comprehensive 4-1 victory over RB Leipzig. Mainz are second only to Dortmund in the form table over the last 5 matches, picking up 11 points to haul them clear of the relegation zone and towards mid table, though they are not yet mathematically safe despite currently occupying 12th spot. Dortmund meanwhile are just a point clear of 5th placed Eintracht Frankfurt in the race for Champions League football with two games to play, so victory here is vital to maintain that push. Fortunately they have some notable attacking talent in their ranks, led by the prolific Erling Haaland and supplemented by the likes of Jadon Sancho and Marco Reus. Mainz are no pushovers and even had the temerity to beat champions Bayern Munich 2-1 in their last but one home match so Dortmund certainly won’t find it easy, but the visitors can point to impressive away wins at Stuttgart and third placed Wolfsburg in their last 2 trips away from Signal Iduna Park, and when you have someone like Haaland up front you only need half a chance and you’re on the scoresheet! Good luck with your selections.