Spring has sprung and April Fool’s has just past. Besides much warmer weather, cleaning obsessions and trying yet another weight loss program to get you trim for summer, spring and specifically April means football (soccer) viewing at its finest. Considering we have a European Championship this summer, and very tight domestic league competitions in England, Germany and Italy, there are numerous barn burners (aka hot matches) on tap within the next 10 weeks. We selected 44 ‘must see’ matches, for a total of 3,960 minutes ( or 65 hours) of viewing pleasure spanning European leagues (20) as well as Euro 2012, Champions League, Europe League, and domestic league cups (24 matches). This post focuses on the match-heavy and tres important month of April.
The Bundesliga serves up 4 killer matches, all critical in determining who will be the king of the hill in German football come May 5th:
[APRIL 11] FC Bayern vs. Borussia Dortmund: Dortmund carries a 3 game winning streak into this game including a sweep of the series during their championship year in 2010/11. This game is obviously crucial to both clubs and kicks-off a brutal 3 game stretch for Dortmund that has them playing the top 3 Bundesliga teams in Bayern, Schalke and Gladbach.
- [April 13] SpVgg Greuther Fuerth vs. FC St.Pauli: Fuerth and Pauli will battle for who gets promoted to top flight German football. St. Pauli has the most rabid, die-hard fans in German soccer so a lack of talent might be made up by pure passion.
[April 14] Schalke 04 vs. Borussia Dortmund: This ‘Revierderby’ matchup is unrivaled for pure hatred and disdain between the two sides who are a mere 25 miles apart but leagues a part (at least recently) in terms of match form and success.
[April 21] Dortmund vs. Gladbach: Another local affair between the two Borussia’s. Dortmund is aiming to repeat as Bundesliga champion and Gladbach is hoping to snag a Champions League spot for next year. Incidentally, Gladbach forward star and national team member Stefan Reuss is switching to Dortmund this summer.
[April 28] FC Bayern vs. VFB Stuttgart: It’s the Bayern vs. the Schwaben in a long-time rivalry. Mario Gomez, a one time rising star at Stuttgart will look to impress Bayern fans on his way to a goal-getter title (currently tied for 1st with Schalke’s Klaas Jan, ‘the hunter’, Huntelaar.
Serie A is the best that Italian top division soccer has to offer. While AC Milan and Juventus Turin will surely battle into May to determine who ends up with the league trophy, surprise team Lazio hopes to hold on to a lucrative Champions League spot.
[April 7] Napoli vs. Lazio Roma: It’s the battle of Miro Klose’s 3rd place Romans vs. their 4th place Sicilian rivals. Will Rome’s Olympic Stadium be witness to yet another epic finish?
[April 11] Juventus vs. Lazio Roma: Only 5 days after the Napoli challenge, Lazio travel to Juventus to take on a squad determined to raise the league trophy for the first time since 2002/3.
The English Premier League has enjoyed a wild suspenseful year so here are 4 must see matches to add to your DVR lineup.
[April 8] Arsenal vs. Manchester City: Arsenal had a 8 game winning streak broken last weekend and City has struggled lately. If City does not fetch 3 points in this one, I see their title hopes rapidly vanishing.
[April 11] Queens Park Rangers vs. Swansea City: Both QPR and Swansea were promoted to the EPL last year and both are fighting hard to stay on top. Ironically, QPR has performed best this season vs. much better opponents so that might indicate Swansea will win.
[April 15] Chelsea vs. Tottenham Hotspur, FA Cup Semi-final: Chelsea faces Barca on the 18th in the CL semi so it will be interesting to see who lines up for this ‘not as important’ match.
[April 21] Arsenal vs. Chelsea: Depending on how Chelsea performs in its home leg of the Champions League semi-final vs. Barcelona, some of the top players might be rested for the ensuing CL battle.
[April 30] Manchester City vs. Manchester United: Hopefully, City does its part to remain competitive and we’ll have ourselves a blood match. I suspect Man U will look to avenge it’s 1:6 thumping back in October.
La Liga (Spanish Primera Division) is the most uncompetitive top European league … even the race of 1 and 2 is not as close this year with Real Madrid holding onto a 6 point lead with el Clasico part 2 yet to be played.
[April 8] Real Madrid vs. Valencia CF: Valencia is in 3rd place, albeit almost 30 points behind Real, so at least on paper this could be a close affair.
[April 11] Atletico Madrid vs. Real Madrid: It’s the battle of the top teams in Madrid and bragging rights … enough said!
[April 21] FC Barcelona vs. Real Madrid: El Clasico (part 2 in 2011/12) will still be the most viewed domestic football match in the world, despite the fact that Real Madrid has not won since May 2008. Who knows, the two Spanish giants might meet again in the Champion League final in May.
As of this afternoon, the UEFA Champions League semi-finals are set and feature 4 breathtaking match ups …
[April 17] FC Bayern vs. Real Madrid: Can Robbin avenge bad times at his old Spanish club and can Oezil and Khedira show their fellow German national teammates on the Bayern squad how it’s done? Return-leg in Madrid, April 25.
[April 18] Chelsea FC vs. FC Barcelona: Can an aging Chelsea squad continue their fairy tale CL run and upset a heavy favored Barca? Return leg in Barcelona, April 24.
Stay tuned for must-see matches in May (domestic cup finals) and June (Euro 2012 battles).