• Friday, 11 May 2012

    Marking your card #8

    The major leagues of Europe are winding down now and play-offs for everything are in full swing. There are some issues still to be resolved though, but it's time to start looking a little further afield for footballing kicks. Here's what we'll be keeping an eye on this weekend.

    The big one is in Turkey. Fenernahce v Galatasaray clashes are always tasty and Saturday sees the two clash at Fener's Şükrü Saracoğlu Stadium in a winner-takes-all title decider. Any winner will take the title. A draw, and it's Gala's. Gala went into the play-off series as league leaders, but haven't been at their best once there having drawn two and lost one of their five games. Fener, meanwhile, have won four and lost one to draw within a point. You don't want gambling advice from us, but back the draw and Gala to take the title.

    The big game in France sees Lille - in third place, five points off the lead - take the long trip south to Montpellier. A win for Lille will boost their hopes of retaining the championship, but could also play into the hands of rivals PSG who are away to Rennes this week and three points behind leaders MHSC. It's a pivotal week. At the bottom, Auxerre could be relegated if they lose and a series of results go against them, but it's so tight down there that it's likely to go to the final round.

    It's the final round in Spain where Gijón will be relegated unless they can beat Málaga. Even then, a point for Rayo in their game against Granada - both those sides are in trouble and desperate for points - will send them to the Segunda. Zaragoza occupy the third relegation place, but are on a great run and play Getafe this week while Villarreal play Europa League winners Atlético Madrid. They'll be hoping the celebrations have been wilder than is professional. It's a little more clear-cut in Italy. If Genoa get a point, Lecce are gone with Novara and Siena no matter what. Genoa play Palermo at home, Lecce are away to Chievo.

    And that's really that for the big leagues. The multitudinous play-offs are ongoing and we'll wrap that up later, but now it's time to look further afield.

    We'll be keeping an eye on Scandinavia. The Danish league looks like a race between FC Kobenhavn and Nordsjælland, but nothing catches the eye this week. Elfsborg have started the Swedish league like a train and Rosenborg and Stromsgodset have set quite a pace in Norway.

    There are six games to go in Argentina's Clausura and it is, typically, tight as a drum. Boca, defending champions, lead the way, but Arsenal in fifth are only three points behind. Vélez are fourth and play Boca this week at la Bombonera in the big game of the week. Estudiantes play Godoy Cruz, the last time Juan Sebastian Veron will take the field as a professional.

    The Uruguayan Clausura is similarly tight, with Defensor Sporting leading by a point from Nacional and Liverpool. Serial trophy winners Peñarol are on the move though and their game away to Montevideo Wanderers is the pick of the week. Chile isn't quite as tight, but the clash between Universidad de Chile and Universidad Catolica is a mouth-watering one. U de Chile are away and clear at the top, but with the title decided on play-offs it's far from over. There's a real logjam to try and make that finals series with four clubs locked on 20 points. Two of those - Santiago Wanderers and Cobreloa - face off this weekend.

    Finally, the MLS. In the Eastern Conference, Sporting KC are the class outfit, but two defeats in a row have allowed the field to close in, New York mainly. The Red Bulls take on Philadelphia Union this week and any New York/Phillie clash in any sport is normally tasty. It's high time football acted likewise. The West looks a three-way battle between Real Salt Lake, San Jose Earthquakes and Seattle, the latter of whom are on a tremendous run. The stand-out fixture sees RSL go to Seattle.

    We, however, are off to Wembley. It's the FA Trophy final, the highlight of the British sporting calendar. It's York City against Newport County this year. Newport have the upper hand in the league clashes between the two this season, but York finished the league far higher. Let's just hope York football is the real winner.

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