European Soccer Clubs on Collision Course
By Nick Barbaro,
5:15PM, Wed. Apr. 18, 2007
Manchester United and Chelsea continued on track for what could be an unprecedented series of showdowns next month.
FA Cup semifinal wins on the weekend (Man U handled last-place Watford with appropriate ease; Chelsea had to go to the second overtime before dispatching Blackburn) set up a dream Cup Final, May 19, in the brand-new Wembley Stadium.
Then on Wednesday, Chelsea won their ninth straight Premiership game, keeping the pressure on in a title race Man U seemed to have in the bag months ago. It may all be on the line when the pair face off May 9 in London, in the next-to-last game of the season.
Then there's the European Champions League, where the first leg of the semifinals is this week, April 24-25, pitting AC Milan at Manchester United on Tuesday, Liverpool at Chelsea on Wednesday (both games at 1:30pm, live on ESPN2). So Chelsea and Man U could be in that final as well, May 23 in Athens; if you're keeping score, that'd be two teams, two weeks, three championships. (Also two full months of two games every week leading up to it.)
And of course, that's just some of what's going on in title races all across Europe and South America; see below for updates on each of the major leagues.
In Italy, Roma bounced back from their Champions League debacle against Man U to hand Inter Milan their first loss of the season, 3-1, on Wednesday, and keep Inter from clinching the Serie A title in their sold-out home stadium. Inter will still win it; Roma has second place well in hand, and Lazio and AC Milan are looking comfortable for the other two Champions League slots, with six weeks to go.
With five weeks to go in Germany, it's still a four-way race, as Schalke 04, Werder Bremen, Stuttgart, and Bayern Munich each won on the weekend; five points separate them with five games to go.
Lyon has long since wrapped up the Ligue 1 title; with six games to go, they'll make it official this weekend. Apres Lyon, le deluge: Nine points separate second place from 12th.
Barcelona opened up a four-point gap in La Liga on Sunday, as Valencia beat Sevilla, 2-0, in a tense battle between second and third; they and Real Madrid are within a game of each other with eight to go.
All three leaders in the Dutch Eredivisie won on the weekend, PSV Eindhoven, AZ Alkmaar, and Ajax Amsterdam are within two points of each other, with a seven-point drop to fourth place.
Surprise, surprise: It's Celtic and Rangers again coming in 1-2 in Scotland. Who woulda thunk it?
Three Spanish teams advanced to the final four of the UEFA Cup, Europe's answer to the postseason NIT. On Thursday, April 26, it'll be Osasuna-Sevilla, and Espanyol-Werder Bremen.
Argentine clubs are having a terrible time in the Copa Libertadores group stage, which concludes this week and next. Several clubs are already eliminated with a game to go, including troubled heavyweight River Plate, and even Boca Juniors is facing an uphill battle to survive into the final 16.