Friday, December 26, 2014

Seven hot matches

Here are my picks for the best games from around the world to watch over the next seven days. Most of them don't need much hype, but just in case...

Seven hot matches

Here are my picks for the best games from around the world to watch over the next seven days. Most of them don't need much hype, but just in case...

Chelsea at Arsenal

7:30 a.m. Saturday, ESPN2/ESPN3.com

Arsenal's 5-3 win at Chelsea last October was one of the best games of this Premier League season. Now the Blues must win to keep hope alive of gaining fourth place, and a berth in next year's Champions League.

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But Chelsea manager Roberto di Matteo must also balance his lineup to keep his stars fresh for this year's Champions League and FA Cup. Will that prove a distraction?

Real Madrid at Barcelona

2:00 p.m. Saturday, Gol TV/ESPN Deportes/ESPN3.com

The latest chapter of international soccer's most glamorous rivalry comes with huge stakes. First-place Real leads second-place Barcelona by four points at the moment. But a win for the home team would cut that lead back down to one point - which means one more Madrid slip-up could lose the title.

Barcelona has forward Lionel Messi, the world's best player. Real has winger Cristiano Ronaldo, soccer's equivalent of Alex Rodriguez, and tempestuous manager Jose Mourinho. It doesn't get much bigger, or better.

Chicago Fire at Toronto FC

3:30 p.m. Saturday, NBC Sports Network

Toronto FC's year has been perplexing. Despite reaching the semifinals of the CONCACAF Champions League, they've started the Major League Soccer season 0-5.

Now coach Aron Winter is on the hot seat, as Toronto fans become impatient with his grandiose player development strategy. The Reds need injured defenders Adrian Cann and Torsten Frings to come back soon in order to turn things around.

New York Red Bulls at D.C. United

6:00 p.m. Sunday, ESPN2/ESPN3.com

It might not be Major League Soccer's fiercest rivalry anymore, but it is still the most-contested in league history. This will be the 57th regular-season meeting of MLS' D.C. and New York teams since the league began in 1996, and the 66th overall.

Expect plenty of goals: New York's Thierry Henry and Kenny Cooper lead MLS with seven each, while D.C. United's Dwayne De Rosario always plays up to the big stage.

Chelsea at FC Barcelona

2:30 p.m. Tuesday, Fox Soccer Channel

Chelsea shocked Barcelona in the first leg of this UEFA Champions League semifinal, stealing a 1-0 win at home despite being outplayed for much of the game. Now the scene shifts to Spain.

Barcelona manager Pep Guardiola must get his squad of slick passers to break down Chelsea's defensive resistance. If he can't, the Blues will pull off one of the biggest upsets in recent Champions League history.

Bayern Munich at Real Madrid

2:30 p.m. Wednesday, FX

Just as no team has ever played in a Super Bowl on its home field, no team has played in a Champions League final on home turf since the tournament adopted its current format in 1992.

This year's final is at Bayern's Allianz Arena, and the German giants are 90 minutes away from making history after winning the first leg, 2-1. But Madrid is tough to beat at home, and will be looking to reach European soccer's biggest stage for a record 13th time.

C.F. Monterrey at Santos Laguna

8:00 p.m. Wednesday, Fox Soccer Channel

Monterrey won the first leg of the all-Mexican CONCACAF Champions League final, 2-0, on home soil. Now the scene shifts to Torreon. Santos will look to American striker Herculez Gomez to lead the comeback, while Monterrey will try to hold on and become the first ever back-to-back winners of the tournament.

Jonathan Tannenwald Philly.com
About this blog
The Goalkeeper is your home for the latest news about the Philadelphia Union, Major League Soccer, U.S. national teams and the rest of the world's most popular sport. It's also a place for fans to gather and celebrate the culture of soccer and its unique place on the sports landscape.

Reach Jonathan at jtannenwald@phillynews.com or 215-854-2330.

Jonathan Tannenwald Philly.com
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