Seven Hot Matches
Featuring four of the world's best rivalry games.
Seven Hot Matches
Jonathan Tannenwald, Philly.com
Chicago Fire at New York Red Bulls
3:30 p.m. Saturday (NBC)
Major League Soccer returns to network television as one of the league’s crown jewel stadiums, Red Bull Arena, gets a national spotlight. Chicago and New York are tied for second place in MLS’ Eastern Conference, and bring serious attacking firepower to this contest.
Chicago’s Chris Rolfe has scored seven goals in his last 10 games for the Fire, while New York’s Thierry Henry and Kenny Cooper have combined to score 30 goals this season. MLS’ most prolific scoring tandem will post a big test for Chicago defender Austin Berry, a leading candidate for Rookie of the Year.
Chivas de Guadalajara at América
5:30 p.m. Saturday (Univision; UnivisionDeportes.com)
A weekend full of rivalries kicks off with the signature game in Mexico’s newly-renamed Liga MX.
Chivas’ longstanding rule of only signing Mexican players has made the Goats their country’s most popular team, but it hasn’t delivered a championship since 2006. América is Mexico’s richest team, and calls the famous Estadio Azteca home. But for all that spending, the Eagles’ haven’t won the league since 2005.
Still, this game is the best soccer spectacle south of the Rio Grande. Don’t be surprised if your local Mexican restaurant has this game on its TVs, and a big crowd watching. Chivas and América are as popular among Mexican immgrants in the U.S. as they are back home.
Real Salt Lake at Los Angeles Galaxy
9:00 p.m. Saturday (NBC Sports Network)
The San Jose Earthquakes have almost clinched first place in Major League Soccer’s Western Conference, but the race for second is wide open. This game will go a long way towards deciding which team gets home-field advantage in the first round of the playoffs.
RSL currently sits in second place with 52 points. The Galaxy are in third with 50. Fourth-place Seattle is hot on L.A.’s heels with 49, and has played one fewer game than the two teams above them. All three teams are trying to finish in the top three, and thus avoid the one-game knockout contest in the Wild Card round.
Real Madrid at FC Barcelona
1:45 p.m. Sunday (beIN Sport)
It’s not an overstatement to call this game the biggest in the world. Both teams’ rosters are stacked with famous names, especially Barcelona’s Lionel Messi and Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo.
Barcelona has an eight-point lead on Madrid, which has led to talk in Spain of the La Liga championship already being decided. But the blaugrana suffered a big blow Tuesday when defender and captain Carles Puyol suffered a dislocated elbow. If Madrid can capitalize on Barça’s weakend defense, the title race could be back on.
AC Milan vs. Inter Milan
2:45 p.m. Sunday (Second half live on beINSport at 3:45 p.m., tape-delayed full game broadcast at 9:30 p.m.)
Which team is the home team in this Italian classic? They both are, as they share the 85,000-seat San Siro stadium. It will be split down the middle, Big 5-style, with AC Milan red on one side and Inter blue on the other.
It will be a big occasion for AC Milan’s Giampaolo Pazzini and Inter’s Antonio Cassano. The two Italian strikers were traded across sides in the Derby della Madonnina this past offseason. This game will be their first against their former teams.
Paris Saint-Germain at Olympique Marseille
3:00 p.m. Sunday (live in Spanish on Univision Deportes, tape-delayed in English on beIN Sport at 5:00 p.m.)
Paris Saint-Germain spent over $200 million signing some of Europe’s biggest stars in the offseason, most notably Swedish striker Zlatan Ibrahimović. But heading into the weekend, PSG’s fiercest rival sits at the top of the Ligue 1 standings.
Marseille may not have the famous names, but they have serious attacking talent in forwards Jordan Ayew and Loïc Remy. L’OM also has France’s best home-field advantage in the Stade Vélodrome. Expect fireworks on the pitch and in the stands as the spotlight shines on France’s south coast.
Portland Timbers at Seattle Sounders
9:00 p.m. Sunday (ESPN)
MLS caps off the weekend with its own signature rivalry game. A capacity crowd of 67,000 will pack Seattle’s CenturyLink Field to watch the deciding game in the Cascadia Cup series. That attendance is expected to be among the largest anywhere in the world for a soccer game on Saturday or Sunday.
Portland can lift the cup with a win or a tie. Among the matchups to watch is the midfield battle between Timbers playmaker Darlington Nagbe and Sounders enforcer Osvaldo Alonso. Seattle’s attack is led by star forward Fredy Montero, who has a history of scoring big goals in Cascadia Cup contests.