Derby delight: From all-important Manchester derby to clash of Milan titans, big rivalries on show this week
From a Manchester derby that could end with Manchester City being crowned champions to a Milan derby that involves the fallen giants of Italian football vying for a place in next season's Champions League, on the cards, the fixtures couldn't have been better planned.
What is football without its fans? It's a cliche that has grown old with the beautiful game and till date, it has not lost an ounce of its relevance. Fans pour in the emotion into a game, and add colour to the artistry that the players produce on the pitch. Without its fanatics, football will have little meaning.
There are few games that draw more colour in football than old-school derby clashes that pit two clubs dividing a town or city up against one another with local supremacy at stake. Derby day is often the most anticipated, even big tournament finals struggle to match the intensity of these games. For most teams, derbies define their campaigns.
Football fans across the globe have the dates of derby games marked in red moments as soon as the fixtures list is released.
Whether an act of coincidence or not, some of the biggest derbies in world football have been packed into this week in what has resulted in a treat for football fans all over the globe. From a Manchester derby that could end with Manchester City being crowned champions to a Milan derby that involves the fallen giants of Italian football vying for a place in next season's Champions League, on the cards, the fixtures couldn't have been better planned.
Here's a look at the four major derbies that are going to take place this week.
AC Milan vs Inter Milan (Wednesday, 4 April 2018)
The Milan derby is one of the feistiest football rivalries in the world and one that rarely fails to entertain. The upcoming one to be played on Wednesday has special significance as it will have more than just local pride at stake. Inter and Milan who have been away from Europe's premier club competition for many years are in contention to make a return to next year's edition. Inter currently occupy the final Champions League spot and Milan who have been languishing in mid-table for the past seasons have a Champions League slot in striking range. With eight points separating the two rivals, a win for Milan could further add to their momentum the club have found since appointing Genaro Gattuso as their manager.
Milan, who will be the home team at the San Siro on Wednesday haven't beaten their rivals for over two years, spanning four games. So a victory in the derby will certify the progress Milan have made under their new manager, former captain Genaro Gattuso, and also keep them in the hunt to make a return to a competition that they have won seven times. A win for Inter would thus be sweeter as they would deny Milan a place in next year's Champions League while severely enhancing their chances of making the cut.
Time: 10 PM IST
Where to watch: Sony ESPN HD, SD
Everton vs Liverpool (Saturday, 7 April 2018)
The Merseyside derby is one of the most-anticipated matches in English football calendar. It is the longest running top-flight derby in England, having been played continuously since the 1962–63 season. Part of the rivalry is due to the proximity of the two clubs, whose home grounds are within eyesight of each other across Stanley Park, Everton at Goodison Park and Liverpool at Anfield.
In the last few years, this derby was contested by teams fairly close on the table, but Liverpool's resurgence under Jurgen Klopp and a rather poor season from Everton's point-of-view means this clash will be all about the bragging rights, especially for Everton who haven't beaten their rivals in any competition for eight years. Their last win came in the 2009-10 Premier League season at Goodison Park.
The form of the two teams suggest that history may not be slated to change, but the distraction of a two-legged Champions League tie against Manchester City for Liverpool may give Everton some hope. In the reverse fixture, Everton earned a controversial 1-1 draw at Anfield, but with little to play for in the remainder of the season, Everton may save their best for Liverpool on Saturday.
Time: 5 PM IST
Where to watch: Star Sports Select 1 HD, SD
Manchester City vs Manchester United (Saturday, 7 April 2018)
The Manchester derby was for long a one-sided affair with United keeping their crosstown rivals under their shadow. But in the past decade with the money that has been pumped into Manchester City, they have not just moved out of United's shadow but also at times eclipsed them. A glance at the Premier League table would tell you the gulf between the two teams now and the context of Saturday's clash is an indicator of the changed times.
Pep Guardiola's City who have been putting teams to the sword week in week out will play United knowing that a win would guarantee them the Premier League title. The best United could do is avoid the embarrassment of being the audience for the City procession that would follow. However, even the best of their efforts would only delay the inevitable by a week. United pretty much have a top four finish secured and Saturday's clash will be all about spoiling City's party.
The midweek games against Liverpool may force Guardiola to take it easy against United in the derby, but the fans would not want the chance to win the title against United pass. So a derby that is growing in significance with every passing game could well have milestone moment on Saturday. That's what City fans crave for and United ones dread.
Time: 10 PM IST
Where to watch: Star Sports Select 1 HD, SD
Real Madrid vs Atletico Madrid (Sunday, 8 April 2018)
Barcelona have always been Real Madrid's biggest rivals. That still remains the case. But Atletico Madrid who have grown from strength to strength in the past few seasons have added so much to the weight of the Madrid derby. In the last 10 league games between the two teams, Real Madrid have won just twice, while Atletico have four victories. Diego Simeone's men have also enjoyed success over Real in domestic sup competitions. However, in Europe Real have had the upper hand as they have knocked Atletico out of the competition in four successive seasons.
Real go into Sunday's clash four points behind Atletico as they chase the second place in the table that Simeone's men currently occupy. With chances of winning the La Liga all but gone, Real's main focus domestically is finishing above local rivals Atletico who will be keen to hold on to the second spot.
With both teams still involved in European competition, this game might lose its sheen, but with Zidane and Co playing at home, nothing less than a victory will please the Bernabeu faithful.
Time: 7:45 PM IST
Where to watch: Sony TEN 2 HD, SD
Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who turns 40 in October, has been credited with turning Milan into title contenders again since his return to the Serie A club in January last year.
Coach Antonio Conte ran onto the pitch to celebrate with his players as the goal restored Inter's 11-point advantage over second-place AC Milan, which won 3-1 at Parma on Saturday.
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