Spain – Cordoba v Barcelona
Barcelona are two points clear at the top of La Liga in Spain with four matches remaining. They have been the champions of Spain 22 times but not since 2012-13. They have also won 26 Copa del Reys, the Spanish Cup. Barcelona have been champions of Europe four times, once in 1992 and on three occasions in the new millennium. They are one of just three teams to win each of the old European competitions, namely the European Cup, Cup Winner’s Cup and UEFA Cup.
They travel to Cordoba on Saturday and an away win would go a long way to clinching another title as Real Madrid, the team in second place, have a tough fixture at Sevilla. Cordoba are in the top division in Spain for the first time since 1972. As recently as the 1984/85 they were playing in the third level of Spanish football. The side based in Andalusia have never won la Liga or the Spanish Cup. The best year in their history was the 1964/65 season when they finished 5th in Spain’s top division.
Barcelona are 19 places and 64 points ahead of their opponents in this match. Cordoba are the poorest team in La Liga and a return to the Segunda Division looks inevitable as they are 11 points behind the team who are safe in 17th position with just 12 points to play for this season. Barcelona have the best away record in the league and Cordoba are unlikely to add to the total of two league matches Barcelona have lost on the road this time.
Lionel Messi is the record scorer in Barcelona history. At the time of writing he had scored 281 goals in 311 appearances for the club. He has also scored 45 goals in 97 internationals for Argentina who he led to the final of the World Cup last year only to lose to Germany with a single goal during extra-time. Messi has been voted best player in the world four times and has been the top scorer in Europe while playing for Barcelona in three seasons.
Best Bet: Barcelona -2 goals on the handicap at 7/10 or -142.90.
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Italy – Sampdoria v Juventus
Juventus are 14 points clear at the top of Serie A in Italy and need just one more points from five matches to clinch another title. They should get the required result away at Sampdoria who are 25 points adrift of the league leaders in fifth place. Juve as they are known have been champions of Italy in 30 seasons, including in each of the last three years. They have won the Italian Cup nine times and are another club to have won each of the major European trophies at least once, including the Champions League most recently in the 1995-96 season.
Sampdoria are unbeaten in the league at home this season. However, 9 of the 16 matches at their own stadium have been draws. Sampdoria have scored just 21 times at home but have only conceded 11 goals meaning only Juventus have let in fewer goals at their own ground. Juventus have lost three away league matches this season, scoring 22 goals and conceding 10. They have the best away defensive record in the top Italian league. Juve’s top scorer this season is Carlos Tevez who has played for both Manchester clubs in the English Premier League and is an international player for Argentina.
Sampdoria’s only title was won in the 1990-91 season but they have won Coppa Italia four times but not since 1994. Their only success in European competition was the Cup Winner’s Cup in 1990. They lost in the final of the European Cup to Barcelona at Wembley two years later by the only goal of the match scored by Ronald Koeman who now manages Southampton in the English Premier League.
Best Bet: Under 2.5 goals at 6/10 or -166.70.
Germany – Bayer Leverkusen v Bayern Munich
Bayern Munich are known as the Hollywood team because of their fame and status in the history of German football. They have won the Bundesliga a record 25 times, including in the last two years and again this season. The have also won the German Cup 17 times which is another record and no other club in Germany comes close to matching those achievements. The last of the five seasons in which they have been champions of Europe was two years ago and they are in the last four this year.
Bayern are 15 points clear at the top of the table with four games to play so they will not be overhauled. Leverkusen are three places and 19 points behind their opponents in this match but have only lost once in the league at home this season, scoring 35 goals and conceding 15. Munich have lost just one of 15 matches on the road and have a positive goal difference of 25, by far the best in the top German league.
Leverkusen have never won the Bundesliga but have been second five times most recently in the 2010-11 season. They won the German Cup in 1993, the UEFA Cup five years earlier and lost in the final of the Champions league 13 years ago. Bayern Munich are unbeaten in their last four matches against these opponents and have won 5 of the 9 fixtures between the sides in German football.
Arjen Robben and Robert Lewandowski are Bayern’s top scorers this season. They are two of several overseas players that compliment the relatively high number of squad members that are eligible to play for the German national team that won the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. Germany is a country that has found a good balance between flourishing domestic and successful international football and Munich have had a key role in that process.
Best Bet: Both teams to score at 8/11 or -137.50.
All European odds taken from British bookmakers William Hill
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