Zinedine Zidane 2.0: What to Expect this season

Zinedine Zidane 2.0: What to Expect this season

Zinedine Zidane has come back home. Real Madrid have brought back the three-time Champions League winning manager only ten months after leaving his post, hoping to salvage something out of the hapless 2018/19 campaign. 

After suffering three season-defining defeats in the span of seven days, even Santiago Solari probably didn’t have much hope for himself. The Argentine, to be honest, wasn’t all that bad. He just wasn’t meant to be in charge of the most demanding club on the planet. Real Madrid have always been about results and glory, and the former Castilla manager had failed on both fronts. So, swiftly and positively, he was shown the door, and he left without uttering a word. 

Zidane came in, took the center stage, and announced he was ready to take Real Madrid where they belonged — the pinnacle of the world’s sport.

I want to put this club back where it belongs,” said Zidane, as per BBC.

“It has been difficult from the outside looking in. I have been living here in Madrid, doing my things. But I have recharged my batteries. I’m ready to coach this great club again.

Zinedine Zidane, thanks to his legendary 2.5-year spell at the club, is one of the most elite coaches in the world. But even for someone so accomplished, turning Los Blancos’ fortunes will be quite a challenge. This season, Zidane doesn’t have anything to look forward to, no trophy to fight for, but it’s still an important step for the Frenchman. Over the next 11 games, he’ll determine the players who would retain their place in his squad. Others, sadly, probably won’t have the privilege of donning the royal white again, next season. 

Real Madrid currently sit 5 points behind third-placed Atletico Madrid. Barcelona, who have a 12-point advantage over the Whites are almost out of sight, but Real Madrid won’t let Atletico finish second without a proper tussle. This season, a big chunk of Real Madrid glitterati has underperformed. Most of them failed to lead from the front and ultimately allowed the opposition to walk all over them. Under Zidane, this system will change for the better. Every member of the Real Madrid dressing room knows how brilliant the Frenchman is, which makes Zizou’s job a lot straightforward. 

Isco and Marcelo, who were warming the bench under Solari now have a better chance of proving their worth. Keylor Navas, too, is expected to get more minutes, which will automatically force Thibaut Courtois to up his game. Zidane’s rotation policy worked wonders during his previous spell and is expected to have a telling effect this time around as well.

Since Cristiano Ronaldo‘s departure, Real Madrid have struggled to find the back of the net. Zidane, even with his renowned skill set, won’t be able to solve this problem straight away. But he, most certainly, will have the authority to fix it in the next transfer window. His introduction probably won’t sit well with the likes of Dani Ceballos and Gareth Bale, but for the club and its fans are undoubtedly ecstatic to see him back. The next couple of months won’t be straightforward, but Madridistas now once again have something and someone to look forward to. 

Also Read: How Real Madrid got knocked out of Champions League

Champions League Last-16: Real Madrid 1-4 Ajax — Talking Points

Champions League Last-16: Real Madrid 1-4 Ajax — Talking Points

An exuberant Ajax team send shockwaves around the footballing world by knocking defending champions, Real Madrid, out of the Champions League on Tuesday night. 

The Dutch outfit took the game to the hosts at the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium and came away with a shocking yet thoroughly deserving 4-1 victory in the second leg of their Champions League round-of-16 tie. 

Having won the first leg 2-1 at Ajax, defending champions, Real Madrid, were the outright favorites to book their place in the quarterfinals. However, what unfolded at the Santiago Bernabeu on Tuesday night was beyond anyone’s wildest dreams. 

The visitors took the game to their lofty rivals right from the very first minute. Their passing, movement, pressing oozed confidence, and Real Madrid couldn’t cope with the onslaught. It took the Dutch outfit only 18 minutes to storm into an aggregate lead. Forwards Hakim Ziyech and David Neres capitalized on Real Madrid’s defensive lapses and put two goals expertly past Thibaut Courtois. 

Real Madrid went into the half-time trailing 2-0 in the own backyard. Santiago Solari’s desperation to turn the tie around reflected in the opening stretches of the second half, as Madrid finally looked to put pressure on the visitors. However, despite playing convincingly in the middle of the pitch, they couldn’t take their chances and eventually allowed Ajax to regain their foothold. 

Soon after, Ajax added to their tally through Dusan Tadic, who curled his effort into the top-left corner. Marco Asensio pulled one goal back to offer the home crowd a glimmer of hope, but a magnificent free-kick from Ajax full-back Lasse Schone crushed Madrid’s hopes for good.

Talking Points

Ajax’s Classy Display

Most teams in the world end up paying too much respect to Real Madrid’s apparent invincibility in the Champions League. But last night, Ajax showed the world exactly how to take on a team of Real Madrid’s calibre. 

Real Madrid’s famed midfield trio of Toni Kroos, Luka Modric, and Casemiro was invisible for the most part, restricted by Ajax’s high-pressing midfield. Not only did they look exquisite on the ball, but they also managed to look aggressive without it. The VAR ruled in their favor for the third goal, but they probably deserved a bit of luck for being so magnificent at the Santiago Bernabeu. 

A Night to Forget for Real Madrid

Coming into the match on the back of two consecutive Clasico defeats, Real Madrid needed something positive to bounce back. Sadly, Ajax weren’t in no mood to help the reigning champions out. 

After finding themselves a goal down, Real Madrid tried to get back in business, but injuries to Lucas Vazquez and Vinicius Jr threw them off their game. None of Madrid’s superstars stepped up to the plate. There were a couple of good moments, here and there, but the hosts needed more than a couple of moments to see Ajax through. 

Real’s Season Officially Dead

It took only 7 days for Real Madrid to evaporate their title chances for good. Last Wednesday, they suffered a crushing 3-0 defeat to Barcelona in the second leg of their Copa del Rey semi-final. Three days later, Barcelona, once again, emerged victorious – this time, a 1-0 win in La Liga, which saw Los Blancos slip 12 points behind the league leaders. 

And finally, in the tournament they love the most, they were thrashed 4-1 by Ajax, killing off their title aspirations in the worst possible manner. 

Also Read: Whom did Madrid miss the most?

Real Madrid: Failed to survive after the departure of Zidane and Ronaldo

Real Madrid: Failed to survive after the departure of Zidane and Ronaldo

Defeated at home in the first leg, Ajax Amsterdam crushed Real Madrid, title holder, in the Santiago Bernabeu on Tuesday night.

It’s a thunder blow to Real Madrid. The defending champion was eliminated on their own turf by the dutch outfit. Beaten in the first leg 2-1, the Dutch gave a lesson of football to Real Madrid in Santiago Bernabeu by winning 4-1.

The first season of Santiago Solari at the head of Real turned into a nightmare for the Blancos, dropped in the La Liga and eliminated in the King’s Cup. This is the first time since 2010 that Real will be absent from the semi-finals of the Champions League. Three-time champions of the competition in the last three years, the Madrid club have not survived the departure of Zinedine Zidane first, then that of Cristiano Ronaldo. Worse, Florentino Perez failed to maintain a team that remained on eight consecutive semifinals in the Champions League.

Madrid, failure as a team

Tuesday, there was one who had to bite his fingers, from stand, Sergio Ramos, suspended after voluntarily taking a yellow card for future quarter-final, had to ruminate. Ramos’s absence, who made a big game in the first leg, made a great difference. Faced against Ajax, Luka Modric, Toni Kroos, and Casemiro were only the shadow of themselves, like Raphael Varane. And this season, Gareth Bale won’t be able to say that he is doing better, and Sergio Ramos too. Isco, impressive under Zinedine Zidane, now warms on the sidelines, and where the individualities of the Real were in tune to shine a balanced and welded collective in the last few seasons, the dry failure did not wait very long to be felt. Madrid had not experienced this type of elimination in eighths of nine years.

Cristiano, the X factor

“Of course we miss Cristiano. He would be missed by any team. To replace him is almost impossible.”

Luka Modric said this after the defeat against Ajax, was right. Impossible to replace Cristiano, and Karim Benzema swears that he feels better, the absence of the Portuguese was felt in the game. The surface game was poor, no one is at the conclusion of large-scale actions and Real also seems to have lost the immunity that never made them doubt. The state of mind of the five-time Golden Ball was precious. And if Sergio Ramos and Co. are great leaders, this attack was lacking in the game. Benzema is one of them, too, but this team is indeed an orphan without CR7.

Zidane, the management

Zinedine Zidane decided to leave the ship who certainly felt the wind turn, and it is understandable. But the question arises as to the quick decision to associate with Julen Lopetegui, the heavy end in October and to choose, in place of former Spain coach, inexperienced Santiago Solari. Solari signed an excellent debut, and it is important to report it, allowing Real to regain his place in the top 3 in Liga and to address new appointments with strong choices. Solari allowed the observers to discover Vinicius Jr and Sergio Reguilon, two satisfactions, but the disillusionment with Ajax will inevitably leave traces, especially with two Clasico against Barca lost in less than a week. According to Spanish media, Florentino Perez was already looking out to find a new coach, and after the melodrama of elimination? Surely yes.

Also Read: Zizou at Madrid

Real Madrid 0-3 Barcelona :Copa del Rey | Talking Points

Real Madrid 0-3 (1-4 on Aggregate) Barcelona :Copa del Rey | Report and Talking Points

Luis Suarez’s brilliant second-half brace helped Barcelona to a 3-0 win over Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu on Wednesday night, confirming the Blaugrana’s place in the final of the Copa del Rey. 

The match ended 4-1 on aggregate, highlighting the glaring disparity between the two La Liga juggernauts.

Having secured an encouraging 1-1 draw in the first leg at Barcelona’s Camp Nou, Real Madrid fancied themselves to get an early foothold in Wednesday’s match. They started the game on the front foot and allowed Barcelona very little time on the ball. Troubled by Real Madrid’s aggressive pressing, Barcelona decided to soak up the pressure and attack on counters. 

Los Blancos, buoyed by the home support, continued to charge, especially down the left flank. Vinicius Jr, who has been Madrid’s standout performer in recent weeks, was once again at his explosive best and kept Nelson Semedo on his toes. He cut inside on a number of occasions, tried to breach Barcelona’s compactness, but failed to apply the telling touch. Barcelona stopper, Marc Andre Ter Stegen was tested on a couple of occasions in the first half but ended up making some decisive saves to keep his team in the contest.

In the second half, the champions came out all guns blazing and turned the game on its head. Ousmane Dembele teed up Suarez in the 50th minute for Barcelona’s first goal on the night. Next, Real Madrid defender, Raphael Varane, bundled the ball into his own net to double the visitors’ tally, before Suarez converted from the spot to seal Real Madrid’s fate. 

Talking Points

Real Madrid’s Wayward Finishing

Real Madrid needed to be at their best to get something out of their Copa del Rey clash with their bitterest rivals. Sadly, they couldn’t even come remotely close to what was expected. They started the match strongly and kept Barcelona on their toes, but when it came to converting their chances, they frustratingly fell short. 

The youngest member of Santiago Solari’s team, Vinicius Jr, was once again Real Madrid’s most prominent attacker. He took the game to Barcelona and didn’t allow them to take control of the game in the first half. However, due to his tender age and negligible top-flight experience, he couldn’t apply the finishing touch. 

Barcelona Show their Class in Second Half 

Real Madrid were superb in the opening forty-five and ticked all the right boxes except for finding the back of the net. Barcelona, having struggled to cope with Blancos’ relentless pressure in the first half, came out with an improved plan in the second. They used Ousmane Dembele to take the game to Real and ultimate scored the decisive opener. 

After falling behind, Real Madrid couldn’t find it in themselves to come up with a proper response and found themselves two goals down with 20 minutes still to play. Suarez — who scored Barcelona’s first — then converted from the spot to book Barcelona’s place in the final. 

Season Over for Real Madrid

For Real Madrid, last night’s match against Barcelona was a make or break fixture. They find themselves third in La Liga, 9 points adrift of toppers Barcelona, with virtually no hope for a turnaround. In the Champions League, they were thoroughly outplayed by Ajax in the first leg of their last-16 tie and will have to fight tooth and nails to get the better of them in the second leg. 

The embarrassing 3-0 home defeat is bound to take its toll on players, and it would be interesting to see if they can come up with a fitting answer when they take on Barcelona — once again at the Bernabeu — in La Liga on Saturday night.

Also Read: Rivalry beyond years

Real Madrid vs Barcelona :Copa del Rey | Key Players and Prediction

Real Madrid vs Barcelona :Copa del Rey | Key Players and Prediction

European champions Real Madrid welcome La Liga leaders Barcelona to the Santiago Bernabeu for the second leg of their Copa del Rey semifinal on Wednesday night. 

The two iconic rivals played out a fascinating 1-1 draw in the first leg, at Camp Nou, and will do everything in their power to better that outcome, tonight, in the Spanish capital. 

Real Madrid, due to their inconsistent patches this season, came into the tie as the underdogs. However, at Camp Nou, we saw a totally different Real Madrid in action. They were creating chances, defending religiously, and managed to outplay Barcelona in their own backyard. Lucas Vazquez drew first blood in the 6th minute to set the tempo, which Real Madrid maintained until the final whistle. Barcelona, thanks to a common Marcelo mistake, still got themselves back into the contest through Malcom’s firm strike in the second half. 

So, the 1-1 scoreline does seem like a decent one from Real Madrid’s perspective as they need a goalless draw or better to secure their place in the Copa del Rey final — their first since the 2013/14 campaign. However, considering how great Barcelona have been at the Santiago Bernabeu — without defeat at the Bernabeu since October 2014 — lately, the narrow margin hardly provides any protection. 

Key Players


Lionel Messi

This one is pretty much a no-brainer. The best player in La Liga and possibly the world, Lionel Messi needs to have a spotless game to help his side make it to the finals. Last weekend, the Argentine shrugged off injury concerns to score a decisive hat-trick in a 4-2 win at Sevilla. Tonight, he will once again be marked heavily and will have to put in a shift. But knowing just how capable the Barcelona skipper is, there is no reason for fans to be anxious. Lionel Messi has registered a whopping 33 goals and 18 assists in 32 appearances across all competitions this season and will fancy himself to add to his tally, tonight. 

Real Madrid

Gareth Bale

Following Cristiano Ronaldo‘s departure, the Welshman was supposed to emerge as Real Madrid’s most important, decisive player. Sadly, things haven’t been quite straightforward for the former Tottenham Hotspur ace. During his absence, Vinicius Junior made his way into the team and has managed to make himself an indispensable member of Santiago Solari’s squad. Having lost his place to an 18-year-old, the most expensive player in the squad has been acting out, landing the team in a complicated situation. The Welsh wizard is desperate for an opportunity to win his place back, and an emphatic performance against Real’s fiercest rivals could go a long way in helping his cause. 

Probable XI

Real Madrid (4-3-3): Navas; Carvajal, Varane, Ramos, Marcelo; Kroos, Casemiro, Modric; Vazquez, Benzema, Vinicius


Barcelona (4-3-3): Ter Stegen; Roberto, Pique, Umtiti, Alba; Rakitic, Busquets, Vidal; Messi, Suarez, Dembele


El Clasico is one of the most decorated and intense rivalries in the world. These two iconic sides have played out some fascinating fixtures over the years, and we expect nothing less tonight. Barcelona seem to be the more in-form team right now, but a desperate Real Madrid will not be an easy team to beat.

We predict Real Madrid to beat Barcelona on penalties.

Also Read: Rivalry beyond years

Football Matches You Just Can’t Miss this Weekend

Football Matches You Just Can’t Miss this Weekend

Weekend and nailbiting football matches – the ultimate stressbuster in existence. After a gloomy, and practically never-ending week; we are finally here, hours away from kicking off this weekend’s scheduled, unadulterated action.

With a host of football matches to choose from, picking just the right one can often be a hectic task. So, we have taken it upon ourselves to help fellow fanatics out.

Here are the five football matches you can’t miss, this weekend:

Arsenal vs Southampton (Sunday, 7:35 PM) 

Unai Emery’s Arsenal will look to climb back into top-four when they welcome Southampton to the Emirates Stadium in the Premier League on Sunday afternoon. 

The Gunners currently sit fifth in the Premier League table, only a point adrift of fourth-placed Manchester United. The 2018/19 Premier League campaign hasn’t been very kind on the Gunners, but they should not find it difficult against a relegation-threatened side, which haven’t picked up all three points in their last three outings. 

Prediction: Arsenal 3-1 Southampton

Fiorentina vs Inter Milan (Monday, 1:15 AM) 

Eighth-placed Fiorentina will look to pull off an upset when they host a high-flying Inter Milan in Serie A on Sunday night. 

These two decorated Italian clubs have produced some enticing fixtures over the years and look all set to produce something similar this Sunday. Over their past ten league clashes, Fiorentina have been the better team —  5 wins, 1 draw, and 4 losses — but Inter, who won the reverse fixture 2-1, will fancy themselves to get the job done in Florence. 

Prediction: Fiorentina 1-1 Inter

Levante vs Real Madrid (Monday, 1:15 AM)

Real Madrid will look to return to winning ways when they make the trip to Levante in La Liga on Sunday night. 

Santiago Solari’s men succumbed to a shock 2-1 home defeat against Girona, last weekend. The gut-wrenching defeat landed a sucker punch to their title aspirations, but Los Blancos have never been very fond of staying down. Having conceded 43 goals, Levante, officially, have the worst defense in the division, but Real Madrid’s unpredictability in front of goal makes this an interesting contest. 

Prediction: Levante 2-3 Real Madrid

Sevilla vs Barcelona (Saturday, 8:45 PM)

La Liga leaders, Barcelona, will need to be at their very best if they are to get something out of their trip to Sevilla, this Saturday.

This fixture has a knack for being painfully unpredictable, and we expect the trend to continue this weekend. Fourth-placed Sevilla are coming into the match on the back of a comfortable 2-0 Europa League last-32 win over Lazio and will fancy themselves to take the game to their lofty rivals. Barcelona, on the other hand, were held to a goalless draw at Lyon in the Champions League and will look for a response at the Ramon Sanchez-Pizjuan Stadium. 

Prediction: Sevilla 2-2 Barcelona

Manchester United vs Liverpool (Sunday, 7:35 PM)

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s rejuvenated Manchester United welcome Jurgen Klopp’s leaders to Old Trafford on Sunday afternoon for an eagerly anticipated Premier League showdown. 

No match on earth that can match the allure of this fixture, not even the great El Clasico. The two iconic and most successful clubs in England are all set to add a new chapter to their fabled rivalry this Sunday, and the stakes, as always, are sky-high. While Liverpool need all three points to keep Manchester City at Bay, United are required to bag maximum spoils to stay alive in the top-four race. An unpredictable and nail-biting evening awaits. 

Prediction: Manchester United 2-1 Liverpool 

Also Read: Everything you need to know about United vs Liverpool rivalry

Three Big Reasons behind Real Madrid’s Shocking 2-1 Defeat to Girona


Girona’s Christian Stuani and Portu scored in the second half to hand Real Madrid a shock 2-1 defeat at the Santiago Bernabeu on Sunday afternoon. 

Los Blancos, coming into the match on the back of five consecutive wins in La Liga, were the outright favorites against a side that hadn’t won a league match since November. It was supposed to be a walk in the park for Santiago Solari’s in-form Real Madrid team, and not a day to forget.

An almost packed Santiago Bernabeu anticipated an afternoon goal fest, and reasonably so. Girona weren’t supposed to be able to keep the likes of Karim Benzema, Marco Asensio, Gareth Bale, and Vinicius Jr out. Yet, they did, and walked away with three invaluable points, landing a sucker punch to Los Blancos’ title ambitions.

Real Madrid started the game on the front foot and found themselves justifiably ahead just before the half-hour mark. Casemiro outjumped his marker to meet with Toni Kroos’ inch-perfect delivery, leaving Girona stopper, Bono, helpless. The hosts kept up the tempo for the remainder of the half and came close to doubling their advantage on a couple of occasions. 

The second half saw an astonishing change of fortunes. Despite being outplayed in the first half, Girona came at Real Madrid full of confidence, and the Whites, unexpectedly, had no answer. Sergio Ramos’ lackluster decision-making allowed Christian Stuani to restore parity from the spot, sending the away fans into a frenzy. Girona landed the killer blow 10 minutes later, as Portu bundled home from close range. 

Things went from bad to worse for the hosts when Real Madrid skipper, Sergio Ramos, picked up his second yellow in the 90th minute and got himself sent off.

Here are the three biggest reasons behind Real Madrid’s shock loss to the Catalan outfit:

Lack of Sharpness up Top

Following Cristiano Ronaldo’s departure, Real Madrid needed to sign a potent goal scorer, someone capable of making the most of opportunities. The capital side, however, chose to stick with Karim Benzema and didn’t bother looking for suitable alternatives. 

On Sunday, their vulnerability was once again highlighted, as Real Madrid failed to convert from close range, time and again, in the first half. 

Santiago Solari’s Substitutions

Real Madrid boss, Santiago Solari, failed to justify his reputation and made some unflattering changes during Sunday’s defeat. Lucas Vazquez, who was performing convincingly was taken off for Vinicius Jr. That change, on paper, was positive. But it wasn’t the most helpful considering Vazquez’s defensive contribution. 

He then substituted Marco Asensio for Gareth Bale, who, once again, was abysmal on the night. Finally, he brought in Mariano, turning the 4-3-3 formation it into a 4-2-4, with little to no creativity in the middle of the park. 

Marcelo’s Defensive Lapses 

Real Madrid vice-captain, Marcelo, is one of the finest and most committed players in Solari’s squad. But the Brazilian just hasn’t been at his best over the last few weeks. On Sunday, Marcelo allowed the opposition to run circles around him and looked fairly disinterested when not in possession. 

As per reports, Ronaldo’s departure has hurt Marcelo deeply and the left-back is now considering to join him at Juventus. It’s difficult to say how credible these reports are, but Marcelo must make up his mind and soon. 

La Liga 2018-19 : Week 24 Round Up | Barcelona extends lead at the top

La Liga 2018-19 : Week 24 Round Up | Barcelona extends lead at the top

The 24th match-week of Spanish La Liga 2018-19 brought with it some wonderful displays on the field, exciting goals and the usual dose of thrills and excitement.

Match-week 24 of La Liga 2018-19 came to a conclusion on Sunday. The match-days witnessed plenty of excitement and emotions. Real Madrid suffered a serious setback against Girona, while it was a comfortable week for most of the teams as Barcelona and Atletico Madrid all secured three points. Here are some results from the week gone by, and some of the key talking points.

Barcelona 1-0 Real Valladolid

Barcelona secured a narrow 1-0 victory over Real Valladolid in La Liga as the champions strengthened their lead at the top of the table on Saturday. After enduring a frustrating first half in which the home side struggled to create chances at the Camp Nou, Barca finally took the initiative after Gerard Pique was brought down by a clumsy challenge in the Valladolid box. Lionel Messi stepped up to coolly convert the penalty and edge the champions ahead on the stroke of half time. With this win, Barcelona moved back seven points clear of Atletico Madrid, and nine points ahead of arch-rivals Real Madrid, who lost against Girona on Sunday.

Real Madrid 1-2 Girona

Real Madrid failed to grab the chance to go second in La Liga as Girona came from behind to record a surprise away win. Casemiro had headed his side in front with a fine header from a Toni Kroos cross in the 25th minute. The hosts continued to dominate without too much penetration heading into the break. And Girona came alive following the interval, profiting from poor defending to snatch all three points. Cristhian Stuani netted from the penalty spot after Sergio Ramos’ handball. Portu prospered from slack marking to slot home the winner from a Thibaut Courtois save. Ramos, booked for his part in the penalty, was sent off late on for a second yellow.

Villarreal 3-0 Sevilla

Villarreal boosted their hopes of survival with an impressive 3-0 win over Sevilla. Alvaro Gonzalez, Karl Toko Ekambi and Alfonso Pedraza got the goals for the Yellow Submarine. Villarreal moved up to 18th spot and now sit one point adrift of safety. They rounded off a good game, the best of the season, especially in the first half with a lot of chance. Without being an exquisite football, he had control of the game and hardly gave opportunities to Sevilla.

Rayo Vallecano 0-1 Atletico Madrid

Atletico Madrid moved above city rivals Real into second place in La Liga after Antoine Griezmann’s second-half goal saw off Rayo Vallecano. The only goal of the match came in the 74th minute when Alvaro Morata, on loan from Chelsea, set up the Frenchman, whose shot went in off Jordi Amat. It was Atletico’s first win in three matches after defeats to Real Betis and Real Madrid earlier this month. Atletico broke the deadlock and scored the only goal at Vallecas when Alvaro Morata teed up Griezmann and his close-range volley deflected past Stole Dimitrievski.

Football Matches: Top 5 Matches You Just Can’t Miss this Weekend

Top 5 Football Matches You Just Can’t Miss this Weekend

Weekend, football, and nailbiting clashes – the ultimate stressbuster in existence. After a gloomy, and practically never-ending week; we are finally here, hours away from kicking off this weekend’s scheduled, unadulterated action.

We don’t have any Premier League matches this week, but have a number of intriguing FA Cup fifth round clashes to look forward to.

With a host of football matches to choose from, picking just the right one can often be a hectic task. So, we have taken it upon ourselves to help fellow fanatics out.

Here are five football matches that you can’t afford to miss this weekend:

Newport vs Manchester City (Saturday, 11:00 pm)

On paper, this fixture seems like a mismatch of the highest order, but FA Cup’s knack for churning out unpredictable results makes this an interesting contest. Newport County play in League Two, the fourth tier of English football, and shouldn’t pose much threat to City’s flamboyance, but their home stadium could make things interesting for neutrals.

The pitch at Newport isn’t the greatest out there and won’t aid Manchester City’s effortless passing football. Pep Guardiola‘s men have enough quality to beat any team in the world, but they probably won’t find it a walk in the park, this weekend.

Prediction: Newport 0-2 Manchester City

Real Madrid vs Girona (Sunday, 4:30 pm)

Santiago Solari’s Real Madrid had to dig deep to get the 2-1 win at Ajax in the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie at Ajax. The match against Girona won’t probably be that competitive, but Real Madrid can’t afford to slack against a side as potent as Girona.

After a lackluster start to the league campaign, Los Blancos seem to have steadied their ship. They have produced some impressive results over the last couple of weeks — including a 3-1 win at Atletico Madrid — and will look to get another comprehensive win under their belt against the 17th-placed side in the division.

Prediction: Real Madrid 3-1 Girona

Also Read: Champions League Round of 16 – As it happened

FC Nurnberg vs Borussia Dortmund (Tuesday, 1:00 am)

This match isn’t technically this weekend but is still a part of Gameweek 21 in the Bundesliga.

Statistically, the worst team in the division, FC Nurnberg, will look to get an unlikely win when they host Lucien Favre’s leaders on Monday night. The hosts haven’t been able to hold their ground in the division so far but would love to make a statement against the most impressive team in Germany, this season.

Borussia, on the other hand, are going through a rough patch. They were handed an emphatic 3-0 drubbing at Tottenham on Wednesday night and will need a proper response. They still have a five-point advantage over second-placed Bayern, which they will be desperate to maintain right at the end of the campaign.

Prediction: Nurnberg 1-3 Dortmund

FC Barcelona vs Real Valladolid (Sunday, 1:15 am)

La Liga leaders, Barcelona, will look to return to winning ways when they welcome Real Valladolid to Camp Nou on Saturday night.

The Catalans haven’t won any of their last three matches across all competitions, delivering sub-par performances in all three of them. Their talisman, Lionel Messi, has struggled in recent games, while players like Philippe Coutinho and Arturo Vidal have failed to justify their potential.

Beating the league 15th-best side shouldn’t be a problem, but the Blaugrana will be under pressure to produce something worth remembering.

Prediction: Barcelona 2-1 Valladolid

Chelsea vs Manchester United (Tuesday, 1:00 am)

Manchester United will look to will need to at their very best if they are to get the better of Chelsea in the fifth round of the FA Cup on Monday night.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s Manchester United were handed a harsh reality check by Paris Saint-Germain in the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie. Now, the Norwegian, who endured the first defeat of his Manchester United managerial career on Tuesday night, will seek a fitting response from his spirited men against a familiar foe.

Chelsea, too, aren’t in the best of forms. They were beaten 6-0 at Manchester City, last Sunday, and could only manage a narrow 2-1 win at Malmo in the first leg of their Europa League last-32 tie. It’s difficult to pick a favourite here, but United’s 2-0 defeat against PSG could give Chelsea an edge. It is a football match you just cannot miss.

Prediction: Chelsea 2-1 Manchester United 

UEFA Champions League: Round of 16 – Round Up

UEFA Champions League: Round of 16 - Round Up

UEFA Champions League Round of 16’s first four matches came to a conclusion on Wednesday and all lived up to agreeable expectations.

On Tuesday, Roma were quite efficient in their 2-1 win over Porto, while Manchester United were humiliated 2-0 in front of their own fans by a Neymar-Cavani less PSG. Wednesday saw a rampant Tottenham Hotspur in their 3-0 win over Borussia Dortmund, while Real Madrid left it late to beat Ajax 1-0 at Amsterdam. Here’s a full round-up of the action.

Manchester United 0-2 PSG

English giants Manchester United were given a reality check by Paris Saint-Germain on Tuesday night, with the French side securing an impressive 2-0 win at Old Trafford in the Champions League round of 16. This loss was the first of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s reign as interim manager, with his previous 11 matches resulting in 10 wins and a draw.

After a well-contested first half, despite missing both Edinson Cavani and Neymar, the visitors were clinical with two quick-fire goals; first Presnel Kimpembe turned home at the far post from an Angel Di Maria corner 53rd minute, before Kylian Mbappe finished off from another Di Maria assist 60th minute giving United a huge task to overcome. It would have been more but for some fine goalkeeping from David de Gea, but matters were made worse when Paul Pogba was dismissed late on for a second yellow card, meaning he will miss the second leg.

What’s next in the 2nd leg?

Manchester United and their interim manager are no strangers to dramatic comebacks. But the Red Devils have never overturned a first-leg home defeat to win a tie in Europe. Furthermore, Paris have not lost a UEFA Champions League home game since last year, when they were already trailing Real Madrid 3-1 from the first leg. It was very much a Paris affair in Old Trafford in the 1st leg this time around, and with Paul Pogba suspended, it will be very much difficult for United to overturn the deficit on 7th March.

Roma 2-1 Porto

Two goals from teenager Nicolo Zaniolo earned Roma a valuable 2-1 win against Porto in their Champions League last-16 first leg on Tuesday. The 19-year-old continued his superb breakthrough season by finding the net twice in six second-half minutes. In doing so he became the youngest Italian to score two goals in a Champions League match.

The opening goal came after Edin Dzeko knocked down Stephan El Shaarawy’s cross for Nicolo Zaniolo to drill past Iker Casillas and into the far bottom corner. The teenager doubled his tally by tapping in the rebound after Dzeko’s shot came off the left post. For Porto, Adrian Lopez, who had entered the field eight minutes before scoring, after replacing the Algerian Yacine Brahimi, finished with a cross-shot inside the area, after receiving the ball from Brazilian Tiquinho Soares.

What’s next in the 2nd leg?

As things stand now, this tie could hardly be more balanced heading to Portugal. In all the previous European Cup/UEFA Champions League knockout ties that the home side have won 2-1 in the first leg, 90 have gone through while 89 have been eliminated in the return. Roma contributed to those numbers at this stage last season, losing 2-1 at Shakhtar Donetsk before winning the second leg 1-0. The lead for Rome side is quite slender, so on 7th March, there is immense hope and calculation for Porto.

Ajax Amsterdam 1-2 Real Madrid

Spanish giants Real Madrid struck late in the second half to secure a 2-1 win over Dutch giants Ajax Amsterdam in the UEFA Champions League round of 16 on Wednesday. Real, winner of the last three Champions Leagues, recovered in the second half after being outplayed by underdog Ajax before the break at a packed Johan Cruyff Arena, when the hosts had a goal disallowed by VAR.

It was Karim Benzema, who struck a powerful shot past Andre Onana on the hour after a strong run from the left by Vinicius Junior to put the 13-time European champion ahead. Ajax were level with 15 minutes remaining as Neres broke free down the left before cutting the ball back for Ziyech, who slotted into the bottom corner. In the end, Real showed the pedigree of champions and struck in the final minutes through Asensio. Dani Carvajal received a ball down the right and swung a pass across that Asensio latched onto with his left foot end redirected into goal for the 1-2 final, giving Real a healthy advantage going into the return leg early next month.

What’s next in the 2nd leg?

Real Madrid will be strong favorites against Ajax to finish the job when they again face-off on 6th March, for the second leg, despite being outplayed for much of this first leg. The Santiago Bernabeu is a difficult place to go but, as CSKA Moscow demonstrated a couple of months ago, not impenetrable. So, though Santiago Solari’s side are favorites to march on in the premier competition, there is still a slender hope for the high-flying Dutch outfit.

Tottenham Hotspur 3-0 Borussia Dortmund

Tottenham Hotspurs took a huge step towards the Champions League quarter-finals with an awesome display to comfortably thrash Bundesliga leaders Borussia Dortmund in a well-earned 3-0 victory in arguably the club’s greatest night at Wembley. Second-half strikes from Heung-Min Son, Jan Vertonghen and Fernando Llorente meant the hosts had one foot in the last eight after a masterclass in management from Mauricio Pochettino inspired Spurs to a historic win.

Spurs were on fire after the first half, and Son Heung-min broke the deadlock two minutes after the interval with a side-foot volley from Jan Vertonghen’s cross. Dortmund, regarded by many as favorites with Spurs missing injured talisman Harry Kane as well as Dele Alli, failed to respond and the home side rammed home their superiority in the last 10 minutes. The outstanding Vertonghen slid in on Serge Aurier’s delivery and substitute Fernando Llorente headed in Christian Eriksen’s near-post corner, with Spurs also keeping a clean sheet to enhance their chance of progressing.

What’s next in the 2nd leg?

Tottenham have lost only once in their last five visits to Germany, although that defeat came at Dortmund in the 2015/16 UEFA Europa League round of 16 first leg (0-3). Moreover, the London club have only twice lost a UEFA-competition tie after having won the home first leg, and both of those home victories had been by a single-goal margin. Dortmund, meanwhile, have won nine of the 16 ties in which they lost away in the first game and will have it all to do on 6th March, but to win with a 4-goal margin, seems like a pretty difficult job.