It’s that time of year when titles, promotions and relegations are decided across the top leagues in Europe, and this weekend brings plenty of pivotal matches to keep track of across the English Premier League, Spain’s LaLiga and the German Bundesliga. We also have the EFL Championship playoff semifinals, as four teams vie for the final promotion spot to next season’s Premier League.
The two-horse Premier League title race between Manchester City and Arsenal nears its conclusion, while the battle for Champions League qualification continues just below as Newcastle United, Manchester United and Liverpool all target a top-four finish. Meanwhile, down at the far end of the table, relegation remains a real threat for several clubs including 2015-16 champions Leicester City and Everton, who have never lost their top-flight status.
In Spain, Barcelona could be crowned champions of LaLiga before they even kick a ball this weekend, while European champions Real Madrid will need to overtake local rivals Atletico Madrid if they are to avoid finishing third in the league.
The most unpredictable title race is in the Bundesliga where Germany’s two top clubs, Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund, have been swapping places at the summit as the season draws to a close. But arguably the most dramatic climax to a season for any team, anywhere is in the Championship, where four clubs from England’s second tier must first win a playoff semifinal before competing for the prize of promotion to the Premier League in the final at Wembley.
Here’s a quick, handy guide to the crunch clashes to watch out for across the continent over the next few days and precisely what is at stake for the various clubs involved.
Friday, May 12
Bottom of the 18-team table with one win in nine games, Hertha Berlin will have their place in the bottom three mathematically sealed if they lose against Cologne and relegation-threatened Schalke 04 manage to beat leaders Bayern Munich on Saturday. However, Hertha can still escape the dreaded drop if they finish 16th and thus qualify for the Bundesliga’s promotion/relegation playoff, which would pit them against the team that finishes third in the division below (2.Bundesliga) for the chance to keep their place in the German top flight.
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Saturday, May 13
7:30 a.m. ET: Leeds United vs. Newcastle United
There’s still plenty to play for in the 20-team Premier League and while there is clear daylight between the two title chasers and third-placed Newcastle, Eddie Howe’s side need to pile as many points on the board as they can from their remaining four games to secure Champions League qualification.
Newcastle are riding high in third (with 65 points) and will not face any other teams in the top six between now and the end of the season. However, with Manchester United (63 points) and Liverpool (62 points) right on their tail, Newcastle will be looking nervously over their shoulder.
10 a.m. ET: Manchester United vs. Wolverhampton Wanderers
If Newcastle are held to a draw against relegation-battling Leeds, Manchester United could pull level with them on points with a victory over midtable Wolves (although with a vastly inferior goal difference). Indeed, if Howe’s team somehow conspire to lose against a team desperately battling to get out of the relegation zone, then United could leapfrog them up into third when the final whistle sounds at Old Trafford.
Southampton have been rooted to the bottom of the table since November, barring a brief and beautiful stint in 19th for one week in March. They will become the first club to be relegated from the Premier League this season if they don’t beat Fulham at St Mary’s.
But even victory over the Cottagers might not be enough to save the Saints, who could still be consigned to the drop in the unlikely event that both Everton and Nottingham Forest win their games against Man City and Chelsea respectively.
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The Bundesliga is in the midst of its closest title race in years, with just one point separating Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund at the summit with three matches to play.
Bayern’s stuttering form led to them falling behind Dortmund, but consecutive victories over Hertha Berlin and Werder Bremen took them back to the top of the table by one point. However, with one defeat in their past 16 league outings, Dortmund are still well in the hunt for a first title since Jurgen Klopp led them to back-to-back championships in 2010-11 and 2011-12.
Bayern have a significantly superior goal difference (+49 to Dortmund’s +33), but a positive result for Schalke would give Dortmund the chance to reclaim the outright lead while also having big implications down at the foot of the table.
In simple terms, should Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid both fail to win this weekend (against Getafe and Elche, respectively) then Barcelona will be crowned LaLiga champions before they kick-off against Espanyol on Sunday.
EFL Championship Playoff (semifinal, first leg)
12:30 p.m. ET: Sunderland vs. Luton Town (stream LIVE on ESPN+ in the U.S.)
Both Burnley and Sheffield United have already sealed promotion to the Premier League by finishing as champions and runners-up respectively in the regular season, which formally concluded last weekend.
Attention now switches to that precious third and final promotion spot, which will be contested by the clubs that finished third to sixth in the table — Luton Town, Middlesbrough, Coventry City and Sunderland — via the Championship playoffs.
The two-legged, home-and-away semifinals begin on Saturday to determine which two teams will meet at Wembley on May 27 (stream LIVE on ESPN+ in the U.S.). The playoff final is a huge match often dubbed “the richest game in football” because of the vast financial windfall that Premier League promotion brings with it.
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Sunday, May 14
9 a.m. ET: Everton vs. Manchester City
11:30 a.m. ET: Arsenal vs. Brighton & Hove Albion
It’s still too early to conclusively call the Premier League title race, though Manchester City enter the weekend with a one-point lead over rivals Arsenal with a game in hand. However, City are on an imperious run of form having won each of their previous 10 league games by a commanding aggregate score of 29-8.
Should City beat Everton to muster an 11th straight victory and Arsenal come unstuck and lose against Brighton, a win for Pep Guardiola’s side against Chelsea next weekend will see them crowned champions for the fifth time in six seasons.
Barcelona will officially wrap up their first LaLiga title since 2018-19 if they can overcome neighbours Espanyol in the derby. However, they might not need to if both Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid lose before this city derby kicking off at the RCDE Stadium.
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EFL Championship Playoff (semifinal, first leg)
7 a.m. ET: Coventry City vs. Middlesbrough (stream LIVE on ESPN+ in the U.S.)
The second Championship playoff semifinal throws together Coventry and Middlesbrough as they each begin their quest to earn a long-overdue return to the top flight of English football.
Boro last played Premier League football in 2016-17 but were relegated after just one season back at the top table. But you have to go all the way back to the 2000-01 season for the last time Coventry City were in the Premier League. The Sky Blues were one of the founder members of the league in 1992, but they were near-constant relegation battlers and eventually went down when they finished 19th with just eight wins and 36 goals to their name.
Monday, May 15
3 p.m. ET: Leicester City vs. Liverpool
Not so long ago, Liverpool were mired in midtable right next to Chelsea. But while the Blues’ season stagnated, the Reds have made a late surge up the league. Their revitalised quest to claim Champions League qualification by finishing in the top four continues on Monday when they travel to face Leicester, who are trying to avoid becoming only the second former Premier League champions to subsequently be relegated — after Blackburn Rovers went down in 1998-99, four years after they had won the title.