Preview: Roma vs. Salernitana

After reaching a European final for the second straight season, Roma resume their pursuit of a top-four finish in Serie A when they host Salernitana on Monday.

A resilient display in Leverkusen saw the Giallorossi edge into the Europa League decider, but they have been short of both goals and points in recent league matches; their visitors, meanwhile, are within touching distance of top-flight survival.

Match preview

Roma's Andrea Belotti in action with Bayer Leverkusen's Exequiel Palacios on May 18, 2023

Having taken a slim lead with them to Germany, Roma gritted their teeth and defended resolutely for 90 minutes on Thursday, as they eliminated Bayer Leverkusen to set up a Europa League final clash with competition specialists Sevilla.

Last year’s Europa Conference League winners had won 1-0 in the Italian capital seven days earlier, and a classic Jose Mourinho performance saw them hold Xabi Alonso’s side goalless at the BayArena – Roma had just one shot throughout, and even that failed to hit the target.

Between now and their trip to Budapest on the last day of May, Mourinho’s men must play out two crucial Serie A fixtures – against Salernitana and then fellow continental finalists Fiorentina – as they seek to salvage a top-four finish from a challenging domestic campaign.

In addition to their shot-shy effort in midweek, Roma have also failed to score in their last two Serie A matches – a 2-0 home defeat to Inter and last week’s 0-0 draw with Bologna – and they could now fire blanks in three consecutive league games for the first time since 1994.

With Tammy Abraham and Andrea Belotti both off-form and Paulo Dybala beset by injuries, it is perhaps no surprise that the Giallorossi have scored the fewest goals among teams in Italy’s top eight, and that seems to have left hopes of a Champions League return resting solely on winning the Europa League.

Nonetheless, on Monday, Mourinho will celebrate his 150th Serie A match with 84 wins already under his belt, and one more victory would take him above both Simone Inzaghi and Fabio Capello in that regard; sitting alongside Maurizio Sarri (85) and below only Antonio Conte (102), his fellow ex-Chelsea managers.

Salernitana's Antonio Candreva on September 11, 2022

Not only have Salernitana have won just one of their seven Serie A meetings with Roma – and that came back in January 1999 – but they have never before beaten them at Stadio Olimpico in top-flight competition.

They have, though, tasted victory in Rome already this season, with October’s 3-1 win over Lazio being one of only two successes on the road this term.

Ex-Laziale Antonio Candreva was on target last weekend, when the Granata took a giant stride closer to confirming their Serie A status for next season by beating Atalanta 1-0 at Stadio Arechi, with the substitute’s stoppage-time strike also helping to avoid adding another draw to his team’s league-high total.

However, the Campanian club have failed to win any of their last seven away fixtures ahead of their latest trip to the Eternal City, and eight of their 14 draws have come when on the road.

That has still proved enough for Paulo Sousa to lift them into 15th place, and after his appointment in February an impressive 10-game unbeaten run saw the Salerno side almost assure their third straight campaign in Calcio’s top tier – that could be confirmed this week.

Team News

Roma coach Jose Mourinho on April 20, 2023

Following the exertions of Thursday night’s bus-parking exercise by the Rhine, Roma may make several changes to their lineup on Monday.

As wing-back pair Leonardo Spinazzola and Zeki Celik sustained injuries in Leverkusen, Jose Mourinho could bring in Nicola Zalewski and Filippo Missori, while Ola Solbakken is set to feature up front.

Stephan El Shaarawy and Diego Llorente are back from injury to increase Mourinho’s options, with Paulo Dybala and Chris Smalling both likely to be given more minutes as they complete their respective returns to fitness.

Either Tammy Abraham or Andrea Belotti should partner Solbakken, though Belotti is yet to score in 28 Serie A matches since joining the Giallorossi last summer.

Salernitana’s Krzysztof Piatek recently ended his own lengthy goal drought, and now set to play his 100th game in Italian football, the Polish striker has scored in both of his previous league starts against Roma – for Genoa and then Milan.

Top scorer Boulaye Dia will join Piatek in the visitors’ forward line, and Antonio Candreva should support them, following his heroics last weekend.

Only ex-Roma defender Federico Fazio is sidelined by injury for Paulo Sousa’s side, for whom Dylan Bronn now returns from suspension.

Roma possible starting lineup:
Patricio; Mancini, Cristante, Ibanez; Missori, Bove, Wijnaldum, Zalewski; Pellegrini; Solbakken, Abraham

Salernitana possible starting lineup:
Ochoa; Lovato, Gyomber, Pirola; Mazzocchi, Coulibaly, Vilhena, Bradaric; Candreva, Dia; Piatek

Preview: Bournemouth vs. Manchester United

Seeking to strengthen their grip on a top-four finish in the Premier League, Manchester United travel to the Vitality Stadium to face Bournemouth on Saturday.

The two teams experienced contrasting results last time out, with the Red Devils securing a two-goal win over Wolverhampton Wanderers and the Cherries losing by the same margin against Crystal Palace.

Match preview

Bournemouth manager Gary O'Neil before the match on May 13, 2023

Twelve months on from securing promotion back to the Premier League, Bournemouth have proven many people wrong by cementing their status in the top flight this season, despite suffering back-to-back defeats in their last two matches against Chelsea and Crystal Palace.

A 3-1 home defeat against the Blues was followed by a 2-0 loss at Selhurst Park last weekend, with an Eberechi Eze brace helping the Eagles to come out on top against a Cherries side who failed to register a single shot on target.

Gary O’Neil deserves plenty of credit for keeping Bournemouth up this season, with his side currently sitting 14th in the table and eight points clear of the drop zone, but the Cherries boss – who turned 40 on Thursday – will be keen to end the campaign on a high and claim positive results from their final two fixtures at home against Man United and away to Everton.

Bournemouth have history when it comes to going out with a bang on home soil as they have won their final game at the Vitality Stadium in three of their last five Premier League seasons, although they did suffer a 2-0 defeat to Southampton in their most recent final home fixture in 2019-20.

The Cherries have in fact struggled in front of their own fans in recent weeks, as they have lost three of their last four home matches by an aggregate score of 10-1. However, a slender 1-0 victory was secured the last time that they welcomed Man United to the South coast in November 2019, courtesy of a first-half strike from former Red Devil Joshua King.

Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag before the match on May 4, 2023

After suffering two disappointing 1-0 away defeats to Brighton & Hove Albion and West Ham United courtesy of a 99th-minute penalty and a David de Gea howler, Man United returned to winning ways with a routine 2-0 home victory over Wolves last weekend.

Anthony Martial ended his eight-game goal drought by opening the scoring midway through the first half, before Alejandro Garnacho came off the bench to seal the win in second-half stoppage time – no Premier League player has scored more goals than the teenage Argentine (three) as a substitute this season.

Man United’s 20th top-flight win of the campaign has moved them onto 66 points from 35 games, already eight points more than last season, and they remain fourth in the table as things stand, sitting just one place and one point above an in-form Liverpool outfit who have played a game more.

Securing Champions League football for next season is Erik ten Hag’s sole focus as the Red Devils head into their final three league fixtures, but that task has been made tougher due to their poor away record in recent months – accumulating just eight points on the road from their last 27 available since the turn of the year.

Man United lost their final away league match of last season, suffering a 1-0 defeat at Crystal Palace, but they can be confident of success on Saturday having won eight of their last 11 Premier League meetings with Bournemouth, including a 3-0 victory in the reverse fixture at Old Trafford in January.

Team News

Manchester United's Marcus Rashford celebrates scoring against Tottenham Hotspur on April 27, 2023

Bournemouth boss O’Neil has revealed that Antoine Semenyo is set to miss the rest of the season with an unspecified injury, while Hamed Traore (foot), Marcus Tavernier (hamstring), Ryan Fredericks (calf) and Junior Stanislas (unspecified) all remain on the sidelines.

Kieffer Moore recovered from concussion to make the matchday squad last weekend and the striker will be pushing to start either alongside or as a replacement for Dominic Solanke following the Cherries’ powder-puff attacking display against Palace.

Chris Mepham was handed a start at right-back last time out, but he could be replaced by Adam Smith this weekend, while Lewis Cook will push Joe Rothwell for a start in centre-midfield alongside Jefferson Lerma and Philip Billing.

As for Man United, Marcel Sabizter has been ruled out for the rest of the season with a knee injury and the Bayern Munich loanee joins Lisandro Martinez (foot), Donny van de Beek, Phil Jones (both knee) and Tom Heaton (ankle) in the treatment room.

However, Ten Hag has been boosted by the return of both Marcus Rashford and Scott McTominay to team training this week, and the Red Devils duo could be in contention to feature against Bournemouth.

Both Rashford and Garnacho are set to push Jadon Sancho for a start on the left flank, while Martial is expected to continue as the central striker ahead of Wout Weghorst.

Raphael Varane recovered from injury to start against Wolves and the centre-back is likely to retain his place alongside Victor Lindelof, while Ten Hag will ponder selecting either Aaron Wan-Bissaka or Diogo Dalot at right-back, the latter of whom watched on as an unused substitute against Wolves.

Bournemouth possible starting lineup:
Neto; Smith, Zabarnyi, Kelly, Vina; Ouattara, Lerma, Rothwell, Christie; Billing; Solanke

Manchester United possible starting lineup:
De Gea; Wan-Bissaka, Varane, Lindelof, Shaw; Casemiro, Eriksen; Antony, Fernandes, Rashford; Martial

Preview: Sevilla vs. Juventus

With their Europa League semi-final tie finely poised after its first leg, Sevilla and Juventus reconvene on Thursday, when they will battle it out for a place in the final.

A 1-1 draw in Turin last week leaves both sides confident of coming out on top at Estadio Ramon Sanchez-Pizjuan, where the home side have never lost a tie in this competition when playing host in the second leg.

Match preview

Sevilla's Youssef En-Nesyri celebrates scoring against Juventus on May 11, 2023

Sevilla have, in fact, progressed from all nine of their knockout contests when at home in the second leg, during an era of unprecedented supremacy in Europe’s second-tier competition.

All told, the six-time winners have won 24 of their last 27 Europa League matches at the Sanchez-Pizjuan, but they will have to do so again this week due to a late lapse in the first leg of their latest semi-final.

Leading thanks to Youssef En-Nesyri’s first-half strike at the Allianz Stadium, Sevilla let their advantage slip right at the death, when Federico Gatti became an unlikely hero for Juventus by nodding in a close-range equaliser with 96 minutes on the clock. As a result, the Spanish side have won only one of the clubs’ five meetings in continental competition.

That Los Rojiblancos are even contesting a place in the final – where either Roma or Bayer Leverkusen will await – remains remarkable, given how their 2022-23 campaign has unfolded. The Andalucians are on their third head coach of the season, but now seem to be peaking at just the right time.

Though starting the month with a home defeat to Girona ended Sevilla’s seven-match unbeaten streak, back-to-back La Liga wins – against Espanyol and then, last weekend, Real Valladolid – have elevated them to 10th place in the table.

So, rather than fearing relegation, they will instead target a top-half finish under Jose Luis Mendilibar, who also led his new team to the Europa League’s last four by engineering victory over Manchester United in the quarter-finals. Now, an eighth victory from 12 matches under their Basque boss would send Sevilla to Budapest on the final day of May.

Juventus' Alex Sandro in action with Sevilla's Lucas Ocampos on May 11, 2023

Juventus, of course, stand steadfastly in their way, and after a season plagued by controversy and under-performance, the Italian giants will now aim to reach their first European final since 2017, when they were ultimately beaten in the Champions League’s showpiece during Max Allegri’s first spell in charge.

After salvaging something from the home leg, Juve still travel to Spain with the weight of precedent set against them, as they have won only two of their last 17 away games against Spanish sides in knockout competition; losing 12 times and keeping just one clean sheet in the process.

More recently, though, the Bianconeri have seen off Nantes, Freiburg and Sporting CP in this year’s Europa League, and as they fell in the Coppa Italia semi-finals and their Serie A status is built on shifting sand, winning in Europe represents their best hope of success this season.

Though Juventus have had their 15-point penalty overturned, in the final reckoning – when two verdicts will be reached later this month – they still face a punishment that could see them effectively stripped of a top-four domestic finish.

On the pitch, three straight wins – over Lecce, Atalanta and, most recently, Cremonese – sees Allegri’s side sit second in the standings, eight points clear of fifth-placed Milan with only three games left to play.

However, in the circumstances, that guarantees nothing, so they will be doubly determined to defeat Sevilla on Thursday and sustain hopes of both claiming some silverware and – as a result – securing their Champions League return.

Team News

Sevilla coach Jose Mendilibar before the match on April 13, 2023

After making numerous changes to his Sevilla side on Sunday, Jose Luis Mendilibar is now set to select a similar XI to that which started in Turin last week.

Despite scoring in the 3-0 win at Valladolid, Rafa Mir should make way for Youssef En-Nesyri up front, with the latter having scored nine times in 13 home games since returning from the World Cup – averaging a goal every 106 minutes. That includes three in as many Europa League fixtures at the Sanchez-Pizjuan.

After sustaining a muscular injury in the first leg, Lucas Ocampos may be fit enough to return in support of the Morocco striker, while cup goalkeeper Yassine Bounou will replace Marko Dmitrovic between the hosts’ posts. Suso, Joan Jordan and Marcao are all expected to miss out, though.

Meanwhile, the visitors’ most high-profile absentee will surely be Paul Pogba, whose first start for Juventus this season lasted less than half-an-hour on Sunday, as he suffered a thigh injury during their 2-0 win against Cremonese. Mattia De Sciglio and captain Leonardo Bonucci are also out of commission.

Like his opposite number, Max Allegri named a much-changed lineup at the weekend, when Bremer scored his fifth goal in all competitions this term – more than any other Serie A centre-back. On Thursday, the Brazilian should replace Bonucci.

Further forward, Pogba’s role supporting a lone striker will go to Angel Di Maria, who despite several injuries earlier in the season leads Juve’s European competition stats in several categories: goals (four), assists (three), goal involvements (seven), chances created (21) and dribbles completed (23).

Sevilla possible starting lineup:
Bounou; Navas, Gudelj, Bade, Acuna; Fernando, Rakitic; Ocampos, Lamela, Gil; En-Nesyri

Juventus possible starting lineup:
Szczesny; Danilo, Gatti, Sandro; Cuadrado, Fagioli, Locatelli, Rabiot, Kostic; Di Maria; Vlahovic

Preview: Manchester City vs. Real Madrid

Following two moments of individual brilliance at the Santiago Bernabeu, Manchester City and Real Madrid renew hostilities at the Etihad Stadium for the second leg of their Champions League semi-final on Wednesday night.

The teams reconvene at the Etihad on the back of a 1-1 draw in the Spanish capital, but only one can now potentially end the 2022-23 season as league champions and conquerors of Europe.

Match preview

Kevin De Bruyne celebrates scoring for Manchester City on May 9, 2023

Vinicius Junior set the bar high, and Kevin De Bruyne raised it even higher during Man City and Real Madrid’s opening affair at the Bernabeu last Tuesday, where a quintessential Champions League display from Los Blancos saw Carlo Ancelotti’s team undo the Citizens’ earlier hard work through a Vinicius rocket.

The holders had drawn first blood when Man City looked the more likely to make the net ripple, but when Ancelotti’s men appeared destined to extend their lead, a sizzling strike from De Bruyne – displaying outrageous technique to pick out the bottom corner – ensured that Pep Guardiola’s side would take a draw back to their headquarters.

Avoiding a Bernabeu beating was priority number one for Man City’s treble chasers, who will undeniably enter Wednesday’s second leg with the favourites tag embroidered on their shirts, and they navigated a potential banana skin of a Premier League affair against Everton with ease at the weekend.

Two goals and an assist from the in-form Ilkay Gundogan put Man City within touching distance of the Premier League title, which will be theirs if they can get the better of a lacklustre Chelsea next weekend, but Guardiola’s men cannot be pre-occupied with thoughts of top-flight glory as they bid to upset the European apple cart.

Heading into Wednesday’s second leg with a 22-game unbeaten run to protect, Man City have incredibly strung together a 15-match winning streak at the Etihad Stadium in all tournaments – scoring at least twice in 14 of those contests – and not since September 2018 have they been beaten in a Champions League match on their own patch.

Real Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti on May 9, 2023

Streaks and statistics mean little to a team with 14 top-tier European titles to their name, though, and Real Madrid have an added incentive to put another blot on Man City’s continental notebook this week after the La Liga title was wrestled out of their grasp.

Los Blancos did what was needed to be done to delay Barcelona’s crowning, as a much-changed team saw off Getafe 1-0 thanks to Marco Asensio’s 20-yard strike, but La Blaugrana’s derby win over Espanyol on Sunday evening confirmed Barca’s status as La Liga’s top dogs.

While Ancelotti’s men may have the consolation prize of a Copa del Rey already wrapped up – they were given a guard of honour by Getafe before the weekend’s game – retaining their European honour will be at the forefront of their wily manager’s mind ahead of a largely inconsequential few weeks domestically.

Keeping Getafe at bay saw Real snap a five-game streak without a clean sheet, and while they have lost each of their last two La Liga fixtures on the road against Girona and Real Sociedad, Liverpool and Chelsea have already been put to the sword on their own territory by Los Blancos in the 2022-23 Champions League.

A repeat of last season’s 4-3 Etihad extravaganza would do for Man City lest they risk forming an unwanted trifecta with their Big Six rivals, while Real have never won on the Citizens’ turf in four previous attempts, and an Istanbul date with either Inter Milan or AC Milan will be the reward for the victors Wednesday’s tantalising clash of the titans.

Team News

Real Madrid's Eduardo Camavinga goes down injured on May 13, 2023

The Man City medical team are only looking after one player at the moment in the form of Nathan Ake, who has now sat out the Premier League champions’ last two matches with a hamstring injury sustained against Leeds United earlier this month.

Last week, Guardiola affirmed that Ake was feeling “much better”, but the Dutchman has not made the squad for the second leg. With no other fitness concerns bedevilling them, the hosts ought to revert to a recognisable XI after an expected slew of changes at Goodison Park.

The well-rested De Bruyne, Jack Grealish, Bernardo Silva and John Stones are all primed and ready to be recalled to the starting lineup, as Grealish prepares to resume his feisty one-on-one battle with Real right-back Dani Carvajal following their first-leg fracases.

Similarly, Real Madrid have also the one injury concern to factor in for the second leg, and it also comes on the left-hand side of the backline, as Eduardo Camavinga limped off in the closing stages of their win over Getafe at the weekend.

However, Ancelotti immediately played down fears of a serious injury for Camavinga, who should be good to go at the Etihad, and the same can be said for David Alaba, Karim Benzema and Rodrygo, all of whom were not present in their recent top-flight encounter.

The visitors have also received a triple defensive boost ahead of the second leg, with Eder Militao and Carvajal back from Champions League and La Liga bans respectively, while Ferland Mendy completed 45 minutes of Saturday’s game following a long-standing calf issue.

With Militao back, reports from the Spanish media have claimed that Rodrygo could be sacrificed in a tactical shake-up from Ancelotti, who could deploy Camavinga in a more familiar midfield role.

Manchester City possible starting lineup:
Ederson; Walker, Dias, Akanji; Stones, Rodri; Silva, Gundogan, De Bruyne, Grealish; Haaland

Real Madrid possible starting lineup:
Courtois; Carvajal, Militao, Rudiger, Alaba; Kroos, Camavinga, Modric; Valverde, Benzema, Vinicius Jr

Preview: Inter Milan vs. AC Milan

Less than a week on from their first-leg derby delight, Inter Milan aim to finish the job against city rivals AC Milan when the teams reconvene at San Siro on Tuesday.

After Inter stormed to a two-goal lead in the clubs’ Champions League semi-final clash, the fifth and final Derby della Madonnina of the season decides whether it will be the Nerazzurri or Rossoneri half of Italy’s second city that journeys on to next month’s final.

Match preview

Inter Milan's Edin Dzeko celebrates scoring against AC Milan on May 10, 2023

Peaking at precisely the right time, after a season littered with Serie A shortcomings, Inter put one foot in the C final by battering their old foes during a whirlwind first half last Wednesday, when Edin Dzeko and Henrikh Mkhitaryan turned back the clock to give the Nerazzurri a dream start.

The ex-Roma pair both struck within 11 minutes of the first whistle, and the first Milan derby to be held in Europe’s top club competition for 18 years was always going Inter’s way thereafter: Simone Inzaghi’s side have now beaten their Rossoneri rivals three times this season, following earlier wins in the league and Supercoppa Italiana.

Remaining resilient throughout their run to this stage – in stark contrast to a record of 11 league defeats so far this season – Inter have yet to trail at any point in the knockout phase; keeping a clean sheet in four of five games.

Now on the precipice of a sixth European Cup or Champions League final – and the club’s first since 2010 – the Nerazzurri are within 90 minutes of taking their place in next month’s showpiece; Manchester City or holders Real Madrid will await in Istanbul, if they can hold their nerve.

The form book suggests that should be the case, as Milan have continued dropping points domestically and now trail Inter by five in the Serie A standings, while Inzaghi’s men have found top form and will kick off the second leg on the back of a seven-match winning run.

With all their experience and the recent resurgence of Romelu Lukaku aiding their cause – the Belgian striker scored twice in Saturday’s 4-2 win over Sassuolo – they will surely expect to progress in front of a mostly blue-and-black crowd at the teams’ shared San Siro home.

Inter Milan's Denzel Dumfries in action with AC Milan's Rade Krunic on May 10, 2023

Heightening their psychological burden ahead of the second leg, Milan have now lost their last three games against Inter without scoring a single goal.

The seven-time European champions have never before gone four in a row without finding the net against the Nerazzurri, and such a sequence simply cannot continue if they are to salvage something from the clubs’ semi-final tie.

Throughout Champions League history, only one team has lost the first leg of a semi by two or more goals and then went on to go through – Liverpool’s incredible comeback against Barcelona in 2019 being the only exception – but that is the task standing ahead of Stefano Pioli’s side.

Milan striker Divock Origi memorably scored twice in that game, but he was once more unable to find the net on Saturday evening, as the Rossoneri’s recent downturn continued with a dismal 2-0 defeat at Spezia.

The thinness of Pioli’s squad was exposed again at Stadio Picco, as a much-changed side hampered by several injuries were humbled by the Serie A strugglers; leaving Milan four points adrift of the top four with just three games to play.

After deposing Inter as Italian champions last year, they recently passed the Scudetto on to Champions League quarter-final victims Napoli, and hopes of a first European title since 2007 now hang by a thread heading into another clash between two kings of Calcio.

Team News

Inter Milan coach Simone Inzaghi on May 10, 2023

Having made a number of changes at the weekend – to preserve his star men for Tuesday’s defining derby – Inter coach Simone Inzaghi will recall players including Lautaro Martinez, Denzel Dumfries and Andre Onana against Milan.

Due to Robin Gosens having just returned to fitness following a dislocated shoulder, Federico Dimarco was retained for the win over Sassuolo, and the wing-back has assisted five goals from open play in the Champions League this season – more than any other player.

Only Milan Skriniar will definitely miss out due to injury, though Joaquin Correa picked up a knock on Saturday and may be sidelined. In any case, the Argentinian striker must make way for Martinez, while it remains to be seen whether Inzaghi will select Edin Dzeko or Romelu Lukaku as the latter’s strike partner.

Milan, meanwhile, are dealing with a potentially lengthy absence list, as Junior Messias, Rade Krunic and Ismael Bennacer – whose season has now been ended by a knee injury – all joined star man Rafael Leao in missing the trip to La Spezia.

As the Rossoneri’s hopes of reaching the final could hinge on Leao’s availability in midweek, he will be given every chance to recover; Alexis Saelemaekers is likely to deputise if the Portugal forward fails to pass a fitness test.

Olivier Giroud returns up front, meaning demotion to the bench for Divock Origi, while captain Davide Calabria should come in for Pierre Kalulu at right-back. To add more pace in defence, Malick Thiaw is expected to replace Simon Kjaer.

Inter Milan possible starting lineup:
Onana; Darmian, Acerbi, Bastoni; Dumfries, Barella, Calhanoglu, Mkhitaryan, Dimarco; Martinez, Dzeko

AC Milan possible starting lineup:
Maignan; Calabria, Tomori, Thiaw, Hernandez; Tonali, Pobega; Diaz, Krunic, Saelemaekers; Giroud

Preview: Leicester City vs. Liverpool

At risk of inching ever closer to relegation from the Premier League, Leicester City’s penultimate home game of the season takes place on Monday night, as top-four chasing Liverpool visit the King Power Stadium.

Dean Smith’s sorry side ended up on the wrong end of a 5-3 scoreline in a frenzied Bank Holiday battle with Fulham last time out, while the Reds kept up their pursuit of Champions League football by overcoming Brentford 1-0.

Match preview

Leicester City players look dejected after Carlos Vinicius scores for Fulham on May 8, 2023

Sparking a mad-cap trio of Bank Holiday Monday fixtures, where no fewer than 21 goals flew into the back of the net in three fixtures, eight of those came at Craven Cottage, where a merciless Fulham deepened Leicester’s demotion fears in one of the games of the season so far.

Smith’s side were loudly booed off by their travelling fans at half time, by which point Willian, Carlos Vinicius and Tom Cairney had propelled the hosts into a merited 3-0 lead, and despite ‘winning’ the second half 3-2 as Fulham took their foot off the gas, a ghastly first 45 had already done the damage.

Smith was in no mood to reward his players with a customary day off following their Craven Cottage calamity, and for the time being, the gap to safety stands at just two points before Everton meet Manchester City on Monday – Leeds United’s draw with Newcastle United on Saturday bumped them down to 19th place, though.

While some of the signs in the final third have been encouraging for Leicester – who have scored in nine of their last 10 top-flight fixtures and eight times in their last four – the Foxes remain without a Premier League clean sheet since the World Cup hiatus, conceding at least once 20 games running.

Taking points off of Wolverhampton Wanderers and Everton in their last two home fixtures may offer the dejected home crowd a sliver of hope as well – having previously witnessed five successive defeats before that – but with Newcastle United and a resurgent West Ham United to come in their final two games, the need for a third-straight home win over Liverpool is a desperate one.

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp reacts on May 6, 2023

Liverpool may have come up short in their last two visits to the King Power, but Jurgen Klopp’s inspired troops will pay no attention to the history books as they seek a seventh successive Premier League win to continue their end-of-season surge.

The visit of Brentford, albeit an ailing Brentford, was never expected to be a walk in the park for the Reds, who eked out a slender success thanks to Mohamed Salah’s close-range volley – his 19th Premier League goal of the season and his 100th at Anfield in all competitions.

Results elsewhere this weekend will not impact Liverpool’s fifth-placed standing in the Premier League table, but Man United’s success over Wolverhampton Wanderers has taken the Red Devils four points clear of their Merseyside counterparts on the same number of matches.

While the visitors’ hot streak is there to be admired, each of their last five triumphs have come by just the one goal since their 6-1 demolition job of Leeds – no team since Everton in 2002 has won six straight games by a one-goal margin – but ugly victories are far more desirable than goal-laden draws or defeats for Liverpool at this stage of the season.

As mentioned, Liverpool have been put to the sword during their last two away games versus Leicester – a 3-1 defeat in February 2021 before a 1-0 loss in December of that year – but the Reds exacted revenge with an unorthodox 2-1 Anfield win in December 2022, as Wout Faes paid homage to a present Jamie Carragher with a pair of own goals.

Team News

Roberto Firmino celebrates scoring for Liverpool in November 2022

One minor positive for Smith on Monday was that his side picked up no fresh injury concerns – Jonny Evans was also fit enough to make the bench – leaving the hosts with a quartet of absentees for the visit of Liverpool.

Ryan Bertrand (fitness), James Justin (calf) and Jannik Vestergaard (calf) will watch the final three games of the season from the sidelines, while striker Kelechi Iheanacho (groin) is ahead of schedule in his recuperation and should be back in training next week, but Monday’s game will come too soon for him.

On the back of their harrowing afternoon in the capital, Smith will no doubt consider alterations in the forms of Tete, Patson Daka, Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall and the fit-again Ricardo Pereira, while Daniel Iversen – like most of those in blue – did not cover himself in glory against Fulham, but the Dane should keep Danny Ward at bay again.

Meanwhile, Liverpool boss Klopp has confirmed that neither Roberto Firmino nor Naby Keita will recover from their muscular problems in time for Monday’s match, although the former could return to training last week as he pushes for an on-field farewell.

Stefan Bajcetic (adductor), Calvin Ramsay (knee) and Thiago Alcantara (hip) are continuing their recoveries from season-ending injuries, and Klopp made the bold decision to line up with four out-and-out attackers for the visit of Brentford last weekend, although Jordan Henderson’s knock may have contributed to that.

Henderson was fit enough to come off the bench and should now be considered for a first XI recall, while Luis Diaz was also only given a cameo role against the Bees but will come into contention to take the place of Darwin Nunez.

Leicester City possible starting lineup:
Iversen; Pereira, Faes, Soyuncu, Castagne; Ndidi, Dewsbury-Hall; Tete, Maddison, Barnes; Vardy

Liverpool possible starting lineup:
Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Konate, Van Dijk, Robertson; Jones, Fabinho, Henderson; Salah, Gakpo, Diaz

Preview: Lazio vs. Lecce

Lazio will be looking to reclaim second place in the Serie A table when relegation-threatened Lecce visit the Stadio Olimpico on Friday evening.

With four matches remaining, the hosts find themselves three points inside the top four, while the visitors sit four points clear of the drop zone.

Match preview

Lazio's Sergej Milinkovic-Savic celebrates scoring their first goal with Adam Marusic in January 2023

Lazio looked destined to finish as runners-up to newly-crowned champions Napoli thanks to a run of one defeat in 14 Serie A matches between January and April, with seven victories coming in the final eight games of that sequence.

However, the Eagles have surrendered second place to Juventus following a run of three losses in four outings, meaning that Maurizio Sarri’s men are looking over their shoulders as the race for Champions League football heats up.

After suffering back-to-back defeats against Torino and Inter Milan, Lazio claimed a 2-0 victory over Sassuolo before returning to losing ways last weekend, recording a 2-0 defeat against AC Milan at San Siro.

Still, the Rome outfit will be confident of getting back on track when struggling Lecce visit the Stadio Olimpico, as Lazio have won four of their last five home league games, keeping three clean sheets in the process.

Having lost just two of their previous 10 home matches in Serie A – taking 20 points from a possible 30 during that period – Lazio will back themselves to return to winning ways and reignite their top-four charge.

Lecce coach Marco Baroni reacts on April 7, 2023

Just like Lazio, Lecce head into Friday’s clash having lost three of their last four games, with a 2-0 defeat at AC Milan preceding back-to-back losses against Juventus and Hellas Verona.

That said, Lecce’s recent defeats have very different ramifications, as Marco Baroni’s side remain just four points clear of the relegation zone with four matches left, meaning that an immediate return to Serie B is a real possibility.

Not only have the Wolves lost three of their last four league outings, but they have also lost nine of their previous 11, picking up a single victory along the way.

When you look at the bigger picture, the Puglia outfit have managed to win just seven of their 34 Serie A encounters this season, while only bottom club Sampdoria have scored fewer goals than Lecce’s 28.

To make matters worse for Lecce, they have lost each of their last five away games while scoring a solitary goal, so Baroni’s men will struggle to enhance their chances of survival at Stadio Olimpico, regardless of Lazio’s recent downturn.

Team News

Lazio's Nicolo Casale, Ciro Immobile, Sergej Milinkovic-Savic and Alessio Romagnoli celebrate after the match on April 8, 2023

Lazio midfielder Danilo Cataldi has missed the past two games through injury and is not expected to feature on Friday, while Matias Vecino is also likely to be absent after missing last weekend’s defeat to Milan.

Despite scoring just once in his last nine Serie A appearances, key striker Ciro Immobile will continue to lead the line for the Eagles, with Mattia Zaccagni and Felipe Anderson occupying the wide attacking roles.

Luis Alberto and Sergej Milinkovic-Savic will continue to operate in midfield, while Alessio Romagnoli and Nicolo Casale should resume their partnership at the heart of Lazio’s backline.

As for Lecce, they are still without Kastriot Dermaku as the Albanian defender continues to recover from a muscle injury, meaning that Federico Baschirotto and Samuel Umtiti will continue at centre-back.

At the opposite end of the pitch, Gabriel Strefezza and Federico Di Francesco are expected to join Gambian striker Assan Ceesay in the visitors’ forward line.

Club captain Morten Hjulmand will anchor the Wolves’ midfield, with Alexis Blin and Remi Oudin joining the Dane in Lecce’s engine room.

Lazio possible starting lineup:
Provedel; Marusic, Casale, Romagnoli, Hysaj; Milinkovic-Savic, Antonio, Alberto; Anderson, Immobile, Zaccagni

Lecce possible starting lineup:
Falcone; Gendrey, Baschirotto, Umtiti, Gallo; Blin, Hjulmand, Oudin; Strefezza, Ceesay, Di Francesco

Preview: Juventus vs. Sevilla

One of five Italian semi-finalists across the three UEFA club competitions, Calcio giants Juventus aim to overcome Europa League specialists Sevilla over two legs, starting on Thursday night in Turin.

By contrast with their visitors, Juve have never before lifted the trophy, but they are determined to salvage some silverware from a controversy-hit campaign and will seek a lead to take to Spain next week.

Match preview

Samuel Iling-Junior in action for Juventus in January 2023

Having been humbled in the Champions League group stage last autumn, Juventus have adapted well to the rigours of Europe’s second-tier tournament, seeing off Sporting CP in the quarter-finals after previously overcoming Nantes and Freiburg.

Max Allegri’s side have been typically pragmatic, and they have not conceded a single goal from open play in five Europa League games; continuing a proud tradition – they have never been beaten at home in 12 previous matches in the competition, keeping six clean sheets in the process.

Similarly cautious in Serie A this season, the Bianconeri have specialised in 1-0 wins, though such successes have been regularly punctuated by setbacks like losing twice to top-flight newcomers Monza and being hammered 5-1 by Napoli.

After having their 15-point penalty overturned – temporarily, at least – Juve stumbled several more times, but hopes of securing a Champions League return by finishing in Italy’s top four were boosted by back-to-back wins over Lecce and Atalanta within four days last week; they now sit second in the standings.

However, recently missing out on a place in the Coppa Italia final – and at the expense of arch-rivals Inter – means Allegri’s expensively-assembled squad have only one remaining route to silverware this season.

In alliance with their proven stars, Juventus have showcased young gems such as Nicolo Fagioli and English winger Samuel Iling-Junior, who scored the opener against Atalanta on Sunday, in the first-team this term. In many ways, the future could be bright in Turin, but Allegri is under short-term pressure to produce results – and never more so than on Thursday.

Sevilla's Youssef En-Nesyri celebrates scoring against Manchester United on April 20, 2023

While their record against Juventus is not good – they have lost twice and won only one of the clubs’ four previous meetings – Sevilla have won each of their last six matches against Italian clubs in the Europa League; the most recent saw them defeat Inter in the 2020 final.

Six-time winners of the competition, the Andalucian side have endured a tough season, losing two coaches along the way, but seem to be running into form at just the right time.

After a home loss to Girona ended Sevilla’s seven-match unbeaten streak in all competitions, they fought back from behind to beat Espanyol last weekend, with an 88th-minute winner securing victory at Estadio Ramon Sanchez-Pizjuan.

Now occupying 11th place in La Liga, fears of relegation are long behind them, and in the remaining five games they will instead target a top-half finish.

Los Rojiblancos’ third manager of the campaign, Jose Luis Mendilibar also led his new side to quarter-final success over Manchester United – following previous knockout victories over PSV and Fenerbahce – and they have now reached the Europa League semis more times than any other club.

In fact, Sevilla have gone on to lift the trophy on every previous occasion when making it this far, but to reach the 2023 final against either Roma or Bayer Leverkusen, they must first outmanoeuvre an obdurate Juventus side.

Team News

Juventus' Mattia De Sciglio is stretchered off after sustaining an injury on May 3, 2023

While Juventus have most of their main men back in the fold following a series of injury layoffs – for instance, both Paul Pogba and Federico Chiesa are available, though not in peak condition – Mattia De Sciglio had to undergo reconstructive surgery on his right knee following an injury against Lecce.

Bremer is also absent due to a muscular problem, but Leandro Paredes returns from a Serie A suspension, meaning Max Allegri should have an otherwise full squad to choose from on Thursday.

As ever, the Tuscan tactician remains elusive in terms of both player selection and formation, but Angel Di Maria has starred in Juve’s Europa League run so far and should support either Arkadiusz Milik or Dusan Vlahovic up front.

Sevilla, meanwhile, were able to include Lucas Ocampos, Fernando and Erik Lamela in their travelling party for the trip to Turin following fitness concerns.

However, Tanguy Nianzou and Suso – who both hope to be ready for next week’s return in Seville – are unavailable due to injury. The latter’s absence may mean a move into an advanced position for veteran midfielder Ivan Rakitic, or alternatively a return to the lineup for Ocampos.

Jose Luis Mendilibar has generally selected Marko Dmitrovic as his La Liga goalkeeper – the two were previously together at Eibar – but Moroccan World Cup hero Yassine Bounou is set to start in Europe.

Juventus possible starting lineup:
Szczesny; Danilo, Bonucci, Sandro; Cuadrado, Fagioli, Locatelli, Rabiot, Kostic; Di Maria; Vlahovic

Sevilla possible starting lineup:
Bounou; Navas, Bade, Gudelj, Acuna; Gueye, Rakitic; Ocampos, Torres, Gil; En-Nesyri

Preview: AC Milan vs. Inter Milan

The first of two special derbies in the space of six days pits together city rivals AC Milan and Inter Milan on Wednesday evening, at their shared home of San Siro.

With a place in the Champions League final at stake, the Calcio giants will battle it out for a first-leg advantage ahead of next week’s decider at the same iconic venue.

Match preview

AC Milan's Ismael Bennacer celebrates scoring their first goal with Davide Calabria on April 12, 2023

Showcasing this year’s Italian renaissance in Europe, a Milan derby double now decides one of the teams to progress from the Champions League semi-finals.

The winner then takes their place in the showpiece finale early next month – holders Real Madrid or English champions Manchester City will await in Istanbul.

Two of five Serie A sides still standing in continental competition, Milan and Inter play out a fourth Derby della Madonnina of the season this week, with both teams recording one league victory apiece – the Rossoneri were 3-2 winners back in September, while the Nerazzurri edged February’s contest 1-0, and they also came out on top in the Supercoppa Italiana.

Milan, who deposed Inter as Italian champions last year but have since been toppled from their throne by their Champions League quarter-final victims Napoli, were runners-up in Group E during the autumn; improving on a group-stage exit in 2021, which came after a seven-year absence from the competition.

The seven-times European champions then eliminated Tottenham Hotspur in the last 16 before frustrating a faltering Napoli side last month; winning 2-1 on aggregate against their Scudetto successors.

Reflecting their resilience throughout the knockout stages so far, Stefano Pioli’s side conceded only once across those four games – Victor Osimhen’s late strike at Stadio Maradona, when the tie had essentially been decided – and they are likely to take a similar approach against Inter.

Milan’s most recent Champions League triumph came back in 2007 – when they earned a slice of revenge against Liverpool following the clubs’ epic clash in Istanbul two years earlier – and en route to their previous victory in 2003, they overcame their city rivals at the last-eight stage.

On that occasion, the Rossoneri were ultimately awarded the tie due to crowd trouble, having also won a semi-final contest between the pair two years beforehand: then, a 1-1 aggregate result curiously saw them progress on ‘away’ goals, despite both games taking place at San Siro.

Given a subsequent rule change, that will not be an issue this time around, as Pioli’s men aim to shake off some stuttering Serie A form and sweep past their old foes once again.

Inter Milan's Nicolo Barella celebrates scoring their first goal with Denzel Dumfries and Edin Dzeko on April 19, 2023

While Milan have continued dropping points domestically and now trail Inter by two in the league standings, Simone Inzaghi’s side are finally running into top form and will kick off Wednesday’s first leg on the back of a five-match winning run.

Since a pulsating 3-3 draw with Benfica that sealed passage into the Champions League semi-finals, they have brushed aside Empoli, Lazio, Verona and Roma by scoring 14 times and conceding just once, in addition to Derby d’Italia victory over Juventus in the Coppa Italia.

That surge does not entirely mask the Nerazzurri’s struggle for consistency in Serie A this season. Beaten by several Calcio minnows, they have lost 11 times already and are still to secure a top-four finish – and with it a return to Europe’s premier club competition.

However, their prowess in cup competitions cannot be doubted. As well as reaching the Coppa Italia final, where they meet Fiorentina later this month, Inter qualified from a tough Champions League group also featuring Bayern Munich and Barcelona, eliminating the latter to set up a last-16 clash with Porto.

As well as defeating the Portuguese champions in that tie and then knocking out Benfica in the quarter-finals, in 2023 they have overcome Napoli, Milan (twice, including January’s Supercoppa triumph) and now both Rome clubs following a 2-0 win against Roma last weekend.

Like their semi-final opponents, Inter have kept three clean sheets from four knockout-round games so far, with ex-Ajax goalkeeper Andre Onana playing a similarly important role to that of Mike Maignan for Milan.

The three-time European champions’ last success at this exalted level came back in 2010, under Jose Mourinho, but in the course of the next few weeks, Inzaghi aims to add the ultimate prize to two Supercoppas and a Coppa Italia he has lifted since succeeding Antonio Conte.

Team News

AC Milan's Rafael Leao pictured on February 26, 2023

After stumbling against Cremonese a few days earlier, Milan selected a more conventional starting XI for their 2-0 win over Lazio at the weekend, with Olivier Giroud, Theo Hernandez and Sandro Tonali all returning to the side.

However, Rafael Leao’s game was ended early in the first half due to a muscular injury and Alexis Saelemaekers came on in his place, causing concern about his readiness for Wednesday. If the Portuguese forward is unable to recover, Saelemaekers could deputise again, rather than Ante Rebic being recalled.

Only Tommaso Pobega and Zlatan Ibrahimovic are set to miss out due to injury – the latter is not registered for the Champions League in any case – so the only other change made by Stefano Pioli may be Brahim Diaz replacing Junior Messias on the right flank of a familiar 4-2-3-1 formation.

Inter, meanwhile, initially left Lautaro Martinez, Edin Dzeko and Henrikh Mkhitaryan on the bench in Saturday’s game at Stadio Olimpico, but all three could return to the starting lineup in midweek.

A recently revived Romelu Lukaku will have other ideas, though, as Simone Inzaghi has seen signs of life in the Belgian’s once-prosperous pairing with Martinez of late. Dzeko would therefore stay sidelined if the famed ‘Lu-La’ partnership is reunited.

Soon to exit San Siro for Paris, Milan Skriniar joins Robin Gosens in missing out due to injury, but Danilo D’Ambrosio could return to the squad after overcoming a muscular problem.

AC Milan possible starting lineup:
Maignan; Calabria, Tomori, Kjaer, Hernandez; Tonali, Krunic; Diaz, Bennacer, Saelemaekers; Giroud

Inter Milan possible starting lineup:
Onana; Darmian, Acerbi, Bastoni; Dumfries, Barella, Brozovic, Mkhitaryan, Dimarco; Martinez, Lukaku

Preview: Real Madrid vs. Manchester City

The bright lights of the Bernabeu shine down on another tantalising Champions League semi-final on Tuesday night as Real Madrid welcome Manchester City to the Spanish capital for the first leg.

The reigning champions put four unanswered goals past Chelsea over the two legs of their quarter-final to reach the last four, while Pep Guardiola’s perennial hopefuls ran out 4-1 aggregate winners over Bayern Munich.

Match preview

Real Madrid's Rodrygo celebrates scoring against Chelsea on April 18, 2023

Proving to be Real Madrid’s two-goal hero on more than one occasion this season, the up-and-coming Rodrygo – who struck a brace to hand Real a 2-0 win over Chelsea in the second leg of their European quarter-final – made lightning strike twice in front of goal during a tense Copa del Rey final on Saturday night.

The Brazilian’s double either side of a drilled Lucas Torro equaliser propelled Los Blancos to a 2-1 victory over a dogged Osasuna to ensure that Carlo Ancelotti would add to his ever-growing trophy haul this month, but after witnessing King Charles’s coronation, Los Blancos will soon expect to pay homage to Barcelona as the Catalan giants inch ever closer to wrestling the La Liga trophy out of their grasp.

With the top-flight title almost a formality, Real Madrid will unequivocally prioritise a 15th top-level European crown in what remains of a tumultuous season, and they have only failed to reach the final in one of the previous five seasons where they have progressed to the semis – going down to eventual winners Chelsea in 2020-21.

Victory for the Sky Blues over the holders would therefore act as a very good omen indeed for Tuesday’s visitors, but there are few who question Los Blancos’ authority in Europe. Ancelotti’s side enter the first leg on the back of five successive Champions League wins – keeping clean sheets in each of their last three – and they have scored in 16 continental games on the bounce since a 1-0 loss to Paris Saint-Germain in February 2022.

Torro’s strike for Osasuna in Saturday’s Copa del Rey final did stretch Real Madrid’s overall run without a clean sheet to four matches, though – perhaps a slight concern as Eder Militao prepares to watch on from the naughty step – but any domestic concerns are normally left at the door when Los Blancos walk out to the Champions League anthem.

Ilkay Gundogan celebrates scoring for Manchester City on May 6, 2023

Even with his captain on the brink of a first-ever career hat trick in Saturday’s clash with Leeds United, there was no room for sentiment in Pep Guardiola’s mind, and the Catalonian coach made his feelings perfectly clear after Ilkay Gundogan smashed his late penalty against the post.

Thankfully for Guardiola and co, the German’s first-half brace had already done the damage, but Rodrigo cut the deficit in half only two minutes after Erling Braut Haaland – who had suffered a rare off-day in front of goal – gave Gundogan his blessing to step up to the chalk.

The ending was far more nail-biting than it should have been for Man City, but the end result is a four-point lead over Arsenal at the top of the Premier League table on the same number of matches before the Gunners try to respond against third-placed Newcastle United later on Sunday.

Also with an FA Cup final in the back of their mind, a terrific treble remains a distinct possibility for Man City, who made Thomas Tuchel’s English homecoming a miserable one in a 3-0 quarter-final first-leg win over Bayern before picking up a satisfactory 1-1 draw in Munich.

Out of the Citizens’ last 16 games in all competitions, that stalemate in Germany is the only one that they have not won, although Guardiola is at risk of setting an unwanted record of seven Champions League semi-final eliminations as a manager; his current statistic of six is the joint-most alongside Jose Mourinho.

The most recent of those final-four exits came at the hands of Real Madrid last year, as City edged a seven-goal thriller 4-3 at the Etihad before losing 3-1 at the Bernabeu after extra time. If last year’s extravaganza is anything to go by, fans and neutrals alike are in for a treat.

Team News

Eder Militao celebrates scoring for Real Madrid on October 8, 2022

As mentioned, Real Madrid will be forced to work around the absence of Militao for the first leg due to suspension; the centre-back was cautioned for the third time in this season’s tournament during the second leg of the quarter-finals, after which players on one or two bookings had their yellow cards wiped.

Left-back Ferland Mendy (calf) has partially trained and might be in with a slim chance of featuring, but midfielder Dani Ceballos is suffering from a quadriceps problem and will miss out.

On a brighter note, Luka Modric managed to play a part as a substitute in the Copa del Rey final after shaking off a hamstring concern, and the 37-year-old should be given the green light to start on Tuesday – music to the ears of Ancelotti and the Bernabeu faithful.

Aurelien Tchouameni could be the unlucky fulcrum to make way for Modric, while Antonio Rudiger will join forces with David Alaba at the back in place of Militao. Meanwhile, Eduardo Camavinga – who can now proudly claim to have won every major trophy with Real Madrid at the tender age of 20 – should continue in his makeshift left-back role.

A defensive concern is also lingering in the mind of Guardiola, who lost Nathan Ake to an apparent hamstring issue with 54 minutes gone against Leeds, and the Dutchman has been ruled out of the first leg. Cole Palmer’s ankle is also giving him grief, but the 21-year-old has been named in the travelling party.

With Ake sidelined, Guardiola will be tempted to recall Kyle Walker to try to keep Vinicius Junior at bay, while a host of well-rested regulars in Rodri, John Stones, Bernardo Silva and Jack Grealish are also primed to return to the first XI after Guardiola rang the changes at the weekend.

It was not Haaland’s day in front of goal at the weekend, but the 35-goal Norwegian – who also recently broke the single-season Premier League record with the same number – averages a goal every 58 minutes in the Champions League, unsurprisingly the best ratio in the history of the competition, and he will give his admirers plenty to think about on Tuesday.

Real Madrid possible starting lineup:
Courtois; Carvajal, Rudiger, Alaba, Camavinga; Valverde, Kroos, Modric; Rodrygo, Benzema, Vinicius Jr

Manchester City possible starting lineup:
Ederson; Walker, Dias, Akanji; Stones, Rodri; Silva, De Bruyne, Gundogan, Grealish; Haaland