The club game is back with a bang with Der Klassiker, the French League Cup final and Milan hoping to put a spanner in Juve's works, as James Horncastle discusses...
"Maurizio Sarri’s side have to keep this tempo up and that won’t be easy but judging by how they finished last season with eight wins and two draws who is to say they can’t keep the pressure on."
Juve's title bid
Juventus' unexpected draw with SPAL reopened the title race before the international break and while the exchange still makes them favourites @ 1.4640/85 to retain the Scudetto for a seventh straight season, this weekend feels big. Juventus' destiny is in their own hands but their run-in isn't exactly straightforward.
Milan visit the Allianz Stadium this weekend and boast the second best record in the league in 2018. It's pretty much forbidden for Juve to allow themselves to think about Tuesday's first leg against Real Madrid. Napoli swing by Turin at the end of April in what many expect to be a title decider but Juve still have to go to Inter the following week and then Roma on the back of the Coppa Italia final. That's quite the gauntlet.
Given Napoli have nothing left to play for and can focus their efforts entirely on the league, it's still worth giving them consideration. Maurizio Sarri's side have to keep this tempo up and that won't be easy but judging by how they finished last season with eight wins and two draws who is to say they can't keep the pressure on. Napoli are available @ 3.02/1 to end their 28-year wait for the Scudetto.
Should Schalke slip up against Freiburg and their five-game winning streak grinds to a halt, Bayern can celebrate the Easter weekend with a title celebrating beer shower by winning Der Klassiker on Saturday evening. Naturally Dortmund won't wish that to happen and for one weekend only it's possible to imagine their supporters rooting for their rivals from Gelsenkirchen.
The Black and Yellows are unbeaten in the league under Peter Stöger but the performances have not been convincing enough to persuade the board to give him the job beyond May. Whether a big win in Bavaria on Saturday would change that remains to be seen. A strong finish is the bare minimum if they are to consider the former Köln boss for a longer term role at Signal Iduna Park.
Bayern knocked Dortmund out of the cup in December and it would be a surprise if Stöger deployed the same tactics he did on that evening. A back five did not suit Dortmund at all and the head start it gave Bayern left them with too much to do. Expected to be without Marco Reus, the team's best player, since the spring the odds are not in Dortmund's favour.
Bayern have been pretty irresistible under Jupp Heynckes and it's hardly a surprise Uli Hoeness wants him to stay. Much to his disappointment, that's not going to happen though and it's pretty curious that two clubs renowned as being so well run are both uncertain about who is going to be in charge next season. A repeat of Bayern's 3-1 win in the reverse fixture is priced @ 11.521/2
The League Cup final matters to PSG because it is the last big game of the season for them. Ligue 1 is wrapped up. The Parisiens have a 17-point lead on the chasing pack and judging by the opponents left in the Coupe de France, that's in the bag too. PSG play Caen in the semi-finals and one of Chambly or Les Herbiers in the final. Neither, with all due respect, are of the calibre of Saturday's opponents Monaco.
Unai Emery can do a clean sweep of all four domestic trophies, as he should with the squad at his disposal. Nevertheless it's important for his own career that he leaves with a quadruple to point to in light of PSG's lack of progress in the Champions League in the last two years. Last season, the Qatari-backed side blew Monaco away 4-1 in a devastating show of force. It just didn't resonate so loudly as Monaco improbably won the league.
Leonardo Jardim's side have lost only one of their last 20 games in domestic competitions and ultimately their season comes down to this. Beaten twice by PSG since the loan of Kylian Mbappe, scoring goals isn't such a big problem although they're not putting them away at the same rate as last year. It's an inability to keep a clean sheet that's letting Monaco down, which must be of concern even in Neymar's absence. Monaco are trading @ 6.05/1 to win on the night.