You know the drill.
Barcelona (2nd) vs. Osasuna (15th). You know La Liga is done and dusted for Real Madrid when this becomes the most interesting fixture of the weekend. It's true, though; Barca desperately need to string together a series of victories if they want any chance at catching Los Merengues. Last week at Bilbao was a gimme, but Fernando Llorente stunned them eleven minutes from time to split the points. Now they face lowly Osasuna at home. The Pamplona club have been woeful and in danger of relegation this season after a year which saw them reach the semifinals of the UEFA Cup.
The verdict: I mean, one has to predict a Barcelona victory, right? Not so fast. The club has scored only two goals in their last three matches. Yes, Eto'o is currently missing at the ACN, but Ronaldinho should be back, giving them three of the most dangerous players in the world at the fore of their attack. As Juan put it in our last power rankings: "Something is wrong with this team. I honestly don't know what it is yet but I'm on it." Well, I think we'll still have to get back to you on that one, but in the meantime, I'll continue to put (misplaced) trust in Titi and Leo to eek out a win: Underachievers 2 - 1 Regressing Overachievers.
Fiorentina (4th) vs. AC Milan (6th). This weekend's Serie A action will offer something I don't believe I've ever seen before. The three best teams (Inter, Roma, and Juve) are playing the three worst (Empoli, Siena, Cagliari). Which leaves us to focus on this extremely important match. There was never any doubt that Fiorentina have emerged from Serie B promotion and the matchfixing scandals as one of Italy's stronger sides. The question for this season, with Luca Toni off to Germany, was whether Adrian Mutu could assume a greater share of the scoring duty. Well, question answered. As a reward, Firenze sit in Champions League position, but Milan are gunning hard for it. Pato has been a revelation for them (I can't recall a seventeen year-old playing with such poise since Arsenal's own Cesc Fabregas) and the Rossoneri are slowly but surely working their way into striking distance of the top.
Verdict: The talent of Milan is starting to tell, with players like Gilardino, Pirlo, and Kaka finding their form in a string of victories. That being said, this is a very evenly matched game, and Fiorentina are at home. Let's call it a draw: La Viola 1 - 1 Il Diavolo.
Man City (6th) vs. Arsenal (2nd). This weekend has a lot of solid matchups. Chelsea go to Portsmouth, Everton take on Blackburn, and Tottenham get another shot at United, this time at home (still won't happen, Spurs fans). This has to be the pick, though. Arsenal have cruised through their last few games, defeating Fulham and Newcastle twice, so they've yet to see real opposition. City, after a great start, have been in an awful rut. They got knocked out by balloons in the FA Cup (I was watching this, and it was truly absurd - did anyone else see this?) and then drew (!) with Derby County yesterday. Since Derby have become the Premier League ATM for three points, this is a real problem.
The verdict: Sven will have them up for it and City are very tough at home, but Arsenal are playing very well. Last time, Fabregas was the difference, blasting a winner in the 80th minute (his favorite time to score). Richard Dunne and Micah Richards are a formidable pair to break down, but at the moment, you'd expect a red-hot Adebayor and the phenomenal box-to-box play of Flamini to tip the scales in the Gunners' favor: Blue Moon 0 - 1 The Boys in Red and White.
Arsene Wenger cobbled together starting lineups with spit and duct tape and Denilson and somehow the team dragged its ass over the finish line in third or fourth.