Reasons to watch: One match stands out in one of the most interesting Ligue 1 battles for years in which the top three are separated by just one point. Fourth-placed St. Etienne must get three points on Sunday otherwise they can start waving goodbye to their hopes of a top-three-finish, and thus a Champions League place. Marseille, whose coach Marcelo Bielsa, has cast doubt about his future after saying his contract will expire at the end of the season, will go top should they win and Lyon lose at home to Nantes.
Premier League: Southampton vs. Liverpool (live, Sunday, 11:15 a.m. ET)
Reasons to watch: Amid all the talk of returning players there is also the small matter of a rather important game taking place at St Mary’s. Reds midfielder Adam Lallana admitted this week that he could have handled his Southampton exit better and is expecting a mixed reaction from home supporters. This game has repercussions in the chase for a top-four place too. Saints currently occupy that slot, but a defeat would leave them just one point ahead of Liverpool. And if Arsenal win too then the Gunners will be leapfrog Ronald Koeman’s men.
Premier League: Manchester City vs. Newcastle United (live, Saturday, 12:30 p.m. ET)
Reasons to watch: Manchester City's miserable run of five winless games came to an end on Wednesday when they crushed Stoke at the Britannia, and the clash with Newcastle is significant for a couple of reasons. Firstly, Wilfried Bony, signed from Swansea for $43 million during the January transfer window, is expected to make his debut for City, who are seven points behind Chelsea in the table. Yaya Toure and Co. have the small matter of Champions League Round of 16 duties against Barcelona on Tuesday, so will Manuel Pellegrini decide to rest a few players for that match? Don’t count on it.
Premier League: Chelsea vs. Burnley (live, Saturday, 10 a.m. ET)
Reasons to watch: Saturday’s game had already been designated 'Game for Equality' before Tuesday’s unsavory events on a platform on the Paris Metro where a commuter was racially abused and prevented from boarding a train. Five Blues fans have been suspended from Stamford Bridge as a result. Chelsea have apologized to the man and invited him and his family to attend the second leg of the Blues’ Champions League game against PSG on March 11. Saturday’s match is about celebrating the club’s diversity. Let’s hope the supporters behave.
Premier League: Swansea City vs. Manchester United (live, Saturday, 10 a.m. ET)
Reasons to watch: Hopes were high when Louis van Gaal took the reins at Manchester United. After all, the Red Devils had beaten some major teams Like Real Madrid, Roma and Liverpool in preseason and were on a high. That was until they faced Swansea at Old Trafford on the opening day of the season when the balloon burst. Van Gaal reckons that 2-1 defeat affected his side’s ability to pick up results. Things have improved since then (United are third) but they still have their critics -- including club legend Paul Scholes. Can United finally deliver the free-flowing football their fans demand rather than the stodgy fare they’ve served up for most of the season?
La Liga: Barcelona vs. Malaga (live, Saturday, 10 a.m. ET)
Reasons to watch: Barcelona, just one point behind La Liga leaders and arch-rivals Real Madrid, would have preferred an easier game than Malaga ahead of Tuesday’s Champions League clash with Manchester City. That’s the way the dice rolls, though. Don’t forget the Catalan giants are on an 11-match winning streak, and Lionel Messi scored his 23rd hat-trick in his 300th La Liga appearance in the 5-0 win against Levante last week. Malaga, riding high in seventh place, have not won at Camp Nou since the 1999-2000 season. Luis Suarez is starting to look sharp, too. A draw would be good enough to put Barca top for 24 hours but we fear the worst for the Andalucians.
La Liga: Atletico Madrid vs. Almeria (live, Saturday, 2 p.m. ET)
Reasons to watch: Soccer is a strange game. One week you are crushing the European champions Real Madrid 4-0; the next you are are losing at Celta Vigo. That unpredictability is what makes the game great but that’s how things have been for Atletico in the last couple of weeks. Almeria, it has to be said, are not as good as Celta so normal service should be resumed at the Vicente Calderon. And with seven points separating Atletico and city rivals Real Madrid, Diego Simeone’s men cannot afford any more slip-ups.
Premier League: Crystal Palace vs. Arsenal
Reasons to watch: If results go their way, Arsenal could find themselves in third place once the weekend is over. That would depend on Southampton and Manchester United both losing and the Gunners winning the London scrap at Selhurst Park. Palace boss Alan Pardew and Arsene Wenger have clashed plenty of times throughout the years, most notably in 2006 when Pardew was in charge of West Ham. Both managers insist they patched up their differences. Let’s see!
Bundesliga: Paderborn vs. Bayern Munich (live, Saturday, 9:30 a.m. ET)
Reasons to watch: This is a real David and Goliath encounter. Paderborn’s first season in the top flight has been an unqualified success and this is the game fans would have been most looking forward to when the fixture list was released. Paderborn’s impressive 2-1 win at Hannover last weekend ensured confidence is high going into the game against a Bayern side that could only draw 0-0 against Shakhtar Donetsk in the Champions League earlier this week -- admittedly with just 10-men following Xabi Alonso’s 65th-minute dismissal. Last week, the German giants routed Hamburg 8-0. In the reverse fixture at the Allianz, Pep Guardiola’s boys triumphed 4-0. Paderborn will need more than a sling.
La Liga: Elche vs. Real Madrid (live, Sunday, 3 p.m. ET)
Reasons to watch: The La Liga title race promises to be as exciting as last year’s and all the signs are that it could go to the last game of the season again. Cristiano Ronaldo signalled his return to form with a goal in Los Blancos’ 2-0 Champions League win at Schalke in midweek and the Portuguese will be itching to get at relegation-haunted Elche. Ronaldo has only played twice against the Spanish minnows and returned just the six goals. Uh oh.