AC Milan play rivals Inter with third place on the line, Zinedine Zidane is back at Real Madrid and Bayern look to run up the score against Mainz.
Italy’s top flight, the envy of international soccer in the 1980s and ’90s, has re-emerged over the past few years as a league worthy of attention. Despite the successes of Juventus, Napoli and, to a lesser degree Roman clubs Roma and Lazio, Inter Milan and their city rivals AC Milan have had little reason to celebrate.
As a result, the once-glorious Derby della Madonnina, was rendered moot. Once a match that commanded the attention of the planet, it hasn’t mattered much in recent years. Inter, the stronger of the Milan-based sides in recent seasons, struggled to remain consistent. AC Milan, on the other hand, have been in a rebuilding phase and unable to qualify for the Champions League, a tournament they once dominated.
That’s all changed this season. The Rossoneri have had a wonderful 2019, cementing themselves in third place entering this weekend’s match against the Nerazzurri, who held third spot until just last month. There’s lots of history between these clubs (their first meeting dates back to 1909) and the newest chapter takes place Sunday at the famed San Siro. AC Milan have 51 points, while Inter are a point behind them.
Krzysztof Piatek, who came over to AC Milan from Genoa during the winter transfer window, is playing in his first derby and looking to add to his 19 goals this season, currently putting him second overall in Serie A scoring. In recent weeks, AC Milan coach Gennaro Gattuso has emphasized teamwork over any single player, saying, “I want to hear the word ‘we,’ not ‘I.’ We want unity and everyone to be happy, we must not lose the energy we have. Those who aren’t playing aren’t happy, but respect needs to be shown for teammates who take to the pitch. The players must give their all.”
At the same time, Inter’s Mauro Icardi, still at odds with the club’s management, leads the team with 13 goals, but isn’t likely to feature this weekend. Icardi’s absence has hurt Inter this season. With Icardi in the lineup, Inter’s record in all competitions this season is 17-3-8. Without him, the Nerazzurri are 7-2-1.
In other action, league leaders Juventus, 18 points ahead of second-place Napoli, are away at 13th-place Genoa on Sunday. The game comes days after Cristiano Ronaldo’s heroics in the Champions League, while Napoli host 15th-place Udinese the same day. Roma and surprise side Torino are tied for fifth and both play on Saturday against Spal and Bologna, respectively.
With the Champions League round of 16 behind them, Bayern Munich will be looking to run up the score in league action on Sunday when they host 13th-place Mainz on matchday 26 in the hope joint league-leaders Borussia Dortmund fail to win the previous day at 10th-place Hertha Berlin.
Bayern, ousted from the Champions League by Liverpool earlier this week, have surged up the table in recent weeks and are eyeing a domestic double, routing opponents for a total score of 15-3 over the last five league matches. Bayern haven’t lost in the Bundesliga since Feb. 2, when they were defeated 3-1 against Bayer Leverkusen. At that point, the Bavarian giants were seven points behind leaders BVB.
Thanks to the scoring prowess of striker Robert Lewandowski, Bayern could win what would be their narrowest title victory in years. Lewandowski vowed to keep scoring after getting past Claudio Pizarro as the league’s top-scoring non-German player. The Poland international has scored 197 times in 281 Bundesliga matches since 2010.
“I have to say I’m very, very proud to have achieved something like this,” Lewandowski told bundesliga.com after moving two goals ahead of his former teammate, currently playing with Werder Bremen. “I know Claudio’s still playing, but I’m not done yet either, and I want to continue scoring goals.”
Over that same time span, Dortmund have had a poor string of results and been plagued by injuries. BVB have struggled over the past few weeks, losing against Augsburg and drawing against Nurnburg, Hoffenheim and Werder Bremen. BVB will need to get the three points in order to keep pace with what appears to be an unstoppable Bayern squad.
Barcelona enter matchday 28 a safe seven points ahead of second-place Atletico Madrid — and very much determined to win a treble with Lionel Messi once again spearheading the attack — on a weekend where not much is expected to change at the top.
The Blaugrana play away at eighth-place Real Betis on Sunday, while Atletico Madrid are also on the road, against 12th-place Athletic Bilbao. Both Betis and Bilbao are in the middle of the table with little to play for. Both clubs aren’t likely to qualify for a spot in next season’s European competitions, but also far enough away from the relegation to not have to worry about dropping points.
While it’s true Barcelona survived a scare last Saturday against Rayo Vallecano in what turned out to be a 3-1 home win, the Catalan giants can always rely on the prowess of Messi. The Argentine scored a goal and added an assist last weekend, putting him first in La Liga in both those categories this season.
In other league matches that impact the top half of the table, Real Madrid, trying to salvage what has been a nightmare season with Zinedine Zidane back at the helm, play at home Saturday against 18th-place Celta Vigo.
On the heels of Los Blancos are high-flying Getafe, who are fourth and just six points behind Real, play Sunday at seventh-place Valencia as Los Ches look to gain a spot in next season’s Europa League.