Reschedule everything that you have planned for this weekend as we have five domestic cup finals to look forward to. England, France, Germany, Italy and Spain, are all giving us a very good reason to settle down in front of the TV and enjoy some fantastic games.

FA Cup Final – Crystal Palace v Manchester United

Let’s make our first stop at Wembley, in London for the FA Cup Final, the world’s oldest football cup. The match is a repeat of the 1990 FA Cup Final between Crystal Palace and Manchester United. United won the Cup 1-0 after a replay.

Manchester United have won the FA Cup on eleven previous occasions and they are only one win away from equaling Arsenal’s record. United last played in the final in 2007, where they lost 1-0 after extra time to Chelsea. Their last victory in the competition was in 2004, a 3-0 win against Milwall at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff. This is Louis van Gaal’s final chance to get his hand on some silverware after a much maligned campaign. It’s also worth mentioning that the only trophy that United have won since Sir Alex Ferguson’s departure as manager, is the 2013 Community Shield.

Crystal Palace have only reached the FA Cup final once. This is in the aforementioned final which they lost after a replay. Palace have never won any major trophies and therefore the FA Cup presents an opportunity for their players to go down in the club’s history. It will also give the Londoners a route into Europe for the first time in their history.

Coup de France Final – Marseille v PSG

Our next stop takes us to the French capital and Saint-Denis where bitter rivals PSG and Marseille clash in the Coup de France. The two sides last met in the final in 2006 where the Parisians ran out 2-1 winners.

This will be Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s last game for PSG and he will be aiming to lift one final trophy as the curtain comes down on his trophy laden career in the French capital. The Swede will looking to fire Laurent Blanc’s side to a second straight domestic treble which would send PSG level with Marseille as 10 time winners of the Coup de France.

Marseille haven’t won this competition for 27 years and this game presents the perfect opportunity for them to salvage their season. The club finished in 13th place, their lowest league position since 2000/01, and a win against their bitter rivals would put this disappointment behind them.

DFB-Pokal Final – Bayern Munich v Borussia Dortmund

We now cross the border into Germany and head to Berlin for the DFB-Pokal Final, where heavyweights Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund clash. There is huge motivation for both sides, not least because of the rivalry that has existed between them in recent years. Between them, Bayern and Dortmund have won the last six Bundesliga titles and the DFB-Pokal in three of the last four seasons. On many of those occasions they have gone head-to-head for the silverware.

This will also be Pep Guardiola’s final game in charge of the Bavarians before his move to Manchester City. Guardiola has guided Bayern to DFB-Pokal glory before and that was at the expense to Dortmund in 2014 when they won the domestic dobule. The Spaniard will be hoping to win one final piece of silverware and also Bayern’s 18th DFB-Pokal.

Dortmund will be hoping for a case of third time lucky as they lost both the 2014 and 2015 finals. This season they have been reinvigorated under Thomas Tuchel and in contrast to the two previous seasons, have pushed Bayern in the title race to the final two games of the season. They are now once again a domestic threat to Bayern and will be hoping to win their fourth DFB-Pokal title.

Coppa Italia Final – AC Milan v Juventus

We now travel south to the Italian peninsula and to the Stadio Olimpico in Rome for the 68th Coppa Italia Final, between Milan and Juventus. Whilst Juventus will be chasing a domestic double, Milan will be looking to salvage some pride after a disappointing season.

Milan have not won any silverware since the 2011 Supercoppa Italiana following their Serie A title in 2010-11, under the guidance of Massimiliano Allegri (who incidentally is now the manager of Juventus). Since then Milan have been in transition whilst Juventus have gone from strength-to-strength.

After winning their fifth consecutive Serie A title, Juventus are now aiming to win back-to-back doubles and their 11th Coppa Italia. The Bianconeri won last season’s Coppa Italia, which ended a 20 year wait since they last won the tournament. If they win it once again, they will join Inter (2005-2006 and 2010-2011) and Roma (2007-2008) as the only teams to win back-to-back cups in the 21st century.

Copa del Rey Final – Barcelona v Sevilla

Last but not least, we head to Spain and to the Vicente Calderón in Madrid for the Copa del Rey Final, where Sevilla face reigning champions, Barcelona. The last time these two teams met in a final, was the 2015 European Super Cup, which Barcelona won 5-4 after extra time.

Barcelona have previously played in 37 Copa del Rey finals, winning on a record 27 occasions. They are currently the reigning champions, having defeated Athletic Club in 2015. As well as looking to win back-to-back cups, they are also aiming to claim another domestic double after winning the league for the sixth time in eight years.

Sevilla are entering the game after winning the Europa League for the third successive year. This will be their seventh final, with their most recent appearance being in 2010, when they defeated Atlético Madrid 2-0. Sevilla have the chance to win both the Copa del Rey and Europa League double for the second time in their history, having achieved this feat in 2006/07.



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Juventus’ unrepentant dominance of Italian football continued this season as the Turin giants stormed to their fifth straight Scudetto. Despite only picking up 15 points from their first 11 league games, Juve won the title at a canter and have only conceded six Serie A goals in 2016, a sensational defensive achievement.

The concern for Italian football is this, their 2015/16 Scudetto may well be the closest they have been pushed since the first of the five – when AC Milan were still considered genuine title challengers. As much as Juventus should be applauded for this, the fact they have changed managers, lost players and failed to compete significantly in Europe reflects badly on the rest of Serie A. When Allegri replaced Conte it was considered as the chance for Napoli, Roma and Internazionale to push the door open. Unfortunately, the door was only left ajar briefly and the Turin giants have resumed their monopolisation of the Scudetto. Losing Arturo Vidal and Carlos Tevez has not even dampened Juventus’ assault on Italian football.

Juventus’ Champions League final appearance last season was a sign that Allegri might finally be converting their Serie A dominance into European success, but a succession of tough draws have meant that this five year winning streak is yet to be rewarded with the ultimate prize in European football. Italian football is not what it was in the 90s, players do not clamour for a move to the top clubs and the corruption scandal is still hanging over the country’s game. As good as Juve are, the fact that they have faced no regular, head-to-head competitor over this period of time is a damning reflection of the weakness of the league.

Whilst the national team continues to fluctuate in their performances, Serie A is slipping out of contention and is firmly behind the Bundesliga, Premier League and La Liga when it comes to the European footballing hierarchy. It speaks volumes that a side as unstoppably dominant as Juventus are struggling to keep their stars; with Dybala and Paul Pogba both consistently linked with moves to other clubs of the European elite.

You have to trawl back to 2011/12 to find the last time a team other than Juventus made the quarter-finals of the Champions League – when AC Milan were eliminated by Barcelona. Two Italian sides made the Europa League semis in 2014/15, but both were defeated. Their European struggles show how far Italian football has slipped off the pace and this is just being extenuated by the dominance of the Old Lady. Players who may already be sceptical of a move to Serie A are just going to be further deterred when they realise that even a move to Napoli or Roma does not mean you will even come close to the title.

Under Antonio Conte records regularly tumbled for Juve. In 2011-12 they became the first Serie A side to complete a league season unbeaten whilst their 2013-14 Scudetto saw them accumulate the most points ever, 102. Success for a club on such a scale is usually met with plaudits, met with adulation and even European dominance. Seldom are their rivals questioned, or the league brought in to question. There is no reason to change anything just to stop one team winning, but such a prolonged period of significant trophy-collecting is going to rapidly damage Italian football as a whole. Their rivals clearly must take some blame. Both Inter and AC Milan have stumbled into the ‘sleeping giant’ category, as Napoli have seen their brilliant squad of 2011-13 picked apart and age rapidly, even the prolific Gonzalo Higuain can’t carry Partenopei towards a substantial title challenge.

It might take a disappointing Euros this summer – after their group elimination in at the 2014 Brazil World Cup – to awaken Italian football. There is not always a correlation between a strong national league and a formidable national team, but it often helps. The current Juventus squad only features a smattering of Italians, it is a matter of time until we see the impact this has on Antonio Conte’s fate at Euro 2016.

Five consecutive Scudettos is astonishing, it is the sort of achievement that would have made a team go down in the history books. However, the failings in Europe and weaknesses of Juve’s opponents somewhat undermine their domestic achievements. It may take a mass exodus of the Old Lady’s stars to reignite Serie A.

About the author- Sam Cox

Sam is a writer who is a regular with Football FanCast and has featured on uMAXit, Collossus bets and Late Tackle.

twitter: @10InTheHole


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Juventus have always had a top midfield throughout the ages: Pirlo, Nedved, Vidal, Zidane, Roberto Baggio are a few of the names that come to mind. However the list goes on and on. When Pirlo and Vidal left the club, in 2015, the Italian supporters were concerned about who would now be the “fuel” to keep the Vecchia Signora’s engine running smoothly.

The tackling characteristics of both Khedira and Marchisio, which made them into more defensive than attacking midfielders, forced Allegri to act fast and with accuracy. And then, right before his eyes, was an attacking playmaker who covered the whole field, gifted with a great technique and an amazing shooting ability – Paul Pogba. The kid who left Manchester United in 2012 quickly became one of the most promising players in the world.

Knowing what we know now, we are able to see how crazy it was for the Red Devils , to sell the youngster back in 2012 for a shocking £3.5 million, particularly with him now being valued at around £70 million. United aren’t the only ones guilty of letting a future star slip through their fingers. AC Milan also regret the exit of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in 2012, and Arsenal fans surely remember when Ibrahimović was only perceived as good enough for a trial at the club in 2000. Mistakes are very common in football. Nevertheless, Pogba is now happier than ever, and it’s a joy to watch him play and develop into one of the world’s top midfielders.

Yes, it’s true: some of his actions demonstrate that he still has a lot of psychological growing to do, but only time will give him the maturity needed. On the pitch, he is a complete player, combining a mix of technique, shooting, passing, dribbling and speed; Outside of football, he is a kid having fun and enjoying his young age. Let’s not blame him, after all you are only young once. In a few years, providing he’s able to avoid the “Balotelli path”, he will be the top midfielder in the world, joining Zidane and Baggio in the list of the Hall-of-Famers. If he’s lucky, the Ballon D’Or will also be within his grasp.

In a total of 33 matches this season, Pogba has 6 goals and  9 assists to his name, and his performances have been a delight to all the football fans. At the tender age of of just 22 years old, he’s still very young and has many years ahead of him. Juventus were the first club who welcomed him and treated him like the irreverent top player that he is, and now the question is who’s going to be the next one – everyone has acknowledged the mighty interest of both Barcelona and Real Madrid, but Pep Guardiola has been watching closely, protected by the Manchester City’s infinite richness. Who will win the race?

About the author – Luis Costa

Luis has a great passion for football and has been playing Soccer Manager for 5 years. He played semi-professional football for 13 years and is currently a regional referee in Madeira’s football association.


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Juventus are not used to losing matches in Serie A. The Bianconeri, Italy’s most successful and well-supported club, have won the last four league titles on the peninsula and were widely backed to secure a fifth consecutive championship this term.

Things did not begin well for Max Allegri’s side, however. A shock opening-day loss at home to Udinese was not the start to the season most people envisaged, with a subsequent defeat to Roma and draw with Chievo leaving Juventus with just one point from their opening three matches.

The departure of Arturo Vidal (to Bayern Munich), Andrea Pirlo (New York City) and Carlos Tevez (Boca Juniors) – all key figures in last season’s domestic double and run to the Champions League final – clearly had an effect, but injuries and a loss of form suffered by many of the players who remained also proved costly early on. A 2-0 win at Genoa hinted that the worst was behind Juventus, but a subsequent 1-1 draw at home to Frosinone and 2-1 defeat against Napoli left the Old Lady in the bottom half of the table and Allegri scratching his head.

Fortunately for the Turin-based giants, that setback at the Stadio San Paolo looks to have been the nadir. Juve have won four of their six Serie A encounters since then, with a 0-0 draw with Inter at San Siro in October also going down as a positive result.

Indeed, there is now hope that a title challenge may not be out of the question after all. Juventus currently find themselves nine points behind Inter and Fiorentina at the top but, with important players finding form and the squad continuing to gel, a fifth successive Scudetto remains a realistic enough target.

What makes the title race in Italy so intriguing this year is that there is no team without flaws: Inter are severely lacking in creativity; Roma look shaky at the back; Fiorentina do not possess much strength in depth; Napoli are heavily reliant on Gonzalo Higuain; and Milan simply lack the requisite quality all over the pitch to compete at the very top of the table.

Where Juventus have a clear advantage is in their experience of winning trophies. Gianluigi Buffon, Patrice Evra, Giorgio Chiellini, Claudio Marchisio, Stephan Lichtsteiner, Andrea Bazargli, Mario Mandzukic, Leonardo Bonucci and Sami Khedira are all vastly experienced professionals, while even younger players such as Paul Pogba, Alex Sandro and Alvaro Morata know what it is like to compete for major honours. As the season grows older and the race for silverware intensifies, it could be that factor that makes the difference.

Juventus, though, know that they cannot afford another major blip between now and the campaign’s end; falling significantly more than nine points behind the summit would make the task of finishing top of the pile once more extremely difficult indeed.

In a way, then, the pressure remains on Juventus despite the fact that many onlookers now consider Roma, Inter and Napoli the three favourites. Max Allegri’s side may not be the pacesetters this year, but they will certainly not give up their crown without a fight.

About the Author – Greg Lea

Freelance football writer. Work published by FourFourTwo, The Guardian, World Soccer, Goal, The National, Squawka, Eurosport, The Blizzard + others.

Twitter @GregLeaFootball


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