The weekend’s 3 to See for the weekend 10th-13th May, as brought to you by Just Football:
Crystal Palace v Brighton
(Friday 10th May – 19.45 GMT)
After Leicester and Watford did battle in the first of the Championship play-off semi finals on Thursday attention turns to the teams who finished 5th and 4th in the Championship respectively, as Crystal Palace face fierce rivals Brighton and Hove Albion in what should be a tense and dramatic play off.
The two teams are separated by some 45 miles, but despite this the rivalry is strong, dating back to the 1970s.
Clashes between the two in recent years have seen several fans arrested in a bitter atmosphere, and as such both teams announced a rather draconian set of rules for fans wishing to acquire tickets for the game, including making supporters’ seat numbers available to both Metropolitan and Sussex Police and one year bans for anyone found to have sold their tickets onto another person. Ludicrous, really.
Despite the authority’s attempts to limit trouble – or, as some might see it, suck all the life out of an intriguing rivalry – it should be an exciting game between two of the most exciting sides in the division.
Both Palace and Brighton outscored the two automatically promoted teams Cardiff City and Hull City, and with Brighton hitting 10 goals in their last 3 games Ian Holloway’s Palace will have to be wary. In return, Gus Poyet’s team need beware of the prolific former Brighton player turned Palace hotshot Glenn Murray.
Palace, for their part, managed only one win in their final 10 league games. For those interested in betting on the match, Brighton are the favourites to qualify. The second leg in Brighton is on Monday.
FC Porto v Benfica
(Saturday 11th May – 20.30 GMT)
In arguably the biggest game of the weekend, rivals Porto meet Benfica in Portugal’s ‘O Clàssico’ – a game that should effectively determine the destiny of the league title in Portugal.
Both teams have gone the entire league season thus far unbeaten and only 2 points separate the two teams in the table, with two games remaining, the last game almost academic given the pair’s win record this season.
Benfica have a two-point lead over current champions Porto, but must travel to the Dragao and hope to secure a point at least in order to have their destiny in their own hands going into the final game. Basically, this is as big as it gets.
Both Porto and Benfica have played some stunning football at times this season, Benfica reaching the Europa League final where they will meet Chelsea while Porto were excellent at times in the Champions League (one game where they tore PSG apart at home springs to mind, belying the narrow victory), before succumbing to Malaga.
Lisbon and Porto are the two largest cities in Portugal, with Benfica and Porto the richest and most influential sides in the country. These two pretty much hate each other, and with the likes of James Rodriguez, Jackson Martinez, Oscar Cardozo and co on show, it should be a classic. As a bonus betting offer, Porto are favourites to win this one on home soil.
Manchester United v Swansea City
(Sunday 12th March – 16.00 GMT)
All good things come to an end, so the saying goes and this game will be all about Sir Alex Ferguson, as the most successful manager in English football history calls time on a stunning 26 trophy-laden years in charge at Manchester United.
Ferguson announced his retirement earlier this week in news so big it provided The Guardian website their biggest ever day in terms of traffic, and afforded Sir Alex over 6 million mentions on Twitter. Modern statistics for a traditional manager.
Ferguson has been a pillar of English football for over a quarter of a century now, and with United also set to be handed their 20th Premier League trophy, and final trophy of the Ferguson era, the game is really less important than the spectacle around it.
There won’t be a dry eye in the house on what will be a truly emotional occasion for all Manchester United fans.