Some of Europe’s biggest clubs will face off this weekend in what promises to be a thrilling carnival of football on the continent.
From local rivalries to historically fiery encounters, CNN takes a look at three of the biggest matches of the next few days — one even involves arguably the biggest music artist on the planet.
First in Spain, where bitter rivals Real Madrid and Barcelona play at the Bernabeu Stadium on Sunday.
It’s been something of a return to normalcy in La Liga with both teams battling for supremacy once again.
Financial problems contributed to a difficult season for Barcelona last year but he appears to be returning to his domestic best under the supervision of big club Xavi. He currently sits atop the table – although only goal difference separates him from champions Real.
Madrid, who won the title last season at a gallop, may hold a mental advantage ahead of this season’s first El Clasico.
As Madrid progressed to the Champions League Round of 16 with a last-minute equalizer against Shakhtar Donetsk on Wednesday, Barcelona’s hopes of a place in the Round of 16 hang by a thread after a draw spectacular against Inter Milan.
With qualification for the Champions League round of 16 now looking unlikely, Xavi is keen for his side to use that frustration ahead of Sunday’s game against arch-rivals Barcelona.
“What we have left is to quickly turn our attention to Sunday’s Clasico, bounce back and focus on La Liga because the Champions League has become very difficult and complicated for us,” Xavi told Movistar Plus. Wednesday.
One bright spot for Barcelona is Robert Lewandowski’s form, with the Polish striker scoring twice against Inter Milan in midweek.
He is currently top of the La Liga goalscoring charts, having scored nine goals in eight games this season.
Meanwhile, Real Madrid remain unbeaten in all competitions this season and will have the home advantage against Barcelona.
But the host side are not without problems, with star Karim Benzema and goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois doubting a possible injury for the game.
And Madrid have also struggled to keep clean sheets in the league this season, conceding seven to Barcelona – but have been able to rely on in-form Vinicius Jr. to provide goals when needed.
With both teams yet to lose in the league this season, you feel something has to give.
But wait, the game will also feature rap superstar Drake, who lent his OVO logo to the Barcelona home kit.
The Canadian entertainer has become the first person to reach 50 billion streams on Spotify and his iconic owl emblem will replace the streaming service’s logo on the front of the shirt for Sunday’s game.
Spotify began sponsoring Barcelona this season and the initiative with Drake is part of the duo’s mission to “bring football and music together to connect with new audiences around the world”, the club said.
“It doesn’t look real but it is,” Drake added on Instagram, while holding the Barcelona shirt.
It may not be a historic rivalry, but these teams have been two of the most impressive teams in Europe in recent years.
Both clubs have pushed each other to ridiculous levels of consistency, breaking numerous records along the way.
While previous encounters have been touted as possible title makers, there’s a slightly different feel to Sunday’s tie.
Liverpool have really struggled with their league performances this season and seemed like a shadow of their former self.
The loss of Sadio Mane to Bayern Munich appears to have disrupted a previously lethal frontline and the form of key defenders such as Virgil van Dijk and Trent Alexander-Arnold has contributed to uneven results.
According to sports data company Gracenote, Liverpool have conceded first in six of their last eight league games. Moreover, in any Premier League game where he conceded a goal, the opponent always scored first.
Liverpool currently sit 10th in the league, already 14 points behind second-placed Manchester City, who trail leaders Arsenal by just one point.
A cathartic 7-1 thrashing against Rangers in the Champions League on Wednesday will help build momentum ahead of the game, with Mohamed Salah also returning to form with a brilliant hat-trick.
“Yes, it has completely changed the mood, but we all know who we are hosting on Sunday and it will be a different game, but it is better to go with this feeling that we have tonight than any other,” manager Jurgen said. Klopp after Wednesday’s win.
Liverpool will face a City side that have blown teams away this season, scoring 33 goals in nine games.
Worryingly for the Reds, City manager Pep Guardiola was able to rest key players in their 0-0 draw with FC Copenhagen on Tuesday and they will be fresh for their trip to Anfield.
One of those players is Erling Haaland, who has been nothing short of a revelation this season.
He appears to be the missing piece in City’s bid for a maiden Champions League title. The 22-year-old is in unprecedented scoring form having already netted 15 times in just nine league appearances.
According to Gracenote, Manchester City are creating three major chances per game this season, a frightening statistic when combined with the goalscoring form of strikers Haaland and Phil Foden.
However, if any defender can stop City, it’s likely to be Van Dijk. The Dutchman hasn’t been at his best so far this season but a battle against Haaland could prove to be the motivation he needs.
With Anfield set to bounce back on Sunday, this City side could face their toughest test yet.
Finally in France, where defending champion PSG hosts a historically fiery clash against Marseille, in a game dubbed Le Classique.
Only three points separate the two teams – PSG are top while Marseille are third – but it might not be a bad time for the visitors to travel to the French capital.
PSG have been rocked by swirling speculation around Kylian Mbappé’s future and the league leader could miss out on some of his biggest names for Sunday’s clash.
While PSG played down rumors surrounding Mbappé, many top journalists said the star striker was unhappy with the club’s hierarchy and was considering a move away from the team.
Meanwhile, PSG will be without banned defender Sergio Ramos and potentially Lionel Messi, who has missed the previous two matches with a calf injury.
However, PSG head coach Christophe Galtier gave fans hope the Argentine would be fit again when he spoke to reporters midweek.
“We will see how it evolves during the week, and it is very likely that he will be available for Marseille,” he said.
Marseille, meanwhile, are a growing team and can make life difficult for the host.
Such is the animosity between two of France’s biggest teams, Marseille fans were banned from attending this match last year for crowd safety reasons.
Since 2018, Marseille fans have not been allowed to enter the Parc des Princes to watch Le Classique.