Soccer on TV: The NWSL playoffs start, plus derbies in Manchester, Milan and Seville
Gotham FC's Carli Lloyd plays against her first professional club in what could be her last game.
Note to readers: The big games on the last day of the MLS regular season are detailed in a separate piece. Click here to read it.
Manchester United vs. Manchester City
Saturday, 8:30 a.m. (NBCSN, Telemundo)
As headline-grabbing as United’s wild comebacks against Atalanta in the Champions League were, they’re actually nothing new for the club. The Red Devils have been playing games like that for decades, and no one knows it better than manager Ole Gunnar Solskjær. He helped author one of United’ss all-time come-from-behind wins in the 1999 men’s Champions League final.
But while it may be an entertaining way to live, it’s not healthy, and this game might reveal the truth. City will be fired up after losing at Crystal Palace 2-0 last Saturday, then thumping Club Brugge at home 4-1 on Wednesday. If Pep Guardiola’s team delivers a big win over its crosstown rival, expect Solskjær’s seat to get hot again.
» READ MORE: The rest of this weekend's Premier League schedule
Banbury United vs. Barrow
Saturday, 1:15 p.m. (ESPN+)
The first official round of England’s FA Cup takes place this weekend, with some terrific underdog stories in the spotlight. Banbury is a seventh-tier team from near Oxford that’s 90 years old. Its stadium, which is almost as old as the team, can hold 6,500 fans - but just 250 of them in seats. Barrow is a fourth-tier team that won the FA Trophy, a tournament for non-league and semi-pro teams, in 2010.
There are 40 games in the first round, with participating teams spanning England’s third tier all the way down to its eighth. ESPN+ will carry eight games across the weekend.
RB Leipzig vs. Borussia Dortmund
Saturday, 1:30 p.m. (ESPN+)
Leipzig snatched a 2-2 tie at home against Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League on Wednesday with a 92nd-minute penalty kick, giving their European campaign a badly-needed breath of life. Let’s see if the momentum carries into the Bundesliga in a matchup that usually produces high-scoring games.
» READ MORE: The rest of this weekend's Bundesliga schedule
Arsenal vs. West Ham United
You don’t have to wake up early this weekend to watch Tobin Heath play for Arsenal, and try to help the Gunners stay atop the FA Women’s Super League standings.
» READ MORE: The rest of this weekend's FAWSL schedule
AC Milan vs. Inter Milan
Sunday, 2:45 p.m. (Paramount+)
Officially, the Milan derby is called the Derby della Madonnina, named for the statue of the Virgin Mary atop the city’s famed Duomo cathedral. Unofficially, it’s Italy’s most famous rivalry, and often its best.
In addition to having stars on the field like Milan’s Zlatan Ibrahimović and Inter’s Lautaro Martínez, the teams are second and third in the Serie A standings, with Milan seven points above Inter and tied on points with first-place Napoli. It should be another electric scene at the San Siro, one of the world’s grandest soccer stadiums.
» READ MORE: The rest of this weekend's Serie A schedule
Real Betis vs. Sevilla
Sunday, 3 p.m. (ESPN+)
Last weekend’s preview column neglected the Basque derby, Real Sociedad vs. Athletic Bilbao, one of Spain’s most fun rivalries. We won’t make that same mistake with the Seville derby, another terrific local grudge match. It’s the only one that gets called El Gran Derbi, “The Great Derby,” and it’s been played since 1915.
Sevilla has a pair of great forwards in Alejandro “Papu” Gómez and Rafa Mir. Betis’s squad includes Mexican superstar Diego Lainez, who is finally back from a long injury absence — though not on El Tri’s squad for this month’s World Cup qualifiers.
» READ MORE: The rest of this weekend's La Liga schedule
Chicago Red Stars vs. Gotham FC
Sunday, 3 p.m. (CBS Sports Network)
The biggest spotlight will be on Gotham’s Carli Lloyd, as the team where she began her pro career in 2009 tries to end that career in the first round of the playoffs. But there will be big-time players to watch all over the field.
Chicago winger Mallory Pugh has been playing very well, and has regained a place with the U.S. national team after falling down the depth chart. And Gotham’s Margaret Purce will be trying to book a seat on the U.S.’ flight to Australia for a much-anticipated two-game tour Down Under at the end of the month.
Washington Spirit vs. North Carolina Courage
Sunday, 5:30 p.m. (Paramount+)
While the Spirit’s year was full of turmoil off the field, the team was amazingly successful on the field. So successful, in fact, that Washington finished third in the standings despite having to forfeit two games due to breaches of COVID-19 protocols.
The squad is bursting with young talent, from defenders Sam Staab and Tegan McGrady to Golden Boot-winning forward Ashley Hatch and 19-year-old phenom Trinity Rodman, the daughter of NBA Hall of Famer Dennis Rodman. And amid them all is Andi Sullivan, the present captain of the club and a potential future captain of the U.S. national team, directing traffic and controlling the tempo in central midfield.
The Courage have had their own share of turmoil with the firing of manager Paul Riley amid abuse allegations, and their sixth-place finish was their worst since 2015 — when the club was the Western New York Flash. But those veterans have won a pile of trophies over the years, including three NWSL regular-season titles and two playoff championships. This is their time of year.