Tottenham Hotspur vs. Manchester United
Saturday, 12:30 p.m. (NBC10, Universo)
As ever, the star power in this game could run the lights at Tottenham’s palatial stadium: the home team’s Harry Kane, Dele Alli and Heung-Min Son against the visitors’ Cristiano Ronaldo, Bruno Fernandes, Marcus Rashford, and more.
But the biggest spotlight won’t be on any player. It will be on United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjær, whose seat is scalding-hot after the Red Devils were demolished 5-0 at home by Liverpool last Sunday. Life won’t get any easier after this game, with upcoming contests against Manchester City, Chelsea and Arsenal in the Premier League and Atalanta and Villarreal in the Champions League.
“After Liverpool, it appears that his position is untenable,” NBC’s lead soccer play-by-play voice Arlo White told The Inquirer this week. He was at Old Trafford last weekend, and will call Saturday’s game too — one he labeled “arguably the biggest game” of Solskjær’s managerial career.
Of course, plenty of fans would be happy for their team to be in seventh place in the Premier League and a Champions League participant. But when it comes to Manchester United — much like Notre Dame and the Dallas Cowboys, whose prime-time football games on NBC this weekend White will be promoting — everything is bigger.
“They had a good offseason: they bought around they bought Jaden Sancho, and then lo and behold, Cristiano Ronaldo signed up, so United fans were in a fervor,” White said. And after a 5-1 rout of old rival Leeds to start the season, he added, “it looked like they were going to perhaps finally launch a challenge for the title.”
Those times feel a long way in the past now. White doesn’t believe Solskjær’s players have quit on their boss, but he senses that something isn’t right.
“They’ve been sloppy, they lack energy, they’ve lacked desire, they’ve lacked quality, and they’ve conceded nine goals in the last two games.” he said. “Whether that is something internal that we don’t know about, I’m not entirely sure … I think, looking at the games from the outside, that they feel overmatched when they go out on to the field — and underprepared.”
Solskjær can still save his job, but White isn’t alone in rendering that verdict on the Premier League’s most famous club. Critics around the world have said the same thing. And of course, England’s voracious sports media has feasted on the drama.
“It’s always going to be back-page news whatever happens, good or bad, at Old Trafford,” White said, and it will be again this weekend.
» READ MORE: The rest of this weekend's Premier League schedule
Barcelona vs. Alavés
Saturday, 3 p.m. (ESPN+)
It certainly wasn’t enjoyable for Barcelona to lose to Real Madrid, but it was understandable. Getting beaten 1-0 at Rayo Vallecano on Wednesday, however, was too much. Manager Ronald Koeman was fired that night, with the team ninth in La Liga and third in its Champions League group.
For all the bigger issues caused by Barcelona’s over $1 billion in debt, everyone who follows the team knew firing Koeman had to happen. Now it’s just a matter of waiting to bring club legend Xavi Hernández home from his current job managing Qatari club Al Sadd. It will happen, according to many reports out of Europe, once Hernández gets out of his Al Sadd contract.
Until then, Barcelona’s reserve team coach Sergi Barjuán will take charge of the senior squad’s games.
Hiring Xavi won’t make Barcelona’s old players any younger, or its younger players — especially young defenders like Óscar Mingueza, Eric García and Sergiño Dest — any more experienced. Xavi might not even succeed, given the enormous pressure that will be on him.
But even in the darkest of times for one of Europe’s giants, the squad still has plenty of talent, and its record should not be as bad as it is. We’ll see if the players play better now that Koeman is gone. Sixteenth-place Alavés, whose defense includes U.S. national team centerback Matt Miazga, should certainly be beatable.
» READ MORE: The rest of this weekend's La Liga schedule
Manchester City vs. Chelsea
Sunday, 8:45 a.m. (ESPN+)
Manchester City’s Lucy Bronze and Chelsea’s Fran Kirby headline this clash of powerhouses in the FA Cup semifinals. Tobin Heath’s Arsenal will face Brighton in the second semifinal later Sunday (12:45 p.m., ESPN+).
Roma vs. AC Milan
Sunday, 3:45 p.m. (Paramount+)
Fourth in Serie A, Roma ended a three-game winless skid with a 2-1 win at Cagliari on Wednesday. The Giallorossi will be tested again by a Milan squad that’s tied on points with Napoli atop the standings.
» READ MORE: The rest of this weekend's Serie A schedule
Orlando City vs. Nashville SC
Sunday, 4 p.m. (UniMás, TUDN, twitter.com/MLS)
The Union will be watching this game closely before their Sunday night game against Cincinnati. Nashville moved back into second place on Wednesday by beating Cincinnati while the Union were tying Toronto. Orlando fell to fifth with a loss at Columbus.
Gotham FC vs. Racing Louisville
Sunday, 3 p.m. (CBS Sports Network)
It will be Carli Lloyd’s last regular-season game of her career, but it might not be her last game in her native New Jersey. Gotham will clinch a playoff berth with a win, and could get a first-round home game if Washington slips up at home vs. Houston earlier Sunday (2 p.m., Paramount+) or Chicago fails to beat Orlando on Friday (7 p.m., twitch.tv/NWSLofficial).
But if Gotham loses, it could be overtaken by Houston and the North Carolina Courage, which visits first-place Portland on Saturday (10 p.m., twitch.tv/NWSLofficial). That would make this game the last Lloyd plays as a pro.
Seattle Sounders vs. Los Angeles Galaxy
Monday, 10 p.m. (TUDN, twitter.com/MLS)
After holding a huge lead atop the Western Conference at the start of this month, MVP candidate Joao Paulo and the Sounders have shockingly gone winless in their last four games and fallen out of first place. They will try to get back on track against Javier Hernández and a Galaxy team trying to hold on to sixth place, in a rare Monday night MLS game.
» READ MORE: The rest of this weekend's MLS schedule