Can't Miss: Three Clutch Clashes

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By Tim Stannard



Derby day for East Midlands rivals showcasing new coaches

A former European giant that is a long, long, long way off the path of success and wandering in weeds of weariness.

A team that is desperate to return to the limelight, but struggling in England's Championship, and going into the weekend with a brand new coach where they will taking on their biggest local rival.

Actually, make that two teams. 

Both Nottingham Forest and Derby County are blood brothers in having horrendous campaigns but are hoping that the final nine matches of the regular season will bring about better days. Forest have brought in former Brentford and Rangers boss, Mark Warburton, to save the side from the relegation zone, which is just two places and two points away.



Derby County still have a faint chance of reaching the playoffs, ten points away and opted to sack former England manager, Steve McClaren for the second time in two years last weekend. The replacement is Gary Rowett, who was himself fired by Birmingham earlier this season for no good reason at all.  

How these two clubs set off in yet another reboot for both is critical. The action in going to be spiky in this thunderous local derby. 


History but not form working against Madrid in San Mames sizzler 

It's one of those matches where the common thought would be that the clash is a tough test for Real Madrid up in San Mames. However the reality is quite, quite different with the Basque outfit being one of the favorite opposition sides for the league leaders with Athletic losing 12 out of the last 14 league games against Madrid. Which has to sting. 

So does the fact that Cristiano Ronaldo has stuck 16 goals in 15 games past Athletic. Madrid will need that kind of form again to turn the screw on Barcelona's title hopes as the season begins the downhill stage with as many extraordinary highs and tree-smashes as Lindsey Vonn. 


The one cold, hard stat that is working against Madrid in this match-up is the fact that Athletic are unbeaten in San Mames for 19 games. Anything less than three points for the visitors could see the title race being thrown open once again. Not the first time, and not for the last. 




Valencia look to regain respect in huge Camp Nou clash 

Valencia might just be the perfect opposition for Barcelona in the Camp Nou. A big enough name for the Barcelona players not to drop their guard and sleep-walk into a game, as last weekend against Deportivo, but still pitiful enough not to cause too much major opposition. 

And pitiful is a fairly apt description of Valencia this season, with the club pottering about on 30 points - neither interesting enough to truly trouble the relegation zone under Voro nor with enough ambition to move any higher. It's a state of affairs best proven by the team's last two results - a hammering by Atletico Madrid and then a lame surrender in a 1-1 draw in Mestalla against a Segunda-bound Sporting. 


Just two of the past 19 league games against Valencia have been lost by Barcelona and unless the visitors show any kind of form that beat Real Madrid a month ago, that run will extend to 20.