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Five Reasons to Watch Football This Weekend

The title race is over, so tune in to the real game of the season: Tim Sherwood FC vs. Liverpool
April 17, 2015, 5:14pm
Illustration by Sam Taylor

CAN CHELSEA–UNITED GIVE US SOMETHING TO REMEMBER?

Given the way the two have tended to share the title between themselves since José Mourinho's first reign, you'd think there'd be more of a rivalry here. On the one hand, they're only two unrelated clubs united solely by wealth, success, and scoring in the fucking 89th minute after playing like shit for the whole game fucking typical why do we never win anything. Yet so were United and Arsenal, and that gave us John O'Shea's chipped winner, Keown on Van Nistelrooy, Pizzagate, and plenty more besides. This fixture is just a long line of 1-0 wins with John Terry from a corner and Alex Ferguson humiliating referees.

There was one great game, of course, in 2008. A time when both of these teams were truly great, recent enough that there are still some survivors that'll be playing this weekend. It's been a sad decline then, even for the champions elect Chelsea, whose comfortable dominance has ultimately made this game largely meaningless.

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The main thing to look out for is whether or not Louis van Gaal is on a purple patch or has really found a winning formula. The latter won't be in doubt if he wins at Stamford Bridge. But to put all that off for a second, this season has had no memorable moments and yet we were promised beef for breakfast, lunch and dinner upon Mourinho's return. Van Gaal was hyped as a narcissistic megalomaniac, and yet his beef level has been Sam Allardyce. Can he up his game? We've not long left to get something out of this season, and a full-on touchline brawl – Mourinho sliding on his knees into Van Gaal's prone head, Ryan Giggs putting Rui Faria in a stern, unbending headlock – is the only way to save it.

READ MORE: Are English Clubs Victims of Their Own Wealth?

CAN ARSENAL SALVAGE SOMETHING FROM THEIR SEASON

The Waitrose Derby is a big one this time around, as the two meet in an FA Cup semi-final. Don't expect fireworks, though: the narrative being pushed in the press is "Reading's Hal Robson-Kanu wants to take revenge against the club that released him as a teenager", so maybe look elsewhere if you want even a modicum of aggro.

If Arsenal have blown their chance at the title – pause for canned laughter – they at least have one more chance to show the world what they're about by fucking up a big cup game. Given how this season is going, they probably will, because there are only two outcomes: Arsenal romp to a 5-0 win and Giroud's hat-trick be used in a stat to claim he's better than Robin van Persie in his prime, or we have to watch an FA Cup Final featuring Reading. Where they will lose 5-0 or win. There is no good option here, folks.

THE BATTLE FOR PROMOTION

The Premier League might be over, but the Championship is providing the goods as usual, with a phenomenally tight race for automatic promotion. Not long after giving us the greatest finale to a season in human history, there's two points between the top four teams, and two of them are doing battle in an early start to the weekend on Friday night.

The downside to this is, of course: eurgh, Norwich? Middlesbrough? Who wants to see these showers again? The managers are at least a bit interesting, though. You may recall a couple of years ago you went "huh, Boro have hired a Barcelona coach as manager?", but it's worked out reasonably well and Aitor Karanka looks about to take them up. In the Norwich dugout meanwhile is Alex Neil, the third-youngest manager in the Football League – albeit one who looks like a 53-year-old Tory councillor.

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Anyway, it should be a pretty good game, and since Ipswich are out of the race for the automatic spots, the situation we all want – Mick McCarthy coming up, giving us a few good GIFs then going straight back down again – isn't at risk. Fill your boots.

MARVEL AT HOW BADLY RUN A LEAGUE CAN BE

It's Falkirk vs Hibs in the semi-finals of the Scottish Cup this weekend. I don't recommend you watch the game, but there is the possibility that if Hibs win, one of the most hilarious fuck-ups in a football league for quite some time will take place.

Scotland's weird system of splitting the league for the past few games has resulted in a clusterfuck between the FA, clubs, the police and Sky, with everybody failing to agree when the fixtures should take place. The first attempt was to have one of the important last games of the season played after all the others. When it was met with predictable and understandable protest, a statement was released denying that there was anything unusual about this at all, despite the fact no major league has allowed this since the eighties.

It's been reorganised now, but the real fun is that the playoff final for promotion to the Premier League will now take place on the 2nd of June. Scottish contracts, unfortunately, end on the 31st of May. And due to the hand-to-mouth existence of football north of the border, that means that any team likely to be playing in it is going to be missing about twelve players. Yep, Scottish football is now so embarrassing that they've somehow managed to fall victims to an IRL Football Manager 2011 bug. Weep for your northern cousins.

THE GAME OF THE CENTURY

We can all agree it's been a dull season, but if you're looking for one last thrill, you should probably pin all your hopes on Villa vs. Liverpool this weekend. There's a reasonable possibility this could be an all-time classic.

It just has everything: Tim Sherwood riding a wave of arrogance. Brendan Rodgers in utter desperation. A young talented player at war with press and club over contract wranglings and huffing nitrous oxide. Steven Gerrard looking to have his last 30-yard matchwinner or last horrible career-ending blunder. Jack Grealish's hair. A big burly striker who is inconsistent to the point that everybody's vaguely sure he's at some point on the scale between Marlon Harewood and Didier Drogba. It's a blockbuster and no mistake.

READ MORE: The Lost Youth of Raheem Sterling

Maybe with all the talk of how to improve the FA Cup and increase its respect, the solution isn't to scrap replays or give out a Champions League spot to the winner. It's to make the league terrible by comparison and add in Tim Sherwood. Spurs, once again, were at odds with the rest of the country – they're the only thing that can't be improved by the man's presence. We thought this would be the end of his story. Perhaps it's just the beginning.

Originally published by VICE.com