We had cup knockouts and finals all over Europe in midweek, with some familiar names being crowned champions again.
🇮🇹 Italy: Fiorentina 1-2 Inter
Inter Milan further solidified their reputation as a cup team this weekend with their second trophy of the year after the Supercoppa Italiana. This time, they successfully defended their Coppa Italia crown against Fiorentina.
Both teams have arguably bigger finals coming up in the next weeks. Fiorentina will become the first team to feature in the finals of four different UEFA competitions when they take on West Ham United in the Europa Conference League final.
Inter will then take on Manchester City in the final of the Champions League — but, of course, both sides were absolutely up for this match too.
Fiorentina were searching for their first major trophy since 2001 here, and they got off to a great start by taking the lead just three minutes in through Nicolás González.
Inter’s overall performance was pretty off-the-pace, but a Lautaro Martínez brace before half-time put them in the driver’s seat and they stayed there until the end.
For their part, La Viola will really regret their flurry of late misses which cost them the chance to take the game to extra time.
Winning this match would have sealed a spot in Europe for them for next season, but now their hopes are pinned on the Europa Conference League final since they are nowhere near the top seven in the league.
🇧🇬 Bulgaria: CSKA 1948 1-3 Ludogorets
We had a record-breaking cup final in Bulgaria this week, but the record they have broken was an unwanted one.
The reasons behind that will be pretty obvious to those familiar with Bulgarian football. Simply put, the two participating teams are not well-supported at all.
Ludogorets are the dominant force in Bulgarian football, having won every top-flight title since their promotion in 2011 after being revived and bankrolled by billionaire businessman Kiril Domuschiev.
Despite their success, they just about fill a tenth of their 10,000-seater home stadium, so it was no surprise to see very few fans supporting them at the National Stadium in the capital.
CSKA 1948 were only born in 2016 after the death of the original CSKA Sofia. For all intents and purposes, PFC CSKA Sofia are their successors and are now recognised as such by UEFA and other governing bodies.
However, a group of breakaway fans and some ex-players founded CSKA 1948 and claimed to be the successors of CSKA Sofia.
They eventually had to change their logo and adopt the CSKA 1948 name after losing some legal battles, but that was only after they climbed up the divisions starting from the bottom while PFC CSKA Sofia continued in the top flight.
Unsurprisingly, most of the old club’s supporters stuck with CSKA Sofia, so they are very sparsely supported.
It was no surprise to see Ludogorets win yet another trophy, but it was a sad day for Bulgarian football.
🇪🇸 Spain: Athletic Club 0-4 Real Madrid
It is a historic week in Spain, where the Copa de la Reina final will not feature Barcelona for just the second time in eight years.
Their expulsion from the tournament for fielding an ineligible player paved the way for someone else to have a shot at the trophy, which is duly being taken by their biggest rivals.
Real Madrid are among the biggest names in world football, but they very much are newcomers on the women’s football scene.
This was just their third full season after taking over CD TACÓN, who themselves were only founded in 2014 and did not have a single major trophy to their name.
In their very short history, Madrid have had some memorable days. Most notably, they beat Man City to qualify for the group stage of the Champions League last season, where they went as far as the quarter-finals before losing to Barcelona.
They could not quite replicate that this season and were eliminated in the group stage but made up for it by qualifying for their first major final in the Copa de la Reina.
Their opponents in the semi-final were five-time top-flight champions Athletic Club, who did not have a Copa de la Reina trophy in their cabinet either having lost two finals previously.
Despite their greater historical successes, they certainly were the underdogs here having dropped to a mid-table Liga F outfit.
Real Madrid were quick to show why they were favourites too. A typically exquisite chipped finish from Caroline Weir set them on their way in the seventh minute, after which goals from Sandie Toletti and Athenea del Castillo effectively sealed the result before half-time.
Weir scored again early in the second half to be absolutely sure of setting up a Madrid derby Copa de la Reina final.
🇷🇸 Serbia: Crvena zvezda 2-1 Čukarički
Over in Serbia, Crvenza Zvezda’s domination continued as they added yet another title to their collection.
Their comeback win over Čukarički not only meant that they completed the league-cup double, but also extended their domestic unbeaten run which traces all the back to October 2021.
That means they have the chance to complete a full invincible season in all domestic competitions this weekend on the final day of the SuperLiga, when they face sixth-placed Novi Pazar.
Of course, they wrapped up a sixth-consecutive league title a fair while ago, so they are among the most dominant sides in Europe right now.
Despite all their domestic domination, they have not featured in the Champions League proper since 2019, so that is something they must aim to change when they enter the qualifiers at the start of the 2023/24 season.
🏴 England: Newcastle United 0-0 Leicester City
We will end our weekly roundup with a league match from England, where the major European spots have all been decided before the final day.
Newcastle United sealed a spot in the top four with a goalless draw against Leicester City, which means they will be back in Europe’s premier club competition after a three-decade-long absence next season.
They will be joined by Manchester United, whose win over Chelsea condemned Liverpool to the Europa League, where they will be joined by Brighton & Hove Albion.
The match at St James’ Park was also a crucial one at the other end of the table, as Leicester started three points from safety in 19th spot.
Their overall performance was really poor as they failed to register a single shot in normal time and conceded 23, yet they almost stole the win at the death.
This result keeps them in the drop zone, leaving them needing a win and a favour from elsewhere on the final day if they are to stay up.
👀 What To Watch Next:
Another busy weekend is in store for us, and here are some big games to watch:
🇩🇪 Germany: Borussia Dortmund vs Mainz 05 (Saturday, 13:30 UTC)
It’s the final day of the Bundesliga season, and Bayern are not leading the league! Dortmund have the chance to end their decade-long streak by beating mid-table Mainz.
🏴 England: Coventry City vs Luton Town (Saturday, 15:45 UTC)
Saturday will also be the final day of the season in both of England’s senior top flights, but perhaps the biggest game will be the Championship play-off final between Coventry City and Luton Town, as both sides look to end over two-decade-long absences from the big time.
🇵🇹 Portugal: Benfica vs Santa Clara (Saturday, 17:00 UTC)
The Liga Portugal season will also draw to a close on Saturday when Benfica will likely seal their first title in four years as they need just a point against bottom-club Santa Clara.
🇳🇱 Netherlands: AZ vs PSV Eindhoven (Sunday, 12:30 UTC)
The Eredivisie’s final matchday is on Sunday when the order of the European qualifiers will be decided. PSV need at least a point to be sure of fending off Ajax for the second Champions League spot, but AZ have the chance to leapfrog last season’s champions if they win and Ajax lose.
🇲🇽 Mexico: Chivas vs Tigres (Monday, 01:35 UTC)
It is time for the decider of the 2022/23 Clausura in Liga MX. The first leg between Chivas and Tigres ended goalless, so they have all to play for on Sunday night.
Stats courtesy Transfermarkt and FotMob.
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