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Happy Friday, you made it through another week. After a midweek feast of UEFA Champions League and Europa League action, attention turns to what could prove to be a memorable Barcelona derby for La Liga champions-elect Barca come Sunday. Our Golazo Starting XI newsletter brings you the best in soccer three times per week and I am Jonathan Johnson delivering that to your inbox.  

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📺 Top picks across Paramount+

All times U.S./Eastern

Friday, May 12
🇮🇹 Serie A: Lazio vs. Lecce, 2:45 p.m. ➡️ CBS Sports Golazo Network
🇺🇸 NWSL: Racing Louisville vs. Chicago Red Stars, 7:30 p.m. ➡️ CBS Sports Golazo Network

Saturday, May 13
🇮🇹 Serie A: Spezia vs. Milan, 12 p.m. ➡️ CBS Sports Golazo Network  
🇮🇹 Serie A: Inter vs. Sassuolo, 2:45 p.m. ➡️ CBS Sports Golazo Network
🇧🇷 Brasileirao: Fluminese vs. Cuiaba, 5:30 p.m. ➡️ CBS Sports Golazo Network
🇦🇷 Argentina: Newell's Old Boys vs. Arsenal, 7:30 p.m. ➡️ CBS Sports Golazo Network  
🇺🇸 NWSL: Angel City vs. Washington Spirit, 10 p.m. ➡️ CBS Sports Golazo Network

Sunday, May 14
🇮🇹 Serie A: Hellas Verona vs. Torino, 6:30 a.m. ➡️ CBS Sports Golazo Network
🇮🇹 Serie A: Fiorentina vs. Udinese, 9 a.m. ➡️ CBS Sports Golazo Network
🇮🇹 Serie A: Bologna vs. Roma, 12 p.m. ➡️ CBS Sports Golazo Network
🇮🇹 Serie A: Juventus vs. Cremonese, 2:45 p.m. ➡️ CBS Sports Golazo Network
🇺🇸 NWSL: Kansas City Current vs. San Diego Wave, 6 p.m. ➡️ CBS Sports Golazo Network
🇦🇷 Argentina: Talleres vs. River Plate, 8:30 p.m. ➡️ CBS Sports Golazo Network    

📺 Elsewhere ...

All times U.S./Eastern

Saturday, May 13
🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿 EPL: Leeds United vs. Newcastle United, 7:30 a.m. ➡️ USA Network
🇩🇪 Bundesliga: Bayern Munich vs. Schalke 04, 9:30 a.m. ➡️ ESPN+
🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿 EFL playoffs: Sunderland vs. Luton Town, 12:30 p.m. ➡️ ESPN+
🇫🇷 Ligue 1: PSG vs. Ajaccio, 3 p.m. ➡️ beIN Sports
🇪🇸 La Liga: Real Madrid vs. Getafe, 3:00 p.m. ➡️ ESPN+

Sunday, May 14
🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿 EFL: Coventry vs. Middlesbrough, 7 a.m. ➡️ ESPN+
🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿 EPL: Everton vs. Manchester City, 9 a.m. ➡️ USA Network
🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿 EPL: Arsenal vs. Brighton, 11:30 a.m. ➡️ USA Network
🇪🇸 La Liga: Espanyol vs. Barcelona, 3:00 p.m. ➡️ ESPN+

⚽  The Forward Line

Even a title won't prevent a Barcelona rebuild

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Barcelona could seal their first La Liga title since 2019 when they face local rivals Espanyol this Sunday, but most of the talk surrounding the Catalan giants concerns this summer's plans instead of Xavi and his players' achievements. Barca already know that captain Sergio Busquets is finally moving on and Jordi Alba could join him shortly with his future up in the air. However, the major name being bandied around right now is that of club legend Lionel Messi who will leave Paris Saint-Germain and could return to Spotify Camp Nou.

The Argentina international left under a cloud and has spent the past two years in Paris, but the 35-year-old FIFA 2022 World Cup winner's desire to stay in Europe over a mega pay day in Saudi Arabia or a stint in Major League Soccer with Inter Miami could see him rejoin the Blaugrana. Busquets is thought to face a similar decision to Messi with Saudia Arabia and MLS interest in his signature, but a reunion between the two longtime teammates was never on the cards in Catalonia given that Barca need to create space and finances to bring Messi home.  Here's James Benge on Busquets wrapping up his time at Barcelona. 

  • Benge: "Busquets will bring an end to a glittering 18 year spell with Barcelona when his contract expires at the end of the season. Captain of the club since 2021, the veteran midfielder will depart the Camp Nou with what is almost certain to be 32 trophies to his name; he will win a ninth Spanish domestic crown on Sunday if Barcelona win at local rivals Espanyol. The 34 year old departs with the third most appearances in the history of his club, a tally bettered only by Lionel Messi and his current manager Xavi who desired to keep him around for one more year."

With Busquets and possibly Alba helping to create that space, Barca may well cash in on one or two other star names in order to sort out their registration issues and bring Messi back. With that in mind, we could be seeing the only silverware of this current iteration of Barca won this weekend with Xavi's current group more than likely to undergo a major facelift over the summer. Could this 27th La Liga crown be the beginning of a new chapter with Messi in Barcelona? We will find out in the coming weeks.

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🔗  Midfield Link Play

Jose Mourinho is still delivering masterclasses


Thursday night's Europa League and Europa Conference League semifinal action did not disappoint with late goals for both Italian clubs. Juventus salvaged a late 1-1 draw at home to Sevilla in their opening leg thanks to Paul Pogba's cameo while Roma edged Bayer Leverkusen through Edoardo Bove's goal. Both ties are finely poised ahead of the return legs and the possibility of an all-Italian UEL final remains alive. Fiorentina's hopes for Serie A took a blow in the UECL, though, suffering a 2-1 defeat at home to Basel which could end the possibility of at least one Italian side in each continental final. Benge broke down how Mourinho's Roma continue to deliver defensively

  • Benge: "Twenty years on from his first European triumph, the Jose Mourinho template is still paying dividends, Now Mourinho finds himself 90 minutes away from another European final with Roma, a chance to go back-to-back with first Conference League and then Europa League. He will be the last person who needs reminding that he has never lost any of his previous five continental finals. He probably does not need telling that another European crown would give him more than Pep Guardiola, Louis van Gaal and Zinedine Zidane."

Elsewhere in the Europa Conference League, there was a big win for West Ham United after they came from 1-0 down to win 2-1 at home to AZ Alkmaar which gives the Hamnmers a good chance of progressing to the final. David Moyes' side can dream of a trip to Prague. 

And now let's get to some links:

🔗 Chuck Booth breaks down Oguchi Onyewu's new USSF role.
🔗 Booth also has a look at the USMNT under-20 World Cup roster.
🔗 Roger Gonzalez on El Trafico in the US Open Cup round of 16.
🔗 NWSL power rankings from Sandra Herrera as NJ/NY Gotham keep climbing the ranks.
🔗 Manager Christophe Galtier announced that Messi will return to the PSG lineup on Saturday.
🔗 The U.S. Open Cup draw handed us an El Traffico with 16 teams left.
🔗 Francesco Porzio breaks down the Inter turnaround that has them on the brink of the UCL final.
🔗 Gary Neville joined Morning Footy to talk all things Manchester United.
🔗 New Burnley investors JJ and Kealia Watt reveal what happens when he tries to defend her on the pitch.
🔗 Eddie Howe also joined Morning Footy to talk about the prospect of Champions League football at Newcastle.
🔗 An MLS player was suspended amidst a gambling investigation and Charlie Davies has feelings about MLS's urgency.
🔗 In Soccer We Trust: A U-20 World Cup roster breakdown, plus looking at Oguchi Onyewu's new job at USSF.
🔗 House of Champions: A look back at the Milan Derby and why exactly Inter came out ahead.
🔗 Attacking Third: Sandra Herrera and Lisa Roman have your weekend preview.
🔗 And remember, all of your soccer needs -- from NWSL to Champions League to Serie A and so much more -- are available on Paramount+. 📺 You can try one month free by using the code: EUROPE.

💰  The Back Line

💵 Best bets

All odds courtesy of Caesars Sportsbook and all times U.S./Eastern. SportsLine has you covered with this weekend's best bets.

  • Serie A: Lazio vs. Lecce, Friday, 2:45 p.m. 
    💰 THE PICK: Draw (+240) -- A bit of a mismatch on paper, Lazio have lost three of their last four and suddenly look a little vulnerable. Lecce are fighting for their lives and rarely get blown out by opponents despite finding points hard to come by. A point apiece could be a smart pick with only the bravest of souls backing an away win.
  • EPL: Aston Villa vs. Tottenham Hotspur, Saturday, 10 a.m. 
    💰 THE PICK: Draw (+270) -- Both sides will be absolutely desperate to win this one in what is effectively a playoff to decide potential UEFA qualification which Unai Emery's side cannot afford to lose. Even a draw for Villa might not be enough given that they face Liverpool and Brighton in their remaining two games. The Villans need to bounce back after two straight losses while Spurs are just trying to hold on to Europe while the season ends.
  • EFL: Coventry vs. Middlesbrough, Sunday, 7 a.m. 
    💰 THE PICK: Boro (+180) -- The playoffs are always tense with so much on the line for all teams involved -- especially when it is a place in the Premier League at stake. The Championship playoffs are quite evenly matched, but Middlesbrough and Sunderland is arguably the anticipated final showdown. Michael Carrick's side will need overcome a tricky Coventry side first, but they should be well equipped enough to do so and bag a small return here.