Who expected there would be a fairytale finish to the English Premier League? In London, and just a short journey north of the capital, one of the most surprising title races in recent European history is unfolding.
Leicester City were bottom of the Premier League last season and staring relegation in the face. Now, they sit top of the league – and they could win a first ever English league title. This cosmopolitan Midlands city, just a 1 hour train journey from London, is sporting mad. More than 30,000 pack the modern King Power Stadium for Leicester’s home games, and their rugby club the Leicester Tigers are one of the most successful in the country.
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Back in London, the North London giants are hot on their tails. Tottenham are having their best season for years, their free-flowing attacking football catching the eye as they start to rebuild their iconic White Hart Lane ground. A few miles away at the 60,000 seater Emirates Stadium, Arsenal aren’t too many points behind.
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When it comes to the relegation battle all eyes will turn to the North East. Two of England’s biggest clubs, Newcastle and Sunderland, just 15 km apart, attract massive crowds every week but either club, or both, could lose their Premier League status. A weekend in Newcastle is never to be forgotten – it’s one of Europe’s best party cities.
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In Spain things are more familiar. Barcelona sit at the top of La Liga, with the Madrid clubs not too far behind. A weekend in Madrid is to be recommended – not only do you get to see a game in Real’s legendary Bernabeu or Atletico’s Vicente Calderon stadiums, but there’s a good chance one of the capital’s other La Liga clubs Getafe or Rayo Vallecano are also at home. Both are in desperate need of points to stay in the league.
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It’s a two horse race at the top of the table in Italy. The giants of Juventus in Turin are top of Serie A again, but the main challenge comes from the sun-soaked southern city of Napoli, where passionate crowds in the Stadio San Paolo are sure to push their team all the way.
Fiorentina, from the beautiful city of Florence, are also making a challenge for a Champions League slot, with capital side Roma currently holding the coveted third position.
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Then we have Germany. It will come as no surprise to see Bayern Munich top of the Bundesliga once again, but this time Borussia Dortmund are staying in the hunt in case the Bavarian heavyweights slip up. The famous ‘Yellow Wall’ of fans at Dortmund’s Signal Iduna Park will be hoping there is a final twist in the story.
Berlin is one of Europe’s most fascinating and energetic cities. Hertha Berlin are having one of their best seasons in years, making a trip to the famous and historic Olympiastadion, where the 1936 Olympics were held, is something well worth considering.
Towards the bottom there are some big names fighting for their lives. Eintracht Frankfurt and Werder Bremen are in real trouble and need wins, while the Bundesliga giants of Hamburg (Volksparkstadion capacity 57,000) and Stuttgart (Mercedes-Benz Arena, 60,500 capacity) still require points to feel safe. All four cities make excellent weekend destinations to build around a game.
The season finale is not far away – make sure you don’t miss out on the action!
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Written by Jim Stewart, chief editor of Football Weekends, the fan’s magazine to great trips across Europe – they are mailed across Europe via www.footballweekends.co.uk