Manchester derby, El Clásico lead women's games to watch

With the men's domestic game on an international break, there are a host of exhilarating matches across women's football this weekend which are worth keeping an eye on.

The celebration that has become Women's Football Weekend in the UK has two major local derbies in the Women's Super League, while El Clásico between Barcelona and Real Madrid is sure to be exciting in Spain's Liga F and the NWSL kicks into its second matchday with a particularly high-profile mtach-up on ESPN+.

Here's a look at the key matches from this weekend's slate.

- Stream on ESPN+: NWSL, LaLiga, Bundesliga, more (U.S.)

WSL: Manchester City vs. Manchester United

Saturday, 12:30 p.m. GMT / 8:30 a.m. ET (Paramount+)

On Saturday, Man City welcome United to the Etihad Stadium as they continue their quest for a first WSL title since 2016. A decisive victory over their rivals could propel Gareth Taylor's side briefly ahead of current holders Chelsea, with both teams currently locked together at the top of the table on goal difference (City are two goals behind), as the Blues don't play West Ham until Sunday.

City's bid to disrupt Chelsea manager Emma Hayes' pursuit of a fifth-consecutive WSL title hinges on the consistency of the squad and the goal scoring of star striker Khadija "Bunny" Shaw, who leads the league with 16 goals from 15 games.

However, the pressure is immense for United after a turbulent season under Marc Skinner's leadership. Despite finishing second last campaign, United have faced significant challenges this season, picking up just one point out of a possible 12 against their top-four rivals.

Another loss could accelerate the club's pursuit of a new manager, especially with Skinner's contract expiring this summer, while defeat could spell disaster for their European aspirations, which are already dangerously thin as they sit six points adrift of Arsenal in third. -- Emily Keogh

WSL: Everton vs. Liverpool

Sunday, 1 p.m. GMT / 9 a.m. ET (Paramount+)

Just 30 miles from Manchester, fifth-placed Liverpool travel to Everton for the Merseyside derby at Goodison Park the following day.

Everton are unbeaten in their last four WSL games against Liverpool (W3, D1) and secured a narrow 1-0 win in the previous encounter this season, but they have been left with a threadbare squad due to a huge number of injuries this season. They should be safe from relegation as they are eight points clear of bottom-side Bristol City but, after finishing sixth last season, a spot in ninth is not what the club would have wanted.

Liverpool's recent form (three wins from their last three WSL games) makes Matt Beard's team favourites and if they do triumph over Everton, the Reds could leapfrog United and take the advantage in the race for fourth place. -- Emily Keogh

Spanish Liga F: Real Madrid vs. Barcelona

Sunday, 5 p.m. GMT / 1 p.m. ET (DAZN)

The champions of Europe, Barcelona boast a near-perfect record in Liga F this season, having dropped just two points from 20 matches. And although the focus for the all-conquering team will be the quadruple (including a domestic treble), their clashes with second-placed Real Madrid have become a special occasion.

For Las Blancas, who are nine points adrift, there is plenty to spur them on as they try to ruin Barca's unbeaten season. Having run the Catalans close in two games last season, even taking the Supercopa semifinal to extra time, Real have regressed this term and have already shipped nine goals without reply in two meetings against their rivals this campaign.

Still, it is Spain's showpiece game and has begun to mature into a fixture worthy of the familiar "El Clásico" moniker. Fans will be treated to 90 minutes of passion between two burgeoning foes, with Madrid looking to save face at home and show they can compete against the Barca juggernaut. -- Sophie Lawson

German Frauen-Bundesliga: VfL Wolfsburg vs. Bayern Munich

Saturday, 4:45 p.m. GMT / 10:45 a.m. ET (DAZN)

The most recent Frauen-Bundesliga fixture to take on the "Der Klassiker" title -- from FFC Frankfurt vs. Turbine Potsdam -- Wolfsburg's clash with Bayern Munich will see Germany's top two pitted against each other once again.

This time last week the game could have been billed as the title decider, with Wolfsburg a solitary point behind leaders Bayern. However the She Wolves suffered a rare defeat away to Hoffenheim last time out, providing the Bavarians a four-point cushion.

There is no love lost between the teams who have shared every German title for the last 11 seasons (seven for Wolfsburg; four for Bayern) between them, and with the news earlier this year that Wolfsburg's star midfielder Lena Oberdorf will be moving south for €450,000 next summer, it firmly looks as if the scales have tipped towards Bayern.

It is a must-win game for Wolfsburg, not just for their title hopes but also in their bid to show that they can still compete with Bayern at the highest level. -- Sophie Lawson

NWSL: Portland Thorns vs. NJ/NY Gotham FC

Sunday, 7 p.m. ET / 12 a.m. GMT (ESPN2, ESPN+ and ESPN Deportes)

A rematch of last year's semifinal highlights the NWSL's Week 2 slate, with defending champion NJ/NY Gotham FC visiting Providence Park for the Portland Thorns' home opener.

Gotham defeated the three-time champion Thorns in the same building in last year's semifinals on its way to the team's first NWSL trophy. This is Gotham's regular-season opener after losing to the San Diego Wave, 1-0 in last week's one-off Challenge Cup to open the season.

Gotham has changed drastically since that match after an active winter transfer window that saw the arrival of U.S. internationals Tierna Davidson, Crystal Dunn, Rose Lavelle and Emily Sonnett. Dunn spent the previous three seasons in Portland and helped the Thorns win a third league title in 2022. Saturday marks her first game in Providence Park, and her first against her former team, since her move to New Jersey, where she is closer to her hometown on Long Island.

Portland opened the season last week with a wild, 5-4 loss to the Kansas City Current at the opening of CPKC Stadium. In that game, Sophia Smith and Janine Beckie each tallied a brace, but the Thorns' leaky defense is an issue to watch as they aim for championship contention this season. -- Jeff Kassouf

NWSL: San Diego Wave FC vs. Kansas City Current

Saturday, 10 p.m. ET / 3 a.m. GMT (ION)

San Diego Wave officially kicks off its regular season at home on Saturday against the Kansas City Current after last week's NWSL Challenge Cup, secured via a late goal by forward Alex Morgan off the bench. The Wave won the NWSL Shield last season, which head coach Casey Stoney reiterated ahead of the Challenge Cup made them "the best team" in 2023, despite falling short in the playoffs.

San Diego also led the NWSL in attendance with over 20,000 fans per game in 2023 at Snapdragon Stadium. A strong season-opening crowd is expected for the match against a Kansas City team riding the high of a historic moment last week.

The Current, now led by former U.S. coach Vlatko Andonovski, got a strong 45-minute performance from forward Bia Zaneratto in Week 1. This week, however, she will not have the playmaking services of Brazilian counterpart Debinha due to a hamstring injury sustained in Week 1. Debinha went down with a non-contact injury a half-hour into last week's match and will be out for the Current at least through the early April international break, ESPN confirmed. -- Jeff Kassouf