Europe’s pace­set­ters braced for acid tests of ti­tle cre­den­tials

Liver­pool vs Man Utd, Atletico vs Barca and Napoli vs Roma head­line mouth­wa­ter­ing week­end of ac­tion

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - SPORTS -

Here we dis­sect the big­gest games of the week­end in Europe, coun­try by coun­try:


Manch­ester United’s ti­tle cre­den­tials get a stern test at bit­ter ri­val Liver­pool when English soc­cer’s most sto­ried clubs meet on Satur­day.

Liver­pool is un­der pres­sure to show it can com­pete, need­ing to make a big state­ment af­ter care­lessly drop­ping points in re­cent weeks.

United’s trips to An­field are al­ways one of the high­lights of the Pre­mier League, and al­ways hotly con­tested.

Liver­pool was rein­vig­o­rated un­der coach Jur­gen Klopp and in the as­cen­dancy last sea­son, but Jose Mour­inho has turned for­tunes around at Old Traf­ford and United is level on points with Manch­ester City at the top of the stand­ings. How­ever, United’s six wins in seven games have not come against strong sides.

Liver­pool is un­der pres­sure and is al­ready seven points be­hind the co-lead­ers. There­fore, Satur­day’s An­field clash is con­sid­ered some­thing a must-win game for Klopp.

City hosts Stoke later on Satur­day and look well poised to profit if United drops points.


Af­ter drag­ging Ar­gentina into the World Cup fi­nals this week, Lionel Messi re­turns to the busi­ness of help­ing Barcelona main­tain its dom­i­nant start in La Liga.

Barcelona will be look­ing for an eighth straight win when it makes its first visit to Atletico Madrid’s new Wanda Metropoli­tano Sta­dium on Satur­day.

But Barcelona will have to deal with the fa­tigue of top play­ers who made gru­el­ing trips to World Cup qual­i­fiers, in­clud­ing Luis Suarez and Messi, whose hat-trick in Ecuador se­cured Ar­gentina’s place in Rus­sia next year.

Barcelona has a five-point lead over Sevilla and is six points in front of un­beaten Atletico and Va­len­cia.

Sevilla plays at Ath­letic Bil­bao on Satur­day, while Va­len­cia is at Real Betis on Sun­day.

De­fend­ing cham­pion Real Madrid, seven points off leader Barca, plays at Getafe on Satur­day.


It’s a big week­end in Serie A with the league’s big­gest clubs go­ing head to head.

Six-time de­fend­ing cham­pion Ju­ven­tus opens the ac­tion against fourth-place Lazio fol­lowed by leader Napoli’s visit to Roma on Satur­day.

High-scor­ing Napoli has notched at least three goals in all seven of its Serie A matches, but could face a stiffer test against in-form Roma goal­keeper Alis­son.

Sun­day’s ac­tion is high­lighted by the Mi­lan derby.

AC Mi­lan is in des­per­ate need of a win af­ter drop­ping to sev­enth place fol­low­ing con­sec­u­tive 2-0 losses to Sam­p­do­ria and Roma.

While the Ros­soneri are still learn­ing to play to­gether af­ter a sum­mer that brought in a raft of new play­ers, third-place In­ter has ap­peared much more solid un­der new man­ager Lu­ciano Spal­letti and sits seven points above of its city ri­val.


De­fend­ing cham­pion Monaco is un­der early pres­sure in the ti­tle race and faces a tough match at Lyon on Fri­day.

Monaco, which has slipped three points be­hind leader Paris Saint-Ger­main, will be with­out star striker Radamel Fal­cao.

Colom­bian Fal­cao has made a blis­ter­ing start with 12 goals but is rested by coach Leonardo Jardim af­ter play­ing for his coun­try in Tues­day’s World

Mueller fired up by Heynckes’ re­turn

Cup qual­i­fy­ing win over Peru.

PSG coach Unai Emery must de­cide whether to rest his South Amer­i­can stars af­ter Ney­mar played for Brazil and Edin­son Ca­vani scored for Uruguay in mid­week.

Emery could start with Kylian Mbappe up front when PSG heads to strug­gling Di­jon on Satur­day.

Eigh­teen-year-old Mbappe will be fresher, hav­ing ap­peared as only a late sub­sti­tute in France’s home vic­tory over Be­larus on Tues­day.

Mean­while, third-place Mar­seille looks for a fourth straight win when it trav­els to Stras­bourg.


Jupp Heynckes’ fourth stint in charge of Bay­ern Mu­nich be­gins with a visit from min­nows Freiburg on Satur­day.

The 72-year-old Heynckes, who was coaxed out of re­tire­ment af­ter Carlo Ancelotti was fired, has the chal­lenge of get­ting the side to play flu­idly as a team af­ter lack­lus­ter per­for­mances. Bay­ern is al­ready five points be­hind Bun­desliga leader Borus­sia Dort­mund.

There should not be a prob­lem for Bay­ern. Freiburg has never won in 17 games against the Bavar­ian gi­ant, while the last 13 all ended in de­feat.

Dort­mund hosts RB Leipzig with most of the at­ten­tion fo­cused off the pitch fol­low­ing the dis­tur­bances that over­shad­owed the sides’ pre­vi­ous meet­ing in Dort­mund.

In Fe­bru­ary, Leipzig fans were at­tacked with stones and bot­tles, po­lice of­fi­cers were in­jured and vis­it­ing play­ers and of­fi­cials were con­fronted with deroga­tory chants and ban­ners, lead­ing to 168 crim­i­nal pro­ceed­ings.

Dort­mund, un­beaten in 41 league games at home, is aim­ing to main­tain its best-ever start to the Bun­desliga.

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