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
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 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.