Euro­pean soc­cer week­end: What to watch in the main leagues

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What to watch in the lead­ing soc­cer leagues in Europe this week­end:

ENG­LAND

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 Juer­gen Klopp and in the as­cen­dancy last sea­son, but Jose Mourinho has turned for­tunes around and United is level with Manch­ester City at the top. 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 colead­ers. It is a must-win game for Klopp on Satur­day lunchtime, be­cause his at­tack-minded yet in­con­sis­tent side can ill af­ford to fall fur­ther be­hind.

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

SPAIN

Af­ter lift­ing Ar­gentina into the World Cup, Lionel Messi goes back to the busi­ness of help­ing Barcelona main­tain its dom­i­nant start in the Spanish league.

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 the lead, plays at Getafe on Satur­day.

ITALY

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

Six-time defending cham­pion Ju­ven­tus opens the ac­tion against fourth-placed 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 an en­tire squad of new play­ers, third-placed In­ter has ap­peared much more solid un­der new man­ager Lu­ciano Spal­letti and sits seven points ahead of Mi­lan.

FRANCE

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 Sain­tGer­main, will al­most cer­tainly be with­out star striker Radamel Fal­cao.

Fal­cao has made a blis­ter­ing start with 12 goals, but will likely be rested by coach Leonardo Jardim af­ter play­ing for Colom­bia on Tues­day night in World Cup qual­i­fy­ing.

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

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

Mbappe will be much fresher, hav­ing gone on as only a late sub­sti­tute in France’s home win against Be­larus on Tues­day.

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

GER­MANY

Jupp Heynckes’ fourth stint in charge of Bay­ern Mu­nich be­gins with a visit from strug­gling 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 af­ter seven rounds.

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

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

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