MATCHDAY: Man City-Liverpool; Bayern-Dortmund in 'Klassiker'
A look at what’s happening in European soccer on Saturday:
Arsenal and Manchester City resume their tussle for the Premier League title. City faces the harder game on the teams' return from the international break. City hosts Liverpool in the lunchtime kickoff for a match that has been the most significant in English soccer in recent years. This season, however, Liverpool is way off the title pace and and is simply looking to make the top four to return to the Champions League. A few hours later, Arsenal hosts relegation-threatened Leeds. Arsenal leads second-placed City by eight points but has played one game more. Liverpool is in sixth place, seven points off the top four but with games in hand. At the other end, nine points separate the bottom nine teams in an unusually tight relegation fight. Four of those teams play relegation rivals: Crystal Palace under temporary manager Roy Hodgson hosts Leicester, and Nottingham Forest is home to Wolverhampton.
Bayern Munich hosts Borussia Dortmund for a game that could decide the Bundesliga. Ten-time defending champion Bayern is one point behind Dortmund going into “der Klassiker” and the clash has been given added intrigue with Thomas Tuchel making his debut in charge of the Bavarian powerhouse against his former team. Bayern appointed Tuchel as coach last week after firing Julian Nagelsmann. Eight rounds remain after Saturday’s game. Also, third-placed Union Berlin hosts last-placed Stuttgart, Bayer Leverkusen visits Schalke, Freiburg welcomes Hertha Berlin, Laipzig plays Mainz and Wolfsburg hosts Augsburg.
Barcelona visits Elche in a matchup of the league leader against the bottom side. The front-runner already has a commanding 12-point lead over second-placed Real Madrid. Xavi Hernández may consider rotating his starting lineup following an international break when many players played for their national sides and with a Copa del Rey clash with Madrid looming. Next week, Barcelona hosts Madrid in the second leg of their semifinal. Andreas Christensen, Frenkie de Jong, Pedri and Ousmane Dembélé are injured for Barcelona, while Raphinha will serve a one-game suspension. The game will be the debut of Argentine Sebastián Beccacece as Elche’s fourth coach of the season. Athletic Bilbao hosts Getafe. Veteran Spanish coach José Luis Mendilibar will debut for Sevilla at Cadiz, while Espanyol visits Girona in a Catalan regional derby.
Juventus is without Federico Chiesa, Paul Pogba and Leonardo Bonucci due to injury and Leandro Paredes and Adrien Rabio due to suspension for a match with relegation-threatened Hellas Verona. Juventus won four straight across Serie A and the Europa League before the international break, including an inspiring victory over rival Inter Milan in its last match. Inter restarts against a Fiorentina side that has won seven straight across all competitions and is unbeaten for nine games. Also, Atalanta looks to keep hold of the Europe places when it visits last-placed Cremonese.
Lens travels to Rennes for a duel between clubs still fighting for Champions League football next season. With 10 matches left to play, Lens sits in third place, seven points and two spots ahead of the Brittany side. Rennes beat leader Paris Saint-Germain 2-0 before the international break and is looking for a second straight win that would take the club within four points of the last Champions League place. The third-placed team in Ligue 1 advances to the third qualifying round of the tournament. Relegation battlers Auxerre and Troyes face off in Saturday’s other game.