MATCHDAY: Aston Villa, Sassuolo look to go top of leagues
A look at what’s happening around European soccer on Friday:
Aston Villa will go top of the Premier League for the first time since 2001 if it beats Leeds at home for a fifth straight win. Even a point will be enough for Villa to climb above Everton — until Sunday, at least — on goal difference, after victories over Sheffield United, Fulham, Liverpool and Leicester so far. Villa last won its first four top-flight matches in a season 90 years ago. Leeds, which is in midtable after a solid start to its first season back in the Premier League after a 16-year absence, is without defensive midfielder Kalvin Phillips for six weeks because of a shoulder injury.
Sassuolo can move top of Serie A if it beats Torino, which is yet to earn a point this season. Sassuolo is a surprise second, two points behind early leader AC Milan, which doesn’t play until Monday. It is only Sassuolo’s eighth season in the Italian top flight and the team has never finished higher than sixth. However, Sassuolo has scored four goals in each of its three previous matches and is one of three teams still unbeaten in Serie A -- along with Milan and Juventus.
Promoted Stuttgart is playing like it had never been away from the Bundesliga. Under U.S. coach Pellegrino Matarazzo, the team from southwest Germany is sitting seventh in the table following wins over top-division stalwarts Mainz and Hertha Berlin. Stuttgart already has a healthy six-point cushion to the relegation places. Next up Friday is struggling Cologne, which earned its sole point of the season so far in a 1-1 draw with Eintracht Frankfurt last week.
Valencia tries to snap a two-game losing streak when it visits promoted Elche, which has won two of its last three matches. Elche is in 12th place in the standings, just ahead of Valencia despite having two games in hand. The Spanish league has been allowed to schedule matches on Fridays and Mondays again despite an ongoing dispute with the Spanish soccer federation, which is against playing on those days.
Winger Martin Terrier looks to continue his good form when Rennes hosts mid-table Angers. After scoring his first league goal for Rennes last Friday, Terrier created the first goal for Rennes on its Champions League debut in Tuesday’s 1-1 draw with Krasnodar. The former Lyon’s pace and work ethic have already endeared him to Rennes fans, who appreciate unselfish players. Rennes is one of only two sides still unbeaten and a victory will move coach Julien Stephan’s slick side above undefeated Lille and into first place ahead of this weekend’s games. With 15 goals conceded in seven games Angers has the league’s second-worst defense behind Strasbourg.