MATCHDAY: Buffon could break Serie A appearance record
A look at what’s happening around European soccer on Saturday:
Juventus goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon could break the Serie A appearance record in the Turin derby. The 42-year-old Buffon needs only one more appearance to break a tie with AC Milan great Paolo Maldini for the record at 647 matches each. Juventus is marching to a record-extending ninth successive league title as it hosts Torino. The Bianconeri are four points ahead of second-placed Lazio, which welcomes AC Milan later that evening in a match which could star another veteran player. Zlatan Ibrahimović made his comeback from injury as a 65th-minute substitute on Wednesday and the 38-year-old Swede inspired Milan to come back from two goals down to draw at Spal 2-2. Also, relegation-threatened Lecce visits Sassuolo.
The fight for the final Champions League qualification places is the main focus, with Leicester, Chelsea, Manchester United and Wolverhampton — the teams placed third to sixth — all in action at home in the Premier League. Leicester has been in third place for most of the second half of the season but could be overtaken if it fails to beat Crystal Palace. Chelsea, which is a point behind Leicester in fourth, plays relegation-threatened Watford. Man United and Wolves are both a further two points back and play Bournemouth and Arsenal, respectively. In the day’s other game, last-place Norwich is seven points adrift of safety going into a home game against Brighton.
Bundesliga champion Bayern Munich is bidding for a second successive double with victory over Bayer Leverkusen in the German Cup final. Hansi Flick’s side wrapped up the Bundesliga title with two games to spare and hasn’t lost a game since December. Leverkusen is bidding for its first trophy in 27 years but will be without Brazilian forward Paulinho, who tore an anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee in training on Tuesday. Germany coach Joachim Löw will be among only 700 people allowed in Berlin’s Olympiastadion as part of coronavirus pandemic restrictions. There will be no fans in the 70,000-capacity stadium.
Valencia visits Granada needing to break a three-game losing run with a win to give it a chance of recovering in time to at least salvage its poor season with a Europa League berth. Valencia fired coach Albert Celades this week and lost to Athletic Bilbao in its first game under caretaker coach Salvador “Voro” González. Valencia will be without striker Rodrigo Moreno and defender José Gayá due to injury. Granada has overachieved in its return to the top-flight this season and is level on points with Valencia. Also on Saturday, Celta Vigo needs to win at Real Betis to keep above the drop zone, while Alavés visits Valladolid.