MATCHDAY: Man City at Arsenal; Ibra, Lukaku in Milan derby
A look at what’s happening in European soccer on Sunday:
Manchester City is on a 17-match winning run heading into the trip to Arsenal and has opened up a 10-point lead over Manchester United and Leicester at the top of the Premier League. Arsenal has only one clean sheet in its last seven matches. United hosts Newcastle, while Leicester plays at Aston Villa. West Ham hosts Tottenham in the early game with the teams enjoying contrasting fortunes. West Ham, which has not finished higher than seventh since 1999, is in fifth place. Spurs have established themselves as part of the Premier League top six over the last decade but this season Jose Mourinho’s side has slipped to ninth with speculation over the Portuguese’s future.
Barcelona hosts struggling Cádiz and is looking to rebound from its big loss to Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League. Third-place Barcelona can move within six points of leader Atlético Madrid with a win at Camp Nou in the Spanish league. Ronald Koeman’s team is still processing the 4-1 home loss to PSG on Tuesday but it has won seven consecutive Spanish league games. Cádiz, three points from the relegation zone, has lost four in a row while being outscored 15-3. The promoted club from southern Spain hasn’t won in six matches in all competitions. Fifth-place Real Sociedad hosts Alavés, while seventh-place Villarreal visits Athletic Bilbao.
AC Milan’s Zlatan Ibrahimović and Inter Milan’s Romelu Lukaku meet again in the highly charged city derby at San Siro, with the stakes higher than they have been in the last 10 years. Inter is just one point ahead of second-place Milan. The last time the two went into the Derby della Madonnina occupying the top two spots was in 2011, when Milan was above Inter. The Rossoneri won that match and went on to win the league title. In the Italian Cup quarterfinal on Jan. 26, there was an argument — and head-to-head clash — between Ibrahimović and Lukaku just before halftime and both players were given yellow cards. The spat continued after the halftime whistle and a visibly furious Lukaku had to be restrained. Lukaku is tied for the league lead in goals with 16. Ibrahimović has 14 goals. Third-place Roma travels to Benevento. Napoli is at Atalanta as both look to gain ground in the fight for European spots.
Hertha Berlin needs to start winning in the Bundesliga but it faces a tough match at home against second-place Leipzig. Hertha hasn’t won in seven matches and only goal difference is keeping it out of the relegation zone. Not even Pál Dárdai’s return as coach has changed Hertha’s fortunes, though his team at least ended a four-game losing run with a point against Stuttgart last weekend. Leipzig is on a four-game winning streak in the Bundesliga. Bayer Leverkusen aims to get its push for Champions League qualification back on track with a win at Augsburg, which has lost its last three games. Hoffenheim hosts Werder Bremen.
Defending champion Paris Saint-Germain and Lille are fighting for top spot with PSG hosting fourth-place Monaco and Lille away to in-form Lorient. Lyon is top after winning 3-2 at Brest on Friday but will drop back down to third if PSG and Lille at least draw their matches. Second-place Lille sits one point ahead of third-place PSG, which easily has the best goal difference in the league. Confidence is sky-high in PSG’s camp after a resounding 4-1 success at Barcelona in the Champions League. Kylian Mbappe scored a superb hat trick in that game and will look to punish the side which sold him to PSG four years ago for 160 million euros ($194 million). But coach Niko Kovac’s Monaco side is in very good form and unbeaten in nine, including eight wins. Having seemed doomed for relegation a few weeks ago, Lorient has turned things around and is undefeated in six.
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