MATCHDAY: Man City wary of Norwich; Madrid at Villarreal
A look at what’s happening in European soccer on Saturday:
Premier League leader Manchester City goes to relegation-threatened Norwich, which it beat 5-0 in August. But manager Pep Guardiola is wary. The Canaries are improving, having gone three games unbeaten. Guardiola says City face them “in their best moment of the season.” He also believes they need more than 90 points to win the league. They are up by nine on Liverpool, which has a game in hand. Guardiola says, “The margin to Liverpool is nothing. We have to win a lot of games, a lot, with many points, more than 90 points, to arrive at 95 or 96, to be champions. I’m pretty sure of that, definitely.” Ronaldo has gone five games without a goal in all competitions but Ralf Rangnick isn’t blaming the superstar for Manchester United’s lack of cutting edge of late. They face Southampton, which is upbeat after its 3-2 comeback win at Tottenham on Wednesday, and lost just once in its last seven league games. Everton is preparing to welcome Leeds after losing Colombia international Yerry Mina for at least two months. He’s the second center back in two matches to be ruled out for months after Ben Godfrey, and a blow to the Toffees’ chances of getting away from the relegation scrap. Also on the card are a London derby between Brentford and Crystal Palace, and Watford vs. Brighton.
Real Madrid visits Villarreal seeking to restore a six-point lead over Sevilla at the top of the league. Karim Benzema will miss the match with a left hamstring injury that has sidelined the France striker for the past two games. Madrid hopes Benzema will be back for its visit to Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League next week. Winger Vinícius Júnior returns for Madrid after a one-game suspension, while midfielder Casemiro is ready to play after missing one game due to illness. Villarreal will also be without its first-choice striker, Gerard Moreno, out with a right-leg injury. Atlético Madrid hosts Getafe needing to win to get back in the top four and the Champions League spots. Midfielders Marcos Llorente and Geoffrey Kondogbia are available for Atlético after missing three matches each due to injury. Getafe has been revived by coach Quique Sánchez Flores and has won four of its last six games. Rayo Vallecano plays Osasuna after losing the first leg of its Copa del Rey semifinal to Real Betis, while relegation-threatened Cádiz hosts Celta Vigo.
After a difficult week, Bayern Munich can go 12 points clear of Borussia Dortmund with a win at promoted Bochum in the Bundesliga. Bochum will be wary of another rout after being thrashed 7-0 in Munich earlier in the season, suggesting damage limitation will be the priority for the home team. Dortmund does not play till Sunday. Third-placed Bayer Leverkusen, which defeated Dortmund 5-2 last week, hosts relegation-threatened Stuttgart, which has claimed only one point from its last six games. Hertha Berlin visits last-placed Greuther Fürth and Borussia Mönchengladbach hosts Augsburg for relegation battles. Fifth-placed Freiburg welcomes Mainz and Wolfsburg visits Eintracht Frankfurt.
After slumping to a surprise defeat to struggling Clermont at home, coach Christophe Galtier’s Nice had to give fans something to cheer about and did just that by routing Marseille 4-1 this week to reach the French Cup semifinals. Now it’s time to get back on track in the chase for second place and an automatic spot in next season’s Champions League. A draw at Lyon would move Nice into second on goal difference from Marseille. In the other game, Montpellier hosts defending champion Lille. Victory would move Montpellier up to sixth in the quest for a Europa League place and Lille is reeling from last weekend’s 5-1 home loss to Paris Saint-Germain.
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