MATCHDAY: Ranieri returns to EPL; Sociedad for lead in Spain
A look at what’s happening in European soccer on Saturday:
The Premier League resumes after the international break with Claudio Ranieri making his return to English soccer in charge of Watford — and he could hardly have a tougher first game. Liverpool travels to Vicarage Road as the only unbeaten team in the league after seven matches and is in second place, a point behind Chelsea. The 69-year-old Ranieri was hired last week and will be leading a fourth Premier League club, after Chelsea, Leicester — which he guided to the title in 2016 — and Fulham. Chelsea visits Brentford for a London derby in the late game while Manchester City and Manchester United, the other members of the top four, play Burnley at home and Leicester away, respectively. Burnley has lost 5-0 in its last four visits to City in all competitions. Norwich and Southampton are two of the four teams still without a win and they have home games against Brighton and Leeds, respectively.
Real Sociedad can take the Liga lead when it hosts Mallorca. The Basque Country club enters the weekend in third place and level on points with leader Real Madrid and defending champion Atlético Madrid. The two Madrid-based teams had their games originally scheduled for this round postponed to give more rest to players returning from international duty with South American nations. Sociedad will be without Spain forward Mikel Oyarzabal after he injured a right-leg muscle. That will leave Sweden striker Alexander Isak to lead its attack. Last season’s Copa del Rey winners have lost only once in eight league games this season. Levante hosts Getafe in its first match under new coach Javier Pereira, who replaced Paco López with the team in the relegation zone and winless.
New Inter Milan coach Simone Inzaghi visits his former club when the defending champion faces Lazio looking to extend its unbeaten start. Lazio, which has the team with the oldest average age, has struggled to adapt to Maurizio Sarri’s fast-paced attacking style. AC Milan, which is also unbeaten, has lost goalkeeper Mike Maignan for 10 weeks following surgery on his left wrist: The Rossoneri host Hellas Verona. Also, Spezia hosts Salernitana in a matchup of teams in the relegation zone.
Bayern Munich is likely to be knocked off the Bundesliga top spot, at least temporarily, as other contenders play. Borussia Dortmund can take the lead with a win over Mainz and high-flying Freiburg could snatch first place if it beats a Leipzig team still adapting to new coach Jesse Marsch. Dortmund was already fretting on the fitness of star striker Erling Haaland before five more players picked up minor injuries on international duty, including Portugal’s Raphaël Guerreiro and Belgium’s Thorgan Hazard. Wolfsburg can join Bayern and Bayer Leverkusen on the same points with a win at Union Berlin, but Wolfsburg hasn’t won any of its last five games in all competitions and Union has a long unbeaten run at home in the Bundesliga. City rival Hertha Berlin is going through another spell of upheaval following the abrupt resignation of its CEO Carsten Schmidt, but at least veteran forward Kevin Prince Boateng is looking forward to the trip to Eintracht Frankfurt. Boateng made his league debut against Frankfurt in 2005 and later also played for Frankfurt. Also, promoted teams Greuther Fürth and Bochum meet in Bavaria, and Borussia Mönchengladbach hosts a Stuttgart team hit by coronavirus-induced absences. Bayern visits Leverkusen for their top-two clash on Sunday.
Defending Ligue 1 champion Lille’s form is picking up again with strikers Burak Yilmaz and Jonathan David starting to score more regularly. They will be confident of finding the net away to a Clermont side which has lost form and dropped to 15th spot, and which recently conceded six goals in a game. Monaco is in sixth place, also improving fast and unbeaten in six games overall under coach Niko Kovac. But the trip to an attack-minded Lyon could prove a difficult one and might also provide plenty of goals.
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