MATCHDAY: Liverpool faces Villa; Lewandowski eyes record
A look at what’s happening in European soccer on Saturday:
The Premier League’s top teams are all in action with the feature attraction being Steven Gerrard’s return to Anfield as manager of Aston Villa. Liverpool counterpart Jurgen Klopp says he’s sure Gerrard will someday be the Reds’ manager but for now Liverpool has a chance to claim the league lead. Mohamed Salah leads the league with 13 goals though he and Sadio Mane might line up without forward Diogo Jota, who was injured last weekend. Danny Ings looks likely to return for Villa. Klopp’s high-scoring squad is one point behind leader Manchester City, which hosts Wolverhampton in the early game. Third-placed Chelsea trails City by two points and will host Leeds. Arsenal has lost two straight games but has a favorable home match against struggling Southampton. Manchester United and new manager Ralf Rangnick visit relegation-threatened Norwich in the late game.
Bundesliga leader Bayern Munich hosts Mainz with another record beckoning for Robert Lewandowski. The Poland star has 40 goals in the Bundesliga in this calendar year, just two off the record set in 1972 by Bayern great Gerd Müller. Lewandowski already beat Müller’s old league record for goals in a season by scoring 41 for Bayern last season. Mainz hasn’t conceded more than one goal per game in six straight league matches. Bayern will be without Leon Goretzka due to injury and Joshua Kimmich, who is still feeling the aftereffects from a coronavirus infection. Wounded Dortmund visits Bochum without coach Marco Rose, who was sent off in his team’s contentious loss to Bayern last weekend. Domenico Tedesco makes his debut as Leipzig coach against Borussia Mönchengladbach, Hertha Berlin hosts Arminia Bielefeld in Tayfun Korkut’s second game as coach, and Freiburg welcomes Hoffenheim. Wolfsburg hosts Stuttgart in the late game.
Sevilla visits Athletic Bilbao in second place and looking to reduce the eight-point gap to La Liga leader Real Madrid. Julen Lopetegui’s side needs to bounce back from a loss to Salzburg this week that cost it an exit from the Champions League group phase. Sevilla will be without injured forward Lucas Ocampos and midfielder Ivan Rakitic, who is suspended. Bilbao is aiming to break a seven-round winless streak. Last-placed Levante will seek a long-awaited first victory of the season when it visits Espanyol. Alessio Lisci, Levante’s third coach of the season, will coach his first league match after debuting in the Copa del Rey. Elche will look for a third straight win under new coach Francisco Martínez when they visit Valencia, while struggling Getafe seeks its first victory on the road at Alavés.
AC Milan will be looking to put its Champions League disappointment behind it as it turns its eye back to domestic matters and pushing on with its title charge. Milan lost at home to Liverpool 2-1 midweek and was eliminated from European competition. But the Rossoneri sit on top of Serie A, a point above city rival Inter Milan, and visit lowly Udinese. Juventus has had the opposite quandary. It qualified top of its Champions League group but has dropped out of Serie A title contention and could even struggle to qualify for next year’s Champions League as it is already seven points below fourth-placed Atalanta. The Bianconeri visit relegation-threatened Venezia. Fiorentina is level on points with Juventus and hosts bottom-placed Salernitana.
Brest did not even win a league game until the end of October. But a remarkable turnaround means that coach Michel Der Zakarian’s team aims for a seventh straight win when it hosts Montpellier in a contest between mid-table sides. Victory may feel bittersweet for Der Zakarian, who played 10 years as a defender for Montpellier and coached them from 2017 until the end of last season. Brest’s resurgence is in large part down to the outstanding form of midfielder Romain Faivre, who has seven goals and four assists. Montpellier schemer Teji Savanier also has four assists and is again the team’s best player this season. In the other game, last-placed Saint-Etienne is at struggling Reims in the first game since Saint-Etienne fired coach Claude Puel following last weekend’s 5-0 home loss.
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