MATCHDAY: Salah back as Liverpool looks to trim City’s lead
A look at what’s happening in European soccer on Thursday:
Liverpool will look to trim the deficit to leader Manchester City back down to nine points with a home win over Leicester in the Premier League. And Mohamed Salah is back to help the Reds after returning from the African Cup of Nations, where he lost in the final to Senegal on penalties. Salah might start on the bench at Anfield as Jurgen Klopp looks to ease his star player back in, but Sadio Mane — the scorer of the clinching penalty in the African Cup final — won’t be involved at all. Leicester is looking to bounce back from beating humbled by second-tier Nottingham Forest in the FA Cup on Sunday. In the other game, Arsenal can climb to fifth by winning away at Wolverhampton
Athletic Bilbao hosts Valencia in the first leg of the Copa del Rey semifinals, with the Basque Country team trying to reach its third straight final. It lost to Basque rival Sociedad in 2020 and to Barcelona last season. This year it eliminated the Catalan club in the round of 16 and Real Madrid in the quarterfinals. Valencia, an eight-time Copa winner, is back in the last four after winning its last title in 2019. Real Betis and Rayo Vallecano are playing in the other semifinal.
Nantes was once a powerhouse in French soccer and celebrated winning its third French Cup in 2000 and its eighth league title the following year. The club’s all-yellow strip was one of the most recognized in French soccer, much like the green of Saint-Etienne. But Les Canaris (The Canaries) have won nothing since 2001. Now a place in the semifinals of the French Cup beckons if coach Antoine Kombouare’s side can beat second-tier Bastia at home. Kombouare is a former Nantes defender and has brought much-needed stability back to the club.
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