MATCHDAY: Man United hosts Tottenham; Milan welcomes Empoli
A look at what’s happening in European soccer on Saturday:
Cristiano Ronaldo is expected to be available when Manchester United hosts Tottenham in a game with European implications for both teams. It’s one of three Premier League matches on the day. Edinson Cavani and Raphael Varane will also be available for fifth-place United. All three missed United’s 4-1 derby loss to Manchester City last Sunday. Ronaldo was out with a hip flexor problem and reportedly went to Portugal amid speculation he is unhappy. Interim manager Ralf Rangnick said: “Well, I don’t know, I haven’t asked him if he’s happy at Manchester and at this club.” Spurs are three points behind fourth-place Arsenal. Second-place Liverpool visits Brighton in the early game and will look to close the gap on City to three points. Burnley can lift itself out of the relegation zone with a win at Brentford.
Having beaten league leader Paris Saint-Germain without conceding a goal, second-place Nice will be full of confidence heading to southern rival Montpellier in the French league. Nice has forwards Amine Gouiri and Andy Delort in fine form and the defense is looking solid again under the guidance of Brazilian veteran Dante. Midtable Montpellier’s form has dipped with four defeats in the past five games. But Montpellier is a difficult side to beat at home and has one of the league’s best midfielders in Teji Savanier. Sixth-place Nantes is riding high under coach Antoine Kombouare and has won five of the last six games overall. Next up is a visit to struggling Troyes, which is 16th.
AC Milan can take another significant step toward its first Serie A title since 2011 by winning at home to Empoli. Victory would send Milan five points clear of defending champion Inter Milan in second place and six clear of third-place Napoli, with both not playing until the following day. After reigniting its own title chances recently, Juventus can put more pressure on the top three with a win at relegation-threatened Sampdoria. There is also a vital fight to avoid the drop when Cagliari visits Spezia, with just one point separating the two sides which are hovering just above the bottom three. Last-place Salernitana hosts Sassuolo.
Villarreal hosts Celta Vigo and is aiming to gain momentum before it visits Juventus in the Champions League. Unai Emery’s side had been unbeaten in five consecutive matches, including a 1-1 draw with Juventus, before it stumbled 1-0 at Osasuna last round. A win would lift Villarreal into sixth place. After Celta, Villarreal will prepare to travel to Italy for the second leg of its Champions League round-of-16 matchup with Juventus. Granada will face Elche in the first match under caretaker coach Rubén Torrecilla since Robert Moreno was fired after the team had lost six of seven matches. Valencia visits Getafe seeking a fourth straight victory in all competitions, while last-place Levante hosts Espanyol.
Relegation-threatened Hertha Berlin visits struggling Borussia Mönchengladbach in a Bundesliga clash both teams will be desperate to win. Hertha is in the relegation playoff place after failing to win any games this year and the club itself is in disarray amid a public power struggle between board members and the investor who has pumped 374 million euros into the club. Stuttgart, which is just a point behind Hertha, visits Union Berlin. Champions League candidate Freiburg hosts Wolfsburg and Bayern Munich can extend its lead at the top with a win at Hoffenheim.
More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports