MATCHDAY: EPL’s top 3 playing; Dortmund-Bayern in Bundesliga
A look at what’s happening in European soccer on Saturday:
Chelsea leads Manchester City in the Premier League by a point but manager Thomas Tuchel has not been happy with his side’s last two performances. Chelsea is at West Ham in the lunchtime kickoff and City plays at Watford in the late game. Between the fixtures, Liverpool, which is in third place two points behind Chelsea, plays Wolverhampton. Pep Guardiola’s City is almost back at full strength with Kevin De Bruyne back in training after contracting coronavirus. Ilkay Gundogan, John Stones and Kyle Walker, who missed Wednesday’s win for the defending champions at Aston Villa with knocks, are back in contention. Last-placed Newcastle hosts Burnley, which is also in the relegation zone, still searching for its first win after 14 rounds. Southampton, which is two places but five points above the drop zone, plays ninth-placed Brighton.
Borussia Dortmund hosts Bayern Munich for the “Klassiker” with one point separating leader Bayern from second-placed Dortmund in the Bundesliga table. Erling Haaland is back in action for Dortmund and scored on his return from a hip muscle injury last week. Bayern has won its last six games against Dortmund going back to 2019 but has some players still out after a recent coronavirus outbreak, and midfielder Leon Goretzka is an injury doubt. On-form Bayer Leverkusen hosts Greuther Fürth, and Hoffenheim can break into the Champions League places with a win over Eintracht Frankfurt. Mainz hosts Wolfsburg, Augsburg plays Bochum and Arminia Bielefeld takes on Cologne. All Bundesliga games are being played with sharply reduced crowds because of a rise in virus infections in Germany. Leading politicians agreed on a cap on crowds of 15,000 people but some states are using their own, lower limits.
The top teams are in action with one eye on important upcoming Champions League’s matches. Leader Real Madrid visits San Sebastián with the goal of dealing a serious blow to surprise contender Real Sociedad. The Basque Country club is level with Atlético Madrid as the closest chaser to Carlo Ancelotti’s Madrid at seven points off the lead. Madrid has won seven in a row across all competitions. Atlético hosts Mallorca and fourth-placed Sevilla welcomes Villarreal with both hoping for Madrid to stumble. Seventh-placed Barcelona has a test against fifth-placed Real Betis at Camp Nou. Only Madrid has qualified for the Champions League knockout rounds. Barcelona, Atlético, Sevilla and Villarreal all need favorable results in their final group phase games next week to reach the round of 16.
Roma coach José Mourinho faces his former team as Inter Milan visits the Italian capital. Mourinho steered Inter to the treble of Serie A, Italian Cup and Champions League success in 2010. Inter is third, just two points below league leader Napoli, which hosts fourth-placed Atalanta. AC Milan is only a point behind Napoli and entertains bottom-placed Salernitana. That comes just three days before a must-win Champions League match against Liverpool but Milan coach Stefano Pioli can’t afford to rest players with an-ever lengthening injury list.
League leader Paris Saint-Germain travels to fifth-placed Lens without Neymar, who won’t play again this year after an ankle injury last weekend. Neymar’s ligament damage is expected to rule him out for six to eight weeks. In his absence, PSG lacked an attacking spark midweek in a goalless draw with Nice. Kylian Mbappe, Lionel Messi and Angel Di Maria, who were particularly disappointing in that game, are, however, expected to start at Lens. Also, second-placed Marseille hosts Brest looking for a third straight win, and Lille takes on Troyes.
More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports