MATCHDAY: the top 3 players of EPL; Dortmund-Bayern in the Bundesliga
A look at what’s going on in European football on Saturday:
Chelsea lead Manchester City in the Premier League by one point, but manager Thomas Tuchel is not happy with his side’s last two performances. Chelsea are at West Ham at the start of the lunch hour and City play Watford late in the game. Between the meetings, Liverpool, third at two points from Chelsea, faces Wolverhampton. Pep Guardiola’s town is almost back to full power with Kevin De Bruyne returning to training after contracting coronavirus. Ilkay Gundogan, John Stones and Kyle Walker, who missed Wednesday’s victory for the defending champions at Aston Villa with punches, are back in contention. Newcastle’s last place welcomes Burnley, who is also in the relegation zone, still looking for his first win after 14 rounds. Southampton, who are two places but five points above the drop zone, face ninth-placed Brighton.
Borussia Dortmund welcome Bayern Munich for the “Klassiker” with a point separating leaders Bayern from Dortmund, second in the Bundesliga standings. Erling Haaland is back in action for Dortmund and scored on his return from a hip muscle injury last week. Bayern have won their last six games against Dortmund since 2019, but there are still a few players left after a recent coronavirus outbreak, and midfielder Leon Goretzka is in injury doubt. In form, Bayer Leverkusen welcome Greuther Fürth, and Hoffenheim can break into the Champions League places with a victory over Eintracht Frankfurt. Mainz hosts Wolfsburg, Augsburg plays Bochum and Arminia Bielefeld faces Cologne. All Bundesliga matches are played with sharply reduced crowds due to an increase in viral infections in Germany. Major politicians have agreed on a crowd limit of 15,000, but some states use their own lower limits.
The best teams are in action with an eye on the important Champions League games to come. The leader of Real Madrid travels to San Sebastian with the aim of dealing a serious blow to the competitor of Real Sociedad. The Basque Country club are tied with Atlético Madrid as the closest pursuer to Carlo Ancelotti’s Madrid seven points ahead. Madrid have won seven consecutive victories in all competitions. Atlético host Mallorca and fourth-placed Sevilla host Villarreal, both hoping Madrid stumble. Barcelona, seventh, have a test against Real Betis, fifth, at Camp Nou. Only Madrid qualified for the knockout stages of the Champions League. Barcelona, Atlético, Sevilla and Villarreal all need favorable results in their final group stage games next week to reach the round of 16.
Roma coach José Mourinho takes on his former side during Inter Milan’s visit to the Italian capital. Mourinho led Inter to a Serie A, Italian Cup and Champions League treble in 2010. Inter are third, just two points behind league leaders Napoli, which hosts the Atalanta, fourth. AC Milan is only a point from Naples and welcomes Salernitana, the last place. It comes just three days before a must-see Champions League fixture against Liverpool, but Milan coach Stefano Pioli can’t afford to rest players with a growing injury list.
League leaders Paris Saint-Germain travel to Lens, fifth, without Neymar, who will not play this year after an ankle injury last weekend. Neymar’s ligament injuries are expected to rule him out for six to eight weeks. In his absence, PSG lacked an offensive spark in midweek in a goalless draw against Nice. Kylian Mbappe, Lionel Messi and Angel Di Maria, particularly disappointing in this match, should however start in Lens. In addition, Marseille, second, welcomes Brest in search of a third consecutive victory and Lille faces Troyes.