European Look Ahead: Napoli, Juventus square off; race in Spain heats up & more

Juve napoli getty


By JOHN BOSCHINI

The already-intense rivalry between Juventus and Napoli takes on added significance this weekend as both teams are in desperate need of a win.

Juventus, while still unbeaten, are four points behind AC Milan in the race for the Scudetto. Their title rivals face a relatively easy end to the season, so every point will be vital for Antonio Conte's team. Napoli are in fourth place and three points off a UEFA Champions League spot.

While unbeaten in nine games, Napoli have surrendered eight goals in their past four matches so it will be interesting to see how their potent attackers fare against a stingy Juventus defense. The two teams battled to a thrilling 3-3 draw back in November.

The race for the Champions League has tightened up in Spain, and Sunday's matchup between third-place Valencia and fifth-place Levante could provide a significant shift in the top four. Valencia's hold on third place seemed secure as recently as a month ago, but one win in their last four matches has brought them back to within striking distance for challengers Malaga, Levante and Osasuna.

Here is a look ahead to the weekend in Europe.:


ENGLAND

Cracks appear to be showing in Manchester City's once impenetrable armor. The ambitious challengers have fallen three points behind their title rivals and welcome a dangerous Sunderland side on Saturday. Manchester United face a desperate Blackburn team but don't expect anything other than three points for United.

Consistency is the name of the game for Tottenham, as Harry Redknapp's men cling to fourth spot. Spurs' offense was firing on all cylinders with a midweek thrashing of Bolton in the FA Cup, and they'll hope to repeat that when taking on Swansea City on Sunday.

SATURDAY

Aston Villa vs. Chelsea, 10 a.m.
Everton vs. West Bromwich Albion, 10 a.m.
Fulham vs. Norwich City, 10 a.m.
Manchester City vs. Sunderland, 10 a.m.
Queens Park Rangers vs. Arsenal, 10 a.m.
Wigan Athletic vs. Stoke City, 10 a.m.
Wolverhampton Wanderers vs. Bolton Wanderers, 10 a.m.

SUNDAY

Newcastle United vs. Liverpool, 8:30 a.m.
Tottenham Hotspur vs. Swansea City, 11 a.m.

MONDAY

Blackburn Rovers vs. Manchester United, 3 p.m. 

SPAIN

Real Madrid will look to put an end to Osasuna's Champions League hopes when the two teams face off on Saturday. Osasuna is in sixth place and four points off the Champions League despite a -7 goal differential. Madrid were ruthless in a 7-1 victory over Osasuna in November.

Barcelona look to keep pace with Madrid against an Athletic Bilbao side that has thrilled in the Europa League but failed to be as impressive in domestic play.

SATURDAY

Racing Santander vs. Granada, 12 p.m.
Sporting Gijon vs. Real Zaragoza, 12 p.m.
Osasuna vs. Real Madrid, 2 p.m.
Barcelona vs. Athletic Bilbao, 4 p.m.
Malaga vs. Real Betis, 4 p.m.

SUNDAY

Atletico Madrid vs. Getafe, 6 a.m.
Valencia vs. Levante, 12 p.m.
Real Sociedad vs. Rayo Vallecano, 3:30 p.m.
Villarreal vs. Espanyol, 3:30 p.m.

MONDAY

Sevilla FC vs. Mallorca, 3 p.m. 

GERMANY

The top four in the Bundesliga avoid each other for another week, but a clash at the bottom of the table has a great deal of significance over who will be relegated. Kaiserslautern are rapidly running out of the time to save their season. The last-place club is seven points adrift of safety and need a win against 16th-placed Hamburg to have any hope of survival. The two teams on the edge of the relegation zone, FC Cologne and FC Augsburg, face off as well.

FRIDAY

Borussia Dortmund vs. VfB Stuttgart, 2:30 p.m.

SATURDAY

Bayer Leverkusen vs. SC Freiburg, 9:30 a.m. 
FC Augsburg vs. FC Cologne, 9:30 a.m. 
Kaiserslautern vs. Hamburg SV, 9:30 a.m. 
Nurnberg vs. Bayern Munich, 9:30 a.m. 
Werder Bremen vs. Mainz, 9:30 a.m. 
Hertha Berlin vs. VfL Wolfsburg, 12:30 p.m. 

SUNDAY

Hannover 96 vs. Borussia Monchengladbach, 9:30 a.m.
TSG Hoffenheim vs. Schalke 04, 11:30 a.m.

ITALY

AC Milan face one of their toughest remaining challenges when they travel to Catania. Catania have risen to seventh in the table, drawing sides like Juventus and Roma while beating Napoli quite handily. AC Milan were comfortable in a 4-0 victory in their first meeting, but Catania is much stronger at home.

SATURDAY

Catania vs. AC Milan, 12 p.m.
Parma vs. Lazio, 2:45 p.m. 

SUNDAY

AS Roma vs. Novara, 6:30 a.m.
Bologna vs. Palermo, 9 a.m. 
Cagliari vs. Atalanta, 9 a.m.  
Fiorentina vs. Chievo Verona, 9 a.m. 
Inter Milan vs. Genoa, 9 a.m. 
Lecce vs. Cesena, 9 a.m. 
Siena vs. Udinese, 9 a.m. 
Juventus vs. Napoli, 2:45 p.m. 

FRANCE

Toulouse are on one of the more unexpected runs in Europe at the moment, as the little-known club are unbeaten in eight games and are three points off a Champions League spot. They face third-placed Lille on Sunday. Toulouse would have to win by eight goals to move into third place but a win would move them level on points.

Montpellier and Paris-St. Germain are tied at the top of the table, so expect both teams to rack up as many goals as possible in the coming weeks.

SATURDAY

AJ Auxerre vs. Valenciennes, 1 p.m.
Bordeaux vs. Dijon FCO, 1 p.m.
Lorient vs. Evian Thonon Gaillard, 1 p.m.
Sochaux vs. Brest, 1 p.m.
St Etienne vs. Nice, 1 p.m.
AS Nancy Lorraine vs. Paris Saint-Germain, 3 p.m. 

SUNDAY

Caen vs. AC Ajaccio, 11 a.m.
Lille vs. Toulouse, 11 a.m.
Stade Rennes vs. Lyon, 3 p.m. 

NETHERLANDS

The top four in the Eredivisie face off against inferior opposition over the weekend. Only leaders AZ Alkmaar face a road test, but they are unlikely to face much opposition against a Vitesse Arnhem side they thrashed 4-0 in September.

FRIDAY

FC Utrecht vs. Excelsior, 2 p.m.

SATURDAY

FC Groningen vs. Heerenveen, 12:45 p.m.
PSV Eindhoven vs. VVV Venlo, 1:45 p.m.
FC Twente vs. Roda JC Kerkrade, 1:45 p.m.
Feyenoord Rotterdam vs. NAC Breda, 2:45 p.m. 

SUNDAY

NEC Nijmegen vs. De Graafschap, 6:30 a.m.
Ajax vs. SC Heracles Almelo, 8:30 a.m.
RKC Waalwijk vs. ADO Den Haag, 8:30 a.m.
Vitesse Arnhem vs. AZ Alkmaar, 10:30 a.m. 

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What do you think of this weekend's games? Can Juventus continue their unbeaten run or will Napoli make a late charge? Who will finish fourth in Spain? Who do you see avoiding relegation in Germany?

Share your thoughts below.

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One Response to European Look Ahead: Napoli, Juventus square off; race in Spain heats up & more

  1. Andrew says:

    Who cares?! MLS GAMES ARE ON!!