European Look Ahead: Top English sides clash, Barca play without Messi & more

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By JOHN BOSCHINI

For Tottenham, life doesn't get any easier after last weekend's humiliation at the Emirates.

A defeat at home when Manchester United come calling on Sunday could deal a fatal blow for Tottenham's title hopes, which took a step back after the 5-2 loss to Arsenal. Rumors of Harry Redknapp's link to the England national team could job could prove to be a distraction and affect on-field performance and leave Spurs within striking distance of Chelsea and Arsenal, who are waiting for the club to slip up again.

Manchester United have hardly been impressive this season but continue to grind out gritty wins in typical Sir Alex Ferguson style. The return of Paul Scholes has helped stabilize a midfield that was continuously overrun earlier in the season. United are two points behind cross-town rivals Manchester City, and a victory would almost certainly make the title chase a two-horse race.

In their earlier meeting this season, Manchester United handily defeated Tottenham in August with a 3-0 win.

Here is a look ahead to the rest of the action across Europe:


ENGLAND

Following big wins last Sunday, Arsenal and Liverpool come out of the international break hoping to turn emotional victories into sustained momentum. Arsenal cling to fourth place, and with Chelsea taking on a non-threatening West Brom side, the Gunners — who are likely to be without Robin van Persie –probably need a win to maintain their league position. Liverpool ended their six-year trophy drought by capturing the Carling Cup, but the goal is still a top-four finish. Liverpool are seven points back of Arsenal and Chelsea with a game in hand.

Manchester City should have few problems at home to a Bolton side seemingly incapable of keeping a clean sheet on the road. 

SATURDAY

Liverpool vs. Arsenal, 7:45 a.m.
Blackburn Rovers vs. Aston Villa, 10 a.m.
Manchester City vs. Bolton Wanderers, 10 a.m. 
Queens Park Rangers vs. Everton, 10 a.m. 
Stoke City vs. Norwich City, 10 a.m. 
West Bromwich Albion vs. Chelsea, 10 a.m. 
Wigan Athletic vs. Swansea City, 10 a.m.  

SUNDAY

Newcastle United vs. Sunderland, 7 a.m.
Fulham vs. Wolverhampton Wanderers, 9:05 a.m.
Tottenham Hotspur vs. Manchester United, 11:10 a.m. 

SPAIN

It's a week of firsts for Lionel Messi. After notching his first-career hat trick in an Argentina uniform, Messi will be sidelined due to suspension for the first time in his La Liga career. The World Player of the Year picked up his fifth yellow card last weekend against Atletico Madrid. Fortunately for the defending champions, a 19th-placed Sporting Gijon comes to the Camp Nou, so it's difficult to see any result but a Barcelona win. /p>

Real Madrid host an Espanyol side who's league position hides its poor run of form. Espanyol hasn't won in four games and faces a Real Madrid side that, save for the loss to Barcelona, hasn't dropped a single point at home since September. Villarreal tries to pull away from the relegation zone with a trip to bottom-feeders Real Zaragoza.

SATURDAY

Getafe vs. Malaga, 12 p.m.
Mallorca vs. Osasuna, 12 p.m.
Rayo Vallecano vs. Racing Santander, 12 p.m.
Barcelona vs. Sporting Gijon, 2 p.m.
Sevilla FC vs. Atletico Madrid, 2 p.m. 

SUNDAY

Real Zaragoza vs. Villarreal, 6 a.m.
Athletic Bilbao vs. Real Sociedad, 10 a.m.
Granada vs. Valencia, 12 p.m.
Real Madrid vs. Espanyol. 3:30 p.m. 

GERMANY

If Bayer Leverkusen are to maintain a reasonable distance between them and the top four, picking up a result against Bayern Munich is vital. Munich, in second place, have been relatively poor on the road this season, winning only five of 11 games. Leverkusen are seven points back of Schalke for the final UEFA Champions League spot.

Should Bayern fail to win, Borussia Dortmund are likely to extend their four-point lead at the top of the table. The defending champions take on a mid-table Mainz side that has won only once away from home. 

SATURDAY

Bayer Leverkusen vs. Bayern Munich, 9:30 a.m.
Hamburg SV vs. VfB Stuttgart, 9:30 a.m.
Hannover 96 vs. FC Augsburg, 9:30 a.m. 
Hertha Berlin vs. Werder Bremen, 9:30 a.m. 
Kaiserslautern vs. VfL Wolfsburg, 9:30 a.m. 
SC Freiburg vs. Schalke 04, 9:30 a.m. 
Borussia Dortmund vs. Mainz, 12:30 p.m. 

SUNDAY

Nurnberg vs. Borussia Monchengladbach, 9:30 a.m.
TSG Hoffenheim vs. FC Cologne, 11:30 a.m.

ITALY

AC Milan and Juventus both play on Saturday as the top two slug it out for the Scudetto on the heels of their riveting draw last week. Both teams have trap games on the docket as Juve take on a Chievo Verona side which held out for a 0-0 draw when the teams met in October. AC Milan, which leads Juve by a point, travel to eighth-placed Palermo.

Lazio will be hard pressed to stay level with third-placed Udinese with a trip to AS Roma. Roma have been wildly inconsistent this season but are capable of pulling off a victory at home.

SATURDAY

Palermo vs. AC Milan, 12 p.m.
Juventus vs. Chievo Verona, 12 p.m. 

SUNDAY

Parma vs. Napoli, 6:30 a.m.
AS Roma vs. Lazio, 9 a.m. 
Bologna vs. Novara, 9 a.m. 
Fiorentina vs. Cesena, 9 a.m. 
Lecce vs. Genoa, 9 a.m. 
Siena vs. Cagliari, 9 a.m. 
Udinese vs. Atalanta, 9 a.m. 
Inter Milan vs. Catania, 2:45 p.m.

FRANCE

Paris Saint-Germain's thrilling comeback against Lyon last weekend overshadowed the fact that the leaders for much of the season were overtaken by Montpellier. PSG will try to get back on track with a home match against lowly AC Ajaccio. Elsewhere, St. Etienne have quietly risen up the table and now sit only three points off third place.

SATURDAY

AS Nancy Lorraine vs. Lyon, 1 p.m.
Dijon FCO vs. Montpellier, 1 p.m. 
Lille vs. AJ Auxerre, 1 p.m. 
Marseille vs. Toulouse, 1 p.m. 
Sochaux vs. Valenciennes, 1 p.m. 
St Etienne vs. Evian Thonon Gaillard, 1 p.m. 
Bordeaux vs. Nice, 3 p.m.  

SUNDAY

Caen vs. Brest, 11 a.m.
Paris Saint-Germain vs. AC Ajaccio, 11 a.m.
Lorient vs. Stade Rennes, 3 p.m. 

NETHERLANDS

First and third face off in the Netherlands as PSV Eindhoven welcomes FC Twente. The league leaders have been steady at home, but Twente come in having won four of five while scoring 16 goals during that span.

SATURDAY

ADO Den Haag vs. Heerenveen, 12:45 p.m.
RKC Waalwijk vs. Excelsior, 1:45 p.m.
VVV Venlo vs. NAC Breda, 1:45 p.m.
AZ Alkmaar vs. SC Hercales Almelo, 2:45 p.m.

SUNDAY

Vitesse Arnhem vs. De Graafschap, 6:30 a.m.
Ajax vs. Roda JC Kerkrade, 8:30 a.m.
FC Utrecht vs NEC Nijmegen, 8:30 a.m.
Feyenoord Rotterdam vs. FC Groningen, 8:30 a.m.
PSV Eindhoven vs. FC Twente, 10:30 a.m.

—————–

What do you think of the weekend's fixtures? Will this weekend be a deciding factor in who will compete for the Premier League title? Do you foresee any upsets in Spain or Germany? Are you excited by the Champions League race in Italy?

Share your thoughts below.

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8 Responses to European Look Ahead: Top English sides clash, Barca play without Messi & more

  1. NATO making strides in Afghanistan? says:

    Hope Altidore is ready to play tomorrow. I wanna see a hat trick mister

  2. K Bone says:

    Man I’m tired of people saying that United have not been impressive this season. At least preface by saying “as opposed to years past” or something. You would think United are fitting for a CL spot or something. Obviously they choked big time in the CL, but for God’s sake, they are only two points behind a City team that has practically had zero injuries all season and unlimited money. Despite United not being as good talent-wise as past teams, they are having a great seasons point-wise and their ability to win has been amazing despite the multitude of injuries they have had to key positions. It would be pretty hilarious if United win the league after having such an “unimpressive” season.

  3. Brendan says:

    Calm down kid, unimpressive refers to their play and not the results. Which, first of all, is obvious to anyone who follows the league, and secondly is explained in the article.

  4. K Bone says:

    I’m no kid, dude. They are unimpressive by their lofty standards of course, but I imagine if they were playing “impressively” this season they’d be winning the league by about 10 points…

  5. Good Jeremy says:

    Rooney needs to go bald again. The new hair isn’t him.

  6. Raymon says:

    Yes, but since he can walk up in the air, he should be able to wear any hair he wants. That photo looks like it’s missing a floor right under his feet.

  7. Jeff says:

    United has been impressive in terms of getting results, but to say City haven’t had any injury problems is beside the point. Very few injuries, but Tevez refusing to play, Kompany’s ridiculous four-match ban, the Toure brothers away for more than a month at African Cup of Nations…City has had their share of lineup problems too.

    Also, how long do United fans get to use City’s spending as an excuse? City and United spent (net payroll additions) roughly the same amount last summer and this winter (about 38 million pounds). City may even have spent less than United depending on how much the undisclosed Jo transfer fee was (it would be even at 38 million if the transfer fee was about 10 million pounds). If that continues for a year or two, will you still be using that as an excuse?

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