European Weekend Preview: Man United hosts Everton, Lazio battles Napoli, and more

BY JUSTIN FERGUSON

With a nine-point lead over second-place Manchester City in the Premier League and a date with Real Madrid in the Champions League next Wednesday, it could be tempting for Manchester United to tone it down in this weekend’s league match.

But Sir Alex Ferguson and his men know that any dropped points could be dangerous in a title hunt.

In addition to the eternal quest for points, this weekend’s battle with Everton comes with extra motivation: revenge.

The last two meetings against the Toffees have been ones to forget for United. In the first Monday night game of the season, Everton deflated the highly anticipated debuts of Robin van Persie and Shinji Kagawa by beating United 1-0 at Goodison Park. Last April, United blew a two-goal lead late to finish 4-4 with Everton. The draw put a huge dent in United’s title hopes last season, which ended with rivals City holding up the trophy.

Everton, unbeaten in 2013 and just three points behind Tottenham for the final Champions League spot, will be looking to extend its good run against top-half teams when the Merseyside club visits Old Trafford on Sunday. Star midfielder Marouane Fellaini, who scored the lone goal in the win against United, sat out Belgium’s friendly Wednesday due to injury and is doubtful for this weekend’s clash. (UPDATE: Everton manager David Moyes has now said that Fellaini will be available on Sunday.)

Meanwhile, in Italy, four of Serie A’s top six clubs will take center stage on Saturday. The action starts when league-leading Juventus hosts sixth-place Fiorentina, who sit just one point behind the Milan clubs for a Europa League spot. Juventus has to make a quick turnaround after the match and travel to Celtic for a Champions League match on Tuesday.

Napoli and Lazio will play the second half of this big Saturday doubleheader. After last week’s shocking loss to Genoa, Lazio now sits six points behind Napoli for second place in Serie A. The visiting Azzurri have won five out of their last six Serie A matches and are just three points back from Juventus. A home win over Napoli would keep Lazio’s title hopes alive, so look for Vladimir Petkovic’s squad to come out swinging in the Stadio Olimpico.

Here is a closer look at the top action going on in Europe this weekend:

ENGLAND

Chelsea has not won in its last four matches, and the club’s loss at Newcastle last weekend opened the door for Tottenham to jump to just one point back for third place in the standings. The Blues host relegation-zoned Wigan Athletic, a side that has drawn three out its last four matches. Demba Ba, who broke his nose after being kicked by a former teammate in last week’s loss, should be available for Rafa Benitez, but goalkeeper Petr Cech’s status is still unknown for Saturday’s match. The goalkeeper broke his finger against Newcastle and had to leave international duty earlier this week.

The Blues will want Newcastle to make another upset happen this weekend as the Magpies travel to face Tottenham on Saturday. Newcastle won both of its matches last week, and the club’s turnaround has Spurs manager Andre Villas-Boas calling this week’s opponents “a new team.” Alan Pardew’s club added five Ligue 1 players during the January window, moves that have moved last year’s fifth-place finisher clear out of the relegation zone and on its way up.

Here is the full list of this weekend’s fixtures in the EPL:

Saturday, February 9
Tottenham vs. Newcastle United
Chelsea vs. Wigan Athletic
Norwich City vs. Fulham
Stoke City vs. Reading
Sunderland vs. Arsenal
Swansea City vs. QPR
Southampton vs. Manchester City

Sunday, February 10
Aston Villa vs. West Ham United
Manchester United vs. Everton

Monday, February 11
Liverpool vs. West Bromwich Albion

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SPAIN

Barcelona has drawn 1-1 in its last two matches, so Tito Vilanova will have his club ready to grab the full three points when it hosts Getafe on Sunday. Lionel Messi, fresh off of re-signing with the Catalans, has scored in his last twelve La Liga matches. He scored twice off the bench as a second-half substitute in the first match of the season against Getafe.

Second-place Atletico Madrid faces a trip to seventh-place Rayo Vallecano, a club that is caught up in the midtable traffic jam. Just three points separate fourth and ninth place in the La Liga standings as clubs push for the final European qualifying spots. City rivals Real Madrid, third in the league, host Sevilla before next week’s clash with Manchester United.

Here is the full list of this weekend’s fixtures in La Liga:

Saturday, February 9
Mallorca vs. Osasuna
Celta Vigo vs. Valencia
Levante vs. Malaga
Deportivo La Coruna vs. Granada
Real Madrid vs. Sevilla

Sunday, February 10
Barcelona vs. Getafe
Real Zaragoza vs. Real Sociedad
Athletic Bilbao vs. Espanyol
Rayo Vallecano vs. Atletico Madrid

Monday, February 11
Real Betis vs. Real Valladolid

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GERMANY

Borussia Dortmund sits in second place in the Bundesliga after last week’s victory over Bayer Leverkusen. Now 12 points back from rivals Bayern Munich, Dortmund turns its attention to this weekend’s home match with Hamburg, a club that has not been able to get much momentum going this season. Leverkusen will try to bounce back from their slip-up against Borussia Monchengladbach, a team on the edge of Europa League qualification. Bayern will host Schalke on Saturday, a club that has only won once in its last nine fixtures.

Here is the full list of this weekend’s fixtures in the Bundesliga:

Saturday, February 9
Borussia Dortmund vs. Hamburg
Borussia Monchengladbach vs. Leverkusen
Eintracht Frankfurt vs. Nurnberg
Hannover 96 vs. Hoffenheim
Greuther Furth vs. Wolfsburg
Stuttgart vs. Werder Bremen
Bayern Munich vs. Schalke

Sunday, February 10
Augsburg vs. Mainz
Freiburg vs. Fortuna Dusseldorf

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ITALY

While the top two games in Serie A this weekend are on Saturday, Sunday will provide fans with some intriguing matchups. Following the thrill of scoring a brace in his debut and the racial controversy with the club vice-president, Mario Balotelli will play in his first road match as a member of AC Milan this weekend. Fourth-place Milan will take on Cagliari, fresh off of last week’s upset over AS Roma.

Roma will face Sampdoria in the club’s first match following the firing of Zdenek Zeman. The Giallorossi have not won a Serie A match in 2013, so interim manager Aurelio Andreazzoli could make an instant impact in his first match in charge.

Here is the full list of this weekend’s fixtures in Serie A:

Saturday, February 9
Juventus vs. Fiorentina
Lazio vs. Napoli

Sunday, February 10
Parma vs. Genoa
Atalanta vs. Catania
Bologna vs. Siena
Cagliari vs. AC Milan
Palermo vs. US Pescara
Sampdoria vs. AS Roma
Udinese vs. Torino
Inter Milan vs. Chievo Verona

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FRANCE

David Beckham’s PSG debut will not be for another week, but the club still has a big match Friday against Bastia. The Parisians now hold total control of the top spot in Ligue 1, and they will look to keep that lead intact against a bottom-half Bastia side.

Lyon will start the climb back to the top spot on Sunday when it hosts Lille. Third-place Marseille looks to overcome its bad road form on Saturday during a visit to Evian Thonon. Finally, after posting back-to-back wins for the first time all season, Nancy can get out of the relegation zone with a win over Stade de Reims.

Here is the full list of this weekend’s fixtures in Ligue 1:

Friday, February 8
PSG vs. Bastia

Saturday, February 9
St Etienne vs. Montpellier
Ajaccio vs. Bordeaux
Nancy vs. Stade de Reims
Nice vs. Lorient
Troyes vs. Sochaux
Valenciennes vs. Brest

Sunday, February 10
Evian Thonon vs. Marseille
Stade Rennes vs. Toulouse
Lyon vs. Lille

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4 Responses to European Weekend Preview: Man United hosts Everton, Lazio battles Napoli, and more

  1. Nick says:

    I think a lot of US eyes will be on the Roma match. Will Michael Bradley start? What will their new tactics be?

  2. G.Bean says:

    Lazio v Napoli looks to be an exciting match up.

    I’m really curious about Balotelli and Milan though. I wonder if he can score another goal, and keep producing for i Rossoneri.

  3. ed - houston says:

    Come on man U. put a spank on Everton.

  4. manicmessiah says:

    Newcastle-Spurs will be a great match. Newcastle fullbacks like to go forward, and Tottenham obviously have great width. The most interesting matchup for me though will be Dembele and Sissoko in the middle, not necessarily one on one but to see who has more influence.