European Weekend Preview: Dortmund face Leverkusen, Man City host Liverpool, and more

BY JUSTIN FERGUSON

The top battle in this weekend’s European action takes place in Germany, as Bayer Leverkusen hosts Borussia Dortmund for control of second place in the Bundesliga.

Leverkusen’s scoreless draw last week at Freiburg opened the door for Dortmund, who has outscored opponents 13-1 in its last three matches, to move just one point back in the league table.

The winner of this match will surely take over the driver’s seat in the race for second, as the managers of both clubs told reporters this week that it will be nearly impossible for anyone to catch Bayern Munich, who is currently 11 points ahead of Leverkusen. Both Jurgen Klopp and Rudi Voller stated this week that their clubs’ league goals now are built around finishing in second.

Also this weekend, Manchester City will look to bounce back from their own scoreless draw earlier this week in hopes of gaining ground on league-leading rivals Manchester United. But the Citizens will have their work cut out for them on Super Sunday as they face Liverpool, who is stinging from its own tough draw during midweek action. The Reds are unbeaten in four out of their last five Premier League matches, scoring 14 goals during that span. But will they be able to orchestrate any goals against City, who has kept six straight clean sheets in all competitions?

Here’s a look at all of this weekend’s major European action:

ENGLAND

Manchester United grew their league lead over rivals City back to seven points after their tense 2-1 midweek win over Southampton. This weekend, the Red Devils will take a trip to Fulham, a club they soundly defeated 4-1 last week in the FA Cup. Fulham was able to break out of their slump earlier this week in a 3-1 home win over West Ham, giving them some much-needed confidence before facing United.

Chelsea will look to break free from their streak of frustrating draws on Saturday when they travel to Newcastle. The Blues have drawn their last three matches in all competitions to what many would call lesser opponents: Swansea City, League One’s Brentford and Reading. But struggling Newcastle is coming off of a midweek win at Aston Villa, so Rafa Benitez’s men may have their hands full again this weekend.

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

Saturday, February 2

QPR vs. Norwich City
Arsenal vs. Stoke City
Everton vs. Aston Villa
Newcastle United vs. Chelsea
Reading vs. Sunderland
West Ham United vs. Swansea
Wigan Athletic vs. Southampton
Fulham vs. Manchester United

Sunday, February 3

West Bromwich Albion vs. Tottenham
Manchester City vs. Liverpool

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SPAIN

Following their 1-1 Copa del Rey draw on Wednesday, both FC Barcelona and Real Madrid will travel to face teams outside of the European qualifying zone this weekend. Barcelona, currently 15 points ahead of third-place Real, will face the tougher matchup in facing seventh-place Valencia on Sunday. Real, a club still plagued by injuries, will head to Granada, a club fighting to stay out of the drop zone.

Perhaps the best match this weekend in La Liga will be found in Madrid as second-place Atletico hosts fifth-place Real Betis. The visitors will want to exact a measure of revenge on Atletico, the team that knocked them out of this year’s Copa del Rey. Atletico defeated Betis 4-2 in their league match earlier this season.

Here is the full list of matches this week in La Liga:

Friday, February 1

Real Valladolid vs. Athletic Bilbao

Saturday, February 2

Osasuna vs. Celta Vigo
Getafe vs. Deportivo La Coruna
Espanyol vs. Levante
Granada vs. Real Madrid

Sunday, February 3

Malaga vs. Real Zaragoza
Sevilla vs. Rayo Vallecano
Valencia vs. Barcelona
Atletico Madrid vs. Real Betis
Real Sociedad vs. Mallorca

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GERMANY

Leverkusen and Dortmund may have surrendered the title to Bayern Munich, but the league leaders do not have their hands on the trophy just yet. There is still a lot of soccer left to be played for Bayern, including this weekend’s intriguing matchup with fifth-place Mainz. A real surprise in this Bundesliga season, Mainz currently sits three points back from Eintracht Frankfurt for the last Champions League spot. Every point matters when a club is chasing down a UCL berth, and a shock win over the league leaders could get the O-Fives on the fast track to that coveted fourth place finish.

Eintracht Frankfurt will travel to the Imtech Arena to face ninth-place Hamburg. HSV is fresh off of a wild 3-2 win over Werder Bremen last week, and a win could push them as far up as fifth in the ultra-tight Bundesliga midtable. Eintracht does not have the best of road records this season, so we might see a major shakeup in the standings at the end of this weekend.

Here are all the matches this weekend in the Bundesliga:

Friday, February 1

Werder Bremen vs. Hannover 96

Saturday, February 2

Fortuna Dusseldorf vs. VfB Stuttgart
Mainz vs. Bayern Munich
Schalke vs. Greuther Furth
Hoffenheim vs. Freiburg
Wolfsburg vs. Augsburg
Hamburg vs. Eintracht Frankfurt

Sunday, February 3

Nurnberg vs. Borussia Monchengladbach
Bayer Leverkusen vs. Borussia Dortmund

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ITALY

Juventus is another one of Europe’s top clubs steaming after a tough draw. Last week’s controversial 1-1 finish with Genoa ended with manager Antonio Conte and other club members earning suspensions for post-match antics. To make matters worse, Juve was knocked out of the Coppa Italia by Lazio earlier this week, denied by a stoppage time winner from Sergio Floccari. The depleted Bianconeri travel to 1oth-place Chievo Verona on Sunday, a club that has had up-and-down form this entire Serie A season.

Second-place Napoli will host a red-hot Catania club that just completed an undefeated January. Napoli has not lost since mid-December and will be careful not to drop points before next weekend’s big matchup with third-place Lazio, who sit just three points back in the table. Lazio will hope that it won’t repeat Juventus’s troubles with relegation-bound Genoa on Sunday.

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

Friday, February 1

AS Roma vs. Cagliari

Saturday, February 2

Torino vs. Sampdoria
Napoli vs. Catania

Sunday, February 3

Chievo Verona vs. Juventus
Fiorentina vs. Parma
Genoa vs. Lazio
Palermo vs. Atalanta
Siena vs. Inter Milan
US Pescara vs. Bologna
AC Milan vs. Udinese

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FRANCE

Paris Saint-Germain now leads Lyon in point differential alone in this exciting Ligue 1 race. With neither club wanting to drop any possible points, both will fight for victory on the road against their midtable opponents. PSG, fresh off of its blockbuster signing of David Beckham, will travel to 10th-place Toulouse on Friday to open the weekend slate. Lyon will face 15th-place Ajaccio, a side that has drawn its last three matches.

Also, after watching European hopeful Lorient lose a stunner to Nancy last weekend, third-place Marseille will look to avoid making the same mistakes when it hosts the dead-last Thistles. Marseille, who currently hold a six-point advantage over Stade Rennes, cannot afford to come away empty-handed while a crowded top half tries to make a surge to the top.

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

Friday, February 1

Toulouse vs. PSG

Saturday, February 2

Lorient vs. Stade Rennes
Bastia vs. Evian Thonon
Bordeaux vs. Valenciennes
Brest vs. Nice
Lille vs. Troyes
Sochaux vs. St Etienne

Sunday, February 3

Ajaccio vs. Lyon
Montpellier vs. Stade de Reims
Marseille vs. Nancy

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