European Weekend Preview: First-place Chelsea host Everton; Barcelona visit Sociedad; and more

ChelseaEverton (Getty Images)

By JUSTIN FERGUSON

Although Chelsea failed to advance in the FA Cup last weekend, the Blues still hold a narrow lead in the race for the English Premier League title.

But in order to keep that advantage intact through the weekend, Jose Mourinho’s men will have to avoid disappointment at Stamford Bridge against a team that beat them earlier in the season.

First-place Chelsea will welcome USMNT goalkeeper Tim Howard and sixth-place Everton to West London this Saturday for a rematch of the Toffees’ 1-0 victory at Goodison Park earlier this season. Although Everton got the best of Chelsea in their last meeting, Chelsea are unbeaten in their last 18 home matches against Everton in league play. With the Blues still sporting an unbeaten EPL home record under Mourinho, another victory against Chelsea will be a tough task for Everton, who have only won once in their last six trips away from Goodison.

In Spain, first-place Barcelona will also look to keep their league lead intact after they face a European qualification contender. Barcelona are currently in a three-way tie in points with Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid as they head into this weekend’s matchup, a road fixture at sixth-place Real Sociedad. While their form has been up-and-down this season — they have been on both ends of lopsided scorelines in recent weeks — Sociedad are still very much in the hunt for a Champions League spot as they trail Athletic Bilbao by four points ahead of the defending champions’ visit.

Here is a closer look at the weekend’s action from the top leagues in Europe:

ENGLAND

Second-place Arsenal will look to bounce back from their 2-0 loss to Bayern Munich in Champions League play with a home victory against Jozy Altidore and relegation-zoned Sunderland. The Gunners trail Chelsea by just one point in the race for the EPL title, and they will be favored to grab all three points again when they play Sunderland, who surprisingly just four points behind 10th-place Swansea City in a crowded bottom half of the league table. The Black Cats have only lost one of their last 10 matches across all competitions, but Arsenal have gone a dozen straight home EPL matches without a loss.

Third-place Manchester City are also coming off a 2-0 loss in midweek Champions League action and will face a bottom-half side at home this weekend. Stoke City held Man City to a scoreless draw in their match at the Britannia earlier this season, but they will bring one of the league’s worst road records to Ethiad Stadium on Saturday. While the Citizens have not scored in EPL play since late January, Stoke have been shut out away from home in three of their last four road matches.

Here are this weekend’s matches in the English Premier League:

Saturday:
Chelsea vs. Everton
Arsenal vs. Sunderland
Cardiff City vs. Hull City
Manchester City vs. Stoke City
West Bromwich Albion vs. Fulham
West Ham United vs. Southampton
Crystal Palace vs. Manchester United

Sunday:
Liverpool vs. Swansea City
Newcastle United vs. Aston Villa
Norwich City vs. Tottenham Hotspur

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SPAIN

Before they head to the Veltins Arena next week for the start of their Champions League matchup against Schalke 04, second-place Real Madrid host 13th-place Elche in La Liga play this Saturday. Elche are unbeaten in their last three matches, but they have been dreadful in road matches against the league’s best in 2014, losing 4-0 at both Barcelona and Real Sociedad. Real Madrid have won 14 consecutive home matches across all competitions and will be heavily favored to get all three points again this weekend at the Bernabeu.

Third-place Atletico Madrid are coming off a 1-0 victory at AC Milan in Champions League play, and they will hit the road again this weekend to take on 14th-place Osasuna. While Osasuna held Real Madrid to a 2-2 draw at El Sadar, Athletic Bilbao claimed a huge 5-1 victory there several weeks ago. Atletico will look to move on from their last match away from home in La Liga, a 2-0 loss at lowly Almeria, and keep themselves firmly in the thick of the title hunt with their rivals as they get ready for next weekend’s massive Madrid Derby.

Here are this weekend’s matches in La Liga:

Friday:
Real Valladolid vs. Levante

Saturday:
Real Madrid vs. Elche
Celta Vigo vs. Getafe
Real Sociedad vs. Barcelona
Almeria vs. Malaga

Sunday:
Rayo Vallecano vs. Sevilla
Real Betis vs. Athletic Bilbao
Valencia vs. Granada
Osasuna vs. Atletico Madrid

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GERMANY

After losing back-to-back road matches in Bundesliga play, Hannover 96 will be glad to head home to the AWD Arena this weekend — but their weekend opponents will be some of the toughest on the planet right now. Bayern Munich are looking for their 20th win in league action Saturday when they take on Hannover, who they beat 2-0 at the Allianz Arena earlier this season. Bayern have not allowed a goal in all competitions in the month of February, outscoring their opponents 18-0 in what has been another dominant run for the defending champions of Germany and Europe.

After their 4-0 loss at the hands of Paris Saint-Germain earlier in the week, second-place Bayer Leverkusen will head to the Volkswagen Arena this weekend to face a Wolfsburg side that has won three straight matches. Leverkusen have now lost three straight matches, and now third-place Borussia Dortmund trail by just one point in the league standings. Stefan Kiessling led a second-half rally to push Leverkusen to a 3-1 victory against Wolfsburg earlier in the campaign, and the German forward will be tasked with helping the offense break through a defense that has only allowed nine goals at home this season.

Here are this weekend’s matches in the Bundesliga:

Friday:
Schalke vs. Mainz

Saturday:
Borussia Monchengladbach vs. Hoffenheim
Hamburg vs. Borussia Dortmund
Nurnberg vs. Eintracht Braunschweig
Freiburg vs. Augsburg
Stuttgart vs. Hertha Berlin
Wolfsburg vs. Bayer Leverkusen

Sunday:
Eintracht Frankfurt vs. Werder Bremen
Hannover vs. Bayern Munich

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ITALY

The weekend’s top fixture in Serie A is the Turin Derby between first-place Juventus and seventh-place Torino, who trail Inter Milan by three points for the last European qualification spot in the league table. Juve are unbeaten in their last 16 Serie A matches and still boast a perfect 12-0-0 record at Juventus Stadium this season. Torino, who fell 1-0 to Juve in a close match earlier this season, are unbeaten in their last three away from home and notched an impressive 3-1 road victory last weekend against fellow European contender Hellas Verona.

Second-place AS Roma have quietly gone on a five-match unbeaten run in league play since their loss to Juventus to open the 2014 calendar, and Rudi Garcia’s men will look to keep that going this weekend at 16th-place Bologna. Roma have only allowed one goal during their current run, which could make this match a long one for Bologna and their low-scoring offense. Bologna lost 5-0 to Roma at the Stadio Olimpico earlier this season, with Gervinho notching a brace for the quick-starting capital club.

Here are this weekend’s matches in Serie A:

Saturday:
Bologna vs. AS Roma

Sunday:
Livorno vs. Hellas Verona
Chievo Verona vs. Catania
Inter Milan vs. Cagliari
Sampdoria vs. AC Milan
Udinese vs. Atalanta
Juventus vs. Torino
Lazio vs. Sassuolo

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FRANCE

First-place Paris Saint-Germain are riding high at the moment following their 3-0 Ligue 1 win against Valenciennes and their 4-0 Champions League win at Bayer Leverkusen. PSG will take their five-point lead in Ligue 1 to 10th-place Toulouse, who have only won three of their 12 home matches this season. Toulouse have not won at the Stadium Municipal since Nov. 30, so PSG will be favored once again to grab all three points like in their earlier meeting this season at the Parc des Princes.

Second-place AS Monaco are still surprisingly unbeaten in Ligue 1 since star forward Radamel Falcao’s season-ending injury, and they will put that on the line this weekend when they host seventh-place Stade de Reims. Stade de Reims have only lost twice away from home this season, good enough for second best in Ligue 1 behind PSG and Monaco. The two sides canceled each other out in a 1-1 draw earlier this season as Stade de Reims goalkeeper Kossi Agassa saved six shots from the visiting Monaco offense.

Here are this weekend’s matches in Ligue 1:

Friday:
AS Monaco vs. Stade de Reims

Saturday:
Marseille vs. Lorient
Bastia vs. Saint Etienne
Bordeaux vs. Evian Thonon Gaillard
Guingamp vs. Nice
Montpellier vs. Ajaccio
Valenciennes vs. Sochaux

Sunday:
Toulouse vs. Paris Saint-Germain
Nantes vs. Stade Rennes
Lille vs. Lyon

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Which European matches are you looking forward to the most this weekend? Think Chelsea will be able to hold onto the league lead after this weekend’s action? See Real Sociedad pulling off an upset against Barcelona?

Share your thoughts below.

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