MATCHDAY: Man United hosts Everton; Real Madrid at Huesca
A look at what’s happening in European soccer on Saturday:
Manchester United hosts Everton buoyed by thrashing Southampton 9-0. A victory would take second-placed United level on points with Manchester City but having played two more games. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is expecting to have Edinson Cavani available, having taken the striker off at halftime against Saints due to an ankle knock. Everton arrives at Old Trafford chasing a fifth successive league away win but will be without goalkeeper Jordan Pickford due to a rib injury. Saturday’s program opens with Arsenal at Aston Villa also without its first-choice goalkeeper after Bernd Leno was sent off in a 2-1 loss to Wolverhampton. That could mean Alex Runarsson, who came off the bench against Wolves, making his first league start. Arsenal is in 10th, a point and a place behind Villa but having played two more games. West Ham travels across London to Fulham only two points from the Champions League spots in fifth place. Southampton is back in action from its humiliation against Newcastle. Burnley plays Brighton sitting only a place above the relegation zone but eight points clear of danger.
Real Madrid visits last-place Huesca needing a win to not fall further behind Spanish league leader Atlético Madrid, which is 10 points ahead with an extra game to play. Madrid will be without Sergio Ramos, nursing a left-leg injury, and the injured Eden Hazard, Dani Carvajal, and Lucas Vázquez. Coach Zinedine Zidane will be back on the sideline after testing negative following a coronavirus infection. Madrid is in third place, behind Barcelona in second on overall goal difference. A red-hot Sevilla is only one point behind both of the powerhouses in fourth place before it hosts Getafe. Julen Lopetegui’s side has won six straight games in all competitions. Fifth-place Villarreal visits Elche with striker Gerard Moreno still doubtful as he recovers from a left-leg injury. Villarreal has drawn three straight in the league without him and was eliminated by Levante from the Copa del Rey quarterfinals. Levante hosts Granada flying high after qualifying for the cup’s final four and having beaten Madrid 2-1 in the last round of the league.
Juventus and Roma face each other knowing the winner can close in on the top two. Third-placed Roma is a point above Juventus and seven below leader Inter Milan, which won at Fiorentina 2-0 on Friday. Juventus has played a match less than most of the other teams around it. Juventus has won every single one of its matches in 2021 apart from a league loss against Inter. Andrea Pirlo could rotate his squad as the match is sandwiched between the two legs of the Italian Cup semifinals against Inter, with Juve leading 2-1. Napoli will move into the top four with a win but visits Genoa, which has undergone a revival under coach Davide Ballardini and won three of its past four matches. Seventh-placed Atalanta is three points below the top four and hosts relegation-threatened Torino. Sassuolo welcomes Spezia.
Borussia Dortmund visits Freiburg where it can expect another tough game after being taken to extra time by second-division Paderborn in the German Cup on Tuesday. Erling Haaland’s winner ensured back-to-back victories for Edin Terzić’s team after a mini-slump of three games without a win. Any slip up in Freiburg will increase the pressure again on the young coach who took over from the fired Lucien Favre in December. Dortmund is sixth in the Bundesliga and in danger of dropping out of the European qualification places with Borussia Mönchengladbach and Union Berlin just behind. Gladbach hosts Cologne for the Rhine derby in Saturday’s late game. Union visits Mainz, where it can also expect a hard game from a rival battling for survival. Second-placed Leipzig visits last-placed Schalke. Leipzig is keen to stay in winning form ahead of a Champions League last-16 game against Liverpool, though German travel restrictions mean it’s not clear where that game can be played. Bayer Leverkusen has dropped out of the Champions League places with a sorry run of form — four defeats in five games — as it hosts Stuttgart. Leverkusen will be keeping an eye on the visitors’ in-form forward, Silas Wamangituka. He has scored in each of his last five games across all competitions. Riding high in third thanks to a solid defense, Wolfsburg travels to Augsburg.
Lyon can exert some pressure on its fellow title challengers Lille and Paris Saint-Germain with a home win against Strasbourg. Victory would put Rudi Garcia's Lyon side on top heading into Sunday's games involving PSG and current leader Lille. But Garcia will again be without central defender Jason Denayer, who is nursing a hamstring injury which ruled him out midweek. After beating defending champion PSG last weekend and then drawing against fifth-placed Rennes, relegation battler Lorient looks to maintain its good form when it hosts mid-table Reims. The other game sees Rennes travel to play Lens, which is again without injured striker Igniatus Ganago.
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