European soccer weekend: What to watch in the main leagues

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              Tottenham's manager Jose Mourinho gives instructions from the side line during the English Premier League soccer match between Wolverhampton Wanderers and Tottenham Hotspur at the Molineux Stadium in Wolverhampton, England, Sunday, Dec.15, 2019. (AP Photo/Rui Vieira)
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LONDON (AP) — What to watch for in the leading soccer leagues in Europe this weekend:

ENGLAND

Jose Mourinho welcomes former club Chelsea to his new London home of Tottenham on Sunday.

Since being hired by Tottenham as Mauricio Pochettino’s replacement, Mourinho has overseen a rise from 14th to fifth in the Premier League. Fledging Chelsea manager Frank Lampard has lost four of his last five games to leave the fourth-place west London club only three points ahead of Tottenham. Mourinho won three Premier League titles with Chelsea.

Liverpool leads the way this season by 10 points but is off at the Club World Cup this weekend, giving Leicester a chance to trim the gap on Saturday by beating third-place Manchester City.

Arsenal plays Everton on Saturday to complete a week when they have been in talks with new permanent managers. Arsenal was wrapping up a deal with former captain Mikel Arteta and Everton was trying to get Carlo Ancelotti’s contract completed.

By Rob Harris

SPAIN

The fight for first place in the Spanish league resumes with Barcelona hosting Alavés and Real Madrid playing against Athletic Bilbao.

The Spanish powerhouses are coming off a 0-0 draw against each other in the first “clásico” of the season on Wednesday. The result left the teams tied with 36 points after 17 matches, with Barcelona ahead on goal difference.

The Catalan club on Saturday takes on an Alavés team that hasn’t won in three straight league games and is 14th in the standings. Madrid on Sunday hosts seventh-place Athletic, which is winless in two consecutive league games. Both Madrid and Barcelona drew their matches before the “clásico” at Camp Nou Stadium.

Third-place Sevilla — winless in three straight games in all competitions — on Saturday visits Mallorca, which is sitting just outside the relegation zone. Sevilla is five points behind Barcelona and Real Madrid.

Fifth-place Atlético Madrid, seven points behind the leaders, visits Sevilla rival Real Betis on Sunday.

By Tales Azzoni

GERMANY

Borussia Dortmund fans are hoping Jadon Sancho can continue his fine form with captain Marco Reus injured for the opening game of the Bundesliga’s 17th round at Hoffenheim on Friday.

Reus is out with a muscle tear, putting more pressure on the 19-year-old Sancho, who has raised expectations with seven goals and four assists in his last six games for Dortmund.

Mistakes cost the side a win over league leader Leipzig on Tuesday, and left Dortmund fourth, but sporting director Michael Zorc is happy with the team’s overall progress.

“We’re on the right path,” Zorc said Thursday.

Leipzig hopes to claim the league’s unofficial title of “autumn champion” — the top team at the halfway stage — with a win at home against in-form Augsburg on Saturday.

Previous leader Borussia Mönchengladbach has similar ambitions at Hertha Berlin in the late game. Both Leipzig and Gladbach are level on 34 points going into the final round before the winter break.

Third-place Bayern Munich hosts Wolfsburg, and Schalke hosts Freiburg, also Saturday.

By Ciarán Fahey

ITALY

Inter Milan will be looking to end its winless streak to move level with Juventus at the top of the Serie A table heading into the winter break.

Antonio Conte’s side has not won its previous three matches and that has seen it slip to second and crash out of the Champions League.

It hosts relegation-threatened Genoa on Saturday, with the visitors four points from safety.

Third-place Lazio is playing Juventus in the Italian Super Cup and Roma will be hoping to close in on its city rival when it visits Fiorentina on Friday.

Elsewhere, Atalanta hosts AC Milan and Napoli visits Sassuolo with new coach Gennaro Gattuso looking for his first win in charge after losing his opener.

By Daniella Matar

FRANCE

Paris Saint-Germain fans have good reason to expect another goal fest in Saturday’s home game against struggling Amiens.

With Kylian Mbappé and Neymar in top form, and with Mauro Icardi scoring freely, PSG has netted 16 goals in the past four games.

The understanding between Mbappé and Neymar is blossoming, which is not good news for an Amiens side languishing in 17th place. Amiens also has the second-worst defensive record in the league with 32 goals conceded in 17 games.

To make matters even more difficult, Ángel Di María is back from injury, meaning Tuchel could pick four forwards at Parc des Princes.

PSG is likely to head into the winter break with a seven-point lead over second-place Marseille, which has won six of the past seven league games and hosts struggling Nimes.

The fight for third place, and a place in the Champions League qualifying rounds, is intensifying between Lille and Rennes, which is one point behind Lille in fourth spot but with a game in hand.

Lille travels to play Monaco — having won 3-0 at Monaco in the League Cup on Tuesday night — while Rennes is at home to Bordeaux. All the games are on Saturday.

By Jerome Pugmire ___

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