BY NICK IUELE
Manchester City have taken over the top spot in the English Premier League, but will have their hold on first place tested by a Chelsea team that will be led by newly-appointed manager Rafa Benitez.
Manchester City and Chelsea face off in the weekend’s most high-profile match in Europe as City look to maintain their advantage on the Blues and Manchester United. Chelsea will be looking to right the ship after recent poor results cost Roberto DiMatteo his job as manager.
The two most storied clubs in Italy, table-topping Juventus and AC Milan, square off on Sunday. While Juve is in good form as they have been all season, Milan has struggled mightily this term and have been reduced to a mid-table club. However, when these two clubs come together, all three points are never guaranteed to either. The Old Lady beat Chelsea in UCL during the week, while Milan moved on to the knockout stage with a 3-1 win over Anderlecht.
In Spain, undefeated Barcelona takes on fourth-place Levante this weekend. Barca is coming off a ho-hum 3-0 win over Spartak Moscow in UCL and have been dominant over the last few weeks save one loss to Celtic. Levante is a surprise in the top six and are currently in the final UCL spot.
Here is a look at this weekend’s action in Europe’s top leagues:
Manchester United looks to have a rebound match against Queens Park Rangers after falling to Norwich City and out of the top spot last weekend. The Red Devils have lost two in a row, including a UCL loss during the week. The good news for United is that Phil Jones played for the first time in six months and is ready to help on the back line.
Everton has slipped a bit in the past couple of weeks and look to change their momentum against Norwich City. The Toffees suffered a shock loss at the hands of Reading last weekend and will be eyeing all three points. Norwich is coming off a 1-0 win over United.
Here are this weekend’s English Premier League matches:
Sunderland v West Bromwich Albion
Everton v Norwich City
Manchester United v Queens Park Rangers
Stoke City v Fulham
Wigan Athletic v Reading
Aston Villa v Arsenal
Swansea City v Liverpool
Southampton v Newcastle
Chelsea v Manchester City
Tottenham Hotspur v West Ham United
Inter Milan will try to gain ground on the top spot against Parma on Monday. Inter has had a loss and a draw in their last two matches so three points will be essential, especially with Juve’s good form.
Roma has played well of late and has a chance to get back into the top five with a win over lowly Pescara. I Lupi is currently in sixth position, but a 2-0 win over Torino last week has them in position to slide into a Europa League spot.
Here are this weekend’s Serie A matches:
Palermo v Catania
Atalanta v Genoa
Chievo Verona v Siena
Sampdoria v Bologna
Torino v Fiorentina
US Pescara v AS Roma
AC Milan v Juventus
Cagliari v Napoli
Parma v Inter Milan
Lazio v Udinese
Real Madrid faces a formidable opponent in Real Betis on Saturday. Madrid is looking to continue gaining ground on the top two, while Betis is enjoying a surprisingly good term. Madrid is still feeling the effects of a slow start, but will be expecting Atletico Madrid to cool off eventually.
Malaga has no easy task in righting the ship against Valencia. Malaga has no won in three matches and are subsequently slipping down the table while Valencia , who is barely in the top 10, is coming off a 1-1 moral-boosting draw over Bayern Munich in UCL. Malaga will need all three points to keep up.
Here are this weekend’s La Liga matches:
Real Sociedad v Osasuna
Rayo Vallecano v Mallorca
Valladolid v Granada
Malaga v Valencia
Real Betis v Real Madrid
Espanyol v Getafe
Athletic Bilbao v Deportivo La Coruna
Atletico Madrid v Sevilla FC
Levante v Barcelona
Real Zaragoza v Celta Vigo
Top three clubs Schalke and Eintracht Frankfurt is the Bundesliga’s marque matchup of the weekend. Schalke fell at the hands of Bayer Leverkusen last weekend, while Frankfurt won to pull even on points for second place. Schalke looks to rebound, Frankfurt looks to keep the momentum.
Title-holders Borussia Dortmund can make a move into the top three with a win over Mainz on Saturday. Dortmund has been a bit up and down this term, but are hanging around the top of the table. The defending champs have taken positive results out of their last five matches.
Here are this weekend’s Bundesliga matches:
Fortuna Dusseldorf v Hamburg SV
Bayern Munich v Hannover 96
Mainz v Borussia Dortmund
Schalke 04 v Eintracht Frankfurt
SpVgg Greuther Furth v Nurnberg
VfL Wolfsburg v Werder Bremen
SC Freiburg v VfB Stuttgart
FC Augsburg v Borussia Monchengaldbach
TSG Hoffenheim v Bayer Leverkusen
Paris Saint-Germain looks to take back the top spot in Ligue 1 with a win over Troyes. After surrendering the league lead with a loss last week, Zlatan Ibrahimovic has eyes on a rebound.
Lyon will likely have to win against Toulouse on Sunday to keep the top spot. Lyon took over first place last weekend with a win and PSG and Marseille losses. Toulouse is a quality club, but has hit a patch of bad form.
Here are this weekend’s Ligue 1 matches:
St. Etienne v Valenciennes
Paris St.-Germain v Troyes
AS Nancy Lorraine v AC Ajaccio
Bastia v Lorient
Sochaux v Nice
Stade de Reims v Brest
Stade Rennes v Evian Thonon Gaillard
Montpellier v Bordeax
Toulouse v Lyon
Marseille v Lille