By NICK IUELE
In recent years, La Liga has been a two-horse race between Barcelona and Real Madrid. This term, Barca is right where they were expected to be: at the top and without a loss.
Real Madrid, however, is not and instead it is Radamel Falcao and Atletico Madrid that have moved into second place ahead of their clash with Barcelona.
Barca will take on Atletico at Camp Nou on Sunday, and given both clubs success at this point in the season, this looks to be one of the better match-ups that we have seen in league play this season. This match features the top two scorers in Spain, Lionel Messi (26 goals) and Falcao (16 goals), so the chances one of them score in an open and entertaining match is fairly high. Atletico cannot pass Barca with all three points, but a win would inch them closer to the top spot.
In Italy, second-place Inter Milan faces a stiff challenge from Lazio. Inter took over the second position last week with a big 2-1 win over Napoli, while Lazio was held to a scoreless draw by Bologna. All three points could potentially put Inter one point back of Juventus, but they’ll need the Old Lady to slip up against Atalanta.
In England, Manchester City will be looking to rebound after their devastating loss to archrival Manchester United. The Citizens have a winnable match against Newcastle United on Saturday at St. James Park, and they will be out for blood after finding themselves six points back of first place instead of tied for first after last week’s defeat.
Here’s a look at this weekend’s action in Europe’s top leagues:
Everton goes on the road to take on Stoke City this weekend. The Toffees moved into the last Champions League spot last round with their win over Tottenham Hotspur and are only three points behind Chelsea for third. Stoke sits in ninth place, but has only lost three times this term while drawing eight games.
Manchester United can pad their six-point lead with a win over reeling Sunderland this weekend. United are coming off a big win over Manchester City and are riding high, while Sunderland is in dismal form and lost to a struggling Chelsea side last week. United should get all three points at home and keep their distance from the field, but Sunderland is thinking of doing the improbable and pulling off the upset.
Here are this weekend’s English Premier League matches:
Newcastle v Manchester City
Chelsea v Southampton- PPD
Liverpool v Aston Villa
Manchester United v Sunderland
Norwich City v Wigan Athletic
Queens Park Rangers v Fulham
Stoke City v Everton
Tottenham Hotspur v Swansea City
West Bromwich Albion v West Ham United
Reading v Arsenal
AC Milan will look to build on their recent good form with a match against lowly Pescara this weekend. Milan has enjoyed three straight league wins and is not far behind the top five now after a poor start to the campaign. Just five points out of the final Europa League spot, i Rossoneri are back in the hunt and Pescara should be no problem.
Juventus can add to their four-point Serie A lead with a win over Atalanta. The Old Lady has only two losses this season and have won 12 matches, the most in the league. The defending champions are not prone to hiccups at home and this will be Antonio Conte’s first home match after being suspended for alleged involvement in match fixing.
Here are this weekend’s Serie A matches:
Udinese v Palermo
Lazio v Inter Milan
Fiorentina v Siena
AC Milan v US Pescara
Catania v Sampdoria
Chievo Verona v AS Roma
Genoa v Torino
Juventus v Atalanta
Parma v Cagliari
Napoli v Bologna
With Barcelona and Atletico beating each other up this weekend, Real Madrid has an opportunity to make up some ground against Espanyol. Madrid will look at this match as an easy three points and they could certainly use it as the third place club is 11 points off of first.
Malaga has gotten back on track, but face a solid Sevilla side on Saturday. Malaga won 4-0 last weekend against Granada and have moved back into fourth place, which holds the final UCL spot. Sevilla has slipped a bit in recent weeks and this could be a chance for Malaga to gain ground on Real Madrid and the final automatic UCL position.
Here are this weekend’s La Liga matches:
Getafe v Osasuna
Mallorca v Athletic Bilbao
Granada v Real Sociedad
Sevilla FC v Malaga
Real Zaragoza v Levante
Valencia v Rayo Vallecano
Real Madrid v Espanyol
Barcelona v Atletico Madrid
Deportivo La Coruna v Real Valladolid
Celta Vigo v Real Betis
Bayern Munich, already with an 11-point lead at the top of the Bundesliga, can increase that even further with a win over Borussia Monchengladbach. Munich has been head and shoulders above all other German sides this term and this match should be no problem for them. At this point, it’s a race for second.
Defending champs Borussia Dormund can take over second with a win over Hoffenheim. Dortmund lost to Wolfsburg last weekend, but was not adversely affected due to losses by other top clubs. They are a much better club than Hoffenheim and will more than likely prove it.
Here are this weekend’s Bundesliga matches:
Bayern Munich v Borussia Monchengladbach
Bayer Leverkusen v Hamburg SV
Fortuna Dusseldorf v Hannover 96
Mainz v VfB Stuttgart
SpVgg Greuther Furth v FC Augsburg
VfL Wolfsburg v Eintracht Frankfurt
Schalke 04 v SC Freiburg
TSG Hoffenheim v Borussia Dortmund
Werder Bremen v Nurnberg
Lyon faces off with Paris Saint-Germain in a battle of top two sides on Sunday. The last few weeks have seen shakeups in the top five with these two clubs wrestling for first and this match could settle that, at least for the time being. Zlatan Ibrahimovic could very well be the difference in the match.
Marseille has an outside shot of taking first place with all three points against Toulouse. Marseille has also been involved in the top-five shakeup but has only held the top spot for a short time.
Here are this weekend’s Ligue 1 matches:
Stade Rennes v Valenciennes
Toulouse v Marseille
Montpellier v Bastia
Nice v Evian Thonon Gaillard
Sochaux v Brest
Stade de Reims v Lille
Troyes v AC Ajaccio
AS Nancy Lorriane v Bordeaux
St. Etienne v Lorient
Paris St.-Germain v Lyon