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European Weekend Preview: Real Madrid pushes for title, Liverpool looks to seal UCL spot, and more

The La Liga title race comes down to this weekend’s matchups as Real Madrid and Barcelona both remain in the hunt for the trophy.

Los Blancos leaped into top spot midweek after winning, 4-1, over Celta Vigo in their game in hand. All Real Madrid needs is a point at Malaga, and they will clinch their 33rd La Liga crown. The visitors will definitely be favorites to earn three points on the road, especially after back-to-back 4-1 victories in their last two matches. Cristiano Ronaldo is coming off a brace midweek, and will definitely be chomping at the bit to add to that total this Sunday.

Barcelona know that for any chance of winning their 25th La Liga crown, they have to defeat Eibar at the Camp Nou. Luis Enrique’s side also needs Real Madrid to lose at Malaga for a chance at the silverware. Since their Champions League exit, Barcelona have won five league matches in a row, most recently a 4-1 road win at Las Palmas last weekend. Neymar is the player to watch after scoring a hat-trick in last weekend’s win.

Elsewhere, the top four race in the Premier League will be decided this weekend as Arsenal, Liverpool, and Manchester City are fighting for the final two spots. A huge relegation battle takes place in Germany this weekend as Hamburg faces off with Wolfsburg, knowing a win would save them from the relegation playoffs. In Italy, Napoli welcomes Fiorentina to the Sao Paolo, while Juventus can clinch the league crown with a win at Crotone. The mouth-watering fixture in Ligue 1 this weekend comes from the Parc OL as Lyon welcomes Nice to town.

Here’s a closer look at this weekend’s European action:

ENGLISH PREMIER LEAGUE

Fourth-place Liverpool can clinch a spot in next season’s Champions League with a win over Middlesbrough at Anfield on Sunday. Jurgen Klopp’s team is coming off a 4-0 demolition of West Ham a week ago, and will be favorites to defeat the already-relegated side visitors this weekend. Philippe Coutinho is coming off a brace a week ago, and definitely will be the man to watch. Middlesbrough, who is already guaranteed second-tier football next season, could spoil Liverpool’s hopes of Champions League involvement with an upset win on the road.

Third-place Manchester City only needs a point at Watford on Sunday to guarantee a spot in next season’s Champions League. If City were to win, they would clinch third-place which would see them start in the group stage of the competition next September. Pep Guardiola’s men have won their last three matches, and are unbeaten in their last five overall. Watford is guaranteed top-flight football next season, but would definitely like to win at Vicarage Road to end the campaign on a high note.

Fifth-place Arsenal have the toughest match of the round, welcoming Everton to the Emirates on Sunday. Arsene Wenger’s side know a victory, paired with dropped points by Liverpool would see the Gunners in the Champions League next season. Arsenal is coming off a 2-0 home win over Sunderland midweek, in which Alexis Sanchez netted a brace. Everton is comfortably sitting in seventh-place, which is the highest they can finish this season. However, this could be the final matches for striker Romelu Lukaku and midfielder Ross Barkley, who are wanted by several top clubs in England.

Here are all of this weekend’s EPL fixtures:

Sunday

  • Liverpool vs. Middlesbrough
  • Watford vs. Manchester City
  • Chelsea vs. Sunderland
  • Southampton vs. Stoke City
  • Arsenal vs. Everton
  • Hull City vs. Tottenham Hotspur
  • Leicester City vs. AFC Bournemouth
  • Burnley vs. West Ham United
  • Manchester United vs. Crystal Palace
  • Swansea City vs. West Bromwich Albion

SPANISH LA LIGA

Fifth-place Villarreal can clinch a spot in next season’s Europa League with a win on Sunday at Valencia. The visitors sit on 64 points and are unbeaten in four of their last five fixtures. Despite a 4-1 loss at Barcelona on May 5, Villarreal looks in firm position to clinch a European spot for next season. Striker Cedric Bakambu leads the team with 11 league goals this season, and will be the man to watch. Valencia has four players tied for the team lead in league goals, with all of them being forwards. Strikers Paco Alcacer (six goals) and Simone Zaza (six goals) are the likely duo to start for the hosts.

Sixth-place Athletic Bilbao faces the toughest match this weekend, traveling to Atletico Madrid on Sunday. Bilbao, who currently hold the final European qualification spot, know anything less than a win, paired with a Real Sociedad victory would see them ousted to seventh-place. Despite being winless in their last two matches, Bilbao is unbeaten in five of their last six matches. Atletico Madrid has already clinched a third-place finish.

Real Sociedad can clinch a Europa League qualifying spot with a win on Sunday over Celta Vigo. The visitors also need Athletic Bilbao to drop points at Atletico Madrid, which could very well happen. Sociedad is unbeaten in their last five matches, but is winless in their last two. Winger Carlos Vela has scored in two of his last three matches. Celta Vigo has lost six in a row in league play, and have not won a match since April 16.

Here are all of this weekend’s La Liga fixtures:

Friday

  • Granada vs. Espanyol

Saturday

  • Sporting Gijon vs. Real Betis
  • Deportivo vs. Las Palmas
  • Leganes vs. Alaves
  • Sevilla vs. Osasuna

Sunday

  • Valencia vs. Villarreal
  • Celta Vigo vs. Real Sociedad
  • Atletico Madrid vs. Athletic Bilbao
  • Malaga vs. Real Madrid
  • Barcelona vs. Eibar

GERMAN BUNDESLIGA

To avoid a spot in the relegation playoffs, Hamburg will need to earn all three points against Wolfsburg this Saturday. The hosts could finish the season as high as 13th with a win paired with other results. Hamburg has not won since April 8, losing three and drawing two since then. Bobby Wood leads the team with five goals this season, and will likely lead the line on Saturday. Wolfsburg is coming off a 1-1 draw with Borussia Monchengladbach last weekend, in which Mario Gomez got on the scoresheet. The German international has 16 league goals this season.

The must-watch match of the round takes place at the Signal Iduna Park as Borussia Dortmund hosts Werder Bremen. Thomas Tuchel’s side is aiming for a third-place finish and will complete that goal with three points on Saturday. Dortmund is unbeaten in the last five matches, including wins over Bayern Munich and Hoffenheim in that span. A victory for Bremen, paired with other results could see the visitors snatch the final Europa League spot for next season. Despite suffering back-to-back defeats, Bremen could easily pull the upset with Max Kruse (14 goals) leading the forwards.

Here are all of this weekend’s Bundesliga fixtures:

Saturday

  • Hamburg SV vs. VfL Wolfsburg
  • Borussia Monchengladbach vs. Darmstadt
  • FC Koln vs. FSV Mainz
  • Ingolstadt vs. Schalke 04
  • 1899 Hoffenheim vs. FC Augsburg
  • Hertha Berlin vs. Bayer Leverkusen
  • Borussia Dortmund vs. Werder Bremen
  • Bayern Munich vs. SC Freiburg
  • Eintracht Frankfurt vs. RB Leipzig

ITALIAN SERIE A

Italian leader Juventus is looking to clinch a second trophy in a week with a win over Crotone in Turin. After a 2-0 Coppa Italia final win over Lazio on Wednesday, Massimiliano Allegri’s side now aim to clinch their sixth straight Scudetto this weekend. Despite losing, 3-1, at Roma last weekend, Juventus will be favorites at home against a struggling Crotone side. Crotone, who is currently sitting in 18th-place, will look for the three points to jump them out of the relegation zone with one match remaining.

The must-watch match of the round comes from Naples as Napoli hosts Fiorentina. The hosts are mathematically still alive for the league title, but will need to win out and hope Juventus and Roma lose their remaining matches. Maurizio Sarri’s side has won its last three matches, and is unbeaten in their last nine overall since a Champions League exit. Forward Dries Mertens leads the team with 25 league goals, while Jose Callejon has 13 goals and 12 assists. Fiorentina has some nice momentum coming into this match following a 3-2 win over Lazio last weekend. They currently sit in seventh, but could finish the season as high as sixth.

Sunday’s top fixture comes from the Olimpico as Lazio welcomes Inter Milan. Lazio is coming off a 3-2 loss at Fiorentina a week ago, and a 2-0 Coppa Italia final loss on Wednesday. The hosts currently sit in fourth place, which is good for a Europa League spot next season. Inter Milan will aim for the upset, also looking to snap an eight match winless run. The visitors have lost four in a row, including disappointing defeats to Genoa and Sassuolo. Mauro Icardi has been a bright spot for the team, leading Inter with 24 league goals this season.

Here are all of this weekend’s Serie A fixtures:

Saturday

  • Chievo Verona vs. Roma
  • Napoli vs. Fiorentina

Sunday

  • Empoli vs. Atalanta
  • Juventus vs. Crotone
  • Udinese vs. Sampdoria
  • AC Milan vs. Bologna
  • Sassuolo vs. Cagliari
  • Genoa vs. Torino
  • Lazio vs. Inter Milan

Monday

  • Pescara vs. Palermo

FRENCH LIGUE 1

After earning their first league crown since 2000, Monaco will look to end the season on a winning note, traveling to Rennes on Saturday. Leonardo Jardim’s side clinched the title on Wednesday after a 3-0 victory over Saint-Etienne. The municipality side could earn their 30th league win of the season, if they defeat Rennes on Saturday. Rennes, currently in ninth, are searching for their third consecutive league win.

The mouth-watering fixture in France this weekend takes place at the Parc OL as Lyon hosts Nice. Both sides already have clinched their spots in the table, with Nice taking third and Lyon taking fourth. Lyon has won their last three matches across all competitions, despite suffering a Europa League semifinal exit against Ajax. Despite clinching a spot in next season’s Champions League qualifying, Nice will look to snap a two match losing skid.

Here are all of this weekend’s Ligue 1 fixtures:

Saturday

  • Guingamp vs. Metz
  • Lyon vs. Nice
  • Rennes vs. Monaco
  • Nancy vs. Saint-Etienne
  • PSG vs. Caen
  • Lorient vs. Bordeaux
  • Toulouse vs. Dijon
  • Lille vs. Nantes
  • Marseille vs. Bastia
  • Angers vs. Montpellier

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