European Look Ahead: Milan, Juve battle in Serie A, Reds eye silverware and more

European Look Ahead: Milan, Juve battle in Serie A, Reds eye silverware and more

European Soccer

European Look Ahead: Milan, Juve battle in Serie A, Reds eye silverware and more

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MilanJuve (Reuters Pictures)

By JOHN BOSCHINI

Two Serie A powers are set for what is perhaps the most important weekend of the season.

Juventus and AC Milan have been steadily pulling away from the rest of the pack over the past two months and finally face each other for the second time this season Saturday afternoon, with the winner grabbing the edge in the race for the Scudetto. Juventus are still the only unbeaten side left in a top European league, but, thanks to a game in hand and 10 draws, trail AC Milan by one point.

The home side will have a difficult time breaking down Juventus' league-best defense in the absence of suspended leading-scorer Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Juventus beat Milan 2-0 when the two sides met in Turin on Oct. 2. 

In England, the Carling Cup might not be as prestigious as other competitions, but any final at Wembley Stadium is noteworthy. Liverpool are the favorites to knock off Cardiff City and claim silverware, having knocked off Chelsea and Manchester City en route to the final. Cardiff City won't be a pushover, however, as the club is flirting with promotion from the Championship and has done well in cup competitions in recent years.

Here is a look at all the European action coming up this weekend:

ENGLAND

The North London derby has a distinctly different flavor this time around as Arsenal struggle to finish in the top four while Tottenham have settled comfortably into the top three. Virtual elimination from the UEFA Champions League in Milan and an embarrassing FA Cup loss to Sunderland has put Arsene Wenger under pressure once again. Tottenham could move as many as 13 points clear of fourth place with a win.

If Tottenham manage a result against Arsenal, Chelsea can move back into the top four with a win over Gary Cahill's former club, Bolton.

SATURDAY

Chelsea vs. Bolton Wanderers, 10 a.m.
Newcastle United vs. Wolverhampton Wanderers, 10 a.m.
Queens Park Rangers vs. Fulham, 10 a.m.
West Bromwich Albion vs. Sunderland, 10 a.m.
Wigan Athletic vs. Aston Villa, 10 a.m.
Manchester City vs. Blackburn Rovers, 12:30 p.m.

SUNDAY

Arsenal vs. Tottenham Hotspur, 8:30 a.m.
Norwich City vs. Manchester United, 8:30 a.m.
Stoke City vs. Swansea City, 10 a.m.
Cardiff City vs. Liverpool (Carling Cup Final), 11 a.m.

SPAIN

Barcelona have already all but conceded the La Liga title but could fall further behind with a difficult road trip to Atletico Madrid. The Catalan club has been woeful, by their standards, on the road this season with only four wins in 11 games.

Espanyol and Levante square off in a game with significant Champions League implications. Espanyol sits in fifth place, equal on points with fourth-placed Athletic Bilbao, while Levante lurks a point behind in seventh.

SATURDAY

Racing Santander vs. Sporting Gijon, 12 p.m.
Real Betis vs. Getafe, 12 p.m.
Malaga vs. Real Zaragoza, 2 p.m.
Espanyol vs. Levante, 4 p.m.

SUNDAY

Villarreal vs. Athletic Bilbao, 6 a.m.
Rayo Vallecano vs. Real Madrid, 10 a.m.
Osasuna vs. Granada, 12 p.m.
Real Sociedad vs. Mallorca, 12 p.m.
Valencia vs. Sevilla FC, 12 p.m.
Atletico Madrid vs. Barcelona, 3:30 p.m. 

GERMANY

Bayern Munich will be looking to rebound from their surprise loss to FC Basel in the Champions League, but their return to the Bundesliga will be far from a cake walk. Fourth-placed Schalke travels to third-placed Bayern in a game with massive title implications. Both teams are within five points of league leaders Borussia Dortmund.

Both Borussia Dortmund and Borussia Monchengladbach have home games against mid-table opposition.

FRIDAY

Borussia Monchengladbach vs. Hamburg SV, 2:30 p.m.

SATURDAY

FC Augsburg vs. Hertha Berlin, 9:30 a.m.
FC Cologne vs. Bayer Leverkusen, 9:30 a.m.
Mainz vs. Kaiserslautern, 9:30 a.m.
VfB Stuttgart vs. SC Freiburg, 9:30 a.m.
VfL Wolfsburg vs. TSG Hoffenheim, 9:30 a.m.
Werder Bremin vs. Nurnberg, 12:30 p.m.

SUNDAY

Bayern Munich vs. Schalke 04, 9:30 a.m.
Borussia Dortmund vs. Hannover 96, 11:30 a.m.

ITALY

While all eyes will understandably be focused on the game in Milan, there are other games to be excited about in Serie A. Inter Milan and Napoli had very different Champions League experiences during the week and it will be interesting to see how they recover when the two teams square off. Napoli have lost only twice at home this season, while Inter come in with a less than impressive away record.

SATURDAY

Genoa vs. Parma, 12 p.m.
AC Milan vs. Juventus, 2:45 p.m. 

SUNDAY

Atalanta vs. AS Roma, 9 a.m.
Cagliari vs. Lecce, 9 a.m.
Catania vs. Novara, 9 a.m.
Chievo Verona vs. Cesena, 9 a.m.
Siena vs. Palermo, 9 a.m. 
Bologna vs. Udinese, 2:45 p.m.
Lazio vs. Fiorentina, 2:45 p.m.
Napoli vs. Inter Milan, 2:45 p.m. 

FRANCE

Last weekend's entertaining draw between Paris Saint-Germain and Montepellier did little to establish a clear front-runner for the Ligue 1 title. This weekend, Montpellier takes on a Bordeaux side that has fallen off in recent years. Couple that with Montpellier's dominant home form, and it looks to be a straight-forward victory.

PSG faces a much stiffer test with an away trip to Lyon. The home side has been slumping with a three-game winless streak, so PSG will like their chances.

SATURDAY

AC Ajaccio vs. Dijon, 1 p.m.
AJ Auxerre vs. St. Etienne, 1 p.m.
Evian Thonon Gaillard vs. AS Nancy Lorraine, 1 p.m.
Montpellier vs. Bordeaux, 1 p.m.
Nice vs. Caen, 1 p.m.
Valenciennes vs. Lorient, 1 p.m.
Lyon vs. Paris Saint-Germain, 3 p.m.

SUNDAY

Brest vs. Marseille, 11 a.m.
Toulouse vs. Sochaux, 11 a.m.
Stade Rennes vs. Lille, 3 p.m. 

NETHERLANDS

The league lead is on the line when AZ Alkmaar welcome Heerenveen on Sunday. Heerenveen sit just two points off the lead, as the top six teams in the Eredivisie are separated by only five points. FC Twente could also move into the lead with a win over FC Utrecht.

FRIDAY

RKC Waalwijk vs. Vitesse Arnhem, 2 p.m.

SATURDAY

NAC Breda vs. ADO Den Haag, 12:45 p.m.
Roda JC Kerkrade vs. De Graafschap, 1:45 p.m.
VVV Venlo vs. SC Heracles Almelo, 1:45 p.m.
NEC Nijmegen vs. FC Groningen, 2:45 p.m. 

SUNDAY

Excelsior vs. Ajax, 6:30 a.m.
PSV Eindhoven vs. Feyenoord Rotterdam, 8:30 a.m.
FC Twente vs. FC Utrecht, 8:30 a.m.
AZ Alkmaar vs. Heerenveen, 10:30 a.m.

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What do you think of the weekend's fixtures? Can Juventus move back into the lead in Serie A or will AC Milan stake a claim to the top spot? Who do you see winning the Carling Cup and prevailing in the North London derby?

Share your thoughts below.

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