By JOHN BOSCHINI
With a thrilling week of UEFA Champions League play over and a few high-profile fixtures looming next week, the slate of games around Europe this weekend lacks the prestige of high-profile clubs taking each other on.
That's not to say races for both league titles and next season's European places will not take significant steps forward. In Germany, Bayer Leverkusen and Werder Bremen put their Champions League hopes on the line when they take on top-four opposition. Leverkusen is seven points off fourth place and welcome third-placed Borussia Monchengladbach. The surprise title challengers have fallen off the pace in recent weeks and drew with Leverkusen earlier in the season.
Werder Bremen, currently in sixth place and eight points off a spot in the Champions League, travel to league-leading Borussia Dortmund. Dortmund hold a five-point lead at the top of the table and must keep racking up victories if they are to hold off a Bayern Munich side that is scoring goals at will.
Some of the top sides in England will be off as the quarterfinals of the FA Cup take center stage. Manchester City and Arsenal get some much-needed rest while Tottenham, Chelsea and Liverpool pursue the FA Cup as the favorites remaining in the quarterfinals.
Here is a look forward to the action from around Europe's top leagues:
Only eight teams remain in the FA Cup with several mid-table Premier League teams looking to take advantage of the absence of a few of the big clubs. Everton vs. Sunderland will probably be the most competitive game of the weekend with Tottenham, Chelsea and Liverpool enjoying home fixtures. Wolverhampton will almost need to earn a shock result against Manchester United in league play as Wolves slip deeper into the relegation zone.
Fulham vs. Swansea City, 11 a.m.
Wigan Athletic vs. West Bromwich Albion, 11 a.m.
Wolverhampton Wanderers vs. Manchester United, 9:30 a.m.
Newcastle United vs. Norwich City, 12 p.m.
Everton vs. Sunderland, 8:45 a.m.
Tottenham Hotspur vs. Bolton Wanderers, 1:30 p.m.
Chelsea vs. Leicester City, 10:05 a.m.
Liverpool vs. Stoke City, 12 p.m.
Real Madrid face one of their tougher home tests of the season as fourth-placed Malaga comes calling. A draw would keep Malaga in fourth place but seeing as Real Madrid have dropped points at home only once this season, that result seems as unlikely. Levante could take advantage and move into fourth place with a win over Villarreal.
Getafe vs. Real Sociedad, 1 p.m.
Granada vs. Sporting Gijon, 1 p.m.
Real Zaragoza vs. Osasuna, 1 p.m.
Sevilla vs. Barcelona, 3 p.m.
Rayo Vallecano vs. Real Betis, 5 p.m.
Levante vs. Villarreal, 7 a.m.
Mallorca vs. Atletico Madrid, 11 a.m.
Athletic Bilbao vs. Valencia, 1 p.m.
Real Madrid vs. Malaga, 4:30 p.m.
Espanyol vs. Racing Santander, 4 p.m.
Bayern Munich is the hottest offensive team in Europe right now, and that could spell serious trouble for relegation-threatened Hertha Berlin. Bayern have scored seven goals in each of their past two games. Schalke could extend their cushion in fourth place to 10 points with a win over Kaiserslautern combined with Leverkusen and Werder Bremen losses.
TSG Hoffenheim vs. VfB Stuttgart, 3:30 p.m.
Bayer Leverkusen vs. Borussia Monchengladbach, 10:30 a.m.
Borussia Dortmund vs. Werder Bremen, 10:30 a.m.
FC Augsburg vs. Mainz, 10:30 a.m.
Hamburg SV vs. SC Freiburg, 10:30 a.m.
Nurnberg vs. VfL Wolfsburg, 10:30 a.m.
Hertha Berlin vs. Bayern Munich, 1:30 p.m.
Kaiserslautern vs. Schalke 04, 10:30 a.m.
Hannover 96 vs. FC Cologne, 12:30 p.m.
It's crunch time in Turin as Juventus need to start stringing together victories if they are to catch AC Milan. Despite being undefeated, Juventus — which has drawn 14 times — trail Milan and face a tricky trip to Fiorentina on Saturday. By the time that game kicks off, Milan could extend their lead seven points. Parma are fighting relegation and should prove no match for the leaders.
Parma vs. AC Milan, 1:00 p.m.
Fiorentina vs. Juventus, 3:45 p.m.
Cagliari vs. Cesena, 7:30 a.m.
Bologna vs. Chievo Verona, 10 a.m.
Catania vs. Lazio, 10 a.m.
Inter Milan vs. Atalanta, 10 a.m.
Lecce vs. Palermo, 10 a.m.
Siena vs. Novara, 10 a.m.
Udinese vs. Napoli, 3:45 p.m.
AS Roma vs. Genoa, 3:45 p.m.
Paris Saint-Germain and Montpellier hit the road this weekend as the close race at the top of the Ligue 1 table persists. Lille, which is now 11 points off the lead, will turn its attention to defending third place. Only four points separates third from seventh. St. Etienne can jump into third should Lille slip up against Valenciennes.
AJ Auxerre vs. Evian Thonon Gaillard, 2 p.m.
AS Nancy Lorraine vs. Montpellier, 2 p.m.
Bordeaux vs. AC Ajaccio, 2 p.m.
Caen vs. Paris Saint-Germain, 2 p.m.
Lorient vs. Brest, 2 p.m.
Marseille vs. Dijon FCO, 2 p.m.
St. Etienne vs. Lyon, 4 p.m.
Sochaux vs. Nice, 12 p.m.
Stade Rennes vs. Toulouse, 12 p.m.
Lille vs. Valenciennes, 4 p.m.
While AZ Alkmaar have opened up a slight lead at the top of the Eredivisie table, the issue of second place is anything but settled. Ajax holds onto the runner up position while three teams sit one point behind. Two of those teams, PSV Eindhoven and Heerenveen, face off on Sunday.
Vitesse Arnhem vs. SC Heracles Almelo, 3 p.m.
RKC Waalwijk vs. De Graafschap, 1:45 p.m.
Excelsior vs. Roda JC Kerkrade, 2:45 p.m.
VVV Venlo vs. NEC Nijmegen, 3:45 p.m.
ADO Den Haag vs. Ajax, 7:30 a.m.
FC Utrecht vs. FC Groningen, 9:30 a.m.
PSV Eindhoven vs. Heerenveen, 9:30 a.m.
FC Twente vs. Feyenoord Rotterdam, 9:30 a.m.
AZ Alkmaar vs. NAC Breda, 11:30 a.m.
What do you think of this weekend's fixtures? Excited about the games in Germany? Has the FA Cup lost some of its luster? Can Juventus finally get a decisive win, or will AC Milan continue to pull away?
Share your thoughts below.