MATCHDAY: Chelsea hosts Newcastle; Barcelona faces Osasuna
A look at what’s happening in European soccer on Sunday:
Chelsea hosts Newcastle in the first game at Stamford Bridge since owner Roman Abramovich was sanctioned by the British government over Russia’s war on Ukraine. The west London club has to operate under government spending controls while a buyer is sought for the frozen asset. One of the most recent Premier League takeovers involved Newcastle being bought by the Saudi sovereign wealth fund despite human rights activists trying to block the deal. On the field, Chelsea is trying to increasingly secure its hold on third place in the league, while Newcastle is aiming to push further than the current 10 points away from the relegation zone. Last-place Norwich, which lost to Chelsea on Thursday, travels to a Leeds side that is only two points above the relegation zone after losing both matches since American coach Jesse Marsch took charge. Everton, which hosts Wolverhampton, is only a point above the drop zone after winning one of its five league matches since Frank Lampard was hired as manager. Next-from-last Watford plays at Southampton. In the pursuit of European qualification spots, Arsenal hosts Leicester and West Ham takes on Aston Villa.
Second-place Sevilla visits Rayo Vallecano needing to end its winless streak on the road if it hopes to challenge Real Madrid for the Spanish league title. A run of four consecutive draws for Sevilla in away games has helped Madrid open up an eight-point gap at the top. Julen Lopetegui’s Sevilla has battled injuries all season. Its injured list currently includes playmaker Papu Gómez and defender Diego Carlos. Midfielder Joan Jordán is suspended. Barcelona hosts Osasuna and needs a win to reclaim third place from Atlético Madrid and strengthen its hold on one of the four Champions League spots. Barcelona’s season-best run of four consecutive victories was halted by a 0-0 draw against Galatasaray in the Europa League on Thursday. Real Betis hosts Athletic Bilbao after five games without a win, its worst stretch of an otherwise excellent campaign for the team coached by Manuel Pellegrini. Betis has slid from third to fifth in recent rounds. Real Sociedad welcomes Alavés and is also trying to stay in the fight for a spot in European competitions next season.
Inter Milan and Napoli will be looking to overturn a miserable series of results to keep the pressure on Serie A leader AC Milan. Defending champion Inter, which has won only one of its last five matches to slip five points behind Milan, visits Torino. Napoli lost to Milan last weekend and has won only one of its past six matches in all competitions. It visits Hellas Verona knowing that a win would send it back to within three points of Milan. Roma and Atalanta are both nine points below the top four and face Udinese and Genoa, respectively. Fiorentina hosts Bologna.
Paris Saint-Germain coach Mauricio Pochettino has spoken of sleeping badly since his team’s stunning midweek defeat — and exit — in the Champions League against Real Madrid in the round of 16. So a lunchtime kickoff against Bordeaux might not be what he needs. Bordeaux is in last place, however, and Pochettino said he plans to field some young players hungry to show what they can do. PSG can afford to experiment given its 12-point lead. Elsewhere, a win for third-place Marseille at Brest would it move level with second-place Nice in the automatic Champions League spot.
Borussia Dortmund hosts coronavirus-hit Arminia Bielefeld as it bids to cut Bayern Munich’s lead in the Bundesliga. While still comfortable at the top, Bayern has uncharacteristically dropped points in three of its last five games, drawing its last two, giving Dortmund an opportunity it perhaps didn’t anticipate at this stage of the season. Bayern leads by 10 points with eight games to play, but Dortmund can cut the gap to four if it wins both of its games in hand – against Bielefeld on Sunday and Mainz on Wednesday. Bayer Leverkusen will hope to consolidate third place with a derby win over Cologne, and Leipzig can reclaim fourth place with a win at last-place Greuther Fürth. Fourth is the last place for Champions League qualification. Also, Eintracht Frankfurt hosts Bochum in a midtable clash.
More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports