MATCHDAY: Liverpool hosts West Ham; Madrid vs Sociedad
A look at what’s happening in European soccer on Saturday:
Liverpool can trim the deficit to Premier League leader Manchester City to three points by beating West Ham at Anfield. That would pile the pressure on City ahead of the Manchester derby against United on Sunday. American coach Jesse Marsch takes charge of Leeds for the first time in an away match against Leicester, with his new team having been dragged into the relegation fight. Leeds is two points above third-to-last Burnley, which hosts Chelsea. In another key game at the bottom, last-placed Norwich is at home to Brentford, which has slipped like Leeds toward the bottom three and is three points out of it. Newcastle looks to continue its surge away from trouble with a home win over Brighton.
Real Madrid hosts Real Sociedad three days before its critical Champions League clash against Paris Saint-Germain needing to overturn a 1-0 loss to reach the quarterfinals. Madrid leads the Spanish league by five points after Sevilla was held at Alavés to 0-0 on Friday. For Sociedad, Madrid will be without midfielders Toni Kroos, out with a muscle problem, and Federico Valverde, reportedly sick with the flu. Coach Carlo Ancelotti expects both to be available against PSG. Ancelotti insisted he won’t alter his starting lineup against Sociedad to rest players for the Champions League, so it seems Karim Benzema and other first-choice players will start. Villarreal visits Osasuna after winning its last two games by a combined score of 9-2 even without striker Gerard Moreno, who is injured. Valencia welcomes Granada after reaching the Copa del Rey final this week. An improved Getafe seeks its first road win of the season at struggling Espanyol, which has gone seven games without a victory.
Roma and Atalanta will be hoping to keep up the pressure on the top four when they face each other in Serie A. José Mourinho’s Roma ended a winless run of four matches when it beat Spezia 1-0 last weekend. The capital side is three points below Atalanta, which is three points below fourth-placed Juventus. Atalanta has also played a match less than the other teams around it. Lazio will be hoping for a slip up from Roma to move above its city rival in the table. It visits relegation-threatened Cagliari. Udinese and Sampdoria are only four points off the bottom three and they face each other in a crucial match in Udine.
Bundesliga leader Bayern Munich hosts third-placed Bayer Leverkusen for a game that looks sure to feature goals. Leverkusen has already 63 in 24 league games while Bayern tops the chart with 75 — 28 of those scored by Robert Lewandowski. Bayern won each of the teams’ last four encounters, and another win would open up a nine-point gap over second-placed Borussia Dortmund. Leipzig entertains Freiburg for a duel with Champions League qualification at stake, Wolfsburg welcomes Union Berlin, and relegation-threatened Hertha Berlin hosts Eintracht Frankfurt in a match between teams that have lost their last three games. Hertha’s predicament is worse after failing to win any games this year. Tayfun Korkut’s team occupies the relegation playoff place. Stuttgart, which is second from bottom, welcomes Borussia Mönchengladbach.
Runaway league leader Paris Saint-Germain will be without star striker Kylian Mbappe for the tough trip to third-placed Nice. He is suspended. A win for Nice would move it two points above Marseille in second place and into the automatic Champions League spot. Nice coach Christophe Galtier has done well against PSG and looks for a fifth straight clean sheet. Last season, he guided Lille to the French title and his side drew and won against PSG without conceding. This season Nice drew 0-0 in Paris in the league and the French Cup, advancing on penalties in that competition. Also, sixth-placed Lens is at home to Brest. A win for Lens moves it level on points with Rennes in fourth place and the Europa League spot.
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