MATCHDAY: Eriksen to return, Neymar could start for PSG
A look at what’s happening in European soccer on Saturday:
Christian Eriksen is expected to make his Brentford debut eight months after the Denmark international’s cardiac arrest at the European Championship. Brentford is hosting Newcastle and manager Thomas Frank said Eriksen will play. Manchester City defender Oleksandr Zinchenko will be available for their game at Everton despite the Ukraine international’s concerns for his home country. City leads Liverpool by three points. Leeds hosts Tottenham with both teams eyeing a return to form. Leeds lost 6-0 to Liverpool in midweek and Spurs fell to relegation-threatened Burnley 1-0. Manchester United hosts Watford, Burnley is at Crystal Palace, and Brighton hosts Aston Villa.
Real Madrid tries to increase its Liga lead when it visits city rival Rayo Vallecano. Madrid has a six-point advantage over second-placed Sevilla, which plays the Seville derby against third-placed Real Betis on Sunday. Madrid is unbeaten in its last five league matches. Rayo has lost four straight in the league, including the last two at home after enjoying one of the league’s best home records. Also, defending champion Atlético Madrid hosts mid-table Celta Vigo after a disappointing draw against Manchester United in the Champions League. Valencia, coming off five losses in its last seven league games, visits Mallorca, while Getafe hosts Alavés.
After three consecutive 1-1 draws, Juventus will be looking for more goals during a visit to an Empoli side that is on a nine-match winless streak in Serie A. Juventus has drawn with Atalanta and Torino in its last two league games and also drew with Villarreal in the Champions League on Tuesday. However, the Bianconeri are missing several key players, with Weston McKennie and Alex Sandro having gotten hurt against Villarreal. Also, Fiorentina visits Sassuolo and last-placed Salernitana hosts Bologna.
Berlin’s Bundesliga teams are desperate for wins. Hertha Berlin is just one point above the relegation zone before its trip to Freiburg, and Union Berlin hasn’t won any of its last three games since experienced forward Max Kruse left for Wolfsburg. Kruse and Wolfsburg travel to Borussia Mönchengladbach, 35 days after the former Germany striker scored two goals for Union in what was its last win. Also, Bundesliga leader Bayern Munich visits Eintracht Frankfurt, Bayer Leverkusen hosts Arminia Bielefeld, and last-placed Greuther Fürth welcomes Cologne.
Neymar could make his first start for runaway league leader Paris Saint-Germain at relegation battler Saint-Etienne, after two substitute appearances since recovering from a sprained left ankle. He missed a penalty in last weekend’s 3-1 loss at Nantes. It was only PSG’s second defeat but exposed flaws in midfield and defense that have been covered by Kylian Mbappe’s goals in several games. Saint-Etienne is improving under coach Pascal Dupraz and has pulled away from the drop zone into 16th spot. Strasbourg can move into third place on goal difference if it wins at Nice, which is third in the Champions League playoff position. Strasbourg’s combative midfielder Dimitri Liénard is suspended but so is imposing Nice center half Jean-Clair Todibo.
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