By JUSTIN FERGUSON
Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur, two bitter North London rivals coming off disappointing results in European action, will square off in another fierce derby that will affect their respective hunts for the title and UEFA Champions League positioning.
Third-place Arsenal sit seven points behind league-leading Chelsea with a match in hand, but they will head to White Hart Lane this weekend missing several top players. Mesut Ozil and Aaron Ramsey were ruled out of the North London Derby earlier this week, joining long-term injury concerns Theo Walcott and Jack Wilshere on the bench for manager Arsene Wenger. The Gunners moved on in the FA Cup against Everton and fought to a road draw against Bayern Munich, but their undermanned squad will come under fire with back-to-back road matches against London rivals Tottenham and Chelsea.
Fifth-place Tottenham, four points behind Manchester City for the league’s final Champions League spot, are coming off a 3-1 midweek Europa League loss to Benfica at White Hart Lane, where they have only won seven of 14 league matches this season. With a home match against Southampton and a road trip to Liverpool coming later this month, Tottenham could definitely use some momentum from a derby victory for the late-season push for a Top-4 spot. Arsenal won 1-0 at Emirates Stadium earlier this season, will Spurs return the favor in front of their home supporters?
Meanwhile, in Germany, one of two teams to take any points from Bayern Munich’s current rampage through Bundesliga play will head to the Allianz Arena for a chance at more rare points against the defending champions. Third-place Bayer Leverkusen are on a seven-match winless run across all competitions, but they held Bayern to a 1-1 draw at the BayArena earlier this season. Bayern have won 16 consecutive Bundesliga matches since their draw with Leverkusen, and they will be wanting to get a bit of revenge to move to 13-0-0 at home after Saturday’s league clash.
Here is a closer look at the weekend’s action from the top leagues in Europe:
First-place Chelsea may have played more matches then the rest of their fellow title contenders, but the Blues should feel confident in their seven-point lead atop the table heading into Saturday’s trip to 11th-place Aston Villa, who are not completely clear from relegation danger yet. Fans may remember Chelsea’s 8-0 thrashing of Villa at Stamford Bridge last season, but their last two meetings have been tight 2-1 affairs. Chelsea’s defense, who has allowed just three EPL goals in 2014, will look to continue its dominant performances against an Aston Villa offense that came back to life two weeks ago thanks to a brace from constant goalscoring threat Christian Benteke.
Second-place Liverpool will head to sixth-place Manchester United this Sunday looking to stay in the thick of the title race and put another fatal blow to their Northwest rivals’ dismal campaign. The Reds have lost six straight matches at Old Trafford, but the Man United home stadium has not been the fortress like it was under former manager Sir Alex Ferguson — David Moyes’ side has only won six of its 13 home matches in EPL play this season. High-scoring Liverpool will be favored to win in Manchester this weekend, but they will know that a Red Devils’ upset could keep their bitter rivals’ slim chances of a Champions League spot alive.
Here are this weekend’s matches in the English Premier League:
Hull City vs. Manchester City
Everton vs. Cardiff City
Fulham vs. Newcastle United
Southampton vs. Norwich City
Stoke City vs. West Ham United
Sunderland vs. Crystal Palace
Swansea City vs. West Bromwich Albion
Aston Villa vs. Chelsea
Manchester United vs. Liverpool
Tottenham Hotspur vs. Arsenal
With a three-point lead atop La Liga, first-place Real Madrid will visit the Rosaleda this weekend to face 13th-place Malaga, who are trying to turn things around in the crowded bottom-half of the league table. Real Madrid, who have scored 17 goals in their last five matches across all competitions, will go toe-to-toe with one of the league’s lowest-scoring offenses that finds itself just three points above the drop zone. From Champions League quarterfinalists last season to relegation fighters this season, Malaga have only won one of their last five home matches in league play and will be desperate for at least a point this Saturday.
Atletico Madrid are back into second place in La Liga following their brief dip in form, and they will followup their 4-1 Champions League victory against AC Milan with a home match against ninth-place Espanyol. It has mostly been feast or famine for Atletico in recent weeks, as five of their last six league matches have either been shutout wins or goalless losses. Espanyol are trying to keep their Europa League hopes alive after last weekend’s 3-1 home win against Elche, and they will certainly remember their 1-0 victory against Atletico earlier this season as they head into the Vicente Calderon.
Here are this weekend’s matches in La Liga:
Getafe vs. Granada
Levante vs. Celta Vigo
Rayo Vallecano vs. Almeria
Malaga vs. Real Madrid
Atletico Madrid vs. Espanyol
Elche vs. Real Betis
Barcelona vs. Osasuna
Sevilla vs. Real Valladolid
Real Sociedad vs. Valencia
Second-place Borussia Dortmund have won three consecutive matches since their humiliating 3-0 loss at relegation-zoned Hamburg, and they will look to make it four in a row when eighth-place Borussia Monchengladbach visit Signal Iduna Park on Saturday. Monchengladbach are currently on a nine-match winless skid, but they are still in the hunt for a Europa League spot with 10 Bundesliga matches to go in the season. Although Monchengladbach defeated Dortmund 2-0 earlier this season on a pair of late goals, they will have a tough task ahead of them if they want to get their first road victory since November.
Before heading to the Bernabeu to finish their lopsided Champions League tie with Real Madrid, fourth-place Schalke 04 will open the Bundesliga weekend with a trip to sixth-place Augsburg, who are one of the hottest teams in the league. Augsburg have only lost once in their last 12 Bundesliga matches, but they were throttled 4-1 by Schalke at the Veltins Arena earlier this season. Schalke got back to their winning ways last weekend with a 4-0 home rout of Hoffenheim, and they will need to keep that momentum going as they look to keep hold of a Champions League spot.
Here are this weekend’s matches in the Bundesliga:
Augsburg vs. Schalke
Borussia Dortmund vs. Borussia Monchengladbach
Hertha Berlin vs. Hannover
Hoffenheim vs. Mainz
Eintracht Braunschweig vs. Wolfsburg
Werder Bremen vs. Stuttgart
Bayern Munich vs. Bayer Leverkusen
Hamburg vs. Nurnberg
Eintracht Frankfurt vs. Freiburg
First-place Juventus take a break from their trifecta of matches against Fiorentina this weekend with a trip to 11th-place Genoa. Juventus overcame their only loss of the Serie A season with a 2-0 victory against Genoa in Turin earlier this season, and the defending champions have extended that unbeaten run to 19 matches heading into their return fixture at the Luigi Ferraris. Genoa have been up and down in their form recently, competing in high-scoring draws with Fiorentina and Napoli while also falling to bottom-half sides Sampdoria and Chievo Verona.
Fifth-place Inter Milan open the Serie A weekend Saturday with a crucial match at seventh-place Hellas Verona that could play a big role in determining Italy’s Europa League qualifiers for next season. The two sides were involved in an entertaining 4-2 Inter victory at San Siro earlier this season, and now they head to the Marc’ Antonio Bentegodi with just three points separating them in the league table. Hellas will be looking to break an odd home spell Saturday — last season’s Serie B runners-up have not won a league match in their own stadium since December 22 against fellow European dreamers Lazio.
Here are this weekend’s matches in Serie A:
Hellas Verona vs. Inter Milan
Atalanta vs. Sampdoria
AC Milan vs. Parma
Cagliari vs. Lazio
Livorno vs. Bologna
Sassuolo vs. Catania
Fiorentina vs. Chievo Verona
Genoa vs. Juventus
First-place Paris Saint-Germain will go for seven straight victories across all competitions this weekend when they host fourth-place Saint Etienne, who drew 2-2 with PSG earlier this season at the Geoffroy-Guichard after a late equalizer from the visitors’ Blaise Matuidi. The two sides will now meet at the Parc des Princes, where PSG have outscored opponents 12-0 in their last four Ligue 1 matches. Saint Etienne fell 1-0 to Lorient after their impressive road victory against AS Monaco, and they will want at least a point from their trip to the capital in their fight for a return to the Champions League.
Second-place AS Monaco are on the road this weekend to face fifth-place Lyon, a club unbeaten in their last five Ligue 1 matches. While Monaco continue to fight on offense without Radamel Falcao, Lyon’s defense will provide a stern test after allowing only three goals during their current five-match run in league play. Lyon have only lost once this season at the Municipal de Gerland and are currently on a 12-match unbeaten run inside their home stadium.
Here are this weekend’s matches in Ligue 1:
Stade de Reims vs. Marseille
Lille vs. Nantes
Ajaccio vs. Guingamp
Evian Thonon Gaillard vs. Valenciennes
Nice vs. Bastia
Sochaux vs. Lorient
Stade Rennes vs. Toulouse
Montpellier vs. Bordeaux
Lyon vs. AS Monaco
Paris Saint-Germain vs. Saint Etienne
Which European matches are you looking forward to the most this weekend? Think Arsenal will grab another North London Derby win this weekend? See Bayer Leverkusen stopping Bayern Munich’s lengthy Bundesliga run? Think Liverpool breaks their losing streak at Old Trafford this weekend?
Share your thoughts below.