European football matchday: Manchester United host Everton in Premier League; Real Madrid take on Huesca in LaLiga
Juventus and Roma face each other in Serie A knowing the winner can close in on the top two.
A look at what’s happening in European football on Saturday:
Manchester United host Everton buoyed by thrashing Southampton 9-0. A victory would take second-placed United level on points with Manchester City but having played two more games. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is expecting to have Edinson Cavani available, having taken the striker off at halftime against Saints due to an ankle knock.
Everton arrive at Old Trafford chasing a fifth successive league away win but will be without goalkeeper Jordan Pickford due to a rib injury.
Saturday’s program opens with Arsenal at Aston Villa also without their first-choice goalkeeper after Bernd Leno was sent off in a 2-1 loss to Wolverhampton. That could mean Alex Runarsson, who came off the bench against Wolves, making his first league start.
Arsenal are in 10th, a point and a place behind Villa but having played two more games. West Ham travel across London to Fulham only two points from the Champions League spots in fifth place.
Southampton is back in action from their humiliation against Newcastle. Burnley play Brighton sitting only a place above the relegation zone but eight points clear of danger.
Real Madrid visit last-place Huesca needing a win to not fall further behind Spanish league leader Atlético Madrid, who are 10 points ahead with an extra game to play. Madrid will be without Sergio Ramos, nursing a left-leg injury, and the injured Eden Hazard, Dani Carvajal, and Lucas Vázquez.
Coach Zinedine Zidane will be back on the sideline after testing negative following a coronavirus infection. Madrid are in third place, behind Barcelona in second on overall goal difference.
A red-hot Sevilla are only one point behind both of the powerhouses in fourth place before they host Getafe. Julen Lopetegui’s side has won six straight games in all competitions. Fifth-place Villarreal visit Elche with striker Gerard Moreno still doubtful as he recovers from a left-leg injury.
Villarreal have drawn three straight in the league without him and were eliminated by Levante from the Copa del Rey quarterfinals. Levante host Granada flying high after qualifying for the cup’s final four and having beaten Madrid 2-1 in the last round of the league.
Juventus and Roma face each other knowing the winner can close in on the top two. Third-placed Roma are a point above Juventus and seven below leader Inter Milan, who won at Fiorentina 2-0 on Friday.
Juventus have played a match less than most of the other teams around them. Juventus have won every single one of their matches in 2021 apart from a league loss against Inter. Andrea Pirlo could rotate his squad as the match is sandwiched between the two legs of the Italian Cup semifinals against Inter, with Juve leading 2-1.
Napoli will move into the top four with a win but visit Genoa, who have undergone a revival under coach Davide Ballardini and won three of its past four matches. Seventh-placed Atalanta are three points below the top four and host relegation-threatened Torino. Sassuolo welcome Spezia.
Borussia Dortmund visit Freiburg where they can expect another tough game after being taken to extra time by second-division Paderborn in the German Cup on Tuesday. Erling Haaland’s winner ensured back-to-back victories for Edin Terzic’s team after a mini-slump of three games without a win.
Any slip up in Freiburg will increase the pressure again on the young coach who took over from the fired Lucien Favre in December. Dortmund are sixth in the Bundesliga and in danger of dropping out of the European qualification places with Borussia Mönchengladbach and Union Berlin just behind.
Gladbach host Cologne for the Rhine derby in Saturday’s late game. Union visit Mainz, where they can also expect a hard game from a rival battling for survival. Second-placed Leipzig visit last-placed Schalke. Leipzig are keen to stay in winning form ahead of a Champions League last-16 game against Liverpool, though German travel restrictions mean they are not clear where that game can be played.
Bayer Leverkusen have dropped out of the Champions League places with a sorry run of form — four defeats in five games — as they host Stuttgart. Leverkusen will be keeping an eye on the visitors’ in-form forward, Silas Wamangituka. He has scored in each of his last five games across all competitions. Riding high in third thanks to a solid defense, Wolfsburg travel to Augsburg.
Lyon can exert some pressure on their fellow title challengers Lille and Paris Saint-Germain with a home win against Strasbourg. Victory would put Rudi Garcia's Lyon side on top heading into Sunday's games involving PSG and current leader Lille. But Garcia will again be without central defender Jason Denayer, who is nursing a hamstring injury which ruled him out midweek.
After beating defending champion PSG last weekend and then drawing against fifth-placed Rennes, relegation battler Lorient look to maintain their good form when they host mid-table Reims. The other game sees Rennes travel to play Lens, who are again without injured striker Igniatus Ganago.
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Madrid might cope without Benzema against Valladolid but his absence for the trip to Bergamo in the first leg of the Champions League last 16 on Wednesday would be a huge blow.
The victory moved Real Madrid three points in front of third-place Barcelona, which routed Alavés 5-1 at home on Saturday.
Manchester United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer says the club will sit down with Edinson Cavani to discuss his future at Old Trafford after being impressed with him.