European football preview: Derby day in Manchester, Madrid

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While the Manchester clubs face each other at Old Trafford, Real Madrid take on Atletico at Estadio Afredo de Stefano.

A look at what’s happening around European football on Saturday:

ENGLAND

It’s become a rare position for Manchester United to be heading into the derby ahead of Manchester City in the Premier League standings, but it is Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side seemingly under the most pressure. United has won just one of its five home league matches and is reeling from failing to qualify for the round of 16 in the Champions League. United in sixth is a point and a place ahead of City.

Anthony Martial and fellow forward Edinson Cavani could return for United from slight injuries. Newcastle returns to action for the first time since a spate of positive coronavirus tests saw last weekend’s meeting with Aston Villa postponed. It was the first Premier League match to be called off since football resumed during the pandemic and Newcastle will still be without what manager Steve Bruce called “a big chunk of players.”

Everton will be without playmaker James Rodriguez for the visit of Chelsea, which has Christian Pulisic back in contention following a hamstring problem. Aston Villa midfielder Ross Barkley has not fully recovered from a hamstring injury in time to face Wolves.

SPAIN

Real Madrid and Atlético Madrid meet in a city derby that could prove decisive in the title race. League leader Atlético can open a nine-point gap on fourth-placed Madrid with a game in hand. Atlético is the only unbeaten team left in the league and has won its last seven games in the competition. Madrid was winless in three straight league games before edging Sevilla 1-0 last Saturday. Madrid hasn’t lost to Atlético in eight consecutive league games, with three wins and five draws since 2016. Both teams avoided elimination in the Champions League this week.

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The Madrid derby will be at Madrid’s Alfredo Di Stéfano Stadium.

ITALY

Lazio is riding a wave of enthusiasm after reaching the knockout stage of the Champions League for the first time in 20 years. It faces Hellas Verona at home, looking to close in on the top four in Serie A. Verona is only a point behind Lazio but has lost six of its past seven matches against the capital club.

Relegation-threatened Torino could match an unwanted mark if it fails to beat Udinese as it would equal the all-time club record of eight consecutive Serie A home games without victory, set in 1959. Also, bottom-placed Crotone hosts Spezia. Both sides were promoted last season but while Spezia has managed 10 points, Crotone has just two.

GERMANY

League leader Bayern Munich takes on one of the Bundesliga’s overachievers in the shape of Union Berlin. Robert Lewandowski and Kingsley Coman can return for Bayern after sitting out a 2-0 win over Lokomotiv Moscow in the Champions League on Wednesday. Union is riding high in sixth despite having one of the league’s smallest budgets. Borussia Dortmund has dropped four points behind Bayern after two league games without a win and takes on Stuttgart.

After a nail-biting win over Manchester United, Leipzig faces Werder Bremen. Borussia Mönchengladbach is up against Hertha Berlin, which is the mirror image of Union after spending big to sit 12th. Freiburg hosts Arminia Bielefeld and Mainz plays Cologne.

FRANCE

Marseille is a surprise contender in the title race given its woeful form in the Champions League, where it finished last in its group with one win and five defeats. But if Marseille beats Monaco at home it will move one point behind league leader Paris Saint-Germain, with a game in hand on the defending champion. Marseille has little else to play for since it did not even qualify for the Europa League. Meanwhile, a victory for improving Monaco would move it to two points behind PSG, and the same goes for Montpellier with a success at Lens in the day’s other game.

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