European soccer weekend: What to watch in the main leagues

European soccer weekend: What to watch in the main leagues
The Associated Press

What to watch in the leading soccer leagues in Europe this weekend:

ITALY

With all of the other major leagues around Europe already settled or nearly decided, the race for the Italian league title is heating up again with Napoli’s visit to Juventus on Sunday.

Midweek results saw Juve’s lead cut to four points, meaning a win for Napoli would reduce the gap to one point with four rounds remaining.

“We reached our club goal of qualifying for the Champions League a week ago and now we’re at least assured of finishing second, so now we can have some fun,” Napoli coach Maurizio Sarri said.

While Juventus is seeking a record-extending seventh straight title, Napoli is after its first since Diego Maradona led the club to its only two championships, in 1987 and 1990.

Meanwhile there is an even tighter battle for third and fourth place — the final Champions League berths. Roma and Lazio are tied on points, one point above Inter Milan.

Roma visits relegation-threatened Spal on Saturday while on Sunday, Lazio hosts Sampdoria and Inter visits Chievo Verona.

— By Andrew Dampf in Rome.

SPAIN

Leader Barcelona gets the weekend off in the Spanish league as it faces Sevilla in the Copa del Rey final on Saturday.

Barcelona is bidding to win its fourth straight Copa, while Sevilla will look to secure a Europa League spot by lifting the trophy for the sixth time.

Sevilla is seventh in the league, outside the qualification places for the Europa League next season.

The final at Atletico Madrid’s Wanda Metropolitano Stadium will be a rematch of the 2016 Copa final, which Barcelona won.

Barcelona’s league game against Villarreal at Camp Nou Stadium was postponed until May 9, as was Sevilla’s home match against Real Madrid.

Barcelona has a 12-point lead ahead of Atletico’s match at Real Sociedad on Thursday. Diego Simeone’s team hosts fifth-place Real Betis on Sunday.

In the fight against relegation, 18th-place Deportivo La Coruna visits Leganes on Friday, while 17th-place Leganes — the first team outside the relegation zone — plays at Athletic Bilbao on Monday.

— By Tales Azzoni in Madrid.

ENGLAND

Arsene Wenger’s long goodbye at Arsenal begins on Sunday with a home Premier League match against West Ham that serves as an audition for some of his players ahead of the Europa League semifinals.

Wenger has announced he will be quitting as Arsenal manager at the end of the season after more than 21 years, and could leave with an 11th major trophy if the team wins the Europa League. It faces Atletico Madrid in the first leg of the semifinals on Thursday.

The Premier League’s top four is out of sight for Arsenal but Wenger will want a victory to boost the team’s confidence heading into the Atletico game. He also said he wants his players to have some rhythm going into the match so could select a full-strength team, rather than rest players.

Liverpool is also in European action next week, in the Champions League semifinals, so manager Juergen Klopp has to decide whether to rotate his team or play a strong lineup in search of a win that would virtually guarantee a top-four finish. Liverpool is third, four points behind second-place Manchester United and seven ahead of fifth-place Chelsea in the race for the three Champions League spots behind new champion Manchester City.

City celebrates its title triumph on Sunday with a home match against Swansea.

In the FA Cup semifinals, Man United plays Tottenham on Saturday and Chelsea is against Southampton on Sunday. Both games are at Wembley Stadium, where Tottenham plays its home matches in the league.

— By Steve Douglas in Manchester.

GERMANY

Cologne and Hamburger SV could be relegated from the Bundesliga this weekend.

Last-place Cologne (21 points) faces in-form Schalke on Sunday and another loss could result in the club’s sixth relegation from the top tier if other results go against the team.

Cologne will drop back to the second division if it loses to Schalke – and if Wolfsburg (30 points), Freiburg (30) and Mainz (30) all pick up points from their respective games. That would leave the side an unassailable 10 points from safety with three games to play.

A draw against Schalke would not be enough to survive if Wolfsburg, Freiburg and Mainz all win.

Hamburg (22 points), the only side to have played every season since the league’s formation in 1963, could have its first relegation confirmed if Mainz wins in Augsburg on Sunday — but only if the side loses at home to Freiburg on Saturday and if Wolfsburg beats Borussia Moenchengladbach on Friday.

At the other end of the standings, Borussia Dortmund hosts Bayer Leverkusen in a duel for Champions League qualification, while Leipzig and Hoffenheim also play Saturday with European qualification at stake.

Bayern Munich, which claimed the title with five games to spare, prepares for the visit of Real Madrid in the Champions League semifinals on Wednesday with a game at Hannover on Saturday.

— By Ciaran Fahey in Berlin.

FRANCE

While Paris Saint-Germain has already won the league and remains on course for another domestic treble, outgoing champion Monaco is wobbling at the wrong time.

With five matches remaining, Monaco is under pressure to hold onto second place and an automatic spot in next season’s Champions League. Lyon and Marseille are tied on points and only four behind Monaco. A few weeks ago, they were battling for third — and a place in the Champions League playoff — but both could catch Monaco.

Led by the irrepressible form of Netherlands forward Memphis Depay, Lyon goes for a sixth straight league win when it travels to Dijon on Friday. Marseille, which is trailing Lyon on goal difference, has an easier-looking home game against 18th-place Lille.

Monaco looks to bounce back from last weekend’s 7-1 loss to PSG when it plays at Guingamp on Saturday.

— By Jerome Pugmire in Monaco.

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