Paris (AFP) – Jorge Sampaoli eyes a second win in four days to begin his Marseille tenure, while Atletico Madrid, Inter Milan and RB Leipzig face key games in their respective title pursuits ahead of a Seville derby intensified by the battle for Champions League football.
AFP Sport selects some of the standout action in Europe this weekend:
Sampaoli striving for better at Marseille
Marseille v Brest, Saturday 1600 GMT
After triumphing on his debut as Marseille boss, three days after the club’s humiliating French Cup loss to fourth-tier amateurs Canet-en-Roussillon, Sampaoli is hoping to restore some order at the Velodrome.
The midweek 1-0 victory over slumping Rennes was just Marseille’s second in 12 league outings, and the well-travelled Argentine could see his side reclaim fifth place with another win over Brest.
“The victory is a step forward. To see the joy in the changing room is a relief after Sunday,” Sampaoli said as Michael Cuisance’s late header — his first goal for Marseille — lifted spirits.
“It’s important to find that confidence again and a playing identity. We have to do everything possible in a short period of time for make the group understand the club we’re at.
“It’s important to know who we represent and who we’re playing for, to know where we are.”
Rivals in rearview mirror for Atletico
Getafe v Atletico Madrid, Saturday 2000 GMT
Diego Simeone’s Atletico have watched their double-digit cushion whittled down to six points by a resurgent Barcelona, and the La Liga leaders must try and overturn a 1-0 deficit away to Chelsea in the Champions League next week.
A trip to a Getafe side that has lost five of the last six games is unlikely to strike fear into Atletico, but their own form has dipped and any slip-up is sure to be capitalised upon by Barca.
With Ronald Koeman’s men out of Europe following their earliest exit since the 2006-07 season, Lionel Messi and co. will channel their energy on trying to capture a domestic double, starting with Monday’s visit of rock bottom Elche.
Inter threaten to shoot clear
Torino v Inter Milan, Sunday 1400 GMT
Seven successive wins have catapulted Antonio Conte’s Inter into a commanding position at the top of Serie A and the Nerazzurri can apply further pressure on the chasing pack this weekend.
Six points clear at the summit, Inter go to relegation-threatened Torino hours before Juventus travel to a revived Cagliari and AC Milan host a Napoli outfit thick in the hunt for the final Champions League spot.
Torino have won just three matches all season, losing to basement side Crotone last weekend, although that defeat was just their second in their last 12 matches — eight of which ended in draws.
Focus narrows for Nagelsmann’s Leipzig
RB Leipzig v Eintracht Frankfurt, Sunday 1430 GMT
Unable to match last season’s run to the last four of the Champions League, Leipzig can now concentrate mainly on trying to deny Bayern Munich a ninth straight Bundesliga crown.
While Julian Nagelsmann’s team could yet meet Borussia Dortmund in the German Cup final, the next month could be decisive in terms of their league title aspirations.
Leipzig trail Bayern by two points and will hope to register a seventh straight win against fourth-placed Eintracht Frankfurt at the Red Bull Arena, where they will square off against Bayern after this month’s international break.
Stakes high in El Gran Derbi
Sevilla v Real Betis, Sunday 2000 GMT
In a city famous for its flamenco and religious parades, nothing captures hearts and minds in Seville more than when Sevilla and Real Betis clash in Spanish football’s most passionate derby.
Sevilla followed up an agonising Spanish Cup exit to Barcelona with another near-miss against Dortmund in the Champions League, but ‘El Gran Derbi’ offers the chance to lift the mood after a rough run of late for Julen Lopetegui’s side.
Only once before have neighbours Real Betis appeared in Europe’s premier club competition, in 2005-06. However seven wins in nine outings for a club managed by former Manchester City and Real Madrid boss Manuel Pellegrini have transformed them into outside top-four contenders.
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