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Lille, wounded Bayern and cup do-over – what to watch in Europe

Paris (AFP) – Lille can dial up the pressure on the Ligue 1 chasing pack, Bayern Munich face a thorny test following their Champions League exit and Athletic Bilbao will again try to win the Copa del Rey.

AFP Sport selects some of the standout action in Europe this weekend:

Lille in game of cat and mouse

Lille v Montpellier, Friday 1900 GMT

Hunting a first French title since winning a league and cup double in 2011, Lille can provisionally go six points clear with victory against Montpellier as they have the advantage of kicking off this weekend’s Ligue 1 fixtures.

Another boost is the return of Jonathan David, who has made a quick recovery from an ankle injury that sidelined him against Metz, having scored the winner away to Paris Saint-Germain at the start of April.

However, Montpellier are unbeaten in 13 games in all competitions and making a late push for Europe. Next week they also face Canet-en-Roussillon in the French Cup quarter-finals, the fourth-tier amateurs who embarrassed Marseille last month.

No time to mourn for Bayern 

Wolfsburg v Bayern Munich, Saturday 1330 GMT

After seeing their Champions League defence ended in Paris, Bayern Munich return to domestic action with RB Leipzig ready to pounce on any slip-up in a title race that appeared over earlier this month.

The absence of Robert Lewandowski has left Bayern with a huge hole in attack, compounded by the unavailability of Serge Gnabry, who is isolating after contracting Covid-19.

Wolfsburg are undefeated at home this campaign and have won nine of their past 12 games despite losing a seven-goal thriller at Eintracht Frankfurt last week, presenting a tough proposition for a Bayern side who could say goodbye to coach Hansi Flick at season’s end.

Take two as Athletic eye Copa redemption

Athletic Bilbao v Barcelona, Saturday 1930 GMT

One of the more bizarre repercussions of the coronavirus pandemic is the chance of immediate redemption for Athletic Bilbao in the Copa del Rey, in the second final in as many weeks in Seville.

With last season’s all-Basque final delayed almost a year in the hope of allowing fans to attend, Athletic have had to wait just two weeks for a shot at avenging their 1-0 loss to Real Sociedad.

They play Barcelona at an empty La Cartuja in a meeting of the competition’s two most successful clubs. Barca have won the trophy 30 times and Athletic 23, finishing runners-up five times since the last of those in 1984.

Champions League musical chairs in Italy

Atalanta v Juventus, Sunday 1300 GMT

While a 10th successive Serie A crown looks beyond reach for Juventus, the prospect of missing out on the Champions League is not beyond the realm of possibility either for Andrea Pirlo’s team.

Juventus occupy third place in Italy but defeat at Atalanta, winners of eight of their past nine, could allow Napoli to replace the Turin club in the top four.

The match in Bergamo is a dress rehearsal of sorts for next month’s Italian Cup final, although Atalanta coach Gian Piero Gasperini risks missing the May 19 showpiece following a row over an out-of-competition doping test.

Ajax target first leg of double

Ajax v Vitesse, Sunday 1600 GMT

As Ajax streak clear in the Eredivisie, on course for a record-extending 35th title, the Amsterdam giants can secure the first part of a domestic double in the Dutch cup final against Vitesse Arnhem.

Roma snapped Ajax’s 24-game unbeaten run in the first leg of the Europa League quarter-finals but only PSV Eindhoven have taken points off Erik ten Hag’s side in the Eredivisie in 2021.

Vitesse won the cup in 2017 for the first time and could yet achieve the club’s best top-flight finish, having come third in 1997-98. 

The 2020 final between Utrecht and Feyenoord was cancelled after the Dutch season was terminated early as a result of the pandemic.

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