Paris (AFP) – Real Madrid head into the derby against Atletico with a spring in their step, Bayern Munich face one of the stories of the German season so far, and there is a threat to Paris Saint-Germain’s position at the top of Ligue 1.
AFP Sport selects some of the standout football action in Europe this weekend:
– Real to end Atletico run? –
Real Madrid v Atletico Madrid, Saturday 2000 GMT
Zinedine Zidane has stepped back from the brink again at Real Madrid after they qualified for the Champions League last 16 on the back of a vital La Liga win at Sevilla.
Now, though, they face Atletico in the derby. There have not been many meetings of these sides in recent times in which Atletico have appeared the favourites even as the away team, but Diego Simeone’s side are in frightening form.
Atletico are a point clear at the top of La Liga with at least one game in hand on the teams beneath them. They are six points above Real in fourth and have won their last seven La Liga games. They are on a club-record run of 26 league games unbeaten.
However, Real were the last team to beat them domestically, on February 1, and they have not lost any of their last eight La Liga meetings with their rivals.
With Sergio Ramos back, what price Real ending Atletico’s current streak and breathing new life into their title defence?
– Union without Kruse against Bayern –
Union Berlin v Bayern Munich, Saturday 1730 GMT
Bayern have displayed some signs of fallibility recently, even if they remain top of the Bundesliga and have lost once in 49 games.
They had to come from behind to draw their last two Bundesliga home matches, and on Saturday they go to Union Berlin, who have been the story of the German season so far.
Union are sixth, having gone eight games unbeaten before losing 3-1 to Hertha in last weekend’s derby.
Only Bayern have scored more goals than Urs Fischer’s side, who have been led by Max Kruse, the Germany international who returned home in August when he signed for Union from Fenerbahce.
He has six goals and five assists but will be absent against Bayern because of a thigh injury.
– Title race in France? –
Paris Saint-Germain v Lyon, Sunday 2000 GMT
Could there be an actual title race this year in France?
A third of the way through the campaign and the five teams below Paris Saint-Germain are all within five points of the leaders. Marseille are four points back but have two games in hand.
Lyon, meanwhile, are two points behind the reigning champions thanks to a 10-game unbeaten run and they visit Paris on Sunday.
They will hope PSG are feeling the effects of completing their midweek Champions League match against Istanbul Basaksehir 24 hours later than planned, although Neymar and Kylian Mbappe are in fine fettle just now.
– Conte irritated and under pressure –
Cagliari v Inter Milan, Sunday 1130 GMT
Antonio Conte is again in the firing line after Inter were dumped out of the Champions League in the group stage for the third season running, the second straight year under his stewardship.
Conte, who was also knocked out in the group stage in his last season at Juventus, was clearly irritated in an interview with Sky Italia after his side’s European elimination, telling the presenter to “think before asking questions” and having a disagreement with Fabio Capello.
The pressure on him will only grow if Inter fail to beat Cagliari, as the Nerazzurri aim to stay in touch with unbeaten Serie A leaders AC Milan, who are five points clear of their city rivals.
– Schalke hurtling towards unwanted record –
Augsburg v Schalke 04, Sunday 1430 GMT
Schalke are bottom of the Bundesliga and in dire straits. They have not won in 26 league games since January and are closing in fast on the Bundesliga record for the longest run without a victory.
That record is currently held by Tasmania Berlin, who in their one Bundesliga season, in 1965/66, went 31 matches without winning.
Schalke are doing their best to outdo them and on current form are hurtling towards the second division after 30 unbroken seasons in the elite.
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