Barca chase Atletico, French showdown and prolific strikers duel – what to watch in Europe
Robert Lewandowski comes up against another of the Bundesliga’s hottest strikers, Atletico Madrid look to keep Barcelona at arm’s length in Spain and there is a huge showdown at the top of the table in France.
AFP Sport selects some of the standout action in Europe this weekend:
Kalajdzic versus Lewandowski
Bayern Munich v VfB Stuttgart, Saturday 1430 GMT
Hansi Flick’s 50th Bundesliga game in charge of Bayern comes in the southern derby against a Stuttgart side emerging as outside contenders for European qualification under their American coach, Pellegrino Matarazzo.
A five-game unbeaten run has lifted newly-promoted Stuttgart to within four points of the top six and they have been propelled by the goals of Austrian striker Sasa Kalajdzic, who has netted eight times in his team’s last seven outings.
Those are numbers of which Robert Lewandowski would be proud. The Pole’s strike against Lazio in the Champions League in midweek leaves him on 39 for the season, and Bayern should have enough for Stuttgart despite the presence of Kalajdzic as they look to keep RB Leipzig — four points back in second — at arm’s length.
Pressure on Atletico
Atletico Madrid v Alaves, Sunday 1730 GMT
Could Atletico blow it in La Liga after their disappointing exit from the Champions League against Chelsea? Diego Simeone’s side have seen their lead at the top of the table reduced to four points from Barcelona, who are on a run of three wins in eight.
With a trip to a resurgent Barca still to come, and with Real Madrid just six points off the pace, Atletico need to get back to winning ways when they host Alaves.
With Alaves in the relegation zone and on a run of one win in 12, this is a game Atletico should win. However, they will be without the suspended Joao Felix as try to rebound from flat displays against Chelsea and in drawing 0-0 at Getafe last weekend.
Barcelona to continue unbeaten run?
Real Sociedad v Barcelona, Sunday 2000 GMT
A crisis-ridden season for Barcelona could yet end with a domestic double. Through to the Copa del Rey final, they are unbeaten in 17 Liga games and have crept up on stumbling Atletico. Ronald Koeman’s side has some tough fixtures coming up though, with a trip to Real Madrid next month and, before that, a visit to Real Sociedad on Sunday.
Barcelona has won just twice in their last 10 visits to La Real, who are fifth and were in fine form before losing at Granada last week. Swedish striker Alexander Isak, with nine goals in nine league games in 2021, will lead the Basque side’s threat. Lionel Messi, meanwhile, has 14 goals in his last 10.
‘Derby del Sole’
Roma v Napoli, Sunday 1945 GMT
While Inter are nine points clear at the top, the race for a top-four finish and Champions League qualification is hotting up in Serie A. Just six points separate AC Milan in second from Roma in sixth, who like fifth-placed Napoli, are just two points behind Atalanta in fourth.
The battle for a top-four place will further increase the heat as Roma welcome Napoli for the ‘Derby del Sole’, with the capital side also seeking to avenge a 4-0 defeat in Naples in November. However, Napoli have a game in hand and arrive fresh from beating Milan at San Siro. Meanwhile, Roma must quickly get over an energy-sapping trip to Ukraine to play Shakhtar Donetsk in the Europa League.
Title showdown in France
Lyon v Paris Saint-Germain, Sunday 2000 GMT
Reigning champions PSG head to Lyon for a huge game in the Ligue 1 title race, with both sides sitting three points behind leaders Lille.
With Lille hosting struggling Nimes, neither side can afford to lose this one and the pressure is certainly growing on PSG after they were beaten at home by struggling Nantes last weekend.
That was a third defeat in 12 league games for Mauricio Pochettino, who will hope that, after over a month out, Neymar is available for the game in Lyon, where PSG have regularly struggled in recent seasons. Lyon are going for the double over their opponents after winning in Paris in December.