MATCHDAY: Chelsea host Newcastle; Barcelona take on Osasuna
A preview of what’s happening in European football on Sunday:
Chelsea host Newcastle in the first game at Stamford Bridge since owner Roman Abramovich was sanctioned by the British government for Russia’s war against Ukraine. The west London club must operate under government spending control while a buyer is sought for the frozen asset. One of the most recent Premier League takeovers involved the Saudi sovereign wealth fund buying Newcastle despite human rights campaigners trying to block the deal. On the pitch, Chelsea are increasingly trying to secure their grip on third place in the league, while Newcastle are aiming to push further than the current 10 points from the relegation zone. Bottom-placed Norwich, who lost to Chelsea on Thursday, travel to a Leeds side who are just two points above the relegation zone after losing both games since US manager Jesse Marsch took control. Everton, who host Wolverhampton, are just one point above the drop zone after winning one of their five league games since Frank Lampard took on as manager. Second-to-last Watford play at Southampton. In the pursuit of European qualification places, Arsenal welcome Leicester and West Ham take on Aston Villa.
Second-placed Sevilla visit Rayo Vallecano who must end their winless streak on the road if they hope to challenge Real Madrid for the Spanish league title. A run of four straight draws for Sevilla in away matches helped Madrid open an eight-point gap at the top. Julen Lopetegui’s Sevilla have struggled with injuries all season. His injured list currently includes playmaker Papu Gómez and defender Diego Carlos. Midfielder Joan Jordan is suspended. Barcelona host Osasuna and need a win to reclaim third place from Atlético Madrid and solidify their hold on one of the four Champions League spots. Barcelona’s season-best four-game winning streak was snapped by a 0-0 draw against Galatasaray in the Europa League on Thursday. Real Betis host Athletic Bilbao after five games without a win, their worst streak in an otherwise excellent campaign for the side coached by Manuel Pellegrini. Betis fell from third to fifth in the closing laps. Real Sociedad welcome Alavés and are also trying to stay in the fight for a place in European competitions next season.
Inter Milan and Napoli will look to reverse a series of miserable results to keep the pressure on Serie A leaders AC Milan. Defending champions Inter, who have won just one of their last five matches to drop five points behind Milan, travel to Turin. Napoli lost to Milan last weekend and have won just one of their last six matches in all competitions. He travels to Hellas Verona knowing that a win would bring him within three points of Milan. Roma and Atalanta are both nine points below the top four and face Udinese and Genoa respectively. Fiorentina host Bologna.
Paris Saint-Germain manager Mauricio Pochettino has spoken of sleeping poorly since his side’s stunning midweek defeat – and departure – in the Champions League against Real Madrid in the round of 16. So a midday kick-off against Bordeaux might not be what he needs. Bordeaux are in last place, however, and Pochettino has said he plans to field young players eager to show what they can do. PSG can afford to experiment given their 12-point lead. Elsewhere, a victory for Marseille, third at Brest, would raise the level with second-placed Nice into the automatic Champions League spot.
Borussia Dortmund host coronavirus-hit Arminia Bielefeld as they try to reduce Bayern Munich’s lead in the Bundesliga. Despite still being comfortable at the top, Bayern have uncharacteristically dropped points in three of their last five games, drawing in their last two, giving Dortmund an opportunity they never wanted. had perhaps not anticipated at this stage of the season. Bayern lead by 10 points with eight games remaining, but Dortmund can close the gap to four if they win their two games in hand – against Bielefeld on Sunday and Mainz on Wednesday. Bayer Leverkusen will be hoping to cement third place with a derby win over Cologne, and Leipzig can reclaim fourth place with a win at last-place Greuther Fürth. Fourth is the final spot for Champions League qualification. Moreover, Eintracht Frankfurt host Bochum in a mid-table clash.
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