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European soccer weekend: What to watch in the main leagues

January 18, 2018

FILE - A Saturday, Jan. 13, 2018 file photo showing Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo reacting during a Spanish La Liga soccer match between Real Madrid and Villarreal at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid, Spain. Real Madrid returns home to the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium to face its disgruntled fans in a match against Deportivo La Coruna in Spain this upcoming weekend. (AP Photo/Paul White, File)

What to watch in the leading soccer leagues in Europe this weekend:

SPAIN

Real Madrid returns to the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium to face its disgruntled fans in a match against Deportivo La Coruna on Sunday.

Madrid hasn’t won at home in three matches and its demanding fans have shown their unhappiness by loudly jeering the team.

The European champion’s chance to make amends comes against a side that hasn’t won in four matches and is in the relegation zone.

Madrid is 19 points behind leader Barcelona with a game in hand, and its fight now is to remain in the Champions League qualification places. It is eight points behind third-place Valencia, and only one point in front of fifth-place Villarreal.

Unbeaten Barcelona plays at Real Betis on Sunday, while second-place Atletico Madrid hosts Girona on Saturday.

Valencia, two points behind Atletico, is at last-place Las Palmas on Saturday.

— By Tales Azzoni in Madrid.

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ENGLAND

There was no rush to declare the Premier League title race back on after Manchester City slipped to a first loss of the season last weekend at Liverpool.

It might happen if City drop points at home to Newcastle on Saturday.

City still holds a 12-point lead after 23 of 38 games, leaving the teams in the chasing pack — led by Manchester United — no room for error if they are to have any chance of reeling in Pep Guardiola’s side. However, in the last three games, City has drawn at Crystal Palace and lost at Anfield, so its charge has slowed.

Newcastle is only three points above the relegation zone, but has won its last two away matches — at Stoke and West Ham.

United travels to Burnley while Liverpool and Chelsea — level on points in third and fourth, respectively — also have away games, at Swansea and Brighton.

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GERMANY

Hamburger SV, the only member of the Bundesliga to have played every season since the league’s formation in 1963, faces a potentially decisive battle for survival on Saturday when last-place Cologne visits.

Cologne, which picked up just three points from its opening 16 matches for the worst ever start by any side to the league, secured a dramatic late win over Borussia Moenchengladbach last weekend and is just six points behind Hamburg, which hasn’t won any of its last five games.

“We’re lacking courage and confidence,” Hamburg coach Markus Gisdol said.

Bayern Munich, the leader by 13 points, hosts relegation-threatened Werder Bremen on Sunday. Second-place Leipzig visits Freiburg on Saturday.

Borussia Dortmund, whose return to the league from the winter break has been overshadowed by disciplinary problems with star striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, gets the 19th round underway at Hertha Berlin on Friday.

— By Ciaran Fahey in Berlin.

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FRANCE

It seems there is nothing to halt the Paris Saint-Germain scoring machine.

PSG’s devastating attack, featuring the prolific Neymar and Edinson Cavani, teen star Kylian Mbappe and the resurgent Angel Di Maria, has already plundered 106 goals in all competitions.

Coach Unai Emery’s side is 11 points clear in the league after 21 games and travels to play second-place Lyon on Sunday.

Lyon plays an exciting brand of attacking football, too. Bruno Genesio’s side will look to take the game to PSG, which needs to keep a close eye on Nabil Fekir. The roaming Lyon forward is in the best form of his career with 15 league goals — the same tally as Neymar.

Marseille, which has won its past three games, is one point behind Lyon in third place and defending champion Monaco is a point further back in fourth. It sets up what is likely to be a three-way scrap to be runner-up.

Marseille has a trip up to Normandy to face mid-table Caen on Saturday, while Monaco plays last-place Metz at home on Sunday.

— By Jerome Pugmire in Paris.

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