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European soccer weekend: What to watch in the main leagues

December 21, 2017

FILE - In this Saturday June 3, 2017 file photo Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo connects with an overhead kick during the Champions League final soccer match between Juventus and Real Madrid at the Millennium stadium in Cardiff, Wales. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein, File)

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

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SPAIN

Barcelona will visit the Santiago Bernabeu on Saturday looking to make a knockout blow to Real Madrid’s teetering title defense.

Madrid is in fourth place and 11 points behind leader Barcelona, although it has a game in hand.

A win for Barcelona, which is undefeated in all competitions since losing both legs of the season-opening Spanish Super Cup, would put Zinedine Zidane’s side in an enormous hole before the winter break.

Second-place Atletico Madrid will also try to benefit from the match between its title rivals. Atletico visits struggling Espanyol on Friday, six points behind the pacesetters and aiming for a fifth consecutive win.

Third-place Valencia faces a tough regional derby against Villarreal on Saturday.

— By Joseph Wilson in Barcelona.

ENGLAND

Arsenal has one of the strongest home records in the Premier League. Liverpool has been in exhilarating form on the road.

Something has to give when two of the contenders for Champions League qualification meet at Emirates Stadium on Friday in the standout match of the 19th round, which marks the halfway point in the league.

Liverpool has 16 goals in its last four away matches — all of them wins — and occupies fourth position in the standings, a point and a place ahead of an Arsenal team with eight victories in nine home games.

On a 16-match winning run, Manchester City takes a lead of 11 points into a home match against injury-hit Bournemouth.

Second-place Manchester United visits Leicester while Chelsea, three points further back in third place, is away to Everton.

— By Steve Douglas in Manchester.

ITALY

The best attack faces the best defense as Juventus hosts Roma on Saturday.

Juventus is second in Serie A with 41 points — one less than Napoli in what is shaping up to be the tightest title race in years. Inter Milan is third on 40 points, with Roma on 38 — but with a game in hand on the top three.

Roma has conceded only 10 in 16 matches but its defense will be tested by Juventus, which has scored 44 in 17 matches.

The sides had mixed fortunes midweek: Paulo Dybala broke his goal drought and also set up one as Juventus beat Genoa 2-0 in the Italian Cup. It would have faced Roma in the quarterfinals but the capital side lost at home to Torino 2-1.

Elsewhere, Napoli hosts Sampdoria, while Inter will be looking to bounce back from its defeat to Udinese — its first loss all season — when it visits Sassuolo.

— By Daniella Matar in Milan.

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