European soccer weekend: What to watch in main competitions
By The Associated Press
Feb. 22, 2018
What to watch in the leading soccer competitions in Europe this weekend:
The first trophy of the season is up for grabs at Wembley Stadium on Sunday, and it's a chance for Pep Guardiola to get his hands on silverware for the first time with Manchester City.
In the League Cup final, City plays an Arsenal side that has become accustomed to picking up trophies at Wembley after winning the FA Cup in three of the last four seasons. Both teams, though, are already out of the FA Cup after being surprisingly beaten by lower-league opposition. City's quadruple chase was ended by third-tier Wigan on Monday.
The League Cup isn't a priority for either finalist. City is running away with the Premier League title and is also eyeing Champions League glory. Arsenal is out of the Champions League places in sixth and could have to win the Europa League to rejoin Europe's elite next year.
In the Premier League, Manchester United and Chelsea meet on Sunday for the first time since the feud between rival managers Jose Mourinho and Antonio Conte erupted in public. With the title out of sight for both second-place United and fourth-place Chelsea, now it is about locking down a top-four finish for Champions League qualification.
Third-place Liverpool plays West Ham on Sunday. Tottenham, which is a point behind Chelsea, is at Crystal Palace on Sunday.
The scrap for survival on Saturday sees last-place West Bromwich Albion host Huddersfield, which is only a point above the drop zone.
— By Rob Harris in London.
After nine successive wins for both leader Napoli and six-time defending champion Juventus, only one point separates them in Serie A.
Juventus hosts Atalanta on Sunday, and Napoli visits struggling Cagliari on Monday.
Then there's a 15-point gap to Roma, which hosts seventh-place AC Milan in a meeting of resurgent teams. Also Sunday, Lazio, which is only a point behind Roma, plays at Sassuolo.
Struggling Inter Milan, which has dropped from third to fifth, will be looking for a lift against last-place Benevento.
— By Andrew Dampf in Rome.
Sevilla, which is enjoying a steady rise up the standings, hosts second-place Atletico Madrid on Sunday.
With back-to-back wins, Sevilla has climbed to fifth place, seven points behind Valencia in the fight for the four Champions League spots. Already through to the Copa del Rey final, Sevilla drew 0-0 with Manchester United in the Champions League on Wednesday.
Atletico, eliminated by Sevilla in the Copa del Rey quarterfinals, is trying to cut its seven-point gap to leader Barcelona, which hosts Girona on Saturday.
Defending champion Real Madrid, which regained third place by winning the postponed game it had against Leganes on Wednesday, hosts Alaves on Saturday.
Valencia, which plays Real Sociedad on Sunday, has strengthened its grip on fourth place after halting a three-game losing streak with back-to-back successes.
— By Tales Azzoni in Madrid.
While Bayern Munich is 19 points clear at the top of the Bundesliga, the struggle for European qualification and survival is heating up with 11 rounds to go in the Bundesliga.
Saturday's northern derby between Werder Bremen and Hamburger SV could have a big say in which side goes down. Bremen is six points clear of the visitors, who desperately need a win to raise hopes of avoiding a first-ever relegation.
Mainz and Wolfsburg open the 24th round with another relegation fight on Friday, while last-place Cologne, nine points from safety, faces a tough game at Leipzig on Sunday.
Leipzig is one of five sides fighting it out for the three Champions League qualification places after Bayern claims the first. There are only three points between second-place Borussia Dortmund and sixth-place Schalke, which visits fourth-place Bayer Leverkusen on Sunday. Eintracht Frankfurt, which is third, is at Stuttgart on Saturday.
Bayern is chasing a 15th straight win in all competitions at home against Hertha Berlin on Saturday.
Dortmund completes the round against Augsburg in the second of the contentious Monday night games. Fan protests over mainly travel difficulties for such games took center stage at the first, and league authorities are braced for more to come.
— By Ciaran Fahey in Berlin
Florian Thauvin is arguably the French league's best player so far this season, and the skillful winger gets a chance to upstage Neymar when Marseille visits league leader Paris Saint-Germain on Sunday.
PSG is the runaway leader but third-place Marseille is in fine form and pushing Monaco hard to finish in second place for an automatic place in next season's Champions League.
Much of this is down to Thauvin, who has 15 league goals and 10 assists in a career-defining season which means he is widely tipped to earn a place in France's World Cup squad later this year.
Marseille is one of only four sides not to have lost to PSG in the 26 rounds this season, drawing 2-2 at home in an impressive performance back in October. PSG was at times overrun and needed a last-gasp equalizer from striker Edinson Cavani.
Monaco, which is one point ahead of Marseille, travels to Toulouse on Saturday. Fourth-place Lyon is under pressure after picking up one point in the past four games, and needs to bounce back with a home win against local rival Saint-Etienne on Sunday.
— By Jerome Pugmire in Paris.
More AP soccer coverage: https://www.apnews.com/tag/apf-Soccer