European Leagues Round-Up: Huge tests for Real, Barca, Milan a milestone for Flick

BARCELONA, SPAIN - FEBRUARY 06: Lionel Messi of FC Barcelona competes for the ball with Sergio Ramos of Real Madrid CF during the Copa del Semi Final first leg match between Barcelona and Real Madrid at Nou Camp on February 06, 2019 in Barcelona, Spain. (Photo by Angel Martinez/Getty Images)

Real Madrid and Barcelona’s stuttering starts to the season could continue, while AC Milan’s unbeaten record in Serie A is in danger and Bayern Munich coach Hansi Flick is aiming to continue his astonishing record.
AFP Sport previews the standout football action on the continent this weekend:

– German accent to French showdown –

Monaco v Paris Saint-Germain, Friday 2000 GMT

PSG are five points clear at the top of Ligue 1 and chasing a ninth straight win when they face Monaco, the only other club to have won the title in the past eight seasons.

Paris have won 4-1 and 4-0 on their last two visits to the principality but they might find things harder this time, not least because coach Thomas Tuchel is without a host of injured players, while Neymar is a doubt.

The game has a German accent to it, with Monaco looking to return to the upper echelons of the French game under new Croatian coach Niko Kovac, who was born and raised in Germany.

Ex-Borussia Dortmund boss Tuchel has been full of praise ahead of the game for Kovac, who he came up against when the latter was at Eintracht Frankfurt. Kovac is looking to relaunch his career after being sacked by Bayern Munich.

– Landmark for Flick –

Bayern Munich v Werder Bremen, Saturday 1430 GMT

Kovac was replaced in the dugout in Bavaria by Hansi Flick, who went on to win the Champions League, Bundesliga and German Cup treble last season and has added the UEFA and German Super Cups this season.

On Saturday Flick takes charge of Bayern for the 50th time when they host Werder Bremen.

Flick’s record is astonishing. He has overseen 45 wins, one draw and just three defeats, with Bayern averaging 3.3 goals a game in the Bundesliga.

Bayern sealed the title with a 1-0 win in Bremen in June. Werder only just stayed up last season and lost 6-1 on their last trip to Munich. A similar outcome is quite possible this time.

– Real to struggle without Ramos? –

Villarreal v Real Madrid, Saturday 1515 GMT

Zinedine Zidane’s Real have had two weeks to stew on a 4-1 hammering at Valencia and could find the going tough again this weekend when they make another trip to Spain’s east coast to play Villarreal.

Unai Emery’s side are undefeated in six La Liga games and are second in the table, two points behind leaders Real Sociedad and two above Real, who have a game in hand.

While Madrid are without talisman Sergio Ramos after he suffered a hamstring injury playing for Spain, Villarreal have two of Spain’s most in-form strikers in Paco Alcacer and Gerard Moreno.

The latter has four league goals this season and scored a late equaliser for Spain against Switzerland in the Nations League last weekend, while Alcacer has nine in total.

They could make life very difficult for the champions.

– Another acid test for Barcelona –

Atletico Madrid v Barcelona, Saturday 2000 GMT

Barcelona claimed a first win in five La Liga games last time out when they thumped Real Betis 5-2, but they are currently eighth in the table, nine points behind Real Sociedad with two matches in hand.

On Saturday they visit Atletico, who are six points above Ronald Koeman’s side and on a club-record unbeaten run of 23 league matches.

Luis Suarez’s absence against his former side after a positive coronavirus test is a great shame, as will be the lack of fans, but this match still pits Lionel Messi against Joao Felix, and there is the return of Antoine Griezmann to face his old team.

– Milan’s unbeaten record on the line –

Napoli v AC Milan, Sunday 1945 GMT

Milan’s revival is real, as they spent the international break on top of Serie A, unbeaten and two points ahead of Sassuolo in second.

A huge test awaits, however, as they go to Napoli, who are three points off the lead in third.

Napoli have lost their last two home games but look like contenders for a top-four finish this season and the prospect of coach Gennaro Gattuso getting one over the club he served with such distinction as a player is a fascinating one.


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