MATCHDAY: Liverpool and Man City clash; Madrid hosts Barça
A look at what’s happening in European soccer on Sunday:
Manchester City travels to Liverpool in a meeting of the Premier League’s most dominant teams of the past four years. But Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp goes into the game facing major questions over his ability to keep pace with Pep Guardiola after a difficult start has his team 13 points adrift of the reigning champions. Klopp insists Liverpool is out of the title race — even at such an early stage — but Guardiola claims they remain City’s greatest threat at the top. League leader Arsenal faces Leeds at Elland Road looking to extend its outstanding run. Manchester United hosts Newcastle in another standout game. Chelsea plays at Aston Villa and Southampton faces West Ham at St Mary’s.
Barcelona takes Poland striker Robert Lewandowski to Real Madrid for his first clásico. Barcelona and Madrid are tied on points at the top of the league. The Catalan club is ahead on goal difference. Barcelona has conceded only one goal while scoring 20 through eight rounds. Madrid’s balance is 19 goals scored to seven allowed. Lewandowski leads the league with eight goals in as many games and 12 goals in 14 matches overall including the Champions League. Barcelona’s injury-hit defense has recovered Jules Koundé for the game, giving manager Xavi Hernandez more options as he tries to stop Madrid speedster Vinícius Júnior and his team-high five league goals. Carlo Ancelotti will have all his first-choice players available except for injured goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois. That means Ukrainian Andriy Lunin will be in Madrid’s net. Barcelona won 4-0 at the Santaigo Bernabéu last season, ending a streak of five losses to its fierce rival. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scored twice in that rout but he has since been sold to Chelsea following the arrival of Lewandowski. Also, Real Betis and Real Sociedad both seek wins to stay in the fight for the top four. Betis hosts Almería, while Sociedad is at Celta Vigo. Espanyol must beat Valladolid to escape the relegation zone.
The biggest game in Ligue 1 is at the Parc des Princes where Marseille faces Paris Saint-Germain. The capital city club has dominated ‘Le Classique’ since Qatari owners took over in 2011, but Marseille looks solid this season under new coach Igor Tudor. Still unbeaten, PSG has been held to draws in its three previous matches in all competitions and has been struggling offensively. But the MNM trio of Kylian Mbappé, Neymar and Lionel Messi could be back after the Argentine star missed PSG’s last couple of games because of slight calf problem. Alexis Sanchez, a former Messi teammate at Barcelona, is expected to lead Marseille’s attacking line. Also, Laurent Blanc will be in charge of his first match as Lyon’s new coach at Rennes.
Free-scoring Napoli is brimming with confidence as it prepares to host Bologna in Serie A. Napoli has 14 goals in its past three matches in all competitions and has already qualified for the last 16 of the Champions League. It can move back to two points clear at the top of the Italian league with a win over Bologna. Bologna has won just one of its nine matches. Lazio hosts Udinese, with both teams four points behind leader Atalanta and defending champion AC Milan. Milan visits lowly Hellas Verona. Also, Inter Milan hosts Salernitana and Cremonese visits Spezia.
Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund are in the unaccustomed role of challengers as the Bundesliga’s top four all meet. Surprise leader Union Berlin hosts fourth-placed Dortmund while 10-time defending champion Bayern welcomes second-placed Freiburg, which is unbeaten in 11 games across all competitions. Union is two points ahead of Freiburg, which itself is two points ahead of Bayern and Dortmund after nine rounds. Union and Freiburg had tough games in the Europa League on Thursday and neither boasts the strength in squad depth that Bayern and Dortmund can offer. Bayern will be without goalkeeper Manuel Neuer due to a shoulder injury but can otherwise count on a full-strength squad. Dortmund forward Anthony Modeste is out for the trip to Köpenick. Cologne hosts Augsburg for the early game.