- Associated Press - Thursday, May 4, 2017

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

___

ENGLAND

It’s another pivotal few days in the pursuit of the Premier League title.

Tottenham travels across London to the Olympic Stadium on Friday. A victory over West Ham would trim Chelsea’s advantage at the top of the standings to one point, with the leaders not in action until Monday against Middlesbrough.

But if Mauricio Pochettino’s team can’t achieve a 10th straight league win, Chelsea will be able to wrap up the title next week when it follows up the Middlesbrough game with a trip to West Bromwich Albion on Friday.

Middlesbrough will be going to Stamford Bridge clinging to its Premier League status as the northeast side sits six points from safety with three games to go. Swansea, which is four points and a place better off, hosts Everton on Saturday. Hull, which is just above the drop zone, hosts already-relegated Sunderland.

In the chase for Champions League qualification, fourth-place Manchester City hosts Crystal Palace and third-place Liverpool plays Southampton the following day. Manchester United and Arsenal are left relying on City and Liverpool to slip up when they meet on Sunday at the Emirates Stadium.

___

SPAIN

It couldn’t be much closer with both Barcelona and Real Madrid even on points.

Madrid needs 10 of the remaining 12 points in play to dethrone Barcelona as champion and claim its first league title since 2012. If they finish level on points, Barcelona wins on its head-to-head record.

Madrid has four matches, while Barcelona has three.

Madrid visits already-relegated Granada on Saturday. Then, after the second leg of the Champions League semifinals at Atletico Madrid next week, it faces league matches against Sevilla, at Celta Vigo and at Malaga.

The match at Celta was supposed to be played in February, but was postponed after heavy winds caused part of the stadium’s roof to collapse. Now Madrid will have to play two matches in the final week of the season with the title possibly still at stake.

Barcelona has the advantage of being able to fully focus on the title before turning to the Copa del Rey final against Alaves on May 27.

Barcelona’s biggest challenge will be beating a fifth-place Villarreal side seeking a Europa League berth at Camp Nou on Saturday. It then has games at Las Palmas and back at home versus Eibar in the final round.

By Joseph Wilson in Barcelona.

___

ITALY

Treble-chasing Juventus can secure an unprecedented sixth straight Serie A title this weekend if results go its way.

A win in the derby at home against Torino on Saturday would see the team move 12 points clear of Roma, which visits AC Milan the following day.

Milan is still looking for its first win under its new Chinese owners and anything but a victory for Roma would hand Juventus the trophy because there will be only three rounds remaining. A draw would also be enough for Juventus if Roma loses at Milan.

Juventus is currently on a league record run of 33 straight victories at home. If Juventus does not clinch the title this weekend, it could win it the following Sunday - at Roma.

Since Serie A was founded in 1929, no club has won more than five straight titles. Torino won five consecutive titles from 1943-49 (including a season that was canceled because of World War II), Inter Milan took five straight from 2006-10 and Juventus claimed the same from 1931-35 before its current streak.

Third-place Napoli, which is a point behind Roma, will be mathematically out of the title race if Juventus beats Torino, no matter how it does at home against Cagliari.

By Daniella Matar in Milan.

___

FRANCE

Although Monaco looks to be heading out of Europe after losing to Juventus in the Champions League, it can virtually wrap up the French title if results go its way this weekend.

PSG trails Monaco by three points and has an inferior goal difference. While PSG has three games remaining, Monaco has four.

If Monaco wins at relegation-threatened Nancy and Paris Saint-Germain surprisingly loses at home against last-place Bastia on Saturday, Monaco would all but seal the title because its goal difference is 20 better than PSG’s. However, that remains an outside possibility given that PSG is unbeaten at home, conceding only six goals in 17 games.

PSG needs to prove a point, too, following last Sunday’s demoralizing 3-1 loss at Nice. The criticism has been severe following PSG’s fifth league loss of the campaign - all away from home - and coach Unai Emery is feeling the pressure.

Third-place Nice is only three points behind PSG but has a tough trip at improving Marseille on Sunday.

By Jerome Pugmire in Monaco.

___

GERMANY

With the title already wrapped up, Bayern Munich forward Thomas Mueller wants to “have fun again” for the remaining three games.

It starts at home against Darmstadt, the last-place team all but certain to be relegated on Saturday.

More important games take place elsewhere, with Borussia Dortmund hosting Hoffenheim on Saturday for a game that potentially decides which will qualify directly for the Champions League and which goes into the playoffs. Europa League qualification is at stake for Werder Bremen at Cologne and Schalke at Freiburg.

At the other end of the standings, Hamburger SV hosts Mainz in a relegation battle Sunday. Wolfsburg, level with both, visits Eintracht Frankfurt on Saturday.

By Ciaran Fahey in Berlin.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide