- Associated Press - Thursday, January 11, 2018

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


Manchester City’s players are 16 matches away from becoming the latest “Invincibles” of the Premier League. The biggest obstacle to achieving that feat might just be in front of them this weekend.

Protecting a 15-point lead and an unbeaten league record after 22 games, City heads to Anfield to take on a fourth-place Liverpool side that is unbeaten at home in 16 matches across all competitions this season. City hasn’t won there in the league since 2003.

A loss shouldn’t necessarily derail City, which is 1-50 with some British bookmakers to win the league. So most of the intrigue for the remainder of the season could lie in the fight for Champions League qualification behind City.

Three points separates Manchester United in second place and Liverpool, with Chelsea between them in third. Tottenham and Arsenal are within five points of Liverpool.

Chelsea is at home to Newcastle on Saturday, when Tottenham hosts Everton. Arsenal visits Bournemouth on Sunday and United hosts Stoke on Monday.

- By Steve Douglas in Manchester.



Real Madrid looks to regain its winning touch and deflect talk of a crisis when it hosts Villarreal on Saturday.

Madrid enters the game under pressure after a sequence of disappointing results, including two consecutive matches without a win in La Liga - a 2-2 draw at Celta Vigo and a 3-0 home loss against Barcelona.

The European champions also endured a setback in the Copa del Rey on Wednesday, drawing with second-division club Numancia 2-2 at the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium and advancing to the quarterfinals thanks only to a 3-0 first-leg win.

Madrid trails Barcelona by 16 points, but has a game in hand, near the league’s halfway point.

Barcelona, coming off four straight wins in the league, visits mid-table Real Sociedad on Sunday.

Second-place Atletico Madrid, nine points off the lead, is at Eibar on Saturday.

- By Tales Azzoni in Madrid



Eleven points clear and with no realistic challenger for the title, Bayern has already got one hand on a record-extending sixth straight Bundesliga trophy as the league returns for the second half of the season.

Jupp Heynckes has led Bayern to 15 wins from 16 games across all competitions since returning as coach, the only blemish being a loss at Borussia Moenchengladbach. Bayern resumes in the league against another of his former sides, Bayer Leverkusen, on Friday.

Leverkusen has lost only one of its last eight home games against Bayern and has made a solid start to the season under new coach Heiko Herrlich. Leverkusen is on a 12-game unbeaten streak and hasn’t lost at home all season.

Leipzig hosts Schalke in a clash between candidates for second place, while injury-hit Borussia Dortmund hosts Wolfsburg.

Also on Sunday, last-place Cologne hosts Borussia Moenchengladbach for the Rhine derby. Cologne has only one win all season and faces an improbable task to escape relegation.

- By Ciaran Fahey in Berlin.



Paris Saint-Germain resumes its quest for the French league title with a nine-point lead, but amid some turmoil caused by Edinson Cavani’s late return from his holidays.

Cavani, the league top scorer with 19, was not included in Unai Emery’s squad for matches against Rennes and Amiens in domestic cups and it’s still unclear whether the Uruguay forward will be used on Sunday at fifth-place Nantes.

Cavani was not the only PSG player to return late from South America as Javier Pastore also failed to report to training in time after the winter break.

The Argentine midfielder, who is expected to leave PSG during the winter transfer window, said he had “personal issues to deal with” but expressed his commitment to the club.

PSG captain Thiago Silva was critical of his teammates, insisting their late return could harm the club’s ambitions of securing an unprecedented quadruple.

After qualifying for the League Cup semifinals in midweek, defending champion Monaco travels to Montpellier, its next opponent in the cup. Level on points with Monaco, third-place Lyon hosts struggling Angers.

- By Samuel Petrequin in Paris.


More AP soccer coverage: https://www.apnews.com/tag/apf-Soccer

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