European preview: PSG look to bounce back in Ligue 1, Bayern Munich gunning for 10 wins in a row

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There are plenty of intriguing clashes throughout Europe’s biggest leagues on Saturday, with French giants Paris Saint-Germain and their German counterparts Bayern Munich both looking to extend their huge leads at the top of their respective leagues. Elsewhere, in Serie A, there is still much to be decided on the European qualification front and there is all to play for as we approach the business end of the season.

Here, we look at four key fixtures:

LIGUE 1

PARIS SAINT-GERMAIN V STRASBOURG (20:00)

Paris Saint-Germain will be looking to bounce back from their disappointing Champions League defeat to Real Madrid. The Parisian giants host mid-table Strasbourg on Saturday, looking to extend their dominant 12-point lead at the summit of the Ligue 1 table. Although on paper a routine victory should be secured given the league leaders have won their past 12 matches on home soil, PSG will have to do without lynchpin Marco Verratti who misses out through suspension. Layvin Kurzawa and Thiago Motta are also injury doubts while it is expected Thiago Silva and Angel Di Maria could start after missing out at the Bernabeu.

The one caveat to those assuming PSG will win comfortably is the fact Strasbourg, who won promotion to the top flight this season, actually beat Unai Emery’s men 2-1 in the reverse fixture in December. But theirrecord in the capital is woeful and Le Racing have lost on their past seven visits to the Parc des Princes.

PREDICTION: 3-0

Paris Saint-Germain's Italian midfielder Marco Verratti (L) vies with Real Madrid's German midfielder Toni Kroos (R) during the UEFA Champions League round of sixteen first leg football match Real Madrid CF against Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid on February 14, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / GABRIEL BOUYS (Photo credit should read GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP/Getty Images)

Missing out: Midfield hard man Marco Verratti will miss the home clash.

BUNDESLIGA

WOLFSBURG V BAYERN MUNICH (18:30)

Bayern Munich boss Jupp Heynckes is likely to ring the changes for Saturday’s trip to Wolfsburg, having half an eye on the German giants’ Champions League first-leg home clash with Besiktas on Tuesday.

But, with a commanding 18-point advantage at the top ahead of second-placed RB Leipzig, the veteran boss, who is leaving at the end of the season, has that luxury. Key men Javi Martinez, James Rodriguez, Franck Ribery and Robert Lewandowski are all set to be rested but opportunity beckons for veteran full-back Rafinha and Thiago Alcantara – who is set to get his first minutes on the pitch since sustaining a knee injury in November. Kingsley Coman and Sandro Wagner could also start at the Volkswagen Arena.

The Wolves were thumped at Werder Bremen last weekend and have edged dangerously close to the relegation zone in recent weeks, having won just one of their past eight matches. Bayern, on the other hand, are chasing their 10th successive Bundesliga victory.

PREDICTION: 1-2

MUNICH, GERMANY - FEBRUARY 10: Thomas Mueller of Bayern Muenchen gestures during the Bundesliga match between FC Bayern Muenchen and FC Schalke 04 at Allianz Arena on February 10, 2018 in Munich, Germany. (Photo by Sebastian Widmann/Bongarts/Getty Images)

In form: Bayern and Thomas Muller are cruising to the Bundesliga title.

SCHALKE V HOFFENHEIM (21:30)

The race for European spots is beginning to pick up pace and Schalke could move into the top four with a win over Hoffenheim. But, given Domenico Tedesco’s men have won just once in 2018, it will prove to be a tricky test against a team who are three points off a top-six berth.

That said, the Gelsenkirchen side put in a spirited performance during last weekend’s 2-1 defeat at runaway leaders Bayern and will surely take a lot of confidence into this one in front of their supporters.

For Schalke, rising star Max Meyer is suspended and Benjamin Stambouli could take his place while Matija Nastasic is now available again after a ban. The visitors will make a last-minute call over the fitness of duo Serge Gnabry and Nico Schulz – and boss Julian Nagelsmann has a decision to make over whether he deploys Kevin Akpoguma or Ermin Bicakcic in his favoured back three formation.

PREDICTION: 1-0

MUNICH, GERMANY - FEBRUARY 10: Players of Schalke huddle prior to the Bundesliga match between FC Bayern Muenchen and FC Schalke 04 at Allianz Arena on February 10, 2018 in Munich, Germany. (Photo by Alex Grimm/Bongarts/Getty Images)

Taking heart: Schalke were narrowly beaten in Munich last time out.

SERIE A

UDINESE V ROMA (18:00)

The Giallorossi face a test of their top four credentials when they travel to the Dacia Arena and face an Udinese side still pushing for Europa League football themselves. Roma‘s arch-rivals Lazio are just a point behind them in fifth while Internazionale, in third, are more than in sight given they have just a solitary point more (48).

After back-to-back Serie A victories, Eusebio Di Francesco’s team will be keen to keep momentum on their side for this one ahead of Wednesday’s Champions League opener away at Shakhtar Donetsk.

Roma’s recent head-to-head against the Bianconeri doesn’t make for pleasant reading for fans of the Udine-based club, given the Stadio Olimpico outfit have won their past nine matches in all competitions against them. Remarkably, Roma’s record on the road is outstanding and they’ve suffered just a single defeat in their past 18 matches.

For the hosts, Maxi Lopez will replace Kevin Lasagna and the Romans have Lorenzo Pellegrini and Radja Nainggolan back.

PREDICTION: 2-2

ROME, ITALY - FEBRUARY 11: Gregoire Defrel with his teammates of AS Roma celebrate during the serie A match between AS Roma and Benevento Calcio at Stadio Olimpico on February 11, 2018 in Rome, Italy. (Photo by Paolo Bruno/Getty Images)

Band of brothers: Roma are well within the mix to qualify for the Champions League.

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