This week may be all about Champions League and Europa League games for several of Europe’s top sides but, come the weekend, normal business resumes with a exciting slate of fixtures in the continent’s top five leagues.
Here’s a look at the games to watch from each of the top five leagues in Europe.
MATCH: Arsenal v Manchester United
WHERE: Emirates Stadium
WHEN: 20:30 Sunday, March 10
Just one point separates these two long-standing Premier League rivals, with United having surged into fourth place under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Arsenal right behind in fifth.
The two sides played out a manic 2-2 draw in December at Old Trafford, with some nervy defending from both teams making for an entertaining fixture. That was during the last days of the Jose Mourinho era at United, however, and a more instructive result would be the 3-1 win Solskjaer masterminded in the FA Cup at the Emirates in January.
United made it clear after that game they knew they could hit Arsenal on the counter, which means it’s up to the Gunners and Unai Emery to adjust this time around. Otherwise, Solskjaer’s side could be dancing on their rivals’ pitch yet again.
MATCH: Borussia Dortmund v Stuttgart
WHEN: 18:30 Saturday, March 9
Borussia Dortmund need to stop the rot. They’ve won just once in their last eight games across all competitions, a run that has seen them knocked out of the DFB Pokal and Champions League while coughing up a nine-point lead at the top of the Bundesliga table, with Bayern Munich now level on points.
There were signs in Tuesday’s defeat to Tottenham, even though it ended 1-0 to the visitors, that Dortmund are finding their groove again. Only a superlative display from Spurs goalkeeper Hugo Lloris kept them from making life nervous for the English side, who had a 3-0 lead from the first leg.
The return of captain Marco Reus has come at a perfect time, and with Jadon Sancho in sizzling form and Mario Gotze and Paco Alcacer in the ranks, they should have too much for relegation-threatened Stuttgart at home.
Thank you for never losing hope.— Borussia Dortmund (@BlackYellow) March 5, 2019
Thank you for always believing.
Thank you for your continuous support.
No Matter What. pic.twitter.com/TVAwVorRJe
MATCH: Fiorentina v Lazio
WHERE: Artemio Franchi Stadium
WHEN: 23:30 Sunday, March 10
Fiorentina are hanging on in the race for a European spot in Serie A, but Sunday’s showdown with sixth-placed Lazio will be pivotal. La Viola are in 10th and five points behind the Rome side, who themselves are chasing a Champions League spot, with Inter Milan six points ahead in fourth having played one game more.
Lazio go into this game on a high, having thrashed rivals Roma 3-0 last week in the Eternal City derby in what was a statement win. In that form, even home advantage may not be enough for Fiorentina, though a loss could be fatal to their hopes of snatching the final Europa League spot.
With young stars like Federico Chiesa, Giovanni Simeone, Luis Alberto and Sergej Milinkovic-Savic on show, this game should be an exciting watch.
MATCH: St-Etienne v Lille
WHERE: Stade Geoffroy-Guichard
WHEN: 18:00 Sunday, March 10
Last week’s 2-0 loss to Marseille has left St-Etienne on the outside looking in, in the hunt for a European spot in Ligue 1, as the result saw them drop to fifth place in the league table.
The big games are coming thick and fast for Jean-Louis Gasset’s side, as they now host second-place Lille who are in the midst of an impressive season. Though Paris Saint-Germain are too far ahead to catch, Lille are 10 points ahead of fourth-placed Marseille and thus looking likely to make a return to the Champions League.
They haven’t lost a game in the league since December, though last week’s win over Dijon ended a run of two straight draws. A trip to St-Etienne is never easy, but Christophe Galtier’s team will be confident of getting a positive result.
5 - Lille have conceded only 5 goals in first-halves in Ligue 1 this season, no other team from the Top 5 European leagues have conceded fewer (level with Atlético de Madrid). Strong ⛔. pic.twitter.com/kvuSbMJrtg— OptaJean (@OptaJean) March 5, 2019
MATCH: Alaves v Eibar
WHERE: Mendizorrotza Stadium
WHEN: 16:00 Saturday, March 9
Two of the surprise packages of the Spanish season face off on Saturday with unthinkable prizes on the line. Eibar would never enter a season harbouring hopes of qualifying for Europe, yet they’re just three points behind sixth-placed Sevilla and a spot in next year’s Europa League.
And if that would be a historic achievement, what about Alaves? The Basque side are just two points away from a Champions League spot – fourth place is currently held by Getafe, making this a season of dream runs by smaller sides – and finishing in La Liga‘s top four would be a miraculous result for Alaves. Even a top-six finish would be a wonderful achievement.
This game is thus a neutral’s nightmare, as a win for either side would be a crushing blow for the hopes of the losing team, while a draw would do neither much good. Whichever way this game goes, however, it could end up being part of one of Spanish football’s greatest stories.
FT Villarreal 1-2 Alavés.— Sid Lowe (@sidlowe) March 2, 2019
Alavés are in a Champions League place.
(Getafe and Sevilla still to play).
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