European soccer weekend: What to watch in the main leagues

Updated 12 October 2017
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European soccer weekend: What to watch in the main leagues

What to watch in the leading soccer leagues in Europe this weekend:
ENGLAND
Manchester United’s title credentials get a stern test at bitter rival Liverpool when English soccer’s most storied clubs meet on Saturday.
Liverpool is under pressure to show it can compete, needing to make a big statement after carelessly dropping points in recent weeks.
United’s trips to Anfield are always one of the highlights of the Premier League, and always hotly contested.
Liverpool was reinvigorated under coach Juergen Klopp and in the ascendancy last season, but Jose Mourinho has turned fortunes around and United is level with Manchester City at the top. However, United’s six wins — in seven games — have not come against strong sides.
Liverpool is under pressure and is already seven points behind the co-leaders. It is a must-win game for Klopp on Saturday lunchtime, because his attack-minded yet inconsistent side can ill afford to fall further behind.
City hosts Stoke later on Saturday and will be well poised to profit if United drops points.
SPAIN
After lifting Argentina into the World Cup, Lionel Messi goes back to the business of helping Barcelona maintain its dominant start in the Spanish league.
Barcelona will be looking for an eighth straight win when it makes its first visit to Atletico Madrid’s new Wanda Metropolitano Stadium on Saturday.
But Barcelona will have to deal with the fatigue of top players who made grueling trips to World Cup qualifiers, including Luis Suarez and Messi, whose hat trick in Ecuador secured Argentina’s place in Russia next year.
Barcelona has a five-point lead over Sevilla and is six points in front of unbeaten Atletico and Valencia.
Sevilla plays at Athletic Bilbao on Saturday, while Valencia is at Real Betis on Sunday.
Defending champion Real Madrid, seven points off the lead, plays at Getafe on Saturday.
ITALY
It is a big weekend in Serie A with all of the league’s biggest clubs going head to head.
Six-time defending champion Juventus opens the action against fourth-placed Lazio followed by leader Napoli’s visit to Roma on Saturday.
High-scoring Napoli has notched at least three goals in all seven of its Serie A matches, but could face a stiffer test against in-form Roma goalkeeper Alisson.
Sunday’s action is highlighted by the Milan derby.
AC Milan is in desperate need of a win after dropping to seventh place following consecutive 2-0 losses to Sampdoria and Roma.
While the Rossoneri are still learning to play together after a summer that brought in an entire squad of new players, third-placed Inter has appeared much more solid under new manager Luciano Spalletti and sits seven points ahead of Milan.
FRANCE
Defending champion Monaco is under early pressure in the title race and faces a tough match at Lyon on Friday.
Monaco, which has slipped three points behind leader Paris Saint-Germain, will almost certainly be without star striker Radamel Falcao.
Falcao has made a blistering start with 12 goals, but will likely be rested by coach Leonardo Jardim after playing for Colombia on Tuesday night in World Cup qualifying.
PSG coach Unai Emery must decide whether to rest his South American stars. Neymar played for Brazil and Edinson Cavani scored for Uruguay.
Emery could start with Kylian Mbappe up front when PSG plays away to struggling Dijon on Saturday.
Mbappe will be much fresher, having gone on as only a late substitute in France’s home win against Belarus on Tuesday.
Meawhile, third-placed Marseille looks for a fourth straight win when it travels to Strasbourg.
GERMANY
Jupp Heynckes’ fourth stint in charge of Bayern Munich begins with a visit from struggling Freiburg on Saturday.
The 72-year-old Heynckes, who was coaxed out of retirement after Carlo Ancelotti was fired, has the challenge of getting the side to play fluidly as a team after lackluster performances. Bayern is already five points behind Bundesliga leader Borussia Dortmund after seven rounds.
There should not be a problem for Bayern. Freiburg has never won in 17 games in Munich, while the last 13 all ended in defeat.
Dortmund hosts Leipzig with most of the attention focused off the pitch following the disturbances that overshadowed the sides’ previous meeting in Dortmund.
In February, Leipzig fans were attacked with stones and bottles, police officers were injured, and visiting players and officials were confronted with derogatory chants and banners in the stadium. Police opened 214 cases, leading to criminal proceedings in 168.
Dortmund, unbeaten in 41 league games at home, is aiming to maintain its best-ever start to the Bundesliga.


Work still to be done for Egypt's Al-Ahly in quest for African Champions League glory

Updated 23 September 2018
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Work still to be done for Egypt's Al-Ahly in quest for African Champions League glory

  • The Egyptian giants took a step closer to a ninth continental title
  • Attention immediately changed to the first leg against Setif in Cairo on Oct. 2

CAIRO: Al-Ahly coach Patrice Carteron has warned his players against complacency in their forthcoming African Champions League semifinal clash against Setif of Algeria, even though his side swept through with a 4-0 quarterfinal second-leg victory over Guinea’s Horoya in Cairo on Saturday.
The Egyptian giants took a step closer to a ninth continental title with the win against the Guineans after a goalless first leg. From the moment Walid Soliman opened the scoring after 32 minutes at the Al-Salam Stadium, the result was never in doubt as the Reds put in a dominant performance.
Second half goals from Islam Mohareb, Salah Mohsen and Ahmed Fathy confirmed the win.
“It was a good performance, especially as the pitch was poor,” Carteron said. “We are happy to go through but we controlled the game, especially in the second half when we were at our best. We adjusted our offensive strategy at the break and that made a difference.”
Attention immediately changed to the first leg against Setif in Cairo on Oct. 2.
“We know that the game will be very tough as Setif are a strong team but this is the semifinal of the Champions League, you know that any game is going to be tough,” added the Frenchman.
Setif defeated defending champions Wydad Casablanca of Morocco 1-0 on aggregate and will host Al-Ahly in Algeria in the second leg on Oct. 23.
“Setif were the champions in 2014 and we know that we are going to have be at our best if we are going to the final,” said the 48 year-old, who also coached TP Mazembe of Congo to the 2015 title. He is aiming to deliver similar success for Al-Ahly, who last lifted the trophy in 2013.
“When I took the job three months ago, the target was clear: to win the Champions League. That is still the objective and we have taken a big step toward that today.
“Standards in the competition are getting better all the time and results in the quarterfinal show this,” Carteron said, adding that he and his players had taken note of how Mazembe had been knocked out at the last-eight stage.
“Now we are in the semifinal and we have to prepare as well as we can to face Setif. It will be a big challenge but we are looking forward to it.”
Setif reached the semifinal after a 0-0 draw in the second leg in Morocco on Friday to take the tie 1-0 on aggregate following a win on Algerian soil a week earlier.
Goalkeeper Moustapha Zeghba was the star of the show in Casablanca and made a number of fine saves to deny the defending champions.
It was a feather in the cap for coach Rachid Taoussi, a Moroccan who coached Wydad from 2002 to 2003.
“We managed this game very well,” Taoussi said. “We withstood the pressure. It is not easy to keep out such a team, especially with their fans behind them. In the end they had to play long balls and that made it easier for us to defend.”
While Morocco may have lost its sole representative left in the competition, Taoussi is flying the flag for his homeland. “I am proud to be Moroccan. I respect Wydad and the supporters a lot. It’s not easy for anyone to come here and play like we did.
“It is also a demonstration for those who constantly criticize the skills of Moroccan coaches. I’m so happy. That said, the most important thing for us now is to think about going even further in this competition, that is, reaching the final. We have one more step to go; we will give everything until the end.”
The other semifinal sees a third North African team trying to reach the showpiece event as Esperance de Tunis take on Clube Desportivo de Agosto of Angola.