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Paris (AFP) – The European football weekend is marked by the firsts of Xavi on the bench of Barça, opposed to Espanyol on Saturday, and of Steven Gerrard on that of Aston Villa, while the reunion will be in the spotlight in Serie A .
– England: Arsenal at Anfield, first for Gerrard
Fittest in the Premier League, Arsenal will experience an important test for their ambitions by going to challenge Liverpool on Saturday (6.30 p.m.) on Matchday 12.
The Gunners are currently fifth with 20 points, two less than the Reds, but since their loss to Manchester City on Matchday 3 (5-0), they have the best record in the championship with 20 points out of 24 possible.
West Ham (3rd with 23 pts), which remains precisely on a victory against Liverpool before the truce (3-2), will move to Wolverhampton at 4:00 p.m., while City, which is ahead of the Hammers on goal difference, will receive Everton, Sunday at 3:00 p.m.
The leader Chelsea (26 pts) will go to Leicester to open the day on Saturday at 1:30 p.m.
Two more matches will deserve a close look at 4:00 p.m. on Saturday, starting with Manchester United’s trip to Watford, as Steven Gerrard will make his Premier League bench debut with Aston Villa who host Brighton.
– Spain: a derby for Xavi
For his arrival on the Barça bench, Xavi will be able to regain his bearings during a derby that he knows well, at Camp Nou, against Espanyol on Saturday (9:00 p.m.).
A win wouldn’t be too much to give the 41-year-old some time before a crucial Champions League game against Benfica on Tuesday. He should be able to count on his 38-year-old rookie, full-back Dani Alves, also back at the club five years after his time in Catalonia (2008-2016).
The choices of the former coach of Al-Sadd will be scrutinized, he who has evolved with several framework elements of his workforce during his playing career (Pique, Busquets, Jordi Alba …).
At the top of the standings, Real Sociedad, leader, will try to keep the lead against Valencia on Sunday (9 p.m.) while his two runners-up Real Madrid and Sevilla FC face Granada (Sunday 4:15 p.m.) and Alavés (Saturday 4:15 p.m.), respectively, opponents misclassified.
– Italy: Napoli testing their ambitions against Inter –
Luciano Spalletti, ousted from Inter Milan in May 2019 despite a qualification in the Champions League, will find San Siro on Sunday as Serie A leader, on the bench of Naples.
This trip to the reigning champion is a hell of a test for this dashing Napoli still undefeated after twelve days (ten wins and two draws) and leading with AC Milan.
Inter Milan, third at seven lengths of the duo, is looking for a first victory against a « big » after being hung this season by Milan, Juventus, Atalanta and losing to Lazio.
AC Milan could detach itself in the event of a Neapolitan defeat but will have to be wary of Fiorentina (7th) which has made very good matches against the tenors this season.
Another reunion in Rome between Juventus (8th) and his ex-coach Maurizio Sarri, now at Lazio, currently fifth with three points ahead of the Bianconeri and certainly deprived of Ciro Immobile, very uncertain.
Finally, note the debut of Andriy Shevchenko on the bench of Genoa (17th), against Roma (6th) of José Mourinho, his ex-coach at Chelsea.
– Germany: The return of the Berlin derby
The Berlin derby between the Union (8th) and Hertha (13th) will be the highlight of the 12th day of the Bundesliga on Saturday at 6.30pm, which will also see the top five in the standings face teams from the second half of the table.
When the Union rose to the top division in 2019-2020, the very first derby was marked by incidents between supporters. The pandemic and the closed-door matches then calmed the heat, but Saturday’s meeting will again be under close surveillance.
While a wave of Covid has hit Germany hard in recent weeks, the Berlin authorities have authorized the 22,000 seats of the picturesque « Alte Försterei » stadium to be filled to 100%, on presentation of a vaccination or cure certificate .
Bayern, a solid leader with four lengths ahead of Dortmund, opens the ball on Friday (8:30 p.m.) on a trip to Augsburg (16th), for a traditionally unbalanced Bavarian derby.
Borussia receives 15th Stuttgart (Saturday 3.30pm) while Leipzig, which is slowly recovering from its poor start to the season (fifth to ten points from Bayern), moves to 10th Hoffenheim.
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