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Race for European places hots up

Published: Friday 19 February 2010, 9.00CET
Several clubs vying for UEFA Champions League spots meet this weekend including Liverpool FC and Manchester City FC as previews the domestic action from around the continent.
Published: Friday 19 February 2010, 9.00CET

Race for European places hots up

Several clubs vying for UEFA Champions League spots meet this weekend including Liverpool FC and Manchester City FC as previews the domestic action from around the continent.

There are top-of-the-table meetings in Greece and Portugal this weekend while the race for UEFA Champions League places is hotting up all over Europe, with some key fixtures in the Spanish Liga and English Premier League. You can follow the scores from all the European leagues live on's MatchCentre.

Italy: FC Internazionale Milano v UC Sampdoria (Saturday, 20.45)
When Sampdoria lost Antonio Cassano to a knee injury last month it forced coach Luigi Del Neri to experiment with two strikers. Four wins in as many Serie A matches since suggest the Blucerchiati have stumbled across the right system and left Cassano, now fit, facing a battle to regain his place for the visit to San Siro. "His time will come," assured Del Neri. Inter, meanwhile, have hit somewhat of a rut by their high standards, drawing successive matches against Parma FC and SSC Napoli. That said, they still have a seven-point lead over AS Roma and, with Dejan Stanković available after five weeks out, will attempt to avenge a 3-0 loss at Sampdoria in the Coppa Italia last term, José Mourinho's heaviest defeat since taking charge.

Germany: Werder Bremen v Bayer 04 Leverkusen (Sunday, 17.30)
Leverkusen's Bundesliga advantage over FC Bayern München has shrunk to just one goal as they approach this difficult away assignment. However, Jupp Heynckes' side are still unbeaten after 22 league games. "It's important we're able to maintain our lead in the table," the coach said. "The race for the title is open. Let's see where we are at the end of the season. We are only looking at ourselves." They will have to do without suspended centre-back Sami Hyypiä, though, with the only game Leverkusen losing this season – in the German Cup second round – also happening to be the sole game missed by the 36-year-old.

Spain: RCD Mallorca v Sevilla FC (Saturday, 22.00)
Mallorca midfielder Gonzalo Castro believes home advantage could prove decisive as the islanders look to steal fourth spot from Sevilla. Gregorio Manzano's team have recorded just one league victory on their travels this term, yet ten wins from as many matches at the Ono Estadi have earned Los Bermellones the chance to challenge for a UEFA Champions League qualifying spot. "[Sevilla] have already shown their worth by reaching the Copa del Rey final," Castro explained. "It's going to be difficult but they also know we have a perfect home record and they are coming here for a battle."

England: Manchester City FC v Liverpool FC (Sunday, 17.00)
The race for fourth spot and the resultant UEFA Champions League place takes centre stage in the Premier League this weekend. Liverpool go to Manchester on the back of a 1-0 win against FC Unirea Urziceni in the UEFA Europa League round of 32, but are in need of domestic rejuvenation after last week's 1-0 defeat by Arsenal FC. City, beaten twice in the league since Roberto Mancini's arrival in December, head their visitors by a point with a game in hand. Their top-four credentials remain in doubt, however, with a 1-1 draw against ten-man Stoke City FC in midweek doing little to appease the skeptics. Arsenal, Tottenham Hotspur FC and Aston Villa FC have their fingers firmly crossed that honours end even once again.

PAOK FC v Panathinaikos FC (Sunday, 18.00)
Third host first in a match that could go a long way to deciding this season's title. PAOK lie five points behind their visitors, but are still on a high after their win at Olympiacos FC last month with coach Fernando Santos trying to manage rocketing expectations. "We will do everything we can to find a way to win," he said. "That's what we do in every match." For Panathinaikos, the crucial trip is sandwiched by the two legs of their UEFA Europa League tie against AS Roma. Nikos Nioplias's charges surprisingly lost at home to FC Kavala last week and are desperate to get back on track to winning a championship that has eluded them since 2004. "We are a big team, and big teams know how to handle not just good but also bad results," said captain Giorgos Karagounis. "We are still in the lead. We have to forget the setback and return to our winning ways."

Turkey: Beşiktaş JK v Galatasaray AŞ (Sunday, 17.00)
Despite an unconvincing goalless draw with Kayserispor last week, Galatasaray ended the weekend a point clear at the Süper Lig summit after Fenerbahçe SK dropped points. A midweek UEFA Europa League encounter with Club Atlético de Madrid is likely to have sapped energy levels ahead of the first Istanbul derby of 2010, while Harry Kewell and Milan Baroš remain sidelined. With only the league to focus on, and still smarting from a 2-0 loss at Gaziantepspor, the derby offers fifth-placed Beşiktaş the opportunity to kick-start their campaign and close on the leading duo.

Portugal: FC Porto v SC Braga (Sunday, 22.15)
Having beaten Arsenal FC 2-1 in the first leg of their UEFA Champions League first knockout round tie, Porto switch their attention to bridging the eight-point gap to their second-placed opponents. Braga, however, have lost only once in the Liga this term, form which has led defender Moisés to dispel any notions of fear about playing at the Estádio do Dragão, where the hosts are unbeaten in ten league games this season. "We have a very strong team and we can play well in any stadium, against any team," said Moisés, a regular member of a defence which has conceded a Liga-best eight goals. "It will not be easy but our attitude will be the same."

All times are CET.

Last updated: 25/02/10 17.17CET

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