Liverpool FC have their backs to the wall in England, the top two meet in Ukraine while three big derby games are among the highlights as uefa.com previews the weekend's action. Follow the scores throughout the weekend from all the European leagues live on uefa.com's MatchCentre.
England: Liverpool FC v Manchester City FC (Saturday, 12.45)
Seventh and sixth respectively, Liverpool and big-spending City no longer have the air of title contenders, with Saturday's early game having a slightly desperate edge for both sides. City have lost just once all season, but five consecutive top-flight draws have taken their toll, while three defeats in five league fixtures have seen Liverpool's season take a vertiginous turn for the worse. With Steven Gerrard likely to have shaken off a thigh injury, Rafael Benítez's side should have their focal point back, while left-back Emmanuel Insúa said: "We know we have to start winning games and this is a big game, but it's still too early to be looking at the league table."
Ukraine: FC Dynamo Kyiv v FC Shakhtar Donetsk (Saturday, 15.00)
The national team lost their play-off against Greece this week, but this top-of-the-table clash should be the antidote to the FIFA World Cup blues in Ukraine. Dynamo are four points clear at the summit but, after losing to Shakhtar in the Ukrainian Cup quarter-finals in October, have everything to prove against Mircea Lucescu's 2008/09 UEFA Cup winners. "It will be a tough match for both teams because many players have just returned from international duty," said Dynamo midfielder Miloš Ninković. "The side that recovers fastest wins. We will do our best to take revenge for our defeat in the cup."
Turkey: Beşiktaş JK v Fenerbahçe SK (Saturday, 20.00)
Champions Beşiktaş might have chosen a better moment to face Turkey's top side, with injuries to goalkeepers Rüştü Reçber and Hakan Arıkan making a rare appearance for third-choice Korcan Çelikay a real possibility. Beşiktaş have the best defensive record in the Süper Lig, but captain Alex's return from a shoulder injury will lift Fenerbahçe; they failed to win in the two recent games he missed and the Brazilian has scored eight times against Beşiktaş. Nonetheless, Fenerbahçe midfielder Cristian said: "We need to be very careful. Results in these games hinge on small details."
France: AJ Auxerre v AS Monaco FC (Saturday, 21.00)
On a six-game winning Ligue 1 winning streak, Auxerre are in the top three in France for the first time since August 2008, while fourth-placed Monaco allowed Grenoble Foot 38 to pick up their first point of the season a fortnight ago and are without nine-goal top scorer Nenê, missing with a thigh injury. Auxerre's danger man of the moment is Ireneusz Jeleń; the club have not lost since the Polish striker's return from a knee problem, and he has scored four times in his last three league games. "We're lucky at the moment," said home coach Jean Fernandez ominously.
Spain: Athletic Club Bilbao v FC Barcelona (Saturday, 22.00)
Barça goalkeeper Víctor Valdés said victory over eighth-placed Athletic would help boost morale ahead of the midweek UEFA Champions League encounter with FC Internazionale Milano and the Liga visit of Real Madrid CF the following weekend. "We always emerge from a win with more confidence so it's vital that we take three points at San Mamés," the 27-year-old explained ahead of the meeting between last season's Copa del Rey finalists. "It's also important that we maintain top spot in the Liga and not just because we're playing Real Madrid the following weekend."
Italy: US Città di Palermo v Calcio Catania (Sunday, 15.00)
When Walter Zenga's Catania beat Palermo 4-0 in last season's Derby di Sicilia, the Rosanero's president Maurizio Zamparini was so impressed that he decided he would sign him. This time around, a defeat by 19th-placed Catania may have very different consquences for the former Inter and Italy goalkeeper, with his side struggling in their mission to win a UEFA Europa League place. "We are trying to get into our best shape to face Catania," said defender Federico Balzaretti. "We all respect Zenga; we started a journey together, and we want to end it together." Elsewhere on Sunday, there are city derbies in Poland and Austria on Sunday, with Wisła Kraków taking on MKS Cracovia Kraków while SK Rapid Wien host FK Austria Wien.
Germany: FC Bayern München v Bayer 04 Leverkusen (Sunday, 15.30)
Bayern have had a below-par season so far, but their meeting with the league leaders could have a crucial role in the unfolding title race, with six points separating the two sides. "We cannot afford to drop any more points," said Bayern goalkeeper Hans-Jörg Butt, a Leverkusen player from 2001 to 2007, and one of the stars of the 'Neverkusen' side that lost the 2001/02 UEFA Champions League final to Real Madrid. "Leverkusen are title challengers. We are at home, we have to win; it's that easy. I am fairly optimistic as Leverkusen will play an attacking game, and we have mainly had problems with sides that drop deep into their own half." A minute's silence will precede all Bundesliga games in honour of Germany goalkeeper Robert Enke, who died last week.
All times local; England is one hour behind CET, Turkey and Ukraine are one hour ahead.
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