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Summit meetings take top billing

Published: Friday 5 March 2010, 11.43CET
The battle for top spot stands out in France and Slovenia while in Italy, Scudetto hopefuls AS Roma and AC Milan meet at the Stadio Olimpico. UEFA.com previews the weekend action.
Summit meetings take top billing
Ronaldinho scored when Milan beat Roma 2-1 in October ©Getty Images
Published: Friday 5 March 2010, 11.43CET

Summit meetings take top billing

The battle for top spot stands out in France and Slovenia while in Italy, Scudetto hopefuls AS Roma and AC Milan meet at the Stadio Olimpico. UEFA.com previews the weekend action.

First plays second in France and Slovenia this weekend while in Serie A, AS Roma host AC Milan with both teams knowing a draw will be of little help in their attempts to overhaul leaders FC Internazionale Milano. Follow the scores from all the European leagues live on UEFA.com's MatchCentre.

France: FC Girondins de Bordeaux v Montpellier Hérault SC (Sunday, 21:00)
While the sight of the Ligue 1 champions at the top of the table is no surprise at this stage of the campaign, Montpellier being second – level on points with Bordeaux – certainly is. Promoted from the second tier last term, Montpellier will be seeking to avenge a 1-0 defeat by Laurent Blanc's team in December. Bordeaux, meanwhile, have lost only once in 12 league games at the Stade Chaban-Delmas this season and know that victory, given they have two games in hand over René Girard's team, could prove significant in the title reckoning. Montpellier goalkeeper Geoffrey Jourdren is unperturbed: "We have nothing to lose. Bordeaux are one of the greatest clubs in the league so we don't feel any pressure. We won't give anything away."

Italy: AS Roma v AC Milan (Saturday, 20.45)
The only two clubs in with a shout of catching Inter at the top of Serie A come together at the Stadio Olimpico knowing defeat could end their title hopes. Milan travel to Manchester United FC in their UEFA Champions League last-16 decider next week, but coach Leonardo cannot afford to rest any players with the Rossoneri four points behind city rivals Inter. He is already without Pato, Milan's 12-goal top scorer, due to a thigh injury. Klaas Jan Huntelaar, one of the two clubs' 15 players on international duty this week, looks set to replace him and gave Leonardo a boost by scoring for the Netherlands. Claudio Ranieri, meanwhile, welcomes back Luca Toni after a calf injury. "I warned my compatriot Júlio Baptista," said Milan defender Thiago Silva. "We want to win because it's the only way for us to keep fighting for the title."

Spain: Real Madrid CF v Sevilla FC (Saturday, 22.00)
Madrid briefly went a point clear last Saturday before Lionel Messi helped FC Barcelona regain the Liga initiative. By the time Los Merengues kick off against their fellow UEFA Champions League contenders, however, they could be five points adrift of a Barça team who visit UD Almería earlier in the evening. Sevilla, who could go level on points with third-placed Valencia CF, ended Madrid's perfect start to the season when they triumphed 2-1 in October, but Xabi Alonso has warned the visitors to expect a different test this time around. "Back then we were still going through a process of integration," Alonso said. "There are still many things to improve on but we feel more mature as a team and we're giving off good vibes both in defence and attack."

Germany: 1. FC Köln v FC Bayern München (Saturday, 15.30)
It had been over 650 days since Bayern last finished a round of fixtures atop the Bundesliga, but last weekend they finally returned to the summit and, fittingly, it coincided with the club's 110th birthday. "We have done it at just the right time," said Bastian Schweinsteiger. Coach Louis van Gaal added: "It is always better to be the leader. Now the other clubs have to watch what we're doing." Thomas Müller, who won his first Germany cap on Wednesday at the age of 20, is already showing signs of the famed Bayern confidence. "After a difficult start we are now a well-oiled machine. I believe we will pull through and march in front." They will attempt to do that at Köln, a venue where they have won on their last seven visits.

Slovenia: NK Maribor v FC Koper (Saturday, 18.00)
The top two meet in Slovenia this weekend, but that is only half the story as Zlatko Zahovič and Miran Pavlin come face to face once again. Both were stars of the celebrated national team that achieved so much at the turn of the century, and both are now sports directors at their clubs, with the 38-year-old Pavlin still turning out as a player for league pacesetters Koper. Any thoughts of a friendly reunion will be put aside, though, as champions Maribor aim to cut the five-point gap to their opponents. "We are motivated," said Maribor midfielder Aleš Mertelj. "They have more experience, but we can count on our youth and skill. By winning we would reduce the gap and put pressure on Koper."

Russia: PFC CSKA Moskva v FC Rubin Kazan (Sunday, 14.00)
The only two sides still representing Russia in Europe will contest the traditional domestic curtain-raiser in Moscow for the second year running. Rubin will be looking to make amends after Tomáš Necid struck in extra time to secure CSKA's 2-1 win in last year's edition, but may miss Aleksandr Ryazantsev through injury. There was better news for the Army Men, though, with coach Leonid Slutsky confirming that playmaker Alan Dzagoev has recovered from a groin problem. CSKA have won four out of the last six Super Cups, but it was Rubin who prevailed 2-0 in teams' last meeting in November 2009 in what was their first win against the capital club in Moscow.

All times local.

Last updated: 06/03/10 13.51CET

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