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Champagne on ice for Shakhtar, Van Persie returns

Published: Friday 26 April 2013, 8.49CET
FC Shakhtar Donetsk can seal the Ukrainian title, derbies take centre stage in Madrid, Sofia and the Rhone Valley, and Robin van Persie returns to Arsenal FC. UEFA.com previews it all.

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Published: Friday 26 April 2013, 8.49CET

Champagne on ice for Shakhtar, Van Persie returns

FC Shakhtar Donetsk can seal the Ukrainian title, derbies take centre stage in Madrid, Sofia and the Rhone Valley, and Robin van Persie returns to Arsenal FC. UEFA.com previews it all.

Slovakia: ŠK Slovan Bratislava v FK Senica (Saturday 14.30)
Slovan find themselves under pressure after a run of four successive draws that has allowed second-placed Senica to close within six points of the summit. Seeking their maiden Superliga title, Senica have not looked back since a 3-0 loss to MFK Ružomberok in their first game after the winter break, winning five times in a seven-match unbeaten sequence.

"I said just one thing to my players after that defeat: have respect for the shirt and change your thinking. And they did," Senica coach Vladimír Koník told UEFA.com. Slovan coach Samuel Slovák added: "We've waited four matches for a win, but I don't think our form has deserted us. We've just been lacking luck in recent games."

Bulgaria: PFC Levski Sofia v PFC CSKA Sofia (Saturday 15.00)
CSKA enter the Eternal Derby with a chance of a first double since 1988/89. The Reds won 1-0 when the teams met in October and a repeat would drag them back into the title race – PFC Ludogorets Razgrad are currently two points clear of Levski, who are four ahead of CSKA.

The hosts' main weapon will be 22-year-old Dutch winger Garry Mendes Rodrigues, who arrived in February. "I have been told about the importance of the Eternal Derby," he said. "I hope we will win and then win the league."

Spain: Club Atlético de Madrid v Real Madrid CF (Saturday 20.00)
In a derby that represents so much more than a dress rehearsal for next month's Copa del Rey final, José Mourinho's side will be anxious to avoid a defeat that could mean FC Barcelona win the championship. Diego Simeone's third-placed Rojiblancos, meanwhile, have designs on securing a UEFA Champions League spot.

"We are close to achieving our goal and so must look on this game as an opportunity – opportunities must be taken," Simeone said. "We have to try to play better than [Madrid] while staying focused and alert." Atlético have not beaten their city rivals since October 1999, a run of 24 games, but Simeone remains optimistic: "In one moment, history can change."

©AFP/Getty Images

Aubameyang has been in prolific form

France: Olympique Lyonnais v AS Saint-Étienne (Sunday 14.00)
Unbeaten in Ligue 1 in 2013, St-Étienne will usurp Lyon in third place – France's last UEFA Champions League berth – if they can take the spoils in the Derby du Rhône. Les Verts approach the Stade de Gerland encounter brimming with confidence following their 1-0 defeat of Stade Rennais FC in the French League Cup final and a 4-2 midweek success against AC Ajaccio, in which Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang took his tally for the season to 19 with a goal in each half.

Nevertheless, former Lyon forward Fleury Di Nallo expects the visitors to be feeling the pressure mounting on them. "If St-Étienne lose, they can wave the Champions League goodbye," he said. Michel Bastos, on loan at FC Schalke 04, scored the only goal when Lyon won at the Stade Geoffroy-Guichard on 9 December.

Ukraine: FC Shakhtar Donetsk v FC Metalist Kharkiv (Sunday 16.00)
A draw with Metalist, fighting to resist the challenge of FC Dynamo Kyiv for Ukraine's second UEFA Champions League berth, will be enough for Shakhtar to secure their eighth Ukrainian title. Mircea Lucescu's side, however, are weakened by the absence of first-choice centre-backs Olexandr Kucher and Yaroslav Rakitskiy through suspension, while Metalist are without midfielder Edmar, sent off last week against FC Chornomorets Odesa.

"I'm not thinking about the title," said Lucescu. "We must respect ourselves as a team and everything we have done this year. We should give our all in every match and thus prepare ourselves for the autumn, when we will take part in the Champions League. We will respect the league, respect our opponents and strive to win all of our remaining games."

England: Arsenal FC v Manchester United FC (Sunday 17.00)
Sir Alex Ferguson intends to make full use of his squad for the remaining four matches of the season now that United have wrapped up their record-extending 20th league title. "A lot of younger players, the ones who have been on the fringes for the last few weeks, I desperately want them to feel their contribution has been big," Sir Alex told the United website. "Chicharito [Javier Hernández], Danny Welbeck, Tom Cleverley and Nani – it's important to get them involved in the last few weeks."

Whether that means Robin van Persie, who scored a hat-trick in Monday's title-sealing 3-0 triumph against Aston Villa FC, will start against his former club is open to question.

All times CET

Last updated: 04/12/13 5.33CET

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