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Tough trips for leaders United, Milan and Lille

Published: Friday 4 March 2011, 9.54CET
Manchester United FC, AC Milan and LOSC Lille Métropole defend league leads at Liverpool FC, Juventus and Olympique de Marseille this weekend. previews the action.

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Published: Friday 4 March 2011, 9.54CET

Tough trips for leaders United, Milan and Lille

Manchester United FC, AC Milan and LOSC Lille Métropole defend league leads at Liverpool FC, Juventus and Olympique de Marseille this weekend. previews the action.

Italy: Juventus v AC Milan (Saturday, 20.45)
Having already lost at home to Juventus earlier this term, Serie A leaders AC Milan will take nothing for granted when they visit the Bianconeri, a wounded animal after consecutive defeats by US Lecce and Bologna FC. On Monday the Rossoneri beat SSC Napoli 3-0 to open up a five-point lead over FC Internazionale Milano, who have sneaked up to second in the table. "Five points is a good advantage," Milan coach Massimiliano Allegri said. "But the season is still very long and we cannot forget that Juve defeated Inter only two weeks ago." Both teams are missing a number of injured players, especially in midfield. "If we don't change something quickly, it will be a long season for us," warned Juve coach Luigi Delneri, whose side are seventh and as many points off the top four.

England: Liverpool FC v Manchester United FC (Sunday, 14.30)
When Kenny Dalglish led Liverpool to their 18th league title in 1990, it would have been unthinkable that just over two decades later United, then 11 behind, could surpass their rivals' English record. But Liverpool have not topped the table since, while United have drawn level and, despite Tuesday's 2-1 loss at Chelsea FC, Sir Alex Ferguson's side are four points ahead of Arsenal FC, who have a game in hand. Dalglish (60 today) is, of course, back at the Anfield helm and has lifted the Reds to sixth place. He could be boosted on Sunday by the potential debut of striker Andy Carroll, injured since his €40.25m January arrival in Fernando Torres's stead. "We have said all along we have been delighted with his progress and what he has done," said Dalglish, reappointed just before Liverpool's 1-0 FA Cup loss at United in January, their second Old Trafford defeat of the season.

Switzerland: FC Basel 1893 v FC Zürich (Sunday, 16.00)

The Swiss Super League crown could be all but decided with 13 games remaining if frontrunners Basel beat rivals Zürich. Victory would give reigning champions Basel a seven-point advantage over the side with whom they have monopolised the title since 2003/04, and following a humiliating 3-1 Swiss Cup loss at lower league FC Biel/Bienne on Thursday, they are in dire need of a pick-me-up. "The championship is incredibly important to us – our bread and butter – especially on Sunday against FCZ," said Basel coach Thorsten Fink. Opposite number Urs Firscher added: "I have always said that a club like FC Zürich have to be at the very top. And we have to confirm this on Sunday. If we lose, it will get very difficult for us."

Poland: Legia Warszawa v KSP Polonia Warszawa (Sunday, 17.00)
The Warsaw rivals both resumed their campaigns last week with draws: Legia finishing 3-3 at bottom side MKS Cracovia Kraków and Polonia held 0-0 at home by Górnik Zabrze, before being eliminated by 2-1 by KKS Lech Poznań in the Polish Cup quarter-finals on Wednesday. "We were very unlucky against Lech, we had plenty of chances but didn't take them," said Polonia midfielder Łukasz Trałka, whose club are ninth, six places short of Legia. "But this is already gone, we should forget it. Now there is the derby and everybody knows how important this match is to us. No matter what position we are in at the moment, the Legia game is always hugely important." Trałka became a father on Wednesday. He may be celebrating again at the weekend.

Denmark: FC Midtjylland v FC København (Sunday, 18.00)
With unbeaten FCK 19 points clear of second-placed Odense BK as the three-month Danish Super League winter break ends this weekend, it is fair to say the title race is not expected to go to the wire. However, those behind FCK still have UEFA Europa League places and the honour of behind the first to beat the runaway leaders to play for. Midtjylland, who sit only three points behind OB in fourth spot, have the first bite at the latter cherry. "If we can start scoring goals, I am sure we will finish second," captain Kristian Bak Nielsen said. "We are a different team now compared with the autumn, and I think you are going to see a stronger and more dominant Midtjylland than before."

France: Olympique de Marseille v LOSC Lille Métropole (Sunday, 21.00)
While Lille, without a victory in five competitive outings, have seen their Ligue 1 lead whittled away, Marseille have won four league matches on the spin and are now a point behind both their Sunday visitors and Stade Rennais FC. In addition, Lille had an exhausting French Cup quarter-final on Wednesday, overcoming FC Lorient on penalties after 120 goalless minutes to reach the last four for the first time since 1985. "Fortunately we have four days to recover," said coach Rudi Garcia. "We'll make the most of it."

Portugal: SC Braga v SL Benfica (Sunday, 21.15)

Benfica's League Cup semi-final success against Sporting Clube de Portugal on Wednesday – their second last-gasp 2-1 home win in four days – was the Eagles' 18th consecutive victory, a Portuguese record. The only blip was Pablo Aimar limping off with a thigh injury that makes him a doubt for the weekend, when Benfica will be hoping to close the eight-point gap to leaders FC Porto, who entertain Vitória SC a day earlier. "We go to Braga knowing that we cannot drop points," said midfielder Javi García. "Every match is decisive." Second last season, Braga are on a three-game winless streak and lie seventh. Coach Domingos Paciência observed: "Against Benfica it will be different."

Last updated: 07/12/13 5.57CET