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Spotlight falls on title hopefuls and a Swiss derby

Published: Friday 10 February 2012, 9.33CET
Teams with title aspirations meet in Italy and Germany while Real Madrid CF and R. Standard de Liège look to avenge autumn defeats. picks out some key matches.

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Published: Friday 10 February 2012, 9.33CET

Spotlight falls on title hopefuls and a Swiss derby

Teams with title aspirations meet in Italy and Germany while Real Madrid CF and R. Standard de Liège look to avenge autumn defeats. picks out some key matches.

Italy: Udinese Calcio v AC Milan (Saturday, 18.00)
Udinese and Milan will look to bounce back from dropping points last time out when they meet on Saturday. The fourth-placed Friulani have lost two of their last three games while second-placed Milan have taken just one point from two Serie A outings and suffered a 2-1 home reverse against Juventus in their midweek Coppa Italia semi-final first leg. Zlatan Ibrahimović starts a three-game ban which means Udinese's 16-goal Antonio Di Natale can extend his one-strike advantage at the top of the scoring charts. "Ibrahimović is a crucial player for Milan," said Udinese coach Francesco Guidolin. "In some games he did the whole job for them but they are probably the best team in Italy in terms of quality and certainly have other weapons."

Belgium: R. Standard de Liège v RSC Anderlecht (Sunday, 14.30)
Standard are unbeaten at home in all competitions this season but go into Sunday's game nine points adrift of league leaders Anderlecht. There are more than just three points at stake, though, with Standard captain Réginal Goreux keen to avenge the 5-0 reverse suffered at the hands of the 30-time Belgian champions back in October. "We are ready for it," said the Haitian right-back. "What happened to us at Anderlecht will not happen again. This Standard side is much stronger now and it is up to us to take revenge."

Switzerland: FC Zürich v Grasshopper-Club (Sunday, 16.00)
Zurich's big two are down on their luck. Grasshoppers have won more Swiss league and cup titles than any other club, but lie seventh this season, and despite being among the pre-season favourites, Zürich are only three points and one place better off. Five departures during the winter break seem to have put paid to any lingering title aspirations, and FCZ boss Urs Fischer is also missing several players through injury, but he hopes the derby can restore some focus. "We want to make a push in the second half of the season," he said. "When you are coach at FCZ, you always have to compete. There have always been surprises in football and now it is down to FCZ to spring one."

Germany: VfL Borussia Mönchengladbach v FC Schalke 04 (Sunday, 18.30)
Fourth hosts third in Monchengladbach, with just one point separating the two sides. Two points adrift of Borussia Dortmund at the summit, Schalke are daring to dream of a first Bundesliga crown since 1958, but midfielder Joel Matip is taking it a step at a time. "The next few weeks, with the matches in 'Gladbach and Munich, the duel against Wolfsburg and the two Europa League matches against Viktoria Plzeň, will be crucial," he said. "After those games maybe we will know where our journey could take us." Mönchengladbach barely avoided relegation last season and their ambitions are not so lofty; asked whether his side were serious title contenders, coach Lucien Favre replied: "Are you crazy?"

Spain: Real Madrid CF v Levante UD (Sunday, 21.30)
Having enjoyed a spectacular start to the season in which they topped the Spanish Liga with seven victories from their opening nine games – including a 1-0 home success against current leaders Madrid – Levante's momentum has stalled, and they are winless in the league since 10 December. Despite that, midfielder Vicente Iborra threw caution to the wind a little ahead of their trip to the Spanish capital. "We've been barely scraping points together since the turn of the year and we know it will be difficult against one of the best counterattacking teams in the world," he said. "However, if we can beat them at home, why can't we do it there?"

All times CET.

Last updated: 05/12/13 19.11CET

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