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Away-day tests for illustrious three

Published: Friday 18 January 2013, 10.00CET
A Dutch 'Klassieker' headlines the resumption of the Eredivisie on a weekend when Manchester United FC, Paris Saint-Germain FC and Real Madrid CF face exacting away trips.

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Published: Friday 18 January 2013, 10.00CET

Away-day tests for illustrious three

A Dutch 'Klassieker' headlines the resumption of the Eredivisie on a weekend when Manchester United FC, Paris Saint-Germain FC and Real Madrid CF face exacting away trips.

Germany: Bayer 04 Leverkusen v Eintracht Frankfurt (Saturday 15.30)
When second-placed Leverkusen host Eintracht, who occupy fourth spot in the Bundesliga, it will be a meeting of two sides that have exceeded expectations so far this term. What is shaping up to be a promising season for Eintracht began with a 2-1 win against Saturday's opponents on the opening weekend of the campaign.

"The second half of the season will be more difficult for us," warned the visitors' coach Armin Veh, whose charges earned as many points, 30, as champions Borussia Dortmund in their first 17 games. "We have a team with perspective. Our first goal is to avoid relegation – that is my only goal. We will approach every game in a way that allows us to reach 40 points. If we get there, we can talk about the future."

Italy: ACF Fiorentina v SSC Napoli (Sunday 12.30)
Having ended 2012 with three successive wins, ACF Fiorentina have started the new year with as many defeats. Beaten in Serie A by Pescara Calcio and Udinese Calcio, the Viola were eliminated from the Coppa Italia in midweek by visiting AS Roma. Their quest for redemption begins against a Napoli outfit two places and five points better off in third. "We are missing a bit of luck," said Fiorentina midfielder Alberto Aquilani. "We are still playing good football, but everything seems to go wrong on the pitch. We need to react fast and the game against Napoli should give us a chance to show our quality."

Netherlands: AFC Ajax v Feyenoord (Sunday 14.30)
The Eredivisie returns from its winter break with an encounter between third and fourth in De Klassieker (The Classic). Both clubs are on 37 points, three behind leaders PSV Eindhoven and FC Twente. Ronald Koeman's youthful Feyenoord are proving that last season's runners-up finish was no fluke as they head into the first of two matches likely to demonstrate the strength of their title credentials – they host Twente next weekend after this visit to the Amsterdam ArenA.

"We are only three points behind, despite the millions spent by PSV and FC Twente," said the Rotterdammers' midfielder Jordy Clasie. "We are proving how far you can get with players from the youth academy when you give them time to develop. PSV and Twente might have the best players, but we have the best team."

England: Tottenham Hotspur FC v Manchester United FC (Sunday 17.00)
Gareth Bale has cited Tottenham's surprise 3-2 victory at Old Trafford in September as the launchpad for what the north London club hope will be a successful pursuit of a UEFA Champions League berth. Bale, who scored a superb solo goal in the match, said: "That win stood us in good stead. It gave us confidence and belief to do what we've done so far this season."

A similar result at White Hart Lane would be a significant shot in the arm as André Villas-Boas's side hunt down Chelsea FC, two points better off in third. United, who have won nine of their last ten top-flight games, have not lost both league matches in a campaign to Spurs since 1989/90.

Spain: Valencia CF v Real Madrid CF (Sunday 21.00)
A glance at the Liga table from this stage last term will tell you that Valencia and eventual champions Madrid were performing much better than they are now. Then the leaders ahead of FC Barcelona and this Sunday's hosts, the Merengeus are currently third, 18 points off top spot ahead of their trip to Ernesto Valverde's seventh-placed team.

"With our performances in the league this season we understand that people are critical of us," Madrid captain Iker Casillas said. "Winning the championship is obviously a big ask now, but for ourselves, for the fans who support us and for the badge on our chest, we must continue to fight until the very end."

France: FC Girondins de Bordeaux v Paris Saint-Germain FC (Sunday 21.00)
Held to a goalless draw at home last weekend by AC Ajaccio, Paris Saint-Germain FC will hope to make amends against fourth-placed Bordeaux, who are unbeaten in eight. The capital club, second in the standings and minus the suspended Thiago Motta, are aiming for their first win at the Stade Chaban-Delmas since 2005 as they seek to bridge the two-point gap to Ligue 1 pacesetters Olympique Lyonnais.

Alex, part of a PSG rearguard which has kept a clean sheet in each of the last five league matches, said: "We know it's always difficult to play against Bordeaux. They defend very well and are very dangerous on the counterattack."

Last updated: 04/12/13 7.15CET

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