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Temperature rising as clubs eye telling wins

Published: Friday 12 April 2013, 9.08CET
The top two meet in Cyprus and the Netherlands, one team will be crowned Kings of Prague and the battle for UEFA Champions League places intensifies in France, Germany and Italy.

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Published: Friday 12 April 2013, 9.08CET

Temperature rising as clubs eye telling wins

The top two meet in Cyprus and the Netherlands, one team will be crowned Kings of Prague and the battle for UEFA Champions League places intensifies in France, Germany and Italy.

Cyprus: APOEL FC v Anorthosis Famagusta FC (Saturday 15.30)
This meeting of first against second assumed extra spice when both teams lost 3-0 last weekend. APOEL, six points clear of their opponents with five games left in the end-of-season playoffs, were beaten by AC Omonia, while Anorthosis succumbed at home to AEK Larnaca FC.

"We felt really bad after the derby defeat by Omonia," commented APOEL forward David 'Dudu' Biton, on loan from R. Standard de Liège. "It was a bad game, but we have already moved on. Now we have another big game, an important match which requires us to pull together as a team to fight for the three points. We have five important games to go and we need to stay united to win our remaining matches and clinch the league title."

Germany: FC Schalke 04 v Bayer 04 Leverkusen (Saturday 18.30)
This game could go a long way to deciding who finishes third and claims the prize of direct qualification for next season's UEFA Champions League group stage. Leverkusen hold a four-point lead over their opponents and would all but sew up the position with victory.

As for Schalke, they have won five of their last six Bundesliga matches but have not fared well against the Werkself in Gelsenkirchen of late, having beaten them just twice in their last 14 home meetings. "We're desperate to be in the Champions League again," said Schalke forward Ciprian Marica. "A win against Leverkusen would be a big step towards that, given the season is almost over."

Czech Republic: AC Sparta Praha v SK Slavia Praha (Saturday 19.15)
A symbolic key to the city and the title King of Prague is up for grabs in the 279th edition of the Czech Republic's most famous derby. Sparta also have the small matter of the title to consider as they head into the weekend level at the summit with FC Viktoria Plzeň. Sparta are unbeaten in the league since 29 September, when they lost 1-0 – to Slavia.

"Everybody loves these sold-out games; we want to keep riding the crest of the wave and end a great evening with three points," said Sparta captain Marek Matějovský. Slavia counterpart Karol Kisel, whose side lie eighth, warned that the result is no foregone conclusion. "We still remember the great feeling we had after beating Sparta in the autumn – a repeat would be nice."

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PSV are breathing down Ajax necks

Netherlands: PSV Eindhoven v AFC Ajax (Sunday 16.30)
Three points above PSV and Vitesse, and four ahead of Feyenoord, pacesetters Ajax will edge closer to a third successive Eredivisie title with a win in Eindhoven. Pre-season favourites and leaders for much of the second half of the campaign, PSV made hard work of a 3-1 victory last week at bottom-of-the-table Willem II, a day before the Amsterdam club put four without reply past Heracles Almelo.

PSV coach Dick Advocaat refuses to set any store by recent performances, however. "Matches against Ajax, Feyenoord and Vitesse are special games that stand alone," he said. "You don't have to be in good form to win them."

Italy: AC Milan v SSC Napoli (Sunday 20.45)
Still undefeated in Serie A in 2013, Milan lost two points in the race with Napoli for second spot when they drew at ACF Fiorentina last weekend, despite leading 2-0 and having a numerical advantage. Massimiliano Allegri's third-placed side will nonetheless reduce the gap to one point if they can prevail on Sunday – but the Partenopei's in-form forward Goran Pandev has other ideas.

"We want a victory to end the race for second place," he said. "It's a game to be played with the right approach, with no fear." Missing the suspended Mario Balotelli, Milan are expected to start Giampaolo Pazzini up front. "Mario has had a fantastic impact for Milan," Pandev added. "But Pazzini and [Stephan] El Sharaawy are also very dangerous."

France: LOSC Lille v Olympique de Marseille (Sunday 21.00)
LOSC, 5-0 home winners against FC Lorient last weekend, will close within two points of second-placed Marseille if they can turn over Élie Baup's charges. OM's last ten league victories have all been by a single goal, with the side relying heavily on André-Pierre Gignac and Mathieu Valbuena, while LOSC have scored at least twice in eight of their past nine domestic games.

"Now we will focus on the home match against Marseille," said Les Dogues coach Rudi Garcia. "The positive thing [from the weekend] is that we are only a point away from third place. However, everybody needs to keep their feet on the ground. If the league were over tonight, we would not qualify for European competition and that's what we are aiming for."

All times CET

Last updated: 04/12/13 5.57CET