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Steaua test and time for heroes at San Siro

Published: Friday 20 December 2013, 9.23CET
A crucial contest in the Romanian title race, the Milan derby and Ligue 1's top scorers against the division's meanest defence all feature as picks out some key games.

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Published: Friday 20 December 2013, 9.23CET

Steaua test and time for heroes at San Siro

A crucial contest in the Romanian title race, the Milan derby and Ligue 1's top scorers against the division's meanest defence all feature as picks out some key games.

Romania: FC Astra v FC Steaua Bucureşti (Saturday 17.30)
The Romanian First Division's top two meet for the second time in four days on Saturday as unbeaten title holders Steaua visit leaders Astra looking to take control of the championship race. Fresh from a 3-1 win in Bucharest on Wednesday, Steaua know another victory in the rearranged fixture would put them level on points with their opponents with two games in hand. "For me, as Steaua coach, it's easy to win such matches because I have Romania's best players," said Laurențiu Reghecampf. "We are used to playing under pressure and we know how to handle it."

Astra coach Daniel Isăilă was also forced to concede that Steaua have the upper hand. "Whatever happens on Saturday, the championship will not be decided," he said. "Steaua have the advantage because they have more experience." Steaua's Mihai Pintilii and Astra's William Amorim both saw red during the midweek encounter so are unavailable, while Lucian Filip is a long-term absentee for Steaua and Constantin Budescu's muscle problem makes him doubtful for Astra.

Turkey: Galatasaray AŞ v Trabzonspor AŞ (Saturday 19.00)
The remaining Turkish sides in UEFA club competition lock horns this weekend hoping to translate their European form into domestic success. Until now, Galatasaray had never been more than ten points adrift of Fenerbahçe SK at this stage of the season, so with an 11-point gap to bridge striker Umut Bulut knows there is no room for error. "We cannot afford to drop any more points," he said. "We need to continue getting victories one by one until the end of the season." Meanwhile, UEFA Europa League contenders Trabzonspor are seventh and without a win since 1 December – but could go level on points with Roberto Maninci's third-placed team should they prevail.

Belgium: R. Standard de Liege v RSC Anderlecht (Sunday 18.00)
After elimination from Europe, Belgium's front two can focus on their domestic ambitions. Standard are four points clear at the summit from a cluster of three clubs, led by Anderlecht, grouped on 40 points. Despite their continental disappointments both sides are in good nick in the First League, with Standard losing just once in their opening 19 games and Anderlecht victorious in their last three outings. "I do not expect an easy match," said Anderlecht coach John van den Brom who, before last weekend's triumph at KAA Gent, had set his team the task of ending the year with three wins out of three. "We have to go for nine points from a possible nine. Only then will I be happy. We must not let the gap to Standard increase, maybe we can even close it."

Italy: FC Internazionale Milano v AC Milan (Sunday 20.45)
"We need the points more than them," said AC Milan goalkeeper Christian Abbiati ahead of the derby against FC Internazionale Milano. "Our first half of the season has been well below par and we need to finish the year with a victory." The Rossoneri sit tenth in Serie A, 24 points behind leaders Juventus and nine behind fifth-placed Inter. Both sides will be without a key midfielder due to suspension, Milan's Riccardo Montolivo misses out, as does Inter's Ricardo Álvarez. The Nerazzurri, meanwhile, are going through a difficult period after failing to win in their last four matches. "We need a big performance against Milan," said captain Javier Zanetti. "A win in the derby would be a much-needed boost for us."

Spain: Valencia CF v Real Madrid CF (Sunday 21.00)
Their Liga momentum may have been checked by a 2-2 draw at CA Osasuna last Saturday but Carlo Ancelotti's third-ranked Madrid will seek to end 2013 on a high: attempting to reduce the five-point lead held by top dogs FC Barcelona and Club Atlético de Madrid. "We have to win," said striker Jesé Rodríguez. "We can't afford to drop any more points in the Liga so we will be going to Mestalla in a very serious frame of mind and aiming for victory." Valencia, currently ninth, parted company with coach Miroslav Djukić this week and will be wanting a positive response to last Sunday's 3-0 loss at Atlético.

France: Paris Saint-Germain v LOSC Lille (Sunday 21.00)
Ligue 1 leaders Paris host third-placed LOSC as the campaign reaches its halfway mark. Laurent Blanc's charges need just a point to secure the 'winter title', while Les Dogues can cut the gap at the summit to a point. Paris are the division's top scorers with 42 goals from 18 games yet they will face stiff competition from the league's best defence – LOSC having conceded only six goals.

The capital club squeezed past AS Saint-Étienne on Wednesday in the French League Cup, prevailing 2-1 after extra time courtesy of Edinson Cavani's double. "We would have liked not to go through extra time – some players had cramps, others pain in the thighs – but what can we do?" said Blanc with one eye on Sunday's top-of-the-table fixture. "At least we won. We tried to rotate players, especially in midfield. We are PSG, we want to win every game."

All times CET

Last updated: 20/12/13 11.11CET