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Bayern on the brink of 50 not out

Published: Friday 14 March 2014, 10.04CET
FC Zenit face PFC CSKA Moskva in their first game post Luciano Spalletti, Manchester United FC host Liverpool FC, and FC Bayern München can make it 50 Bundesliga games unbeaten.

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Published: Friday 14 March 2014, 10.04CET

Bayern on the brink of 50 not out

FC Zenit face PFC CSKA Moskva in their first game post Luciano Spalletti, Manchester United FC host Liverpool FC, and FC Bayern München can make it 50 Bundesliga games unbeaten.

Russia: PFC CSKA Moskva v FC Zenit (Saturday 13.00)
Both title contenders are going through difficult times. Champions CSKA, in fifth and nine points off the Premier-Liga pace, lost 4-2 at FC Dinamo Moskva last Sunday while second-placed Zenit drew 0-0 at home to FC Tom Tomsk, a result that extended their miserable run to one win in 11 and cost coach Luciano Spalletti his job.

His assistant Sergei Semak, appointed on an interim basis, will make his coaching debut against the club where he spent ten years until leaving for Paris Saint-Germain in 2005. "A short while ago it would have been unimaginable that I could be preparing Zenit to play CSKA," the 38-year-old said. "But different things happen in your life, both complicated and unexpected."

Germany: FC Bayern München v Bayer 04 Leverkusen (Saturday 18.30)
Leverkusen are taking encouragement from their performance in losing 2-1 at Paris Saint-Germain in the UEFA Champions League on Wednesday as they seek a way to derail the Bayern juggernaut. "If we show the same commitment and attitude, it could be difficult against us – even for Bayern München," said coach Sami Hyypiä.

Having last weekend set a new Bundesliga record of 16 straight wins, Bayern will extend their German-league-best sequence of unbeaten games to 50 should they avoid an upset against the last team to defeat them in the top flight. While only seven points separated the sides at the turn of the year, that gap has subsequently increased to 24, and Leverkusen sporting director Rudi Völler fears Bayern will pose a bigger threat than Paris. "They will be on another level," he said.

England: Manchester United FC v Liverpool FC (Sunday 14.30)
Chasing a first league title since 1990, Liverpool enter their final ten matches of the season with a trip to the Premier League champions, who lie sixth. The Reds are seven points behind leaders Chelsea FC – rivals due to visit Anfield in late April – with a game in hand. One of the division's form teams with seven victories in nine top-flight outings in 2014, Liverpool cannot afford any let-up in intensity between now and May, says Daniel Agger.

"We are in a good position but we are only in March," the defender told the Liverpool Echo. "There is still a long way to go and a lot of points to play for. We haven't achieved anything and we need to keep going over the final ten games. We have some big games against teams close to us in the table. They are games we have to win."

Portugal: Sporting Clube de Portugal v FC Porto (Sunday 20.15)
Trailing pacesetters SL Benfica by seven and nine points respectively, Sporting and Porto meet aiming to seize the initiative in the battle for an automatic UEFA Champions League spot. The Dragons are yet to lose to Sporting this term, having won 3-1 in the reverse Liga fixture in late October and drawn a League Cup group game 0-0 on 29 December.

Having upset Sporting in Lisbon nine years ago on Thursday when he triumphed 2-0 with FC Penafiel in his debut season as a Liga coach, new Porto boss Luís Castro will hope for a repeat as he tries to revive the champions' campaign. Former Sporting prodigy Ricardo Quaresma, meanwhile, is enjoying himself since rejoining Porto in January after six years abroad. "I feel better every day, more confident and motivated to help Porto win," he said.

France: Paris Saint-Germain v AS Saint-Étienne (Sunday 21.00)
Runaway leaders Paris rested several players – notably the Verratti-Matuidi-Motta midfield triumvirate – against Leverkusen on Wednesday in preparation for an encounter with a team aspiring to join them in the UEFA Champions League next term. Paris, eight points ahead of second-placed AS Monaco FC, are unbeaten in 12 Ligue 1 games, while Les Verts will bid to bounce back from the 1-0 defeat at FC Lorient that leaves them four points short of third-ranked LOSC Lille.

"It's a nothing-to-lose game,"said St-Étienne captain Loïc Perrin. "When you see what Paris do on a domestic and European level, they are a great team. Nevertheless, we could worry them again [having drawn 2-2 at home in the league and taken them to extra time in the League Cup]."

All times CET

Last updated: 14/03/14 19.13CET

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