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Red-and-whites unite on glory trail

Published: Friday 25 April 2014, 9.01CET
FK Crvena zvezda, Liverpool FC and Club Atlético de Madrid have key games, while AFC Ajax could start next week with a fourth successive Dutch crown – the weekend beckons.

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Published: Friday 25 April 2014, 9.01CET

Red-and-whites unite on glory trail

FK Crvena zvezda, Liverpool FC and Club Atlético de Madrid have key games, while AFC Ajax could start next week with a fourth successive Dutch crown – the weekend beckons.

Serbia: FK Partizan v FK Crvena zvezda (Saturday 16.30)
Crvena zvezda lead their Belgrade neighbours by six points ahead of the 146th eternal derby, and are hoping Partizan's six-season dominance of the Serbian league could soon be over. 'Red Star' have won their last 15 league games and would match their own national record with another victory against Partizan, who they beat 1-0 at home earlier in the season.

Partizan's 2-0 loss at FK Napredak in midweek did not improve coach Marko Nikolić's mood. "This is not a moment to speak too much," he said. "We want to win." Crvena zvezda boss Slaviša Stojanović is only hoping the situation is not too good to be true with five league games remaining. "We aren't doing any maths just yet," he said. "We want the title and we will continue working towards it."

Germany: Bayer 04 Leverkusen v Borussia Dortmund (Saturday 18.30)
Wins in the last fortnight against Hertha BSC Berlin and 1. FC Nürnberg were a step in the right direction for Leverkusen and new coach Sascha Lewandowski. But they must keep the momentum up if they want to qualify for next season's UEFA Champions League, with fifth-placed VfL Wolfsburg just a point behind with three games to go.

"We still lack consistency," Lewandowski said. "Confidence and fighting spirit were big strengths of ours for a long time – we need to get them back." Like Leverkusen have been doing, Dortmund put a domestic slump behind them recently to seal a UEFA Champions League group stage slot for next season, allowing them to turn their focus to the German Cup final against FC Bayern München on 17 May.

Netherlands: Heracles Almelo v AFC Ajax (Sunday 14.30)
Six points clear of Feyenoord with two games to go, a point at relegation-threatened Heracles would secure Ajax's 33rd title. It would be the first time they have won four in a row – with all four successes coming under Frank de Boer, coach since December 2010 – equalling a record set by PSV Eindhoven, four-time winners between 1986 and 1989, and then from 2005 to 2008.

Ajax are looking to bounce back from Sunday's 5-1 Dutch Cup final defeat by PEC Zwolle, and De Boer gave his players Monday and Tuesday off to regroup before facing a Heracles team who would secure their Eredivisie status with victory. "You have to convert this into something positive," De Boer said. "What you feel, shame maybe, you have to take with you into Sunday, thinking: 'That is something we do not want to experience again.' The players have enough self-awareness to realise that."

England: Liverpool FC v Chelsea FC (Sunday 15.00)
Liverpool's 24-year wait for a 19th title could be all but over if they beat a Chelsea team who, by José Mourinho's admission, are already looking to Wednesday's UEFA Champions League semi-final second leg at home to Club Atlético de Madrid. Injured Petr Čech and John Terry and suspended Ramires are definitely ruled out. With three games to go, Liverpool lead Chelsea by five points, while Manchester City FC are one further behind with a match in hand, and hoping the leaders are pegged back before they kick off against Crystal Palace FC later on Sunday.

Fresh from dramatic 3-2 wins against the Manuel Pellegrini's side and Norwich City FC, Liverpool could have Dean Sturridge back from a hamstring injury in their free-scoring forward line, and Raheem Sterling said: "We come in every day, we see each other and we know what the dream is. We are keeping each other modest. There is a real goal at the end of it. We just have to keep our heads down, keep working hard and concentrate."

Switzerland: FC Basel 1893 v Grasshopper Club (Sunday 16.00)
Basel lost the Swiss Cup final against FC Zürich on Monday and following their disappointing exit from the UEFA Europa League, they only have one shot at a trophy left. Victory against second-placed Grasshoppers would give Basel an eight-point lead with five games to go, yet defeats in recent decisive matches have put doubts in the players' minds.

To make things worse, Marco Streller and Fabian Schär are sidelined through injury. "Of course they will be sorely missed," coach Murat Yakin said. "Things like this don't pass by unnoticed, but we will be ready for GC." The Zurich outfit lost 5-0 at home FC Thun in their last game and must prove that they are worthy title candidates at St. Jakob-Park.

Spain: Valencia CF v Club Atlético de Madrid (Sunday 17.00)
Now in the period when Diego Simeone says "every game is a final", the Rojiblancos travel to Spain's east coast to face Valencia with both sides currently in the middle of European semi-finals. With four games remaining in the Spanish top-flight, leaders Atlético know they will be crowned champions with three victories while Juan Antonio Pizzi's team – eighth in the standings – will be keen to keep alive hopes of a UEFA Europa League return via their Liga placing.

"It will be a difficult game against Valencia. We will need to rest well while thinking about our opponents," Atlético defender Miranda said.

All kick-off times CET

Last updated: 25/04/14 13.15CET

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