One of European football's most keenly felt rivalries resumes this weekend when Real Madrid CF take on neighbours Club Atlético de Madrid for the first time in three seasons.
The match has been billed as a shootout between home favourite Raúl González and Atlético's 18-year-old strike sensation Fernando Torres. Like Raúl, Torres was a boyhood Atlético fan. Unlike the Spanish international, however, Torres remains committed to the Rojiblanco cause and has scored nine goals already this term - including the decisive strike last Sunday in the 3-1 defeat of RC Deportivo La Coruña.
Atlético prevailed by the same margin on their last visit to the Santiago Bernabéu in October 1999, but could have timed their return rather better. Madrid have won six consecutive league games to move to within a point of Primera División leaders Real Sociedad, while Luis Aragonés's Atlético lie eighth in the table.
Outside of the capital, Reynald Denouiex's Real will seek to maintain their pole position when they entertain RC Celta de Vigo, while Valencia CF, in third position, travel to FC Barcelona aiming to preserve their six-point advantage over the Catalan side. Meanwhile, Deportivo coach Javier Irureta comes up against his old team, Athletic Club Bilbao, at the Riazor.
Best of enemies
This weekend could also test the depth of local hostilities in Milan, where AC Milan and Internazionale FC are vying for the leadership of Serie A at the midway point of the season. The Rossoneri have the better goal difference, but that could change after Carlo Ancelotti's men host Piacenza FC and Internazionale FC make the trip to AC Perugia.
Perugia beat Juventus FC 2-1 at the Delle Alpi on Wednesday in the first leg of their Italian Cup quarter-final - a result the Bianconeri will want to remedy when they face AC Chievo Verona, the team directly below them in the table, in fifth place. Elewhere, S.S. Lazio are at home to Udinese Calcio, while Bologna FC are at lowly Reggina Calcio.
The top teams will also be jockeying for position in England. Manchester United FC must avoid defeat against third-placed Chelsea at Old Trafford if they are to remain Arsenal FC's closest challengers. The Premiership champions have a London derby against struggling West Ham United FC.
Elsewhere, Liverpool FC continue their quest for three points at Southampton FC. The Merseysiders' run of eleven winless games means they are a point behind the fifth-placed hosts going into this fixture. Kevin Keegan, who played for both Liverpool and Southampton, returns to another of his former clubs, Newcastle United FC, with Manchester City FC.
Best of three
With the last 16 clubs in action in the French League Cup, AJ Auxerre can take the league honours when they visit lowly Montpellier Hérault SC in one of only three Ligue 1 matches being played. A victory will leave Guy Roux's men level on points with the leaders, OGC Nice - and with a game in hand. Meanwhile, Le Havre AC will move out of the relegation places if they beat RC Strasbourg in Normandy, while RC Lens entertain CS Sedan-Ardennes.
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