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Contenders pursue derby lift

Published: Friday 3 March 2006, 16.29CET
The 16 clubs left in the UEFA Champions League are seeking a weekend lift before Matchday 8 - not least Real Madrid CF who face their city rivals.
by John Atkin
from London features

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Published: Friday 3 March 2006, 16.29CET

Contenders pursue derby lift

The 16 clubs left in the UEFA Champions League are seeking a weekend lift before Matchday 8 - not least Real Madrid CF who face their city rivals.

The 16 clubs left in the UEFA Champions League are seeking a weekend lift before next week's second legs. Rivals Real Madrid CF and Arsenal FC have difficult-looking derbies, FC Bayern München line up against high-flying Hamburger SV, while FC Internazionale Milano, who do not conclude their first knockout round tie until 14 March, face a daunting trip to Europe's in-form side - AS Roma.

Barça favour
Club Atlético de Madrid did Juan Ramón López Caro's Madrid team a favour when Fernando Torres inspired them to a stunning 3-1 victory at FC Barcelona at the start of February. That allowed their neighbours to reduce the deficit at the Primera División summit, and reignited their dwindling title ambitions, but following Madrid's shock defeat at RCD Mallorca last week, failure to beat Atlético at the Santiago Bernabéu on Saturday could end those aspirations.

London calling
The Mallorca setback made it two successive losses for Madrid following the 1-0 reverse against Arsenal. Arsène Wenger's men are also in derby action as they make the short journey to west London looking to end a run of two consecutive away defeats against a Fulham FC side that scored six in their last home fixture. Liverpool FC host another London outfit, Charlton FC, while Chelsea FC travel to Premiership strugglers West Bromwich Albion FC.

Villarreal ambition
José Mourinho's team will be chasing a timely boost ahead of an intimidating visit to Camp Nou. First, though, Barça entertain an upwardly-mobile RC Deportivo La Coruña on Saturday evening. Spain's other UEFA Champions League representative, Villarreal CF, also have home advantage against Deportivo Alavés as they strive to gain a coveted spot in next season's competition, while Tuesday's opponents Rangers FC will have similar ambitions at Falkirk FC.

Bundesliga intrigue
Bayern will take a giant stride towards regaining the Bundesliga crown if they overcome Hamburg in an eagerly awaited top-of-the-table encounter in Germany. Should they slip up, Werder Bremen could close to within six points if they can see off free-scoring Bayer 04 Leverkusen. Bremen currently hold a 3-2 lead against Juventus, who will gear up for the second leg in Turin with a match at UC Sampdoria.

Daunting trip
Italian rivals AC Milan face Empoli FC, but the pick of the fixtures in Italy is undoubtedly the game at the Stadio Olimpico, where third-placed Inter take on a Roma side lying just below them. The Giallorossi are bidding to stretch their record-breaking winning run in Serie A to 12 matches. Inter might therefore be glad of the extra week they have to prepare for their finely-poised last-16 tie against AFC Ajax, who welcome Sparta Rotterdam on Sunday.

Away days
Elsewhere, PSV Eindhoven are at home to SC Heerenveen, while Olympique Lyonnais and SL Benfica go to AC Ajaccio and CF Estrela da Amadora respectively.

Last updated: 04/03/06 22.31CET

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