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German tussles and derby drama

Published: Friday 12 December 2003, 14.59CET
The top four play each other in Germany this weekend while Manchester and Barcelona stage city derbies.

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Published: Friday 12 December 2003, 14.59CET

German tussles and derby drama

The top four play each other in Germany this weekend while Manchester and Barcelona stage city derbies.

The Manchester derby takes centre stage in England this weekend, while German fans await the most significant round of matches so far this season as the top four meet.

Unkind draw
Having been paired with Real Madrid CF in today's UEFA Champions League draw, FC Bayern München will be presented with another difficult task tomorrow as they face unbeaten VfB Stuttgart at the Olympiastadion. Suspension and injury mean that Zvonimir Soldo and Marcelo Bordon will be absent for Stuttgart, who lost 2-0 in midweek to Manchester United FC.

Draw specialists
Should Bayern overcome Stuttgart, SV Werder Bremen could steal top spot. Their hosts, third-placed Bayer 04 Leverkusen, have drawn four of their last five league games and will have to be alert to the threat posed by 14-goal Bremen striker Ailton.

Manchester derby
Manchester City FC, meanwhile, will have Ruud van Nistelrooij to watch out for on Saturday as they travel to Old Trafford. City, who have failed to win any of their last seven games in all competitions, have not savoured success at United since 1974. A win would send United top, temporarily at least. The leaders Chelsea FC will be confident of a home victory against Bolton Wanderers FC, while Arsenal FC - unbeaten in second - are also favoured to beat Blackburn Rovers FC at Highbury on Sunday.

Milan in Japan
In Italy, AC Milan's absence for the European/South American Cup on Sunday could be a godsend for Serie A leaders AS Roma as they take on Modena FC on the same day. Vincenzo Montella will come in for the injured John Carew as Roma, currently top on goal difference, have the chance to put points between themselves and Milan.

Juventus rampant
Fresh from their 7-0 Champions League thrashing of Olympiacos CFP, third-placed Juventus FC take on Parma AC, who are fifth. Marcello Lippi's side will be without Lilian Thuram and David Trezeguet. Still smarting from their Champions League exits, Internazionale FC visit Bologna FC and S.S. Lazio travel to Ancona Calcio, the bottom club.

Catalan derby
The big Catalan derby betweem RCD Espanyol and FC Barcelona on Saturday is the pick of the Primera División fixtures. Barcelona will travel to their neighbours' stadium with Ronaldinho finally fit again after a month's absence, but defender Carles Puyol is suspended. Meanwhile, Espanyol's Iván de la Peña will be looking forward to an emotional meeting with his former club.

Madrid challenge
The leaders Madrid face a difficult tie against fellow Champions League contenders RC Deportivo La Coruña, currently third. Coach Carlos Queiroz will be without striker Raúl González and possibly Iván Helguera, who is recovering from a throat infection. Deportivo go into the game with Mauro Silva suspended.

Relegation zone
Spain's remaining Champions League contenders, RC Celta de Vigo and Real Sociedad de Fútbol, have been in less than impressive form in the league. Lying in 17th place, Celta take on Club Atlético de Madrid and Real travel to Villarreal CF looking for a win to take them out of the relegation zone.

Winter crown
Finally, in France, AS Monaco FC can guarantee themselves top spot over the Christmas break with a draw against RC Strasbourg this weekend. They are six points ahead of Olympique Lyonnais before the penultimate Ligue 1 games of 2003.

Last updated: 12/12/03 15.56CET

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