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Big battles loom for Braga and Barcelona

Published: Friday 30 March 2012, 9.40CET
Heavyweight contests in Turkey, Portugal and Italy dominate the weekend, with FC Barcelona the latest side to tangle with UEFA Europa League sensations Athletic Club.

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Published: Friday 30 March 2012, 9.40CET

Big battles loom for Braga and Barcelona

Heavyweight contests in Turkey, Portugal and Italy dominate the weekend, with FC Barcelona the latest side to tangle with UEFA Europa League sensations Athletic Club.

Portugal: SL Benfica v SC Braga (Saturday 22.15)
Braga moved to the top of the Liga last weekend on a run of 13 straight wins but their hopes of a first title will be tested to the limit as, with six games to go, they visit third-placed Benfica and then host champions FC Porto. Braga are a point clear of the latter, and coach Leonardo Jardim remains cautious. "We want to do the best we can," he said. This game brings together the league's top scorers, Braga's 19-goal Rodrigo Lima and Benfica's Óscar Cardozo, who has 18. Benfica keeper Artur, who left Braga last summer, said: "Braga will be the game of our lives."

Spain: FC Barcelona v Athletic Club (Saturday 22.00)
Barça will look to keep the pressure on leaders Real Madrid CF – six points clear at the top – when they host an Athletic side without a win in four domestic outings, losing three. Despite that dip, Barça coach Josep Guardiola is full of praise for opposite number Marcelo Bielsa, whom he will meet again in May's Copa del Rey final. "I wish I could have played under him during my career," Guardiola said. "I have a lot of time for someone who likes to play in such a daring manner. It doesn't matter who he is in charge of, his teams like to attack."

Turkey: Trabzonspor AŞ v Fenerbahçe SK (Sunday 18.00)
Third hosts second in the Süper Lig, with Trabzonspor looking to close a ten-point gap on the Yellow Canaries, knowing that all points totals will be halved once the season goes into its closing play-off phase. The Black Sea club drew 1-1 at leaders Galatasaray AŞ last weekend, and coach Şenol Güneş may fancy a similar pressing style against Fenerbahçe. "There's no extra motivation needed for this game," Trabzonspor general secretary Hasan Yener said. "All the players know what they have to do. Our coach Şenol Güneş's calm manner gives confidence to the players too."

Italy: Juventus v SSC Napoli (Sunday 20.45)
Juventus are four points behind AC Milan in the race for the Scudetto, while Napoli are three behind S.S. Lazio in the battle for Italy's final UEFA Champions League berth. With just 17 goals conceded, unbeaten Juventus have the best defensive record in Italy, but Giorgio Chiellini expects a difficult task against Edinson Cavani, Ezequiel Lavezzi and Marek Hamšík. "The 'Three Tenors' really complement each other," said the Italy centre-back. "Napoli are a very strong team with a very good coach. It won't be easy but if we want to win the Scudetto, we have to win every game and hope Milan make some mistakes."

England: Newcastle United FC v Liverpool FC (Sunday 14.30)
Eight points separate the sides in sixth and seventh in England, with the Reds having lost five of their last six league games. Manager Kenny Dalglish warned "maybe we have to change our philosophies a bit", with the Scot dropping another hints that Liverpool might adopt a more robust side when he said "maybe we have to not play the lovely football we have been". Newcastle, meanwhile, are closing on a UEFA Europa League place, with boss Alan Pardew noting: "We've been phenomenal, the players have worked hard and deserve all the plaudits they get."

All times CET.

Last updated: 05/12/13 9.14CET

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