MATCHDAY: Arsenal visits Fulham; Lewandowski back for Barca
A look at what’s happening in European soccer on Sunday:
Arsenal will try to restore a five-point cushion atop the Premier League when it travels across London to face Fulham. Arsenal has won four games in a row since losing to Manchester City at home but is still just two points ahead of Pep Guardiola's team. Mikel Arteta will be short of attackers, as Eddie Nketiah and Leandro Trossard have joined Gabriel Jesus on the sidelines. Manchester United and Newcastle will both try to reignite their challenges for a top-four spot. Third-placed United hosts last-placed Southampton following its 7-0 loss to Liverpool last weekend. Newcastle looks to end a five-game winless run in all competitions when it welcomes Wolverhampton. Also, West Ham takes on Aston Villa.
Robert Lewandowski is back after missing two games due to injury to help league leader Barcelona in its visit to Athletic Bilbao. Barcelona needs a win to restore a nine-point cushion over Real Madrid a week before the two meet at Camp Nou. Real Betis plays at Villarreal after its 4-1 loss at Manchester United in the Europa League. Betis and Villarreal are fift and sixth respectively, and both are trying to overhaul Real Sociedad for a top-four finish and Champions League berth. Sociedad was one of the hottest teams in Spain until its run of just one win in eight games across all competitions, including this week’s 2-0 loss at Roma in the Europa League. The Basque team faces a trip to Mallorca, while Sevilla hosts Almeria with both in the relegation zone.
Roma can move level with second-placed Inter Milan by beating lowly Sassuolo. But Roma will be without coach José Mourinho as he serves the first of a two-match ban. Victory would see Roma leapfrog city rival Lazio ahead of the city derby next weekend. But Sassuolo has lost just one of its past six matches, winning four of them. Juventus lost to Roma last weekend and will be hoping to bounce back at home to bottom club Sampdoria. Samp is 12 points from safety, level with Cremonese, which hosts Fiorentina. The other side in the relegation zone, Hellas Verona, welcomes Monza. Also, Torino visits Lecce.
Former league leader Union Berlin hasn’t won in three games but gets another chance at Wolfsburg, which has only one win from its last six games. Union can reclaim third place with a win. Bayer Leverkusen, another inconsistent side, visits Werder Bremen, and last-placed Hoffenheim visits Freiburg. Hoffenheim hasn’t won in 13 games and new coach Pellegrino Matarazzo is under pressure after starting with four defeats.
Second-placed Marseille will be looking over its shoulder when it hosts Strasbourg in the league. Monaco and Lens trail Marseille by four points. The top two clubs get automatic Champions League spots whereas third place grants only access to the third qualifying round. Marseille has been struggling at home lately with just one win in its last five games at Stade Velodrome. Strasbourg will rely on Habib Diallo to cause an upset. The Senegal international has five goals in his last five games. Third-placed Monaco has strikers Wissam Ben Yedder and Breel Embolo to crack the tight Reims defense. Reims has kept a clean sheet in its last five league games and is on an 18-game unbeaten run in the league. Fourth-placed Lens hopes Belgian striker Lois Openda will rediscover his scoring touch against mid-table Clermont. Openda hasn’t found the net in his last 11 games. Nice looks to extend its good run of form against Nantes to get back in the race for Europe. Nantes has lost its last three league games and seems more focused on the defense of its French Cup title. Nice was in the bottom half of the table when coach Lucien Favre was sacked in January, but it has climbed to seventh place under new coach Didier Digard with a nine-game unbeaten run. Nantes will be without forwards Andy Delort and Evann Guessand because they are on loan from Nice.
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The Associated Press