MATCHDAY: Barcelona hosts Madrid; Arsenal can stretch lead
A look at what’s happening in European soccer on Sunday:
Barcelona hosts Real Madrid in the Spanish league aiming to deal a heavy blow to its rival's title defense. Madrid trails Barcelona by nine points and needs to win the latest “clasico” at Camp Nou. Barcelona won’t be able to count on midfielder Pedri González, who coach Xavi Hernández says has not recovered from his leg injury in time. Karim Benzema will be available for Real Madrid despite the knock he took after scoring in his team’s 1-0 win over Liverpool in the Champions League. A win by Barcelona would put it well on its way to winning its first league title since 2019 and since the exit of Lionel Messi. Real Sociedad, Real Betis, and Villarreal will all try to rebound from their respective eliminations from European competition this week. Fourth-place Sociedad welcomes Elche, while fifth-place Betis hosts Mallorca. Villarreal is at Osasuna.
Arsenal can go into the international break with an eight-point lead over Manchester City in the Premier League if it beats manager-less Crystal Palace at home. Former Arsenal captain Patrick Vieira was fired by Palace on Friday with the team yet to win a game in 2023 and having lost its last three matches. Arsenal was knocked out of the Europa League by Sporting Lisbon after a penalty shootout on Thursday but can take advantage of Manchester City playing in the FA Cup quarterfinals to increase its league lead. After City beat Burnley on Saturday, the other three quarterfinals are on Sunday. Manchester United hosts Fulham as it continues its quest for a domestic cup double, while Brighton hosts fourth-tier Grimsby Town and Sheffield United welcomes Blackburn.
Runaway Serie A leader Napoli visits Torino, Lazio meets Roma in the Rome derby and Inter Milan hosts Juventus in a big day for Serie A. Napoli has a nearly 20-point advantage as it cruises toward its first Italian league title since Diego Maradona helped the Partenopei to its only two champoonships in 1987 and 1990. Lazio, Roma and Inter are fighting for Champions League places, while Juventus is looking to get back into the European places despite a 15-point penalty for false accounting.
League leader Paris Saint-Germain is out of the Champions League and the French Cup, meaning it has just the league title left to focus on. PSG has a comfortable nine-point lead before hosting a Rennes side which is very strong at home — beating PSG this season — but has trouble on the road. PSG striker Kylian Mbappé will look to increase his 19 league goals this season. Third-place Marseille faces a tough test at Reims, which is unbeaten in 19 matches. Fourth-place Monaco needs to get back to winning ways when it travels to Corsica to face Ajaccio. Monaco has picked up only one point from the last three matches.
Bayern Munich can retake top spot of the Bundesliga with a win or draw at Bayer Leverkusen. Borussia Dortmund leads Bayern by one point after routing Cologne 6-1. Also Sunday, fourth-place Union Berlin hosts sixth-place Eintracht Frankfurt. Fifth-place Freiburg travels to Mainz.
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The Associated Press