A look at what’s happening in European soccer on Saturday:
The Premier League title race continues with leader Manchester City and second-placed Liverpool playing what could be tricky away matches. Liverpool visits mid-table Newcastle in the early game with the host riding a four-match winning streak. Jurgen Klopp's team trails City by one point with five league games remaining. City travels to Leeds in the evening to face a team that is unbeaten in its last five games. Jesse Marsch's Leeds is five points above third-from-bottom Everton. Burnley is just outside the relegation zone and will go for three wins in a row when it visits struggling Watford. Aston Villa hosts last-placed Norwich, Brighton is at Wolverhampton, and Southampton welcomes Crystal Palace.
Real Madrid can clinch its second Liga title in three seasons with a home draw against Espanyol at Santiago Bernabéu Stadium. Madrid needs a point from its last five matches to secure a record-extending 35th league title. Thanks to its big lead, Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti may rest some regular starters ahead of next week’s second leg against Manchester City in the Champions League semifinals. Madrid lost the first leg 4-3. Karim Benzema and Vinícius Júnior are among those expected to miss Madrid's possible title decider. Villarreal, which lost at Liverpool 2-0 in the first leg of the other Champions League semifinal, visits last-placed Alavés to try to stay close to the European qualification places. Fourth-placed Atlético Madrid plays at Athletic Bilbao.
Napoli will be hoping to recover its form at home to Sassuolo and salvage something from a season that promised so much. Napoli was battling with the Milan clubs for the Serie A but a run of two defeats and a draw has seen it slip seven points below league leader AC Milan. Napoli was leading 2-0 in its last game before three goals in the final 10 minutes saw Empoli win 3-2. That result left it just a point ahead of fourth-placed Juventus. There is also a relegation battle as Sampdoria hosts Genoa. Samp is only five points above the drop zone, while Genoa is three points below 17th-placed Cagliari, which entertains Hellas Verona. Lazio needs a win at lowly Spezia to boost its chances of qualifying for Europe.
Though Bayern Munich has the title again, the Bundesliga’s relegation scrap and the race for European qualification are still providing excitement with three rounds remaining. Hertha Berlin visits Arminia Bielefeld for a relegation duel with the home team desperate for a win to avoid joining already relegated Greuther Fürth in the second division. Bielefeld is second to last and already four points behind Hertha, but it could potentially move above Stuttgart into the relegation playoff place if Stuttgart loses to Wolfsburg at the same time. Stuttgart is on a five-game winless run. Augsburg, which is three points above Hertha, hosts Cologne, and Bochum isn’t safe yet either before its visit to Borussia Dortmund. Dortmund is almost certain to finish second. Bayern will field an experimental lineup in Mainz for its first game since clinching a record-extending 10th straight title. Freiburg can boost its chances of Champions League qualification with a win at Hoffenheim.
Third-placed Rennes hosts relegation-threatened Saint-Etienne in the league. A week after losing to Monaco 4-1, the Saint-Etienne defense will be again put to the test by Rennes, the second most prolific attack in the league. Saint-Etienne supporters have been banned from attending the game by the local prefect to avert crowd trouble. Rennes will miss center back Nayef Aguerd, suspended, while Saint-Etienne will be without defender Falaye Sacko, midfielder Aimen Moueffek and forward Enzo Crivelli, all injured. Meanwhile, seventh-place Lens faces mid-table Nantes. Lens still has an outside chance of snatching a European spot and is on a good run of form with 10 points from its last four games. Nantes might rotate a week before playing the French Cup final. Lens center back Kevin Danso is suspended while Nantes will miss midfielder Ludovic Blas and defenders Andrei Girotto and Fabio also through suspension.
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The Associated Press