Thursday, January 21, 2010

Around the Leagues

Thierry Henry

FC Barcelona will be out to restore the natural order in Spain following their Copa del Rey elimination, Olympique de Marseille and Sporting Clube de Portugal pursue fading dreams and two German clubs seek a timely revival. previews the action and you can follow the scores throughout the weekend from all the European leagues live on's MatchCentre.

Spain: FC Barcelona v Sevilla FC (Saturday, 22.00)
Sevilla will be wary of wounded pride when they travel to Camp Nou for their third meeting with Barcelona in eleven days. Manuel Jiménez's side triumphed on away goals in their Copa del Rey round of 16 tie, Xavi Hernández's strike on Wednesday not enough to overturn a 2-1 first-leg loss as Barça suffered their first knockout round elimination under Josep Guardiola. "The defeat hurt us but it will make us stronger," warned skipper Carles Puyol. "Now, more than ever, we must give everything we've got in the Liga and the UEFA Champions League."

Germany: VfB Stuttgart v VfL Wolfsburg (Saturday, 18.30)
The prevalence of words like "desperation" and "critical" in the lead up to this fixture underlines the falls from grace both teams endured in the first half of the season. Titleholders Wolfsburg approach the Bundesliga resumption eighth, with striker Grafite leading the carrion call when he spoke of his "desperation to show that we can do better". For Stuttgart the "situation is critical" according to coach Christian Gross, whose new side have only goal difference separating them from the relegation zone.

France: FC Girondins de Bordeaux v Olympique de Marseille (Sunday, 21.00)The last time Marseille won at Bordeaux the world was still coming to terms with Elvis Presley's death, but Didier Deschamps knows only victory will do as his OM side attempt to bridge the eleven-point gap to the Ligue 1 leaders. "We meet the best team in France," said Deschamps, whose side lie fourth. "We'll try to control the ball and rely on set-pieces." Fatigue may be an issue after a punishing 3-2 League Cup victory over AS Saint-Etienne on Wednesday – Bordeaux's midweek game was postponed due to a frozen pitch.

Portugal: Sporting Clube de Portugal v CD Nacional (Saturday, 22.15)
Sporting's revival under Carlos Carvalhal faces its sternest test this weekend when they come up against the side they share fourth place with, Nacional. Three wins in four league games have hoisted the Lions within 12 points of SC Braga and SL Benfica at the summit, and another would keep faint title hopes alive. Yet it will not be easy. Carvalhal is shorn of Liedson and new signing Florent Sinama Pongolle through injury and while Nacional are not always the "very strong team" he fears, their UEFA Europa League victory over FC Zenit St. Petersburg earlier this season demands respect.

Italy: AC Milan v AC Siena (Sunday, 15.00)
After giving Serie A frontrunners FC Internazionale Milano a real scare a week ago, lowly Siena return to San Siro to face the Rossoneri. Alberto Malesani's charges led 3-2 with two minutes remaining against Inter last Saturday, but still ended up taking nothing from the game and remain at the bottom of the standings. "I'm sure that big disappointment made us even stronger," Malesani said. Second-placed Milan have won seven of their last eight league games and are eight points behind Inter with a game in hand.

England: Everton v Manchester City FC (Saturday, 17.30)
Manchester City's Roberto Mancini bandwagon faces its toughest challenge yet as they make the short trip west to face ever-improving Everton. The Toffees could count themselves unfortunate to take only a point from last week's trip to Arsenal FC as they slowly drag themselves up the Premier League standings. Manchester City have bounded to fourth since Mancini's arrival, winning five in a row, and the Italian says "it's important we continue our run" against a "tough" Everton outfit.

Greece: FC Kavala v Olympiacos FC (Sunday, 18:00)
Ensconced in the familiar surroundings of the Super League summit, with a place in the UEFA Champions League first knockout round in the bag, the outlook was rosy for Olympiacos in mid-December. Defeat at Aris Thessaloniki FC in the final game of 2009 broke the reverie and another by AEK Athens FC in their 2010 curtain-raiser leaves Zico's side almost in crisis, a massive five points adrift of new leaders Panathinaikos FC. Not the ideal time for a trip to this season's surprise package, fifth-placed Kavala.

All times local; England and Portugal are one hour behind CET.

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