A look at what’s happening in European soccer on Sunday:
Atlético Madrid visits Villarreal needing a win after hitting a slump that has let Barcelona and Real Madrid get back in the Spanish league title hunt. Diego Simeone’s team has only one win in its last four games in the competition, and it travels to Villarreal after having lost to Chelsea 1-0 in the Champions League. Leading scorer Luis Suárez has four yellow cards and one more would mean he would miss the next round’s derby with Madrid. Unai Emery’s Villarreal is in sixth place after a run of five draws and one loss. Granada hosts Elche looking to build on its elimination of Napoli from the Europa League. Real Betis is at Cádiz seeking to keep up its good run in 2021, while Iago Aspas returns from a one-game suspension to lead Celta Vigo against relegation-threatened Valladolid.
Freiburg’s visit is coming at just the right time for confidence-battered Bayer Leverkusen. Christian Streich’s Freiburg hasn’t beaten Leverkusen for seven games, giving some encouragement to his under-pressure counterpart Peter Bosz. Bosz’s team was knocked out of the Europa League by Swiss side Young Boys on Thursday, another blow after Leverkusen was knocked out of the German Cup by fourth-tier Rot-Weiss Essen. Leverkusen’s goal of Champions League qualification is also under threat with just two wins from its nine Bundesliga games in 2021. Leverkusen is missing important players such as Lars Bender, Julian Baumgartlinger and goalkeeper Lukas Hradecky due to injuries. Hradecky’s replacement, Niklas Lomb, has been prone to costly mistakes. Union Berlin hosts Hoffenheim for a duel between teams stretched by injuries. Relegation contender Mainz hopes to build on some encouraging results with a win at home over Augsburg.
Lyon will move to the top of the league on goal difference if it wins at Marseille and Lille loses at home to lowly Strasbourg. Marseille’s fans will be in optimistic mood, however, after unpopular president Jacques-Henri Eyraud was replaced and Jorge Sampaoli named as the new coach. In another boost for Marseille supporters, striker Arkadiusz Milik and goal-scoring winger Florian Thauvin are back from injury. Fourth-placed Monaco looks to make it 12 league games unbeaten when it hosts Brest. Niko Kovac’s slick Monaco side has not lost since mid-December and comfortably won at PSG 2-0 last weekend.
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