A look at what’s happening in European soccer on Sunday:
Real Madrid will try to overcome the absence of Karim Benzema when it hosts fierce rival Barcelona and its revamped attack. A leg injury has ruled Benzema out of the game against a Barcelona side that is a full 15 points adrift in the Spanish league standings but eager to end a run of six straight “clásicos” without a victory. Benzema leads the competition with 22 goals. While Madrid will look to Vinícius Júnior to lead the attack without its top scorer, Barcelona will deploy a front line full of reinforcements from the January transfer market. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Ferran Torres have combined for 12 goals since arriving at Camp Nou. Second-place Sevilla trails Madrid by 10 points before it hosts Real Sociedad. Sevilla must win and hope Barcelona beats Madrid to inject some life into the title race. Villarreal visits Cádiz after eliminating Juventus from the Champions League, Real Betis plays at Celta Betis, and relegation-threatened Mallorca is at Espanyol.
Liverpool looks to keep alive its quadruple hopes by reaching the FA Cup semifinals with a win at second-tier Nottingham Forest. The Reds, who have already won the League Cup, are in range of leader Manchester City in the Premier League and into the quarterfinals of the Champions League, with a favorable matchup ahead against Benfica. City is also in action in the FA Cup quarterfinals, at Southampton, while Crystal Palace-Everton is another match between top-tier teams. In the Premier League, there’s a London derby between Tottenham and West Ham, while Leicester hosts Brentford.
When Lionel Messi joined Paris Saint-Germain last summer, his ambition was to add another Champions League to his trophy cabinet. Following PSG’s round-of-16 exit at the hands of Real Madrid, that bid is already over. Messi’s first season in France has been quite a disappointment, and the Argentine great was even jeered by PSG fans last weekend. Before Sunday’s trip to Monaco in the French league, Messi has scored just seven goals in 26 games in all competitions. It’s a stark contrast compared to his figures from last season when he bagged 38 goals with Barcelona. With PSG highly likely to win the league, the 34-year-old Messi has 10 matches left in the competition to improve his statistics and convince fans he can help the club win the Champions League title it craves next season. Lagging 15 points behind PSG and chasing a runner-up finish, Marseille and Nice meet at the Stade Velodrome in Sunday’s showcase match. Nice will be missing suspended defender Dante.
Fourth-place Juventus can move within a point of defending Serie A champion Inter Milan with a win over last-place Salernitana. The Bianconeri are anxious to move on from their Champions League exit against Villarreal midweek. Juventus is on a 15-match unbeaten run in the league. The Rome derby is a contest for Europa League positioning, with Lazio fifth and Roma seventh. Lazio won the opening derby this season. Also, sixth-place Atalanta visits Bologna.
Erling Haaland is likely to make his first Bundesliga start since January for Borussia Dortmund at Cologne. The Norway star has been eased back into action with two substitute appearances since his latest return from injury. But another forward will fight for a share of the attention as Anthony Modeste is on the verge of scoring his 75th goal in his 150th game for Cologne. Also Sunday, third-place Bayer Leverkusen visits Wolfsburg where it hopes to rebound from its loss last weekend in the derby against Cologne. Leipzig hosts Eintracht Frankfurt in the early game.
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