MATCHDAY: Villa hosts Arsenal in EPL; Serie A top 3 in play

A look at what’s happening in European soccer on Saturday:


Aston Villa welcomes Arsenal in the Premier League, and Middlesbrough hosts Chelsea at Riverside Stadium in the first of the weekend’s FA Cup quarterfinals. Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta was critical of the league for making the Gunners play so soon after losing to Liverpool 2-0 on Wednesday night. Emile Smith Rowe looks ready after coming off the bench on Wednesday after a bout of the coronavirus. Takehiro Tomiyasu will be checked as he attempts a comeback from a calf injury that has kept him out since January. Aston Villa will be without Lucas Digne, the France full back who injured a hamstring last weekend in the loss to West Ham. Second-tier Middlesbrough has won nine straight home games since November, and knocked out Manchester United and Tottenham from the FA Cup. Chelsea is coming off a Champions League win in Lille on Wednesday, and has serious doubts about the fitness of Andreas Christensen, Reece James and Callum Hudson-Odoi. It has won 12 of its 15 cup quarterfinals this century.


Only four points separate the top three in Serie A and all three teams are in action. Leader AC Milan visits relegation-threatened Cagliari aiming to extend its seven-match unbeaten run. Key Milan midfielder Sandro Tonali has missed training with a fever and might not play, while Theo Hernandez returns from a suspension. Second-placed Napoli, which trails by three points, hosts Udinese, which it beat 4-0 in September. Third-placed Inter Milan, which is four points back with a game in hand, hosts Fiorentina.


Atlético Madrid crosses Spain’s capital to play Rayo Vallecano in the first of two matches Diego Simeone’s team will have before facing Manchester City in the Champions League quarterfinals. Atlético’s run of four consecutive wins is its longest winning streak of an up-and-down season for the defending Liga champion. They enter the weekend in fourth place at 15 points behind leader Real Madrid and needing to ensure a top-four finish to stay in Europe’s elite competition next season. João Félix has led Atlético’s resurgence with four goals in the past month. Renan Lodi has chipped in with three goals, including the goal that eliminated Manchester United from the Champions League this week. Last-placed Levante needs a win at Osasuna to boost its hopes of avoiding relegation. Alavés hosts Granada in a fight between two sides also in danger of the drop, and Valencia is at Elche.


The Bundesliga’s relegation scrap takes center stage with Hertha Berlin, Stuttgart, Augsburg, Arminia Bielefeld and last-placed Greuther Furth all in action. Hertha is looking for its first competitive win this year when it hosts Hoffenheim and was hoping for a fresh start under new coach Felix Magath. But the 68-year-old Magath tested positive for the coronavirus, forcing him to miss the game. Stuttgart hosts relegation rival Augsburg and hopes to avenge its 4-1 loss earlier in the season. Bielefeld faces a tough game at Mainz, where American defender George Bello hopes to help the team end its run of three consecutive league defeats. Fürth hosts Freiburg, which is a candidate for Champions League qualification. League leader Bayern Munich hosts Union Berlin in the late game.


Out of the Champions League, defending Ligue 1 champion Lille travels to Nantes looking to close the gap with other contenders for the European spots. Following a shaky start to the season, the northern side has sorted its defensive inadequacies to manage five consecutive clean sheets. It has climbed to sixth place in the standings. With 10 matches left this season, Jocelyn Gourvennec’s players lag seven points behind Marseille and Nice, who are tied for second, and still hope to qualify for next season’s Champions League. Lille will again be without the injured Renato Sanches against Nantes. Lens hosts Clermont in the other match.


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