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With the Champions League taking a back seat for a week, some of Europe’s top clubs have enjoyed a quieter week than others – but it’s all set to kick off again over the weekend.
As the end of the season quickly draws in, every point and victory now is precious for those fighting for the title or European spots for next term.
The coming matchdays are vital in both regards around the top five leagues, with key title-defining, if not deciding, games to come in Spain and Germany in particular.
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In the Premier League, plenty of eyes will be focused on derby matches and clashes between rivals alike; the same is true over in mainland Europe.
Here’s everything you need to know and watch out for ahead of the weekend action.
The top three in LaLiga are perhaps no surprise, but the order might be. Atletico Madrid remain top of the pile, despite their drop-off in form over recent weeks, caused in part by absences to key players through both injury and illness. Diego Simeone’s side still have a five-point lead and a game in hand, despite only winning one of their last three.
Atletico have ground to make up in the Champions League against Chelsea, but first and foremost their domestic challenge will be one of defence: don’t lose the Madrid derby.
Zinedine Zidane and his Real side come to town – the red and white side of it, at least – on Sunday afternoon, with Real in third place, level on points but behind Barcelona.
While it’s not quite last-chance saloon for Karim Benzema and co, losing would leave them eight points off the pace with only 12 to play.
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It seems improbable that Atleti would let it slip from that point – they’ve still only conceded 16 league goals this season so don’t be surprised to see Zidane play it cool and perhaps take a leaf out of Simeone’s book: first, don’t find yourself out of the game before you have a chance to win it.
Barca, meanwhile, are away to Osasuna on Saturday night.
Der Klassiker with a difference
Two games to watch in Germany this weekend, both on Saturday; one should be huge, one actually is.
First, Borussia Monchengladbach take on Bayer Levekusen in one of the 2:30pm (GMT) kick-offs. That would normally be considered a clash to help determine who might get a top-four finish at this stage of the season, but neither have been good enough of late to warrant that.
On 15 February, ‘Gladbach announced Marco Rose would leave to take over at Borussia Dortmund in the summer; since then they’ve lost four in a row in three different competitions. Including the last game being against Dortmund. Coincidence, surely.
B04 meanwhile have won just one of the last six in the league, so rather than a top-four fight this is ninth vs. sixth and perhaps a last chance to kick-start the campaign and make a late break for Champions League action.
Meanwhile, RB Leipzig will play away to Freiburg and, if they win, will go top.
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That brings us to the second notable match later in the afternoon, Der Klassiker: Bayern Munich vs Dortmund – which will be very different to usual in the second half of the campaign if neither of these sides are top of the table at kick-off.
Bayern, with one win in the last three, can retake top spot if they win, of course, while BVB will hope to close the gap on the teams above them – they are fifth in the table after back-to-back recent wins.
Best of the rest
Serie A provides compelling drama across the weekend in the race for the Champions League spots, with four of the top seven facing each other. All are capable of taking fourth or better, both by talent pools and points tallies, though it’s quickly looking as though Antonio Conte will be leading Inter Milan to the title.
The leaders are at home to Atalanta on Monday night and if an out-of-form AC Milan side don’t win over the weekend, Inter can go a minimum of eight points clear with victory – though Atalanta are on a four-game win streak themselves.
Before that, Juventus will try to close the current 10-point gap between themselves in fourth and top spot, with Andrea Pirlo’s side hosting seventh-place Lazio on Saturday night.
Elsewhere, Ligue 1 takes a break for Coupe de France action, with the notable ties seeing Brest host PSG, Lille away to fourth-tier side Gazelec Ajaccio and, on Monday night, Nice face Monaco.
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