GENEVA (AP) – The European national leagues resume this weekend, after a break for qualifying matches for the World Cup, with two in particular…
GENEVA (AP) – European national leagues resume this weekend, after a break for World Cup qualifiers, with two particularly stellar matches in a pair of tense title races.
Champions League winners Bayern Munich visit their German rivals Leipzig while Paris Saint-Germain, finalists beaten last August, welcome their French counterpart to Lille on Saturday.
These clashes start an intense race after a crowded football season in the pandemic era with hardly any fans in the stadiums to see it.
Tense title races are also underway in Spain and Turkey, while outstanding teams have left rivals behind in England, the Netherlands and Portugal.
Sporting Lisbon, meanwhile, are one of many undefeated clubs aiming to extend their streaks throughout the season.
Here’s a look at some title races in a unique season for European football:
BEST TITLE CHASES
In Germany, Bayern have won the last eight Bundesliga titles and the margin was 13 points last season. PSG have won the French Ligue 1 in a procession over the past three seasons.
It’s different this time.
Leipzig can reduce Bayern’s lead to one point on Saturday by beating a side that expect to find themselves without prolific scorer Robert Lewandowski throughout April.
PSG had not dominated their championship since January until Lille lost at home to humble Nîmes in the last round before the international break.
The head is still only on goal difference before a real top-of-the-table clash on Saturday at the Parc des Princes.
It’s more than a two-man race with Lyon and Monaco, the 2017 champion, also four points behind.
In Spain, Atlético Madrid sailed to the top until January. Losing to Real Madrid was the only flaw in a 15-game winning streak.
Barcelona are only four points behind before Atlético resumes Sunday in Sevilla, fourth. Barcelona host Atlético on May 9.
Both challengers are out of the Champions League and able to focus on La Liga for what looks to be a tense 10-game run until the climax of May 23.
Turkey’s Süper Lig has been fascinating all season. At one point, Istanbul rivals Beşiktaş, Fenerbahçe and Galatasaray were stranded atop a league that has had three different winners over the past four seasons.
Beşiktaş now leads Galatasaray by three points with a game in hand, and Fenerbahçe is two points further. Only the top two will participate in the Champions League qualifying rounds.
Manchester City may be the best team in Europe right now, but no one said that at the end of November, when the team languished in the lower half of the Premier League.
A 13-game winning streak put City 14 points ahead of second-placed Manchester United.
The other dominant teams in the standings on Friday are Ajax, with an 11-point lead in the Dutch Eredivisie, Club Brugge, with a 16-point lead in Belgium, and Olympiakos, ahead by the same margin in Greece. . Ferencváros is also 13 points ahead in Hungary.
All of them have made the group stage of the Champions League this season, earning tens of millions of euros (dollars) in cash prizes.
Inter Milan’s Serie A lead is just six points, although it still has one game to lose against longtime leaders AC Milan. The nine-year streak for Juventus’ title in third place is looming.
Sporting Lisbon are enjoying one of the most impressive seasons of all 54 top European leagues.
Sporting are undefeated, 10 points ahead of second-placed Porto and are heading towards their first league title in 19 years. It was no better than third in the past four seasons.
The Belgrade Red Star has won 26 matches and made just two in the Serbian league. Red Star has been boosted by securing around 40 million euros ($ 47 million) in Champions League prizes over the past two seasons.
Slavia Prague advance to the Czech Republic title and start a Europa League quarter-final against Arsenal on Thursday.
Rangers were beaten by Slavia in the previous round after becoming the first team to win a European national league title from September through May.
CHAMPIONS LEAGUE NEXT
Sporting are heading to the Champions League group stage for the first time since the 2017-18 season. The Rangers enter the third qualifying round, having to beat two opponents to join the elite of 32 teams after a 10-year wait.
Alongside the usual European powers, the intermediate countries whose champions directly qualify for the group stage are Belgium, the Netherlands and Ukraine.
That should mean Club Brugge and Ajax, while Dynamo Kyiv are seven points ahead of Shakhtar Donetsk in the Ukrainian league.
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