European soccer weekend: What to watch in the main leagues

Argentina's Lionel Messi celebrates after scoring his third goal against Ecuador during their 2018 World Cup qualifying soccer match at the Atahualpa Olympic Stadium in Quito, Ecuador, Tuesday, Oct. 10, 2017. (AP Photo/Fernando Vergara)
Argentina's Lionel Messi, left, celebrates after scoring against Ecuador during their 2018 World Cup qualifying soccer match at the Atahualpa Olympic Stadium in Quito, Ecuador, Tuesday, Oct. 10, 2017. (AP Photo/Fernando Vergara)
FILE - In this Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2017 file photo, Napoli coach Maurizio Sarri gestures during a Serie A soccer match between Lazio and Napoli, at the Rome Olympic stadium. Maurizio Sarri is approaching saint-like status with Napoli leading the league, Allegri has led Juventus to two Champions League finals in three years, and Luciano Spalletti has restored confidence at Inter Milan. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino, File)
FILE - In this Monday, April 10, 2017 file photo, Monaco's head coach Leonardo Jardim talks to the media during a press conference prior the Champions League quarterfinal, first leg, soccer match between Borussia Dortmund and AS Monaco in Dortmund, Germany. Defending champion Monaco’s trip to Lyon on Friday Oct. 13, 2017, already feels like a turning point in what is shaping up as a difficult season. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner, File)
Bayern Munich's new coach Jupp Heynckes arrives for the first training after his presentation in Munich, Germany, Monday, Oct. 9, 2017. Heynckes coached the Bundesliga team already from 1987 to 1991, 2009 and from 2011 to 2013. (Sven Hoppe/dpa via AP)
FILE - In this Feb. 18, 2017 file photo police wait behind Dortmund supporters during the German Bundesliga soccer match between Borussia Dortmund and VfL Wolfsburg in Dortmund. Police are braced for trouble on Saturday Oct. 14, 2017 as Leipzig returns to Borussia Dortmund in the Bundesliga for the first time since violent scenes overshadowed their game last season. Dortmund was fined and forced to close its 24,454-capacity south stand for one game following Leipzig’s previous visit on Feb. 4, when some of its fans were attacked with stones and bottles, police officers were injured. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner,file)

What to watch in the leading soccer leagues in Europe this weekend:

ENGLAND

Manchester United's title credentials get a stern test at bitter rival Liverpool when English soccer's most storied clubs meet on Saturday.

Liverpool is under pressure to show it can compete, needing to make a big statement after carelessly dropping points in recent weeks.

United's trips to Anfield are always one of the highlights of the Premier League, and always hotly contested.

Liverpool was reinvigorated under coach Juergen Klopp and in the ascendancy last season, but Jose Mourinho has turned fortunes around and United is level with Manchester City at the top. However, United's six wins — in seven games — have not come against strong sides.

Liverpool is under pressure and is already seven points behind the co-leaders. It's a must-win game for Klopp on Saturday lunchtime, because his attack-minded yet inconsistent side can ill afford to fall further behind.

City hosts Stoke later on Saturday and will be well poised to profit if United drops points.

— By Jerome Pugmire.

SPAIN

After lifting Argentina into the World Cup, Lionel Messi goes back to the business of helping Barcelona maintain its dominant start in the Spanish league.

Barcelona will be looking for an eighth straight win when it makes its first visit to Atletico Madrid's new Wanda Metropolitano Stadium on Saturday.

But Barcelona will have to deal with the fatigue of top players who made grueling trips to World Cup qualifiers, including Luis Suarez and Messi, whose hat trick in Ecuador secured Argentina's place in Russia next year.

Barcelona has a five-point lead over Sevilla and is six points in front of unbeaten Atletico and Valencia.

Sevilla plays at Athletic Bilbao on Saturday, while Valencia is at Real Betis on Sunday.

Defending champion Real Madrid, seven points off the lead, plays at Getafe on Saturday.

— By Tales Azzoni in Madrid.

ITALY

It's a big weekend in Serie A with all of the league's biggest clubs going head to head.

Six-time defending champion Juventus opens the action against fourth-place Lazio followed by leader Napoli's visit to Roma on Saturday.

High-scoring Napoli has notched at least three goals in all seven of its Serie A matches, but could face a stiffer test against in-form Roma goalkeeper Alisson.

Sunday's action is highlighted by the Milan derby.

AC Milan is in desperate need of a win after dropping to seventh place following consecutive 2-0 losses to Sampdoria and Roma.

While the Rossoneri are still learning to play together after a summer that brought in an entire squad of new players, third-place Inter has appeared much more solid under new manager Luciano Spalletti and sits seven points ahead of Milan.

— By Andrew Dampf in Rome.

FRANCE

Defending champion Monaco is under early pressure in the title race and faces a tough match at Lyon on Friday.

Monaco, which has slipped three points behind leader Paris Saint-Germain, will be without star striker Radamel Falcao.

Falcao has made a blistering start with 12 goals but is rested by coach Leonardo Jardim after playing for Colombia on Tuesday night in World Cup qualifying.

PSG coach Unai Emery must decide whether to rest his South American stars. Neymar played for Brazil and Edinson Cavani scored for Uruguay.

Emery could start with Kylian Mbappe up front when PSG plays away to struggling Dijon on Saturday.

Mbappe will be much fresher, having gone on as only a late substitute in France's home win against Belarus on Tuesday.

Meawhile, third-place Marseille looks for a fourth straight win when it travels to Strasbourg.

— By Jerome Pugmire in Paris

GERMANY

Jupp Heynckes' fourth stint in charge of Bayern Munich begins with a visit from struggling Freiburg on Saturday.

The 72-year-old Heynckes, who was coaxed out of retirement after Carlo Ancelotti was fired, has the challenge of getting the side to play fluidly as a team after lackluster performances. Bayern is already five points behind Bundesliga leader Borussia Dortmund after seven rounds.

There should not be a problem for Bayern. Freiburg has never won in 17 games in Munich, while the last 13 all ended in defeat.

Dortmund hosts Leipzig with most of the attention focused off the pitch following the disturbances that overshadowed the sides' previous meeting in Dortmund.

In February, Leipzig fans were attacked with stones and bottles, police officers were injured, and visiting players and officials were confronted with derogatory chants and banners in the stadium. Police opened 214 cases, leading to criminal proceedings in 168.

Dortmund, unbeaten in 41 league games at home, is aiming to maintain its best-ever start to the Bundesliga.

By Ciaran Fahey in Berlin.

___

More AP soccer coverage: https://www.apnews.com/tag/apf-Soccer

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