Top sides hungry for victory
© AFP

The biggest clubs in European football were in UEFA Champions League and UEFA Cup action this week, with a mixed bag of results to show for their efforts. Real Madrid, Barcelona and Manchester United ran out winners, but Chelsea, Bayern Munich and Lyon had to make do with draws.

The title contenders will now be keen to sign off for the forthcoming international break on a winning note. Bundesliga champions Bayern are desperate for a win after losing their last two league matches, while their Italian counterparts Inter are determined to bounce back following their 1-0 defeat in last week’s Milan derby.

FIFA.com previews the weekend action around Europe’s top leagues.

Premier League: Chelsea aim to shake off pursuers
A position of strength at the top of the standings makes it easier to shake off setbacks – or at least that is what they are hoping at Chelsea. The Blues, reeling from yet another serious knee injury to totemic hitman Didier Drogba, aim to defend first place at home to fast-starting Aston Villa, up to third after an impressive run of results. Felipe Scolari’s men may even fancy their chances of widening the gap back to Liverpool, who face a challenging trip to Manchester City.

Fourth-placed Arsenal travel to Sunderland hoping to make up the ground lost in last week’s shock defeat at home to Hull, although the pressure to win sits heaviest on Manchester United, languishing in mid-table ahead of the trip to Blackburn Rovers.

The question:
Can bottom club Tottenham Hotspur beat promoted Hull City at home and finally chalk up a first Premier League win of term?
The big game: Manchester City-Liverpool, Sunday 5pm, City of Manchester Stadium
The quote: "More often than not, if we play to our potential, our best is better than anyone else's best. And that means we'll win the game," Owen Hargreaves, Manchester United midfielder.

La Liga: Football citadels in double showdown
Spanish fans are licking their lips in anticipation as the football-obsessed cities of Madrid and Barcelona go head-to-head not once but twice this weekend. Champions Real Madrid meet Espanyol, while Atletico travel to face Barcelona. Sergio Aguero will lead a confident Atletico side likely to go full-tilt for victory at the Camp Nou as they seek to underline their growing credentials as a new third force on the Spanish domestic scene.

Elsewhere, Valencia face a scrap to hang onto their lead in the standings away to Real Valladolid, who have yet to drop points at home this term. Nearest challengers Villarreal will expect maximum points at home to Betis, as the visitors are without a win so far.

The question:
Can Valencia's David Villa maintain the prolific streak which has brought him a brace in each of his last two outings?
The big game: Barcelona-Atletico Madrid, Saturday 10pm, Camp Nou
The quote: "We would like to go [to Madrid] and give them a surprise, because we know that we have the capacity to get a positive result... We will approach it just like any other game, although there will be more motivation because we are playing against the champions," Ivan de la Pena, Espanyol midfielder.

Serie A: Easy enough on paper for top teams
The likes of AC Milan’s Andriy Shevchenko and Juventus veteran Alessandro Del Piero have yet to get off the mark in Serie A this season, but Mauro Zarate is already up to six goals. Lazio’s Argentinian marksman is looking to improve his haul when the leaders entertain Lecce in the Italian capital.

Elsewhere, the big names would appear to have manageable tasks, on paper at least. Champions Inter play host to Bologna, while city rivals AC Milan visit bottom club Cagliari. Roma visit Siena, and surprise second-placed outfit Napoli go looking to maintain their unbeaten start away to Genoa. There is a reunion on the cards, meanwhile, for Brazilian ace Amauri, set to line up for Juventus against his former Palermo team-mates.

The question: After defeat in the Milan derby and a disappointing 1-1 draw with Werder Bremen in the UEFA Champions League, can Inter rediscover the sweet taste of victory?
The big game: Juventus-Palermo, Sunday 3pm, Stadio Olimpico, Turin
The quote:
"I am super, super, super calm... If we look at the domestic standings, I see that AC Milan, Juventus and Roma are all behind us in the table and we are just two points behind Serie A leaders Lazio," Jose Mourinho, Inter Milan coach.

Bundesliga: Wounded champions out for revenge
After back-to-back defeats and their worst start to a season in 31 years, Bayern are desperate for a win on Saturday when Bochum visit the Allianz Arena. Munich hopes are likely to be boosted by the presence of superstar Franck Ribery, slowly but surely recapturing his form after a three-month injury lay-off.

Leaders Hamburg travel to Cottbus with hopes of extending their advantage, while Bremen are seeking to cement their position in the leading group with a win away to 2007 champions Stuttgart. A second clash between midweek European contenders sees Schalke entertain Wolfsburg.

The question: After three matches without a win – two in the Bundesliga and one in the UEFA Champions League - can Bayern finally come out on top again?
The big game: Stuttgart-Werder Bremen, Saturday 3.30pm, Mercedes Benz Arena
The quote: "Our team reacted and played well in the Lyon match. This makes me look into the future with optimism," Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, Bayern Munich chairman.


Ligue 1: Lyon aim to stride clear

Olympique Lyon continue to set the standards in France after opening up a five-point gap at the top on the back of five straight wins, although coach Claude Puel’s side must compensate for the loss of injured Sidney Govou in the weekend visit to Rennes.

With Lyon on a potentially thorny away trip, second-placed Toulouse will hope to claw back ground at home to AJ Auxerre. Elsewhere, last term’s runners-up and current occupiers of third spot Olympique Marseille host the top match of the weekend against SM Caen, just two places below them in the table.

The question: Will Lyon continue on their serene way at the top, or are the double winners set for a first defeat of the campaign?
The big game: Olympique Marseille-Caen, Saturday 7pm, Stade Velodrome
The quote: "If we continue to play the way we are doing, then we're on the right track,'' Juninho, Lyon midfielder.

Elsewhere
Second meet third in the eagerly-awaited big match in Turkey. After a stuttering start to the season, champions Galatasaray are now up to third on 11 points, and have the chance to leapfrog Bursaspor, a place and a point ahead of them.

The fixtures in Portugal include the showdown between the country’s two most successful club sides when cup holders Sporting entertain champions Porto.


FIFA World Leagues Predictor

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