England: Manchester United v Manchester City (
Darren Fletcher says United “can play better” despite the leaders having lost just once in the Premier League this campaign. That came last weekend, when he was in the team that suffered a surprising 2-1 defeat at Wolves. “We feel we have played well at times this season,” said the midfielder, “but we expect more – we expect more of ourselves all the time – there’s no ceiling on performance levels here.” City, in third, reduced the gap between themselves and United to five points after beating West Brom but will be up against it in a stadium where United have won 12 of their 13 league games this term. A win by United all but ends City’s title hopes.
Germany: Kaiserslautern v Borussia Dortmund
It is difficult to see Kaiserslautern slowing Dortmund’s momentum when the leaders visit the Fritz-Walter-Stadion. Jürgen Klopp’s charges are 12 points clear at the top of the Bundesliga and won 5-0 when the two teams met in September. Kaiserslautern, by contrast, have lost their last four in all competitions and are outside the relegation zone only on goal difference.
France: St-Etienne v Lyon
Both teams enter the 101st Le Derby du Rhône seven points behind leaders Lille, with the hosts ahead in fifth due to goals scored. St. Etienne ended a 21-game, 17-year wait for a derby victory by winning 1-0 in September. Can they make it two in a row this weekend?
Italy: Juventus v Inter Milan
The Derby d’Italia pitches two in-form strikers against each other in the shape of Juventus’s Alessandro Matri and Inter’s Giampaolo Pazzini. The 26-year-olds – born 17 days apart – have been in sparkling form for their new clubs following their respective transfers last month, with Pazzini scoring three in his first two appearances and Matri on target twice last weekend against the team he left for the Bianconeri, Cagliari. “In one week my life has changed,” said Matri, an unused substitute for Italy’s midweek friendly with Germany following his maiden international call-up. “There is no rivalry between me and Pazzini. I certainly won’t be thinking about this duel when I walk out on to the pitch.”
Spain: Espanyol v Real Madrid (Sunday, 21.00)
Madrid defender Raúl Albiol has warned his team-mates they can start to kiss their Liga title aspirations goodbye should they slip up against sixth-placed Espanyol. Trailing leaders Barcelona – who travel to Sporting Gijon on Saturday – by seven points, José Mourinho’s men know victory at Espanyolis a must against a side who have won eight of their ten home league encounters this season.