A look at what’s happening in European soccer on Saturday:
Real Madrid will visit Alavés without isolating coach Zinedine Zidane after he tested positive for the coronavirus. Assistant coach David Bettoni, who said Zidane was “feeling fine,” will be on the touchline at Mendizorroza Stadium. Madrid is winless in three games across all competitions. It drew 0-0 at Osasuna in the Spanish league, followed by a 2-1 defeat to Athletic Bilbao in the Spanish Super Cup semifinals and a shock 2-1 loss at third-tier Alcoyano in the Copa del Rey. Madrid will be without captain Sergio Ramos and other players due to injury. Madrid can ill afford another setback as it is already seven points behind league leaders Atlético Madrid. Also Saturday, Villarreal visits last-place Huesca seeking a win that would lift it ahead of Barcelona and into third place. Fifth-place Sevilla can also overtake Barcelona with a home victory over Cádiz, while sixth-place Real Sociedad hosts Real Betis.
Manchester City, which is second in the Premier League, plays away in the fourth round of the FA Cup against a Cheltenham side sitting sixth in the fourth division. Sheffield United has won as many games in the FA Cup as the last-place team has in the Premier League this season — one. Chris Wilder’s struggling side faces third-tier opposition when Plymouth visits Bramall Lane. The FA Cup holders are also in action on Saturday with Arsenal taking on Southampton. Arsenal could hand a debut to Mat Ryan after the goalkeeper joined on loan from Brighton. Danny Ings is back in contention for Southampton. The striker, who recently recovered from a hamstring injury, has been in isolation after testing positive for coronavirus and missed the last two matches.
Roma is in turmoil entering its game against Spezia in Serie A. The Giallorossi were beaten 3-0 by Lazio in last week’s league derby and then lost 4-2 to Spezia in the Italian Cup on Tuesday. On Friday, the Cup defeat result was changed to a 3-0 loss by the league judge due to an impermissible sixth substitution that Roma used. Also Friday, embattled Roma coach Paulo Fonseca announced that captain Edin Dzeko was being left out for the Spezia rematch — apparently due to tension with Fonseca. Newly signed Mario Mandzukic could make his AC Milan debut when the Serie A leader hosts Atalanta. Second-place Inter Milan visits relegation-threatened Udinese and Fiorentina hosts Crotone.
Arkadiusz Milik could make his Marseille debut away to Monaco in the French league after joining on loan from Italian club Napoli. The Poland striker signed on an 18-month deal late Thursday night. He scored 48 goals in four seasons for Napoli but did not play for the Italian club during this campaign. Marseille needs his goals since it has slipped down to sixth place following consecutive home defeats. But fourth-place Monaco is in fine form having won four of its last five matches. In the other game, seventh-place Lens looks to follow up its midweek win at Marseille when it hosts struggling Nice.
Hertha Berlin fans fed up with their team’s Bundesliga form are holding a protest against the club’s management before the game against fellow struggler Werder Bremen. Hertha had been expected to challenge for European qualification thanks to investment of around $450 million from Lars Windhorst since June 2019. But Bruno Labbadia’s side has only one win in its last seven games and Hertha is just two points above the relegation zone after its worst first half to the season since it was relegated in the 2009-10 campaign. Labbadia steered the team away from relegation after his appointment as Hertha’s fourth coach of last season. Bremen is just a point above Hertha. Leipzig expects to pressure league leader Bayern Munich with a win at lowly Mainz. Bayer Leverkusen and Wolfsburg meet in a duel between two of the league’s best defenses.
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