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In-form side Leipzig, Schalke in hunt for crucial points

Leipzig's players celebrate with their fans after a German first division Bundesliga football match on November 6, 2016

Leipzig’s players celebrate with their fans after a German first division Bundesliga football match on November 6, 2016

BERLIN, Germany, Dec 1 – RB Leipzig host Schalke 04 as they seek to maintain their momentum in the hunt for an unlikely Bundesliga title on their first campaign.

Had Schalke 04 not had their worst-ever start to the season, Saturday’s match would have been a table-topping clash.

No other clubs have picked up as many points from their last seven Bundesliga matches as the two in-form teams, with rookies Leipzig managing an incredible run of seven wins in a row, while Schalke drew two and won five during that time.

However, one run will have come to an end once the final whistle blows

in the Red Bull Arena. The game will be shown live on the StarTimes World Football Channel and is one of nine Bundesliga matches to be broadcast live on StarTimes this weekend.

Rookies Leipzig, who with Hoffenheim are one of just two teams that are unbeaten after 12 matches, top the table on 30 points – three more than champions Bayern Munich, and 13 more than Schalke.

Borussia Dortmund and Borussia Moenchengladbach are also set for an interesting clash, with neither side presently being where they want to be.

Dortmund are seventh with 21 points, while Moenchengaldbach are 13th with eight points less.

Champions Bayern Munich, who avoided three defeats in a row by securing a 2-1 win against Leverkusen on the weekend, travel to Mainz for Friday’s match.

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The Italian Serie A, Atalanta fans will be looking for their fast victory at wounded Juventus.

Although Juventus have an impressive home record against most of their Serie A opponents, they have seldom struggled against the team from the Lombardy – winning 16 and drawing three of their last 19 matches in the Juventus stadium.

The match will be live on StarTimes Sports Premium Channel as one of ten Serie A matches that StarTimes subscribers will be able to watch this weekend.

The last time Atalanta returned to their home in Bergamo with a victory was in 1989, when they won 1-0. So everything speaks against the La Dea picking up three points from Saturday’s match.

Well, just about everything. Because there is still the -not so unimportant – issue of form and it is here that the upstarts from the small town in the Lombardy have the upper hand.

Their record for their last league matches is played nine, won eight, drawn one. Compared to Juventus, whose record is won seven, lost two, Atalanta obviously are on a roll.

Much of the credit for this remarkable turn-around for a team, whose best-ever finish in the league was a fifth place way back in 1948, must lie with club president Antonio Percassi.

Having started the season with four defeats from their opening five matches, most presidents would have sacked the coach. Not so Percassi, who gave Gian Piero Gasperini the benefit of the doubt, believing the former Juventus youth team player could turn things around.

And turn things around, the 58-year-old did.

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What makes this even more remarkable, is that he did so without the huge resources that many coaches in the Serie A take for granted.

This has forced Gasperini to look elsewhere to boost his squad and he has managed to blend together a team of players who came from the clubs’ academy and professional players, many of whom spent last season campaigning in the Serie B.

Their success has not gone unnoticed and midfielder Roberto Gagliardini was rewarded with a call up into the senior national team for November’s World Cup qualifier against Liechtenstein and a friendly against Germany.

Gasperini has not shied away from giving talented youngsters a chance to play and several, like Andrea Conti, Matia Caldara or Andrea Petagna are not yet 23.

Another youngster who has been outstanding is 19-year-old Ivorian Franck Kessie, who played his first game for the Elephants back in 2014, when he was only 17.

Gasperini is confident that his side will do well against Juventus, despite the odds being stacked against them. “We will go there to play.

“We go to Juventus Stadium in our best form. We’ll go there to play, without distorting our characteristics.

“I don’t know where we can go, it’s difficult to make a forecast but every week we can go a step further.”

Unlike their opponents, the Juventus line-up reads like a whose who of international football, starting in goals with the legendary Gianluca Buffon. They have defenders Giorgio Chiellini and Patrice Evra, midfielders Sami Khedira and Black Star international Kwadwo Asamoah and strikers Gonzalo Higuain and Mario Mandzukic – to name but a few.

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La Vecchia Signora (the Old Lady, as the club is affectionately known by its fans) has won the Serie A title five times in a row and few would bet against the club making it half a dozen this time around.

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