PARIS, France, Feb 6 – Mauricio Pochettino takes Paris Saint-Germain to beleaguered rivals Marseille, while Mesut Ozil could make his home debut for Fenerbahce against Galatasaray and Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane returns to the dugout after missing two games following a positive Covid-19 test.
AFP Sport selects some of the standout football action in Europe this weekend:
Marseille in disarray ahead of Classique
Marseille v Paris Saint-Germain, Sunday 11pm
A chaotic week at Marseille culminates with the visit of bitter enemies PSG, who are seeking to avenge an ill-tempered 1-0 loss in September’s reverse fixture in which Neymar was among five players sent off.
Academy director Nasser Larguet took charge of the midweek 2-2 draw at Lens, just 24 hours after the club suspended Andre Villas-Boas following his offer to resign over a transfer dispute.
Marseille’s home game against Rennes last weekend was called off after several hundred angry supporters stormed the training ground, causing widespread damage and leading to 25 arrests.
Pochettino got the desired response after suffering his first defeat at Lorient, and will recall Neymar for the game at the Velodrome after the Brazilian missed the 3-0 victory over Nimes through suspension.
Zidane back for spluttering Madrid
Huesca v Real Madrid, Saturday 6:15pm
Absent for the past two matches after testing positive for coronavirus, Zidane knows Madrid’s diminishing hopes of retaining their league crown likely require a staggering collapse from Atletico.
A 2-1 reverse against Levante, a third home defeat of the season, left the defending champions languishing 10 points behind Atletico having played a game more.
While Zidane will be back on the touchline, taking back the reins from his assistant David Bettoni, Eden Hazard has suffered the latest in a series of injury setbacks and is expected to be out for around a month with a thigh problem.
After papering over the cracks last term, Zidane’s future hangs in the balance but an extended poor run could hasten the end of his second spell in charge.
Ronaldo seeks end to mini-drought
Juventus v Roma, Saturday 8pm
Cristiano Ronaldo fired Juventus into a commanding position in the first leg of their Italian Cup semi-final with both goals in a 2-1 win at Inter Milan, but the Portugal star has failed to score in his past three league outings.
The Juventus striker, who turns 36 on Friday, has not gone four league games without a goal since November 2017, in his final year at Real Madrid. Despite the recent dry spell he remains the top scorer in Serie A this term with 15 goals, one above Romelu Lukaku.
Roma head to Turin a point above Juve in third and striving to keep in sight of the two Milan clubs.
Edin Dzeko could be back in the squad after patching things up with coach Paulo Fonseca who stripped the Bosnian of the captaincy following a row in the wake of last month’s cup loss to Spezia.
Bayern prepare for whirlwind Qatar trip
Hertha Berlin v Bayern Munich, Friday 10pm
The European champions face a busy 10 days with the Club World Cup sandwiched between Bundesliga games against Hertha and Arminia Bielefeld, both struggling near the bottom of the table.
Bayern have distanced themselves in the title race with a run of four successive wins, and will fly directly to Doha following Friday’s encounter in the German capital.
Hertha have picked up a solitary point from a possible 15, but the club is counting on the return of former coach Pal Dardai as they bid to steer clear of the drop zone.
Sami Khedira could make his Hertha debut after signing from Juventus while Serbian winger Nemanja Radonjic has joined on loan from Marseille.
Istanbul debuts awaits Ozil’s Fenerbahce
Fenerbahce v Galatasaray, Saturday 7pm
Mesut Ozil came off the bench for the final 13 minutes of Tuesday’s 2-1 victory away to Hatayspor, his first match in 11 months after being frozen out at Arsenal.
The former Germany midfielder helped set up his new team’s second goal to keep them three points clear of Galatasaray ahead of the Intercontinental Derby.
Fenerbahce’s Ulker Stadium is situated in the Asian half of the city, while arch rivals Galatasaray come from across the Bosphorus on the European side of Istanbul.
Ozil has taken a substantial pay cut from the reported £350,000 ($480,000) a week he earned at Arsenal, but Fenerbahce have still launched a donation campaign to help pay his wages.