Zidane pressure at Real Madrid, AC Milan title test, Bundesliga top-four fight and what to watch around Europe

Karl Matchett
·3-min read
AC Milan celebrate (Getty Images)
AC Milan celebrate (Getty Images)

The FA Cup and Premier League will provide plenty of intrigue, but further afield there’s lots to look forward to as well in Europe’s biggest leagues.

It is far from all positive for the biggest sides around Europe at present, particularly for Real Madrid after they were knocked out of the Copa del Rey by lowly Alcoyano in midweek. Theirs is just one of the intrigues in the top five leagues this weekend, however.

In the Bundesliga there are significant clashes in the chase for Champions League spots, while Schalke host Bayern Munich in a bottom vs top fixture which could be a worryingly one-sided occasion if it plays out according to form.

READ MORE: Champions League knock-out fixtures — all matches by date and kick-off time

Elsewhere, we take a look at the biggest games at the top of Serie A and what’s going on with the best of the rest around the Continent.

Here’s everything to watch out for this weekend among Europe’s biggest teams.

Time ticking on Zidane?

Things haven’t gone to plan this time around for Zidane at Real Madrid.

The board are reportedly unhappy with his failure to integrate younger, expensive players into the team and - most importantly - results have been poor. He was an iconic figure as a coach when he departed after his first spell in charge but, despite winning LaLiga last season, it’s all falling apart now, both his methods and his reputation.

He’ll actually be absent for the weekend trip to lowly Alaves as he has tested positive for Covid-19, but that won’t necessarily save him from further pressure if Los Blancos drop points for a third time in four league games.

Real sit seven points behind leaders and neighbourly rivals Atletico Madrid, while Diego Simeone’s side still have a game in hand, too.

Atleti face the horrendously inconsistent Valencia on Sunday evening and they’ll be big favourites to extend what is now a six-game win streak in LaLiga.

Bundesliga merry-go-round

Outside of the Premier League’s insanely tight top half, Germany’s leading lights perhaps offer the most intrigue in the top five leagues.

The battle for Champions League spots will take another twist and turn this weekend, with just five points separating Bayer Leverkusen in third and Eintracht Frankfurt in eighth.

Giovani ReynaAP
Giovani ReynaAP

Four of those sides meet in this round of games, starting with Borussia Monchengladbach (7th) against Borussia Dortmund (4th) on Friday night. There have been 10 goals in Gladbach’s last three games and nine in BVB’s - so it shouldn’t exactly be a cagey start to the weekend.

Then it’s Leverkusen (3rd) against Wolfsburg (5th) on Saturday, and the wait to see if Schalke can cause one of the most improbable upsets of the season anywhere in Europe on Sunday.

Best of the rest

AC Milan face another big challenge to their Serie A title hopes on Saturday, when they host an Atalanta side which had, until recently, rediscovered form. Atalanta have drawn their last two, but remain on a 12-match unbeaten run across all competitions and are up to fifth in the table.

Milan have bounced back well from their first defeat of the season though, winning two league games since that loss to Juve and keeping clean sheets in both.

Around the rest of Europe, one of the more intriguing title races in outside the big five leagues comes in Austria, where Red Bull Salzburg have had it all their own way in recent years.

This year, though, the top four are separated by just one point and four of the top five face each other over the weekend - with Salzburg the outsiders, away to Rheindorf Altach, who are 11th in the 12-team Bundesliga.

In the Dutch Eredivisie there could be big changes at the top too. Surprise challengers Vitesse - who sit second behind Ajax - face a real test of their title credentials when they play sixth-place Groningen, while fourth hosts fifth with Feyenoord against AZ.