The SportsGrape European Football Preview: Ronaldo returns to Real (not that one)

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Santiago Solari takes charge of Real Madrid for the first time in La Liga this weekend as he looks to dig Los Blancos out of their miserable rut.

Here, we take a look at the key fixtures happening this weekend, across the major European leagues. This includes the new man Solari at Real, who goes up against Real Vallodolid led by Ronaldo.

 

The new man goes up against legend Ronaldo

The man ushered in to rejuvenate the squad after the underwhelming Julen Lopetegui stint, got off to a winning start on Wednesday with a 4-0 away win over third-tier side UD Melilla in the Copa del Rey.

The Argentine faces a sterner test in his second game, as Real entertain Ronaldo O Fenomeno’s Real Valladolid – who are currently ahead of them in 6th. The newly promoted side are on a seven-game unbeaten run in all competitions. They are defying the odds, with many tipping them to struggle this season.

Conversely, Madrid are seeking their first league victory in five matches and will be hoping a win can kick their season back into gear.

Elsewhere, table-toppers Barcelona travel to second bottom Rayo Vallecano, in what should be a routine victory for the holders. Atletico will travel to 3rd-bottom Leganes.

 

Henry’s search for victory continues

Thierry Henry will attempt to notch up a win at the fourth time of asking when his Monaco side travel to Reims on Saturday. The former Arsenal man hasn’t had the initial impact the club may have hoped for, with two draws and a defeat from his opening three games.

Reims won’t be an easy way to a victory either. The Ligue 1 newcomers currently occupying 9th whilst being undefeated in their last four.

Ronaldo

PSG are looking to break an impressive record on Friday night when they entertain second-placed Lille at the Parc de Princes. The Parisians have won their opening 11 matches. This equals a record in the ‘big five’ leagues set by Tottenham Hotspur in the 1960s.

They face a difficult test, however, in order to break this record. They take on Lille who have been in fine form in this campaign. After finishing 17th last year, just one place above the relegation zone, they have really kicked on and go into the game on a four-match win streak. Yet, with the champions relentless scoring record and watertight defence, you would be a brave person to bet against them busting the longstanding record.

 

Juve look to maintain unbeaten streak; Di Francesco in the firing line

Juventus’ march towards an eighth consecutive Scudetto continues on Saturday when they entertain Cagliari at the Allianz Stadium. The Bianconeri have won nine, and drawn one, of their opening ten games. They continue to steamroller their way through the league, towards another title.

Continental

Elsewhere in Italy, Eusebio Di Francesco is on the hotseat as Roma travel to Fiorentina. The Giallorossi have had a difficult start to the season, with the club down in 8th. Indeed, patience is beginning to wear thin with the former Sassuolo boss.

 

Bayern look to maintain pressure on Dortmund

Bayern will be hoping to make it three league wins on the bounce when they host Freiburg on Saturday. Die Roten have seemingly, for now, gotten over their difficult run of form and will hoping to at least maintain the gap to early pacesetters Dortmund. Dortmund themselves, will take on Wolfsburg later that evening.

It is particularly important match for the Bavarian giants to get a result from. This is because they take the trip to Dortmund in a week, in what will be an intriguing affair.

 

The Best of the Rest

The Athenian derby takes place in Greece this weekend with AEK Athens entertaining Panathinaikos. AEK come into the game in better form than their rivals, occupying 3rd place whereas Panathinaikos occupy 6th. However, only three points separate the two sides. Panathinaikos are spearheaded by former Manchester United striker Federico Macheda, who is embarking on the latest stage of his nomadic career.

Also, one of the fiercest derbies in world football takes place on Friday night when Galatasaray take on bitter rivals Fenerbahce in the Intercontinental derby, in what is guaranteed to be a feisty affair. The two teams come into the game having experienced contrasting seasons – Galatasaray are currently up in 3rd, whilst Fenerbahçe are struggling all the way down in 15th.

Ronaldo

Fener have recently parted company with manager Phillip Cocu. He took over after a very successful stint in charge of PSV Eindhoven in the Netherlands. The Turkish side will be hoping this provides some new impetus. They are in desperate need of a performance especially given how much this clash means to the club and its fans.

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