European Leagues Preview: Real, Barca return to La Liga; Inter-Juventus battle for top heats up

Real Madrid and Barcelona return to La Liga, while the title fight in Italy between Inter and Juventus heats up. Bayern eyes return to the top in Germany.

Barcelona leads Real Madrid by one point in the race to this season's La Liga title and both teams have a game in hand in comparison to the rest of the teams.   -  GETTY IMAGES

1) The battle for Turin between Juventus and Torino

Current league leader Juventus will take on Torino in the 201st Turin Derby on Saturday. After matchweek 10, Juve has a one-point lead over second-placed Inter Milan in the league table at the top. With eight wins and 2 draws, Juventus is only one of the three teams in the major European leagues, apart from Liverpool and Wolfsburg, to remain unbeaten.

Torino, on the other hand, has endured a rocky start to its 2019-20 campaign. The side has not won a single match in its past five encounters and sits 13th in the league table with three wins, two draws and five losses. Torino lost 4-0 at Lazio on Wednesday.

Juventus has won four of its last five matches and resumes its league campaign after a thrilling 2-1 victory over Bologna.

Torino has only beaten Juventus once in 28 league meetings since 1995. In that time, Juve, despite being briefly relegated, has won 12 Scudetto and a European title. Torino has won a second division title.

2) Inter takes on Bologna with one eye on top spot

It is early days in Inter Milan's pursuit of perennial Serie A pacesetter Juventus, but already the title-chasing is worrying about flagging.

Inter travels to Bologna on Saturday in the 11th round and can briefly overhaul Juventus ahead of the Turin derby later in the day.

Third-placed Atalanta faces in-form Cagliari on Sunday. Roma, in fourth, opens the weekend against Napoli.

The top two flip-flopped in midweek. Inter won 2-1 at Brescia on Tuesday. Juventus, playing with 10 men, regained a one-point lead when Cristiano Ronaldo converted a 90th-minute penalty at home to Genoa on Wednesday.

After the victory at Brescia, Inter manager Antonio Conte complained that his squad is being asked to do too much.

“It becomes difficult to talk about the game because we've now played our fourth match in nine days with the same players,” he said.

“We now have to recover because we're only halfway there, I haven't seen any other side having to play seven matches in 20 days. Next up it's Bologna on Saturday and then we've got a Tuesday fixture away to Dortmund.”

Conte reportedly had meetings with Inter management this week to discuss adding one or two midfielders in the winter transfer window.

“We are pushing the engine to the max,” he said.

Most of his players had got the message.

“We're playing every three days and it isn't easy. There is slight fatigue,” said Argentine striker Lautaro Martinez, who scored Inter's opening goal in Tuesday, his fifth of the season.

3) Real Madrid, Barcelona return to La Liga

After multiple rounds of discussion, the El Clasico between Real Madrid and Barcelona did not take place last week and as a result, the two La Liga giants will return to league action for their 11th match while the other teams will play their 12th match.

League Leader Barcelona  will face Levante on Saturday evening and goes into the contest with an impressive 100 per cent win record in its five matches. Ernesto Valverde's men thrashed Valladolid 5-1 in their last league encounter at Camp Nou.

Barca currently sits atop the points table with 22 points from 10 games - including seven wins, two losses and a solitary draw so far.

On the other hand, Real Madrid sits just below the league leader with 21 points from 10 matches. Real handed Leganes a 5-0 thumping in its previous league match and will face Real Betis on Sunday.

Real has won three of its past five matches and has racked up six victories in the season thus far.

The interesting thing to look at here is how Granada squandered its chance of leapfrogging to the top of the table. Sitting surprisingly at the third position in the table, with 20 points from 11 games, Granada would have gone to the top of the table had it won its match against Real Betis. However, a shocking 0-1 defeat (in the context of the league) in the previous match, meant that Granada missed the opening.

4) Bundesliga battle set for interesting mid-season phase

Wolfsburg's home fixture against Borussia Dortmund headlines matchweek 10 in Bundesliga, which could have a new league leader by the end of the weekend. It's possible that Dortmund, which currently has 16 points from nine fixtures, could top the Bundesliga if it beats Wolfsburg and results elsewhere go its way. Current leader Borussia Monchengladbach is away to Bayer Leverkusen, while defending champion Bayern Munich is also away from home this weekend, against Eintracht Franfurt

4) PSG ruling France

Unlike other European Leagues, where the top three teams are close to each other, the Ligue 1 title race is going along expected lines.

With nine wins and two losses from 11 games, Paris Saint-Germain is sitting pretty at the top of the league table with 27 points. Astonishingly, the defending champion has only conceded five goals thus far and is on a four-match winning streak.

PSG returns to the league after thrashing Marseilled 4-0 at home and will travel away to play Dijon FCO in it snext fixture.

Nantes, which is second in the league currently, is eight points behind the league leader. Nantes has lost both of its previous encounters and would look to snap that with a victory with Paris FC at home next.

Right below Nantes, with 18 points, sits Lille. The third-placed team is coming off a comprehensive 3-0 victory over Bordeaux and will travel away to play Marseille in its next league fixture.

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