European football preview: Hazard eyeing Madrid return, Dortmund gears up for Frankfurt

Eden Hazard is expected to be on the Real Madrid bench against Celta Vigo. Meanwhile, Dortmund will look to Haaland to help reboot its Bundesliga title bid.

It will be no easy task for Borussia Dortmund to reboot its title challenge at Signal Iduna Park against Frankfurt, while it also has Tuesday's Champions League last-16 first leg against Paris Saint-Germain looming on the horizon.

It will be no easy task for Borussia Dortmund to reboot its title challenge at Signal Iduna Park against Frankfurt, while it also has Tuesday's Champions League last-16 first leg against Paris Saint-Germain looming on the horizon.   -  AFP

Real Madrid could see the return of Eden Hazard who is expected to be on bench against Celta Vigo in the La Liga this gameweek.

Meanwhile, Juventus will come back to its home soil following a poor away run, whereas Dortmund will look to reboot its Bundesliga title bid when it faces giant-killer Eintracht Frankfurt.

In Ligue 1, Monaco is gunning for a return to European football ahead of the visit of high-flying Montpellier.

Here's what to look forward to this weekend in European football:

Juve returns home for Brescia clash

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Maurizio Sarri’s Juventus will be counting on a win over Mario Balotelli’s lowly Brescia, which is second last in the table.   -  AFP

 

Juventus returns to its home comforts of Turin after a poor away run, hosting struggling Brescia on Sunday with top spot in Serie A at stake as title rival Inter Milan and Lazio go head-to-head in the Stadio Olimpico.

Inter moved top last weekend ahead of Juventus on goal difference after the eight-time reigning champion’s shock 2-1 defeat at Hellas Verona.

Maurizio Sarri’s side will be counting on a win over Mario Balotelli’s lowly Brescia, which is second last in the table.

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Sarri’s side has been rattled by two successive away defeats, with Cristiano Ronaldo’s late penalty snatching a 1-1 draw in its Italian Cup semifinal, first leg against AC Milan at the San Siro on Thursday.

In a three-team title race, Lazio is just one point behind the leading duo, and on an 18-game unbeaten run going back to a defeat to Inter back in September.

Madrid return on the cards for Hazard

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Eden Hazard started the season with a hamstring problem, then broke a bone in his foot against Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League in late November. He has not played since.   -  AFP

 

Real Madrid could welcome back its priciest Galactico this weekend at home against Celta Vigo, while Barcelona must adjust to life without yet another of the most expensive members of its squad as it entertains Getafe.

Eden Hazard cost Real 100 million euros ($108.4 million) last summer, eclipsing the initial fee paid for Gareth Bale. So far, Real has not got much for the money it paid Chelsea.

The Belgian started the season with a hamstring problem, then broke a bone in his foot against Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League in late November. He has not played since.

He is expected to be on the bench against Celta.

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For Hazard, and for Real, Celta is not the target, nor is mid-table Levante which it faces next Saturday. The date ringed on its calendars will be February 26 when it faces Manchester City in the first leg of its Champions League last-16 tie.

After a difficult autumn, Zinedine Zidane has his team purring and the endless questions over Bale's role are a sideshow he can ignore.

The other team in what is turning into a traditional Spanish two-horse race is looking less comfortable.

Barcelona was top as recently January 25. Now it trails Real by three points.

It also faces a traditional also-ran at home this weekend. But Getafe is the surprise of the Spanish season and has won four straight matches to climb to third and can cut the gap to second to four points with a first league victory away to Barcelona.

Dortmund faces giant-killer Frankfurt

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The league and cup disappointments leaves third-placed Dortmund lagging four points behind leader Bayern Munich.   -  AFP

 

Borussia Dortmund must tighten its defence and trust teenage striker Erling Haaland to provide the goals against Bundesliga giant-killer Eintracht Frankfurt on Friday after a “week to forget”.

Dortmund conceded two goals inside 82 seconds late on during last Saturday's 4-3 defeat at Bayer Leverkusen which left senior club bosses fuming.

After eight goals in his four previous games, it was the first time new signing Haaland, 19, had failed to score for Dortmund.

Former captain Sebastian Kehl said the Leverkusen defeat capped a “week to forget”, four days after being dumped out of the German Cup with a 3-2 loss at Werder Bremen.

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The league and cup disappointments leaves third-placed Dortmund lagging four points behind leader Bayern Munich.

It will be no easy task to reboot its title challenge at Signal Iduna Park against Frankfurt, while it also has Tuesday's Champions League last-16 first leg against Paris Saint-Germain looming on the horizon.

Meanwhile, Bayern could be without captain and goalkeeper Manuel Neuer at Cologne on Sunday as the Germany skipper has a virus, with reserve keeper Sven Ulreich on stand-by.

The reigning champion is bidding for a seventh win in eight league games, after being held to a goalless draw by Leipzig last Sunday.

Monaco gunning for European football return

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Islam Slimani ended his period on the sidelines following his push for a move away in January and bagged the stoppage time winner at Amiens that shot Monaco up to seventh in Ligue 1.

 

Monaco is gunning for a return to European football ahead of the visit of high-flying Montpellier, powered in part by wantaway attacker Islam Slimani's return to the fold.

A troubled club over the past few seasons, Monaco is suddenly looking like genuine contender for European football next season.

Monaco hosts Montpellier on Friday buoyed by the return of the 32-year-old, who has scored eight times and provided eight assists this season, helping the Principality club become the second-highest scorer in France behind runaway leader Paris Saint-Germain.

Also battling for a place at Europe's top table is Marseille, which faces off with fellow Champions League chasers Lille at the Stade Pierre Mauroy on Sunday looking to bounce back from Wednesday's French Cup exit at the hands of Lyon.

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Marseille should be able to count on star man Dimitri Payet, who has scored six in his last nine matches but was substituted as a precautionary measure during Wednesday's 1-0 defeat after feeling a pain in his hamstrings.

His form has been crucial to Andre Villas-Boas' side taking a firm grip on second place, eight points ahead of Rennes in third.

However it faces an almost impossible task to catch PSG, which is 12 points clear and has the relatively simple task of a trip to relegation-threatened Amiens on Saturday.

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