A look at what’s happening in European football on Sunday:
It will be exciting to see if Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel starts Romelu Lukaku against Liverpool, or if the striker is even in the showdown between the two top-four rivals. The summer signing said he is “not happy” with his situation at Chelsea in an interview released on Thursday. Tuchel said at his pre-match press conference that he was frustrated by the “noise” of the story and said he did not feel Lukaku was unhappy. Chelsea are on the roller coaster after drawing four of their last five home league games. Liverpool come after the setback by losing to Leicester, but it picked up seven points in the previous three games. Liverpool coach Jürgen Klopp will miss the match while in corona isolation, with assistant Pepijn Lijnders at the helm at Stamford Bridge. In an earlier match, Dominic Calvert-Lewin was able to get his first appearance since August, when Everton host Brighton. The striker scored in each of Everton’s first three games of the season, but a thigh injury and subsequent decline in his recovery has kept him out. Everton have not played since December 16 due to coronavirus-related delays. Leeds play against Burnley at two-week intervals due to its coronavirus outbreak. Five points separate Leeds and Burnley, who are in the relegation zone. Brentford also hosts Aston Villa.
Spanish teams return from a winter break hard hit by coronavirus infections and with presence ceilings back in effect in stadiums. Stadiums can have no more than 75% capacity, with some regions lowering attendance even more to handle an increase in COVID-19 cases. Barcelona have reported 10 infections to players since their last match less than two weeks ago. That means Xavi Hernández will have to dig even deeper into the club’s pool of youth players. His squad for the match in Mallorca includes 11 first-team players and 10 members of the reserve team. Captain Sergio Busquets will miss the match due to a one-match quarantine due to accumulation of yellow cards. Atlético Madrid also play a derby against Rayo Vallecano without coach Diego Simeone and players João Félix and Koke Resurrección, after being tested positive for the virus. Antoine Griezmann, who was also tested positive, was already ruled out due to an injury along with Marcos Llorente. Rayo is in fourth place just above the defending champions. League leader Real Madrid crosses the capital to play against Getafe without the strong winger Vinícius Júnior and doubts about goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois’ readiness after both were tested positive. But Luka Modric, David Alaba, Rodrygo and Gareth Bale are among Madrid players who had missed action due to recent infections but are now available to play against Getafe.
There are 13 matches in the French Cup as teams look to reach the last 16. Seven Monaco players have tested positive for coronavirus ahead of the match in Quevilly-Rouen in the second row. Montpellier hosts Strasbourg and Bordeaux visit Brest in all first division matches, while 10-time French cup winners Marseille travel to Chauvigny at the fifth level. Marseille last won the competition in 1989 and have lost in four finals since.
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