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With the English Premier League schedule taking a weeklong break for domestic Cup games, Spain’s La Liga and Italy’s Serie A offer the most compelling televised soccer matchups from Europe this weekend.
La Liga: Surprising Sevilla (10-4-4), which has lost just once in La Liga since the first week of October, can match second-place Real Madrid on points in the Spanish standings with a home win Friday over Athletic Club (BeIN Sports, noon PT). But Athletic Club has been almost as hot, losing just once in its last eight games. On Saturday there will be a lot on the line at both ends of the standings in the Catalan Derby (BeIN Sports, noon PT). Behind Lionel Messi’s league-leading 13 goals and six assists, which are tied for the league lead, Barcelona (12-3-3) enters the new year in first place with a two-point edge over Real Madrid. Espanyol, meanwhile, is last and seems headed for relegation for the first time since 1993. Messi has more goals by himself than Espanyol (2-12-4) has as a team, and the 34 goals Barcelona’s second team has allowed is also worst in the league. But wait, it gets worse: Espanyol is 0-16-4 against Barcelona in their last 20 league matches dating to 2009, failing to score in 15 of them.
Serie A: Fourth-place Roma (10-2-5) remains in the center of an 11-team battle for a European tournament berth, but the Giallorossi, who have lost one league match since September, are thinking bigger than that heading into Sunday’s game with visiting Torino (6-8-3) (ESPN Deportes, ESPNews, 11:30 a.m. PT) . Roma hasn’t won a Serie A title since 2001 but it returns from Italy’s holiday break fourth in the standings, seven points back of Inter Milan. And Sunday’s match offers a golden opportunity to close that gap since Roma has lost just two of its last 32 Serie A meetings with Torino.