A look at what’s happening in European soccer on Wednesday:
Manchester City, the League Cup winner for the past four seasons, continues its title defense of the competition with a trip to West Ham in the last 16. West Ham eliminated Manchester United in the previous round and is having a good season, placed fourth in the Premier League and on the verge of qualification in the Europa League. There are two other all-Premier League matchups – Burnley vs. Tottenham and Leicester vs. Brighton – while Liverpool heads to second-tier Preston on the back of a 5-0 win at Manchester United that extended the team’s unbeaten start to the season. Also, Brentford visits second-tier Stoke.
Barcelona tries to rebound from the home loss to Real Madrid in the Spanish league ”clasico” when it visits Radamel Falcao’s Rayo Vallecano, which has won all of its four matches at home this season. Veteran striker Sergio Aguero is expected to make his first start for the Catalan club since joining from Manchester City. Madrid can take over the league lead with a home win against Osasuna, which has won four of its last six matches. Sevilla, tied in points with Madrid, also has a chance to move to the top of the standings when it visits Mallorca. Real Betis hosts Valencia hoping to get closer to the leaders.
Third-placed Nice hosts Marseille on a neutral ground in a rescheduled league game. The Round 3 match was abandoned in August because of crowd trouble and will be played behind closed doors at the Stade de l’Aube in Troyes. French football has been dogged by bad fan behavior this season and Marseille supporters were again at fault last weekend during a 0-0 draw with bitter rival PSG, with incidents taking place both inside and outside their stadium. Nice leads fourth-placed Marseille by one point in the standings.
Three of the top coaches will not be on their respective team’s benches after Roma’s Jose Mourinho, Inter Milan’s Simone Inzaghi and Atalanta’s Gian Piero Gasperini all received red cards over the weekend. Third-place Inter will be looking to keep pressure on the top two with a win at Empoli. Any slip up and it could be leapfrogged by Roma, which travels to relegation-threatened Cagliari. Atalanta and Juventus are both three points behind Inter and play Sampdoria and Sassuolo, respectively. Fiorentina also has 15 points and is just a point above Lazio, which it meets in the evening match in Rome. Lazio will still be smarting from its surprise 4-1 defeat at Hellas Verona, which visits Udinese.
Bayern Munich was knocked out of the German Cup in the second round last year by Holstein Kiel and faces another tricky match at the same stage of this season’s competition against fellow Bundesliga team Borussia Monchengladbach. Their meeting in the league in August was a 1-1 draw. There are two other all-top-division games as Stuttgart hosts Cologne and Bochum plays Augsburg. Bayer Leverkusen plays second-tier Karlsruhe.
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