The Euro Preview: Turin derby could determine Serie A title outcome

Serie A is highlighted by the Turin derby, while Barcelona and Bayern Munich look to pad big leads ahead of Champions League action.

Serie A

The fight for the Scudetto is fought each week on fields across Italy. Napoli and Juventus continue to win each week as the Partenopei hang on to a one-point lead. Any misstep by either team could swing the title pendulum in the direction of either Naples or Turin. This weekend’s matches are no different, with the Turin derby between Juventus and Torino an important match as the title fight continues.

The Derby della Mole on Sunday at the Stadio Olimpico Grande Torino is key for both Juventus and Torino. It also comes at a pivotal moment of the season as Juve try and win the title, while Torino have a Europa League spot in their sights. Torino need at least a point as they battle with Sampdoria, AC Milan and Atalanta, clubs that have hit their strides at this juncture of the season.

Juventus aren’t an easy side to beat. Along with Napoli, they have the best defense in the league (both clubs have conceded just 15 goals in 24 matches) and enter the derby exhausted from their dramatic Champions League round of 16 match draw versus Tottenham. Despite the 2-2 outcome in the first leg, Juve’s defensive form has been astonishing this year as the club has yet to concede a goal in Serie A in 2018.

Napoli will be looking to remain league leaders as they host Spal on Sunday. Napoli, eliminated from the Champions League and Coppa Italia, are all in on trying to win their first Scudetto since 1990. It remains alive in the Europa League, but the league title is what coach Maurizio Sarri is banking on this spring.

La Liga

The never-ending fight between club and country reared it head again this week after Argentina’s FA asked Barcelona to have Lionel Messi play fewer matches this season as the country prepares for this summer’s World Cup.

Argentine football federation president Claudio Tapia said Tuesday that he had spoken with Messi “for him to look after himself and play less at Barcelona.” While Barca don’t need Messi in the lineup each week given their seven-point lead over second-place Atletico Madrid, the club is likely not to bench the superstar.

Indeed, Tapia’s pleas have been ignored by Barcelona Ernesto Valverde, who has started Messi in 33 of 39 games so far this season. Messi was only benched in three Copa del Rey games this season. Messi has been playing at a blistering pace, tallying 20 goals and 10 assists to lead the league in scoring.

Barcelona, with Messi very likely in the starting lineup, play Saturday at Eibar, while Atletico face Athletic Bilbao the following day.

Bundesliga

Bayern Munich remain as dominant as ever in the Bundesliga. The Bavarian giants, already 18 points ahead of second-place RB Leipzig, will look to lock up the title as fast as they can when they take on Wolfburg Saturday on the road.

After nearly three months out with a muscle injury, Bayern midfielder Thiago Alcantara is set to make his comeback. It has been a tough time for the Spanish international, who has been limited to just 15 appearances in all competitions, including just nine in the Bundesliga.

“It’s very important to have creative players like Thiago in the team,” Bayern Munich coach Jupp Hynckes said earlier this week on the Bundesliga’s official website. “It adds another element to our game.”

RB Leipzig, meanwhile, will tangle with Eintracht on Monday in Frankfurt. While Leipzig’s chances of catching Bayern are remote, they’re hoping the return of midfielder Diego Demme and Marcel Sabitzer will bolster their chances in a tough fight for second place. Both players missed last week’s 2-0 win over Augsburg due to illness. That victory moved them into second place in the standings. They’ll need another win in order to keep Eintracht, currently fourth at 36 points, from surpassing them in what continues to be a heated battle for second place.