Football around Europe: 10 things to look out for this weekend


1) Forest need to be back to full-strength at West Brom

Leeds are falling apart. Maybe. But here’s the thing: anyone who beats them ends up falling apart too. None of the eight teams who have got the better of Marcelo Bielsa’s men in Championship this season have won their subsequent match – seven of them have lost it. Nottingham Forest were the latest to find that beating Bielsa’s side takes a heavy toll, as on the back of last weekend’s 2-0 win at the City Ground, they flopped to a home defeat by Charlton. But they are still only two points off the automatic promotion places and could foil West Brom’s attempt to pull away at the top again by winning at the Hawthorns on Saturday. To do that, Sabri Lamouchi would be well advised to reverse the changes he made for the Charlton game and deploy the lineup that beat Leeds, assuming Lewis Grabban, Samba Sow and Sammy Ameobi have overcome the knee problems that forced them to miss the midweek match. PD

2 ) Farke to risk a back three against Liverpool?

Ben Godfrey played every minute of Norwich’s first 17 league games at centre-back, before sustaining a relatively minor knee ligament injury against Leicester in December. He missed five games, and the entire festive schedule, but on returning to fitness was thrown straight back into the starting XI alongside Christoph Zimmermann for the club’s last home fixture, the 1-0 win against Bournemouth, whereupon he was promptly sent off and forced to sit out another two matches. The last of those, a goalless draw at Newcastle, featured an assured defensive display from a rearguard in which Zimmerman was paired with Grant Hanley, and the team’s only clean sheet all season that didn’t come against Bournemouth. Daniel Farke must therefore decide whether to bring back the 22-year-old Godfrey, stick with the more experienced Hanley, or perhaps play all of them at the same time. Farke did experiment with a back three in pre-season but last used it in a competitive game nearly two years ago, and if there’s any opponent who will ruthlessly expose any defensive uncertainty it is Liverpool. SB

3) Salzburg face stiffest test in title six-pointer

The Austrian Bundesliga resumes after its winter break on Friday night with an absolute cracker, pitting first against second in what could come to be seen as a premature title decider. Should Lask be defeated at RB Salzburg they would be five points and a good chunk of goal difference behind, and stuck chasing a side that have not lost in the league all season; should they win they would lead by a point, and the race is on. They have done well to stay within touching distance of a fearsome Salzburg side who have scored 29 more goals than their closest domestic rivals in only 18 matches, but while Lask have the benefit of consistency the leaders have lost Erling Braut Haaland (to Dortmund), Takumi Minamino (Liverpool) and the centre-back Marin Pongracic (Wolfsburg) since their last league game and this could be the ideal time to face them. With any luck it will be as dramatic as the teams’ first meeting of the season in September, when Lask roared into a two-goal lead, Petar Filipovic was sent off with quarter of an hour to play and Patson Daka scored his second of the game to equalise in the last minute. SB

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