What to watch in the leading soccer leagues in Europe this weekend:
It’s going to be a fascinating and potentially close-run race for top scorer in the English Premier League this season, with the four leading contenders – Harry Kane, Romelu Lukaku, Sergio Aguero and Alvaro Morata – all showing great form after six games.
Two of them go head to head this weekend.
Morata’s Chelsea, which is in third place, hosts Aguero’s Manchester City, which leads on goal difference, on Saturday in the signature match of the seventh round. Both strikers have six goals, a league-high tally along with Lukaku.
Lukaku has a great chance to add to his total, with second-place Manchester United at home to last-place Crystal Palace. Palace conceded five goals at City last weekend
Kane has scored 19 goals in his last nine away games for club and country ahead of his Tottenham team’s visit to promoted Huddersfield.
Of the other possible title contenders, Arsenal is at home to Brighton and Liverpool travels to Newcastle for a match between coach Rafa Benitez’s past and present teams, respectively.
Barcelona’s home game against struggling Las Palmas on Sunday won’t be only about football, coming on the same day as a planned referendum for Catalonia’s independence from Spain.
The club and some of its top players have shown their support for the vote, which Spain’s government says is unconstitutional. Separatists have often used the Camp Nou stadium as a rallying point, and it will likely happen again on Sunday.
Barcelona has won its first six matches. Las Palmas, which has lost two straight games, is expected to have newly hired coach Pako Ayestaran on the bench for the first time.
Second-place Atletico Madrid, coming off a last-minute home loss to Chelsea in the Champions League, visits Leganes on Saturday, while third-place Sevilla hosts winless Malaga earlier in the day.
On Sunday, sixth-place Real Madrid hosts Espanyol, which has won two of its last three matches.
Bayern Munich interim coach Willy Sagnol begins the task of restoring battered pride at Hertha Berlin on Sunday.
Former assistant coach Sagnol, who won five Bundesliga titles as a player with Bayern, has been handed the reins following Carlo Ancelotti’s sacking on Thursday.
Bayern’s 3-0 defeat at Paris Saint-Germain on Wednesday was the last straw for the 58-year-old Italian, already under scrutiny from club bosses for a lackluster start to the season. Bayern, the five-time defending champion, is already three points behind Borussia Dortmund after six games.
Dortmund, which is enjoying its joint-best start to the league, next visits Augsburg on Saturday. Augsburg is unbeaten in five games.
Dortmund has five wins and a draw from six rounds, conceding only one goal despite looking frail at times at the back and scoring 19. Dortmund’s goal difference of plus 18 is a record at this stage in the season.
Hamburger SV hosts Werder Bremen for the 107th northern derby on Saturday, when both sides will be desperate for a win — the home side after four straight defeats and with Bremen looking for its first victory of the season.
Vincenzo Montella’s job at big-spending AC Milan could be on the line when the Rossoneri host Roma on Sunday.
A dispiriting 2-0 loss at Sampdoria last weekend, which dropped Milan to sixth place, has already raised speculation that the club’s former manager Carlo Ancelotti could be lining up for a return while he struggles at Bayern Munich.
Milan spent more than 200 million euros (nearly $250 million) in the summer transfer market and the club’s new Chinese owners clearly want immediate success.
Meanwhile, Juventus, Napoli and Roma will look to build on midweek wins in the Champions League.
Napoli, which leads Juventus on goal difference, hosts a Cagliari side that has won only two of its six games.
Juventus could have a tougher time at Atalanta, which is playing in the Europa League after a surprise fourth-place finish last season.
Following its impressive 3-0 win over Bayern in the Champions league, Paris Saint-Germain can’t get carried away ahead of Saturday’s French league match against unbeaten Bordeaux.
PSG had its lead over Monaco cut to one point last weekend after a lackluster goalless draw at Montpellier, where Unai Emery’s team played without the injured Neymar. Bordeaux is in third place, four points off the pace.
Neymar made a successful return against Bayern with a goal and an assist, and his attacking skills will be needed against a Bordeaux side that features another talented Brazilian, 20-year-old Malcom.
Malcom joined Bordeaux last year during the winter transfer window from Corinthians to cover the departure of Wahbi Khazri. Capable of playing on both sides or in a center forward role, he has scored three goals in seven matches so far this season.
Defending champion Monaco, which slumped to a 3-0 home loss to Porto midweek in the Champions League, hosts Montpellier on Friday.