A look at what’s happening in European soccer on Friday:
Southampton is one of the form teams in the Premier League and takes a five-match unbeaten run into a home match against last-place Norwich. It’s the first match of the 27th round, with Norwich sitting five points from safety. Southampton shouldn’t have to worry about relegation this season, having moved into 10th place — 12 points from the bottom three.
Bottom side Levante hosts Elche in a must-win game if it hopes to climb its way out of the Spanish league’s relegation zone. Levante grabbed on to a lifeline when it pulled off a 1-0 upset at defending champion Atlético Madrid two rounds ago. It then got a 1-1 draw at Celta Vigo last weekend. Still, Levante remains a full nine points from safety and now returns home to Valencia, where it has lost two straight.
Relegation-threatened Stuttgart visits Hoffenheim in the Bundesliga where it aims to end its eight-game winless run. American coach Pellegrino Matarazzo’s team is second from bottom in a direct relegation place with 11 games of the season remaining and desperately needs to start winning games if the club is to avoid dropping to the second division for the third time in seven seasons. Hoffenheim is playing well, however, coming from behind to beat Wolfsburg last weekend to move fifth with its second consecutive win. If it beats Stuttgart, Sebastian Hoeness’ team would even move fourth into the last place for Champions League qualification ahead of the rest of the 24th round.
Rennes is scoring freely and playing some of the most attractive soccer in the league under coach Bruno Genesio. A win at mid-table Montpellier would move his side up to fourth place in the automatic Europa League spot. The goals are piling up with 13 netted in five games and the goal difference of plus 24 is second only to runaway leader Paris Saint-Germain. Forwards Gaetan Laborde are near the top of the scoring charts with 12 goals each for Rennes while striker Serhou Guirassy is back in business after netting twice last weekend. But it’s a tight race for Europe and Montpellier can leap up to sixth place if it wins.
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