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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Slumping United Faces Test Against West Ham

LONDON -- Last season, Manchester United lost only four games in the 42-match campaign and won the title for the second year in a row.

This term, the Reds have lost three of the first nine and trail leader Newcastle by seven points, heading into this weekend's home match against West Ham.

Alex Ferguson's team has gone from league and Football Association Cup winner last season, when it also reached the League Cup final, to a club that could miss out on everything this time.

United has a star-studded team with standout players such as French striker Eric Cantona, Danish goalkeeper Peter Schmeichel, Ukrainian winger Andrei Kanchelskis, Welsh forwards Ryan Giggs and Mark Hughes and English midfielder Paul Ince.

But there are no new faces on that United lineup, and critics say it lacks depth. Talented youngsters are there, such as Northern Ireland winger Keith Gillespie and forwards Nicky Butt and Paul Scholes, all 19. But they are being introduced slowly and carefully by Ferguson. Some say too slowly.

Now West Ham, which has won three games in a row, has the chance to join Leeds, Ipswich and Sheffield Wednesday on the list of teams that have conquered United this season.

In other games, standings leader Newcastle holds a two-point lead over promoted Nottingham Forest and hopes to extend that by winning at lowly Crystal Palace, which is fourth from last. The most keenly contested game should be at Ewood Park where third place Blackburn hosts fourth place Liverpool. Sixth place Chelsea crosses London to face an Arsenal team hoping for a follow up victory to its 3-1 triumph at Wimbledon last week. Tottenham, in mid-standings after a roller-coaster start to the campaign, travels to Leeds where few visitors come away with a victory.

Italian First Division

Fiorentina's Gabriel Batistuta, Lazio of Rome's Giuseppe Signori, and AS Roma's Abel Balbo must have smiled when they looked at the schedule for Oct. 16. With a new standings system encouraging attacking, scoring is up in the Italian first division and the trend should continue Sunday as the league's top three net-finders get to play against porous defenses.

And the league's worst defense of all may be just what AC Milan needs to reverse a slow start: Padova, with U.S. World Cup standout Alexi Lalas patrolling the backfield, has allowed 15 goals in five games. Lazio hosts Napoli on Sunday, Fiorentina plays at last-place Reggiana and Roma travels to Torino.

Three points, instead of two, are now awarded for a victory, and the off-season rule change has had its intended effect. Through five weeks, 107 goals have been scored, against 91 at that point last year.

Milan badly needs to rediscover its best form on the eve of a challenging two weeks during which they must face Greek side AEK Athens in the Champions League, Sampdoria and Juventus in the Italian league as well as meeting Inter for the return leg of the cup tie.

German Bundesliga

Eintracht Frankfurt coach Jupp Heynckes makes an emotional return to Munich's Olympic stadium Saturday at the club where he was first feted and eventually fired.

Heynckes, who took Bayern Munich to the German League title in 1989 and 1990, was dismissed in October 1991 after the team had a disappointing start to the new season. He then spent two years coaching in Spain before joining Eintracht at the start of the season.

On recent form Eintracht will have to produce a mini-miracle to get two points from reigning champions Bayern who stand fourth, two points behind leaders Borussia Dortmund. Eintracht, struggling in 12th place, have won just two of their opening eight games.

Dortmund, level on points with second-placed Werder Bremen, face a difficult match at sixth-placed Karlsruhe on Saturday. Bremen have an easier task at home to lowly Cologne, also Saturday. (AP, Reuters)