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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

United Tries to Close Gap Against Rovers

LONDON -- Champions Manchester United have another gilt-edged chance to close the three-point gap on English Premiership leaders Blackburn on Saturday after squandering an opportunity to do so last week.


United are at home to lowly Ipswich, while Blackburn faces a potentially troublesome visit to Aston Villa, a strong, though inconsistent mid-table side.


United know they can take nothing for granted. They stumbled against Everton last week, losing 1-0 away and were largely outplayed by the Merseyside team. But they should recover at home against a club currently in serious danger of relegation.


Ipswich, however, will be buoyed by the memory of their 3-2 home victory against the Reds early in the season.


Blackburn were unimpressive in a 0-0 home draw with Norwich last Saturday but still extended their lead at the top. They will have striker Chris Sutton back from suspension for the tricky trip to Aston Villa, which has a strong home record this season. In what promises to be the day's most entertaining match, resurgent Newcastle could build on their bid to make the championship a three-horse race when they travel to fourth-placed Liverpool.


The match takes former Liverpool ace Peter Beardsley back to Anfield, where he played some of the best soccer of his career. Newcastle have proved there is life after Andy Cole and new striker Paul Kitson has at last began to settle in. Liverpool are also on form after winning two games this week against Sheffield Wednesday and Wimbledon.


Nottingham Forest and Tottenham Hotspur both still have thoughts of a UEFA Cup place and come face to face at the City Ground Saturday. Spurs are fresh from their pulsating 6-2 away Cup win over Southampton on Wednesday.


In Scotland, fourth-placed Celtic play Aberdeen. The Celts are in desperate need of a confidence boost and points in their search for a UEFA Cup place.


Hibernian must beat top of the table Rangers if they have any title ambitions, while third-placed Motherwell should score a comfortable victory against lowly Falkirk.


Italian First Division. Italy and Juventus striker Roberto Baggio is set to return to league action Sunday in an away game against Internazionale.


Baggio, who has been injured for much of the season last played for league leaders Juventus in a 2-1 win against Padova at the end of November.


Juventus coach Marcello Lippi has not yet decided whether to field Baggio from the start or to bring him on as a second-half substitute for his successful understudy, Alessandro Del Piero, 20.


Baggio's return will further boost the buoyant team morale of a Juventus side who drew 1-1 in an away UEFA Cup quarter-final tie with German side Eintracht Frankfurt.


Juventus come in to the game with 48 points, six ahead of second-placed Parma and fully 20 ahead of the disappointing Inter.


Fourth-placed Lazio are at home to sixth-placed Fiorentina in the other leading match.


German Bundesliga. After another disappointing 0-0 draw in mid-week Bayern Munich will be hoping to find their scoring touch Saturday against a buoyant Borussia Moenchengladbach.


Bayern's draw with IFK Gothenberg in the European Champions' Cup, again showed their weakness up-front without injured top striker Jean-Pierre Papin.


Moenchengladbach this week completed the signing of Steffan Effenberg from Fiorentina and could upset the champions.


Top of the table Borussia Dortmund will push another challenger out of the title race if they beat Kaiserslautern, while second place Werder Bremen should win away at bottom of the table Bochum.


French First Division. Nantes attempt to set a French league record of 28 unbeaten matches on Saturday, still numb from the midweek 5-1 UEFA Cup hiding by Bayer Leverkusen. Coach Jean-Claude Suaudeau criticized his players for their lack of effort and expects a better performance at a home clash against Nice.


Second-placed Paris SG are nine points behind and their chances of retaining the championship dimming by the week. They stayed unbeaten in the European Cup with Wednesday's promising draw in Barcelona.


PSG, who set the previous best unbroken league run in the 1992-93 season, have a difficult game at fifth-placed Auxerre on Sunday. Auxerre have lost only once at home this season.


(Reuters, MT)