A look at what’s happening in European soccer games on Sunday:
Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag will look for his team to end on a high at Fulham as the Premier League pauses for the World Cup. The Dutchman saw United respond to last week’s 3-1 loss to Aston Villa by beating the same opponent in the League Cup on Thursday. Ten Hag has endured a fluctuating start as United manager including back-to-back defeats in his opening two games in charge and a humiliating 6-3 loss to Manchester City. There have also been hugely encouraging wins against Liverpool, Arsenal and Tottenham — but the loss to Villa brought his team back down to earth. In the Premier League’s other game, Brighton, which has won its last three games in all competitions, hosts Villa.
Four of the five teams below Napoli face each other hoping to put pressure on the runaway Serie A leader. Defending champion AC Milan and Lazio are closest to Napoli but still 11 points behind after the southern club closed the year with a 3-2 victory over Udinese on Saturday. Milan hosts Fiorentina, while Lazio travels to Juventus which has bounced back from a mediocre start to the season and an early exit from the Champions League. Juventus has won its last five league matches without conceding a goal to move fourth. Atalanta and Inter Milan are a point below Juventus – and within three points of second place – and face each other in Bergamo.
Union Berlin and Freiburg have been the surprise front-runners in the Bundesliga for much of the first half of the season. When they meet Sunday in Freiburg, a win will send either team second in the table behind Bayern Munich ahead of the World Cup break. Eintracht Frankfurt too could snatch second place if it beats Mainz away in the early game and then Freiburg and Union draw. The Bundesliga is going on by far the longest hiatus of the top five European leagues, with no more games until Jan. 20 because it’s decided to have its usual winter break after the World Cup finishes.
It’s another lunchtime kickoff for Paris Saint-Germain as the unbeaten league leader looks to restore its five-point lead with a home win against Auxerre. There’s far more at stake than victory against a modest side as PSG’s stars will be aiming to avoid injury just before heading off to the World Cup in Qatar. PSG coach Christophe Galtier has included Lionel Messi, Kylian Mbappe and Neymar in his squad, although captain Marquinhos is rested because of a muscle issue. It remains unclear if PSG’s stars will start and come off — or start on the bench and come on if needed — at Parc des Princes. Elsewhere, improving Monaco faces Marseille at Stade Louis II.
With the Spanish league already on pause, Athletic Bilbao, Sevilla and other top-tier clubs play their first Copa del Rey games of the season against lower-tier opponents. Bilbao, which has risen to fourth place in the Spanish league before the World Cup break, starts at fourth-tier Alzira in the first round. Bilbao holds 23 cup titles, second only to Barcelona’s 31. Sevilla was eliminated from the Champions League at the group stage and is in the relegation zone in the league. It visits sixth-tier Velarde in northern Spain. The 2020 winner Real Sociedad, Getafe, Cádiz, Rayo Vallecano, Celta Vigo, Girona and Almería are also on the road against lower-tier clubs.