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3. WORLD: Depleted Barcelona faces tough test
November 16th, 2006 11:46PM



With only one fit striker available, Spanish leader Barcelona faces a tough test when it travels to Real Mallorca on Sunday (TV: Gol TV, live, 1 pm ET). How the Catalan team fares against La Liga's best defense (only six goals conceded in 10 outings) should give a clue of how it will do in its two must-win games coming up in the UEFA Champions League.

Cameroon striker Samuel Eto'o was joined on the sidelines by Argentine forwards Javier Saviola and Lionel Messi, leaving Icelander Eidur Gudjohnsen -- himself just back from injury -- as Barca's only healthy striker.

Barca's depth will be tested. Midfielder Thiago Motta is suspended, while fellow Brazilians Juliano Belletti and Edmilson are injured. Spanish midfielders Xavi and Andres Iniesta are both doubtful with injuries.

"We have to prove we not only have the best players, but that we also have the best squad," said Brazilian defender Silvinho.

ENGLAND. The Premier League's big three -- Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal -- all play Saturday afternoon. Leader Manchester United goes for its seventh win in a row when it travels to promoted Sheffield United, which is in 17th place with only two wins in 12 games (TV: Fox Soccer Channel, live, 10 am ET). Chelsea, three points behind United, hosts West Ham in a battle of West London against East London (TV: Setanta Sports USA, live, 9:55 am ET). Third-place Arsenal, 10 points out of first place, hosts Newcastle United, which is languishing in the relegation zone (TV: Setanta Sports USA, delay, 3 pm ET). If Newcastle loses, Manager Glenn Roeder could become the second EPL managerial casualty of the season. Last-place Charlton fired Iain Dowie on Monday.

GERMANY. Bayern Munich faces a must-win situation when it hosts leader VfB Stuttgart Saturday in Bundesliga action (TV: Gol TV, live, 9:25 am ET). Bayern is four points behind Stuttgart but in a positive mood after a 3-2 win over Bayer Leverkusen last weekend. Brazilian Lucio should return to the starting lineup in the middle of the defense, and Sebastian Deisler could return to action after an eight-month absence due to a knee injury. Bayern Munich general manager Uli Hoeness says the two-time defending champion faces a big test against Stuttgart. "A draw against Stuttgart would not be good enough," Hoeness says. "We need to start a winning run now."

ITALY. There was a time when a trip to Empoli was a sure three points for AC Milan, but this is no ordinary season. Milan, which plays Empoli on Saturday (TV: Gol TV, live, noon ET), has lost three in a row to fall 20 points behind leaders Inter Milan and Palermo. Even Empoli, unbeaten in its last five games, is ahead of Milan by eight points -- the total points deducted from Milan's total as its penalty in the Calciopoli scandal. Inter should win its fifth in a row when it hosts last-place Reggina on Sunday (TV: Gol TV, live, 9 am ET). Palermo, meanwhile, will be aiming to set a new club record of six consecutive Serie A wins when it plays at Cagliari on Saturday.

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