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Resurgent Gunners at Anfield, new beginnings for Gerrard and Xavi: John Brewin's standout games

A number of managerial changes were made during the international window.

Jurgen Klopp and Alisson celebrating Liverpool's win over Arsenal in April.
Jurgen Klopp and Alisson celebrating Liverpool's win over Arsenal in April.
Image: Alamy Stock Photo

EVERY FRIDAY, FOOTBALL writer John Brewin – who has clocked up countless air miles covering the European game over the past decade – looks ahead to five key fixtures from the Premier League and around the continent. 

As well as explaining why you need to know about these matches, he’ll also pick out a tip for each one along with the latest William Hill prices. 

Below, he previews Arsenal’s trip to Anfield, before touching on Steven Gerrard’s managerial debut in the Premier League, Xavi’s return to a very different Barcelona, a key game in the Serie A title race and Dortmund’s struggles without Erling Haaland. 

Liverpool v Arsenal, Premier League – 5.30pm Saturday 

That’s the end of the international football for 2020, and Jurgen Klopp can stop fretting about his players getting injured on national team duty. Andy Robertson faces a race to be fit for this one, having pulled up when playing for Scotland, though Kostas Tsimikas has proved himself an able deputy of late, and no “Greek tragedy” in the fashion of Sotirios Kyrgiakos.

Defending is a problem for Liverpool, it seems, even though Virgil van Dijk is back playing. West Ham’s speed on the counter was key to winning 3-2 a fortnight ago, and Arsenal should present a similar threat at Anfield. Only West Ham and Chelsea are in better form than Mikel Arteta’s team over the last five league matches. Arsenal have won their last four, keeping a clean sheet in their last three.

As a host of Premier League managers have been shown their cards, there has been no such talk about Arteta for a while. Arsenal fans now trust the process, to paraphrase Arteta, and their team could climb above Liverpool with a win.

Since scoring against Tottenham in late September, Emile Smith Rowe, a player not previously known for dead-eyed finishing, has scored three in his last five matches, and the decisive goal in their last two victories. He became a senior England player in midweek, too.

arsenals-emile-smith-rowe-during-the-premier-league-match-at-emirates-stadium-london-picture-date-sunday-november-7-2021 Arsenal midfielder Emile Smith Rowe. Source: Alamy Stock Photo

And yet, Anfield is a daunting place to go to for Arsenal; they last won there in September 2012 when Arteta was in midfield and Santi Cazorla and Lukas Podolski were on the scoresheet. They lost 3-1 there the last two seasons, and before that a 5-1 and a 4-0.

Pulling off a result on Merseyside would be a huge indicator that Arteta’s process can indeed be trusted.

Scoring goals has not been a problem for Liverpool, though they will be without Roberto Firmino until mid-December. However, Sadio Mane took part in training on his return from Senegal following an injury scare. Mohamed Salah has not scored in five matches including two World Cup games for Egypt so beware Arsenal. Such a barren run cannot last.

John’s bet: Liverpool to win and both teams to score @ 17/10

Aston Villa v Brighton, Premier League – 3pm Saturday

Gerrard Villa Steven Gerrard begins life as Villa's new manager. Source: Aston Villa FC

While Liverpool kick off against Arsenal, Steven Gerrard will be completing the first post-match duties of his career as a Premier League manager — the next steps on his quest to land the Anfield role when Klopp decides he’s had enough.

It’s a day of managerial bows in the Premier League with Eddie Howe welcoming Brentford to Newcastle, while Gerrard’s Villa predecessor, Dean Smith, takes charge as Norwich face Southampton.

Gerrard in the Premier League feels like the biggest deal, and he takes on Graham Potter, still a flavour of the month despite not winning since September. Can Gerrard new-manager bounce Villa? They need it, having lost their previous five.

John’s bet: Villa to beat Brighton @ 6/4

Barcelona v Espanyol, La Liga – 8pm Saturday 

barcelona-spain-8th-nov-2021-xavi-hernandez-barcelona-footballsoccer-xavi-responds-to-the-cheers-during-presentation-fc-barcelonas-new-head-coach-xavi-hernandez-at-the-camp-nou-in-barcelon Xavi during his Barcelona unveiling. Source: Alamy Stock Photo

Another new manager, another playing legend, though Xavi got to manage his club a rather easier route than Gerrard. How do Al-Sadd compare to Rangers as a breeding ground for managers?

Can Xavi be another Pep Guardiola? The high-minded philosophical talk abounds, but the budget does not. Or the players. Can Luuk de Jong become a modern Samuel Eto’o, or Philippe Coutinho assert himself as a new Andres Iniesta?

It seems unlikely, and Espanyol, mid-table and level on points with hated rivals Barca, might fancy a historic victory. They would enjoy nothing more, though last won the Catalan derby at the Nou Camp in February 2009 when Guardiola was in charge and Xavi played in midfield.

John’s bet: Barcelona and Espanyol to draw @ 19/5

Inter Milan v Napoli, Serie A – 5pm Sunday

napoli-italia-07th-nov-2021-victor-osimhen-of-ssc-napoli-during-the-serie-a-20212022-football-match-between-ssc-napoli-and-hellas-verona-at-diego-armando-maradona-stadium-in-napoli-italy-novem Victor Osimhen wearing Napoli's Diego Maradona tribute jersey. Source: Alamy Stock Photo

The defending champions take on the current league leaders, and the former need a win to pull themselves into the title reckoning. Such a result may let in Milan, who play Fiorentina on Saturday and could be top by the time their rivals face each other.

Inter have struggled in the bigger fixtures this year, having lost to Lazio and drawn with Atalanta, Juventus and Milan, even though in Edin Dzeko and Lautaro Martinez they have two of the most potent strikers in the league.

Napoli’s main goal threat is carried by Lorenzo Insigne, who was an unlikely centre-forward during Italy’s World Cup qualifying falterings this week, and Victor Osimhen, the in-form Nigerian.

John’s bet: Victor Osimhen to score and Inter and Napoli to draw @ 7/1

Borussia Dortmund v Stuttgart, Bundesliga – 2.30pm Saturday

firo-1st-bundesliga-20212022-football-fuvuball-06-11-2021-rbl-rb-leipzig-bvb-borussia-dortmund-2-1-bvb-marco-reus-individual-action Dortmund captain Marco Reus. Source: Alamy Stock Photo

Erling Haaland, who may not be back before German football’s winter break commences, is much missed by Dortmund. They are in something of a slump, having been beaten heavily by Ajax in the Champions League and then lost to RB Leipzig. Another season of inconsistency seems likely to deny Dortmund a credible title challenge, even in a season of transition for Bayern Munich.

Stuttgart however, having won just one game since August, appear to be ideal opposition to face after a slump and an international break. The question is who might score the goals? Marco Reus, with three goals from midfield, is second-top scorer behind Haaland. Donyell Malen, the understudy, is yet to score in the Bundesliga so it may be left to skipper Reus.

John’s bet: Marco Reus to score and Dortmund to win @ 23/20

William Hill odds above correct at the time of writing. New online customers get €30 in free bets when they bet €10 with William Hill. Just use the promo code H30. For all the latest prices, visit williamhill.com. 18+, always gamble responsibly. For more information, see gamblingtherapy.org  

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