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Alamy Stock Photo Karim Benzema. who has 11 goals this season, celebrates scoring against Barcelona back in April.
El Clasico, Derby d'Italia and can Man United contain Salah? John Brewin's unmissable matches
We preview a bumper weekend of club football in the latest edition of European Eye.

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, the Championship 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. 

This weekend, the fixture list has thrown up some mouth-watering clashes in Spain, England, Italy and France, in particular.

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Barcelona v Real Madrid, La Liga – 3.15pm Sunday 

Even allowing for Covid-19, it came as something of a shock to learn that Sunday’s El Clasico was not a sell-out. It can be said without too much controversy that the two great rivals who dominated Europe in the 2010s are at their lowest ebb since the early 1980s. The lack of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo has to be a factor. Even if Ronaldo departed the scene in 2018, Messi could hog the limelight in the Portuguese’s absence.

And then there were none, and for all the talk of a new generation of stars, the fixture’s extraterrestrial quality has been lost. Or at least until the likes of a Pedri, Ansu Fati, Gavi or Vini Jr assume the mantle. Or when Kylian Mbappe and Erling Haaland sign up, presumably for Madrid.

Real Sociedad currently lead La Liga, and Atletico Madrid are defending champions so these are reduced circumstances, particularly for Barca, though they do seem to have steadied the ship a tad. Last week’s 3-1 defeat of Valencia was impressive enough and Wednesday’s first-half performance against Dynamo Kyiv was similarly decent, even if the second half was an absolute snore.

barcelona-spain-credit-d-20th-sep-2021-gavi-ronald-koeman-barcelona-footballsoccer-spanish-la-liga-santander-match-between-fc-barcelona-1-1-granada-cf-at-the-camp-nou-stadium-in-barcelon Alamy Stock Photo Barca boss Ronaldo Koeman gives instructions to 17-year-old prodigy Gavi. Alamy Stock Photo

That slightly eased the pressure on Ronald Koeman, though the Dutchman, a veteran of 17 Clasicos as a player, the winner of six and loser of six, will know only too well the importance of such fixtures for a Barca coach’s credibility. He lost both last season with Messi in the team.

Carlo Ancelotti, in his previous stint as Madrid coach, had a record of won two, lost three in the fixture that matters most. It was a defeat to Barcelona in March 2015 that all but did for Don Carlo last time, and a loss to a Barcelona in crisis could be similarly damaging.

His current team, in winning 5-0 at Shakhtar Donetsk with Vini Jr scoring twice, look in better form than their rivals, and were allowed last weekend off by La Liga following the international break.

Having won there last season, Madrid must fancy victory at the Camp Nou, though it might be pointed out that only Bayern Munich have managed to win at a stadium that has been more of a fortress than might be expected amid the state of Catalan crisis.

John’s bet: Real Madrid to win and both teams to score @ 3/1

Manchester United v Liverpool, Premier League – 4.30pm Sunday

soccer-football-fa-cup-fourth-round-manchester-united-v-liverpool-old-trafford-manchester-britain-january-24-2021-liverpools-mohamed-salah-scores-their-first-goal-pool-via-reutersphil-n Alamy Stock Photo Mohamed Salah scoring at Old Trafford last season. Alamy Stock Photo

Oh Ole, oh no. Not Liverpool, not now, though fans of United’s biggest rivals spent much of Wednesday night hoping that Atalanta did not push him out of the exit door before their own team could have their fun at Old Trafford.

Against a team that struggles so badly to defend down the flanks, Liverpool’s attacking trident must be licking their lips, as might Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson. And how might Fabinho fancy facing the dynamic “McFred” duo that United’s galaxy of indolent stars leaves to do all the running in midfield?

Do United and Ole have a route into this game? Perhaps the less than watertight defending of Alexander-Arnold and Virgil Van Dijk at Atletico Madrid might offer a shard of light. But probably not much more.

John’s bet: Liverpool to win and Mohamed Salah to score anytime @ 21/10

Inter Milan v Juventus, Serie A – 7.45pm Sunday

lautaro-martinez-of-fc-internazionale-and-matthijs-de-ligt-of-juventus-fc-during-the-match-between-juventus-fc-and-fc-internazionale-at-allianz-stadiu Alamy Stock Photo Inter Milan striker Lautaro Martinez (right) and Juve defender Matthijs de Ligt. Alamy Stock Photo

Crisis, what crisis? Should Juventus win the Derby d’Italia then they would draw level with Inter, their historic rival and defending champions.

Count Max Allegri has gradually gone back to the trusted template of winning games by a narrow margin while keeping it tight at the back.

Last week’s win over Roma and Jose Mourinho came via that method and was highly impressive from the Bianconeri. Last time out, Inter were beaten by manager Simone Inzaghi’s former club Lazio and are dropping off the chase to defend their title, with Napoli leading the way.

John’s bet: Juventus to win at Inter @ 12/5

Marseille v PSG, Ligue 1 – 7.45pm Sunday

soccer-football-ligue-1-olympique-de-marseille-v-rc-lens-orange-velodrome-marseille-france-september-26-2021-olympique-de-marseille-coach-jorge-sampaoli-reacts-reuterseric-gaillard Alamy Stock Photo Marseille boss Jorge Sampaoli. Alamy Stock Photo

If there is to be a title race of any kind in Ligue 1, then Marseille probably have to win this. And that’s not beyond the capabilities of Jorge Sampaoli’s men, who follow their manager’s high-pressing, son-of-Bielsa approach as a highly entertaining team to watch.

PSG have not been in great form of late, and do concede goals, as evidenced in their 3-2 comeback defeat of RB Leipzig on Tuesday. In their last two league matches, they were beaten 2-0 by Rennes and then given a scare by Angers, needing a late Mbappe penalty to save themselves. That said, Marseille are not shy of conceding goals, either.

John’s bet: Marseille to win and both teams to score @ 13/2

Arminia Bielefeld v Borussia Dortmund, Bundesliga – 2.30pm Saturday

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It took eight matches to shake itself down but it looks as if the Bundesliga title race will be the usual power struggle between Bayern and Dortmund. RB Leipzig are in a malaise under Jesse Marsch and Bayer Levekusen fluffed their lines last week in losing 5-1 to the eternal champions.

On the evidence of Tuesday’s 4-0 hammering by Ajax, Dortmund continue to be waylaid by defensive problems that belie the level of talent available to Marco Rose. After that punishment in Amsterdam, a trip to second-bottom Arminia may be just the ticket to repair their lost confidence.

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

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 18+, always gamble responsibly. For more information, see  

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