Conte to show Man United what they missed out on: John Brewin's standout matches

More previews and tips from around the continent in the latest edition of European Eye.

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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.

On Saturday, the Old Trafford faithful will get to watch a man who could very easily have become Man United manager roam the touchline.

Manchester United v Tottenham Hotspur, Premier League – 5.30pm Saturday

london-england-19th-december-2021-antonio-conte-manager-of-tottenham-hotspur-celebrates-after-son-heung-min-of-tottenham-hotspur-scores-to-make-it-2-2-during-the-premier-league-match-at-the-totten Spurs manager Antonio Conte. Source: Alamy Stock Photo

There are those Manchester United fans who think their club messed up in not plumping for Antonio Conte rather than putting Ralf Rangnick in charge of what was supposed to be a great reset, but has instead looked as chaotic as what came before.

There is even talk among certain insiders that Conte chose to be Spurs manager to show United what they might be missing.

And Saturday’s trip to Old Trafford offers just such a chance. United are hurting after last Sunday’s thrashing by Manchester City, this week yet another in which the very fabric of the club is being questioned.

Marcus Rashford added to the list of unsettling elements after it was made known he was considering his future because of a lack of game time. Not that he made much use of his second-half opportunity at the Etihad; he was just as indolent and ineffective as the rest of them.

Having hammered Everton 5-0 on Monday, Tottenham cannot expect Saturday’s opposition to be as obliging as Frank Lampard’s beleaguered Toffees. Harry Kane and Heung-min Son were offered the freedom of White Hart Lane and Ireland’s Matt Doherty was given space to show off his creative talents, with Dejan Kulusevski looking quite the playmaker off the flanks.

manchester-uk-6th-mar-2022-marcus-rashford-of-manchester-united-during-the-premier-league-match-at-the-etihad-stadium-manchester-picture-credit-should-read-darren-staplessportimage-credit-spo Manchester United's Marcus Rashford. Source: Alamy Stock Photo

Conte’s true trademark as a manager, beyond the touchline dramatics and the off-field bust-ups, is making marked improvements to players. In matches like that Everton win and the one over Manchester City last month, those signs have been apparent, but there have also been reverses like the Burnley defeat.

Such improvements have not always been so apparent at Rangnick’s United, with talk they had tightened up defensively dashed on the rocks of the performances from Harry Maguire and Aaron Wan-Bissaka at City.

The last time Tottenham travelled to Old Trafford they won 6-1, back in October 2020, with Kane and Son running riot. The previous time the clubs faced each other this season, a 3-0 United away win, Nuno and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer were the managers.

All change since, though this match could have a significant part to play in a race for the top four that Arsenal appear to be winning.

John’s bet: Tottenham to win and both teams to score @ 5/1

Hoffenheim v Bayern Munich, Bundesliga – 2.30pm Saturday

sinsheim-germany-25th-feb-2022-soccer-bundesliga-tsg-1899-hoffenheim-vfb-stuttgart-matchday-24-prezero-arena-hoffenheims-coach-sebastian-hoeneb-gestures-credit-uwe-anspachdpa-importan Hoffenheim boss Sebastian Hoeness. Source: Alamy Stock Photo

In their first season under Julian Nagelsmann, Bayern have been rather patchy and fortunate any possible rivals for the title have been unable to put any pressure on them.

Last week, Bayern drew with Bayer Leverkusen, and Borussia Dortmund’s game with Mainz was postponed due to a Covid outbreak in their opponents’ camp.

On Saturday, Bayern take on a form team in Hoffenheim, who have won four games in succession to keep themselves in fourth above surging RB Leipzig. Their manager, Sebastian Hoeness, is Bayern royalty, as son of Dieter and nephew of Uli, and a former youth coach at FC Hollywood.

Bayern won 4-0 against Hoffenheim back in October, and are coming off a 7-1 win over Salzburg, but could find this rather tougher.

John’s bet: Hoffenheim and Bayern to draw @ 18/5

AC Milan v Empoli, Serie A – 7.45pm Saturday 

milans-french-forward-olivier-giroud-celebrates-after-scoring-a-goal-during-the-serie-a-football-match-between-ssc-napoli-and-milan-at-the-diego-armando-maradona-stadium-in-naples-southern-italy-on Olivier Giroud (centre) was the match-winner away to Napoli. Source: Alamy Stock Photo

A huge win for Milan over Napoli last week saw them take fuller control of the title race. Olivier Giroud scored the sole goal, just as he scored twice against Inter in February. 

However, the Rossoneri’s hold on their destiny is not complete as Inter still have a game in hand.

A Milan victory over mid-table Empoli, without a win in five matches, would put pressure on Inter ahead of their Sunday night fixture with Torino. Milan won 4-2 in Tuscany just before Christmas, and must fancy a similar result at San Siro.

John’s bet: Milan to beat Empoli and Giroud to score anytime @ 11/10

Brentford v Burnley, Premier League – 3pm Saturday

christian-eriksen-of-brentford-norwich-city-v-brentford-premier-league-carrow-road-norwich-uk-5th-march-2022editorial-use-only-dataco-restrictions-apply Christian Eriksen has made a welcome return to football at Brentford. Source: Alamy Stock Photo

We are fully amid the six-pointer season in the Premier League battle against relegation. Those around the drop zone need to pick points up from somewhere.

Of the last 15 matches the bottom five in the Premier League have played, just two points have been collected, and that includes Burnley, whose recent revival was halted by defeats to Chelsea and Leicester — six goals conceded and none scored.

Brentford had looked more than likely to join the bottom three, having been on a ruinous run of form, only to win at hopeless Norwich last week and they appear relatively comfortable in 15th.

Should they beat Burnley, they can enjoy even more comfort. The Clarets have won just one away game all season.

John’s bet: Brentford to beat Burnley and both teams to score @ 9/2

Montpellier v Nice, Ligue 1 – 4pm Saturday

soccer-football-ligue-1-ogc-nice-v-paris-st-germain-allianz-riviera-nice-france-march-5-2022-ogc-nices-andy-delort-celebrates-scoring-their-first-goal-with-teammates-as-paris-st-germains The Nice players celebrate Andy Delort's goal against PSG. Source: Alamy Stock Photo

Last week saw a late goal from Andy Delort shock Paris Saint-Germain and reduce the lead at the top of the table to 13 points, OK, the chances of that deficit being made up are very distant indeed but Nice are the coming force in Ligue 1. 

That is thanks to a combination of an excellent coach in Christophe Galtier, and good players like Delort, Amine Gouiri, Kasper Dolberg, Justin Kluivert and Khéphren Thuram-Ulien.

With PSG’s attentions averted by the Champions League and Marseille having wobbled against Monaco last week, Nice can put pressure on both and take command of second place. Montpellier have taken just one win in five, losing the other four.

John’s bet: Nice to beat Montpellier @ 13/10

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 williamhill.com. 18+, always gamble responsibly. For more information, see gamblingtherapy.org   

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