Little between them as Premier League's title rivals collide: John Brewin's unmissable matches

Here’s a rundown of the fixtures worth paying close attention to this weekend.

Brewin banner

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.

This week, the Premier League’s top two face off in a game that could have a big impact on where the title ends up this season. 

Manchester City v Liverpool, Premier League – 4.30pm Sunday

liverpool-v-manchester-city-premier-league-anfield Kevin De Bruyne (right) and Virgil van Dijk at Anfield back in October. PA PA

The hype has been bubbling for weeks, even overshadowing both clubs’ ventures into the Champions League on Tuesday. Liverpool’s stroll at Benfica and City’s grapple with Atletico Madrid felt like warm-up matches to the main event.

It will probably be a disappointment. Such matches often are, where a draw is accepted and the title rivals hopes the other slips up in the run-in. However, these matches can be crucial as the 2018-19 showdown between these two proved in that record-breaking season.

City beat Liverpool 2-1 via goals from Sergio Aguero and Leroy Sane, a goal-line clearance from John Stones and what looked a red card for Vincent Kompany but wasn’t. That was the Rizla-thin difference between the clubs by the end of the campaign.

And that hasn’t been forgotten by Liverpool fans, some of whom have spent much of the week catastrophising over the selection of referee Anthony Taylor and VAR Paul Tierney, both of them from Greater Manchester.

For the record, Taylor hails from Altrincham and supports his local non-league club while Tierney is from United heartland Salford. Liverpool average 1.89 points per game when Taylor referees and 2.31 points per game in games he doesn’t, say the tinfoil twitchers. For Tierney, it’s 1.9 points.

norwich-city-v-brentford-premier-league-carrow-road Referee Anthony Taylor. PA PA

The actual difference will be made from among the teams, both of whom are on fine runs of form, though Liverpool’s stretch of all wins since 19 December is stunning. They have made dismissive, short work of opponents – breezing to wins over Watford, Arsenal and Brighton in recent weeks with barely any sweat broken.

City have looked a tad shakier, their loss to Tottenham and goalless draw with Crystal Palace slowing down what appeared a stroll to the title.

The question is whether Pep Guardiola manages to overthink this one, as he has been known to do in the Champions League.

The meeting between the two earlier in the season, refereed by Tierney, was an anarchic affair, requiring a Kevin De Bruyne equaliser, with Mo Salah and Phil Foden both shining bright. More of the same cannot be ruled out.

John’s bet: City and Liverpool to draw and both teams to score @ 7/2

Inter Milan v Verona, Serie A – 5pm Saturday

turin-italy-03rd-april-2022-hakan-calhanoglu-20-of-inter-scores-on-a-penalty-during-the-serie-a-match-between-juventus-and-inter-at-allianz-stadium-in-turin-photo-credit-gonzales-photo-tomm Inter midfielder Hakan Calhanoglu scores from the spot in the win over Juventus. Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

Inter are back in the title race, their win at Juventus last weekend batting back the Old Lady’s surge into the reckoning. Hakan Calhanoglu’s retaken penalty breathed life into the defending champions’ challenge, a fine response to Napoli’s earlier defeat of Atalanta.

Victory in San Siro is required to close the gap on Milan to a point, with Inter retaining their game in hand on their neighbours. Edin Dzeko has gone a month without scoring in Serie A, while Lautaro Martinez also hasn’t scored since the same game, a 5-0 win over doomed Salternitana. They may need to rediscover their touch if a slip against ninth-placed Verona doesn’t occur.

John’s bet: Inter and Verona to draw @ 19/5

Torino v AC Milan, Serie A – 7.45pm Sunday 

milan-italy-4th-april-2022-zlatan-ibrahimovic-of-ac-milan-looks-on-whilst-wearing-a-bandage-to-cover-a-wound-to-his-eyebrow-sustained-during-a-clash-of-heads-with-gary-medel-of-bologna-fc-during-t A bandaged Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

Talking of slips, Milan made one on Monday night when they were held by Bologna, ending a run of three 1-0 wins in a row, as Zlatan Ibrahimovic was bandaged up after a clash of heads.

Torino are in 11th place, their only win since January coming last week over hapless Salernitana and that was only 1-0, though they did manage to hold both Inter and Juventus during that winless run.

Like Milan, they don’t score many and this has the look of narrow win, most likely for Milan in what has become such a nervy and exciting race for the Scudetto.

John’s bet: Milan to beat Torino 1-0 @ 11/2

Hertha Berlin v Union Berlin, Bundesliga – 5.30pm Saturday 

berlin-germany-19th-jan-2022-soccer-dfb-cup-hertha-bsc-1-fc-union-berlin-round-of-16-olympiastadion-herthas-lucas-tousart-l-r-herthas-kevin-prince-boateng-and-union-berlins-sebastian Hertha's Kevin-Prince Boateng (centre) and Union's Sebastian Griesbeck (right) during January's Berlin derby. Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

How’s about this for a derby of great importance? Hertha are the capital city’s traditional power but hardly one of the great forces of the Bundesliga.

Union are the hipster’s choice, the smaller club but who finished above their rivals last season, having only ended the previous season behind them on goal difference.

The Berlin clubs have played each other twice already this season, a 2-0 Union win at the Stadion an der Alten Forsterei was followed up by a 3-2 German Cup win for Union in the Olympiastadion.

Union’s hopes of making Europe next season are in the balance, with Hoffenheim three points ahead in sixth. Victory at Hertha would also deepen the trouble for their rivals in second-bottom.

John’s bet: Union to win at Hertha @ 8/5

Norwich v Burnley, Premier League – 2pm Sunday

burnley-england-6th-april-2022-jay-rodriguez-of-burnley-celebrates-scoring-their-second-goal-during-the-premier-league-match-at-turf-moor-burnley-picture-credit-should-read-andrew-yates-spor Burley's Jay Rodriguez (right) celebrates his goal against Everton alongside team-mate Aaron Lennon. Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

Burnley’s Wednesday night defeat of Everton drew Frank Lampard’s team into the mire, and gave rise to real hope for Sean Dyche.

Can he pull it off again? It was just the fourth win of the season, but it was one that further deepened the plight of Norwich, down at the very bottom.

While everyone else was losing, the Canaries had some hope of finding form with a late run, even if that has looked beyond them all season long. With Everton at Manchester United in the early kick-off on Saturday, this weekend could present Burnley’s chance to climb out of the bottom three for the first time since 29 August.

John’s bet: Burnley to beat Norwich @ 8/5

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  

Your Voice
Readers Comments
This is YOUR comments community. Stay civil, stay constructive, stay on topic. Please familiarise yourself with our comments policy here before taking part.
Leave a Comment
    Submit a report
    Please help us understand how this comment violates our community guidelines.
    Thank you for the feedback
    Your feedback has been sent to our team for review.

    Leave a commentcancel