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Romelu Lukaku has scored debut goals for Man United, Inter Milan, Everton and West Brom.
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Lukaku is the master of debuts: John Brewin's standout matches this weekend
Our European expert picks out games from England, Italy, Spain, France and Germany in his latest column.

THE 2021/22 SEASON is up and running, and with it we are delighted to bring you a brand new weekly series.

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 week, he previews Romelu Lukaku’s return to English football after two years in Italy as European champions Chelsea face Arsenal in a London derby. 

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Arsenal v Chelsea, Premier League – 4.30pm Sunday

To draw some hasty conclusions from the Premier League’s opening weekend, Chelsea played like champions in waiting while Arsenal looked set to deliver another season of being Arsenal. We can only look forward to how the Amazon All Or Nothing documentary depicts that 2-0 defeat at Brentford.

Chelsea meanwhile, swaggered to a 3-0 win over an admittedly poor Crystal Palace, and have unearthed another youthful gem in Trevoh Chalobah. And that was achieved with Timo Werner still yet to look anything like a prolific goalscorer, making the near-€115million deal for Romelu Lukaku timely.

Arsenal do have a decent record against their London rivals, their last defeat to Chelsea coming five meetings back in December 2019. Since then, including the 2020 FA Cup final, Mikel Arteta has had Chelsea’s measure, and his team won both meetings last season, though it was only in the latter, a 1-0 away win in May, that he came up against a Thomas Tuchel-coached team.

Still, that marked a first Premier League double over Chelsea since 2004, and the first win at Stamford Bridge since 2011.

britain-soccer-premier-league Ian Walton Emile Smith Rowe's performance was one of the few positives Arsenal could take away from the Brentford defeat. Ian Walton

That match, won by a goal from Emile Smith Rowe, was a story of Chelsea dominating possession and being unable to find the net, making Lukaku’s presence yet more pertinent. Should Lukaku play after completing his move from Inter Milan, he will represent a severe test for Ben White, the €59m summer signing dominated last week by Brentford’s Ivan Toney.

Chelsea signed Lukaku, a proven goalscorer in the Premier League, give or take an indifferent second season at Manchester United, and hope that he can replicate his Serie A form, where he scored an average of 0.75 goals for every 90 minutes he was on the pitch.

His movement across the front line will also create space for Chelsea’s galaxy of further attacking talent; his Inter partner last season, Lautaro Martinez, scored 17 goals Serie A goals to Lukaku’s 24.

Lukaku scored on his debuts for West Brom, Everton, United and Inter so similar has to be expected, even if he has scored only twice against Arsenal in 15 Premier League encounters.

John’s bet: Lukaku to score anytime v Arsenal @ 21/20

Inter Milan v Genoa, Serie A – 5.30pm Saturday 

friendly-football-match-inter-fc-internazionale-vs-dinamo-kiev-monza-mb-italy Francesco Scaccianoce 35-year-old Edin Dzeko is now at Inter. Francesco Scaccianoce

Without Lukaku, last season’s Serie A champions represent a very different proposition, particularly since they will also be without departed manager Antonio Conte, and with star attacking full-back Achraf Hakimi sold on to Paris Saint-Germain.

Simone Inzaghi took on the reins of a troubled club, whose triumph last season came amid a growing financial crisis for their Chinese owners. At least he has the aforementioned Martinez in his team, for now at least, as transfer speculation continues to surround the Argentinian. Edin Dzeko, the veteran, has come in to replace Lukaku.

Genoa may at least represent helpful opposition, having lost the last six to Inter while failing to score.

John’s bet: Inter to win and Edin Dzeko to score first @ 4/1

Athletic Bilbao v Barcelona, La Liga – 9pm Saturday

spain-soccer-la-liga Joan Monfort Martin Braithwaite bagged two goals and an assist against Real Sociedad. Joan Monfort

It seems reports of Barcelona’s demise were greatly exaggerated, particularly within this column. Against Real Sociedad, the first game without Lionel Messi, after a stodgy start was broken up by a Gerard Pique headed opener, they often flowed like old, even if it was like watching the Rolling Stones without Mick Jagger.

More Basque opposition this week, a Bilbao team who were distinctly inferior to La Real last week.

Can Martin Braithwaite, who scored twice last week, continue in his role as Messi surrogate?

Two years ago, Bilbao beat a Messi-less Barca 1-0 at the San Mames, though could only draw 0-0 last week with Elche.

John’s bet: Both teams to score? No @ 21/20

Bordeaux v Angers, Ligue 1 – 2pm Sunday 

imago-20210815 Imago / PA Images Ex-Southampton forward Sofiane Boufal (right) scored for Angers in their win over Lyon. Imago / PA Images / PA Images

While Ligue 1 now features Messi — he is not expected to be fit to start for PSG when they play Brest this weekend — it also has a pair of surprise packages as early-season leaders in Clermont and Angers, the latter top on goal difference.

Angers, in north-west France, won their first two matches, beating Strasbourg and Lyon, without conceding a goal. They travel to a club that has seen better days, and has collected just one point from two matches. Bordeaux did though mount an impressive comeback to draw 2-2 at Marseille last week. As the narrow outsider, the home team may be those to back on Sunday.

John’s bet: Bordeaux to beat Angers @ 9/5

Hertha Berlin v Wolfsburg, Bundesliga – 2.30pm Saturday

imago-20210814 Imago / PA Images Wolfsburg's Dutch target man Wout Weghorst. Imago / PA Images / PA Images

Mark van Bommel’s tenure as Wolfsburg manager has not got off to the best start. This week saw his team thrown out of the German Cup when it was found he made six substitutions during a first-round win over fourth-tier Preussen Munster.

At least Van Bommel can call on Wout Weghorst, his Dutch compatriot whose goals fired the club into this season’s Champions League, and scored the winner in last week’s 1-0 defeat of Bochum.

Inter Milan are said to be circling the striker as another Lukaku replacement, with Weghorst reported to be keen on the move. Hertha, who lost 3-1 last weekend to Cologne, represent another chance to put himself in the shop window.

John’s bet: Wolfsburg to win and Weghorst to score anytime @ 9/4

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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