Alamy Stock Photo Cristiano Ronaldo scoring a free-kick the last time he played in a Manchester derby, back in May 2009.

Derbies in Manchester, Milan and Seville, plus Conte is back: John Brewin's unmissable matches

Our football expert brings you previews and predictions 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 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, city rivals meet in a number of high-profile derbies, while there’s a surprise package in Germany and Tottenham get their man.

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Manchester United v Manchester City, Premier League – 12.30pm Saturday 

The Ole Gunnar Solskjaer roadshow rolls on. You know the script by now: Manchester United play badly and then Cristiano Ronaldo rescues them. But will that be enough against the defending champions?

Probably not, and despite no longer having Antonio Conte as a stalking horse, a heavy defeat should endanger Ole’s job prospects even if the Glazer family and their minions seem reluctant to think about pushing the button.

In Pep Guardiola, Solskjaer comes up against a manager who he actually has a rather decent record against. Of eight matches played, the Norwegian has won four, lost three and drawn one. Why would that be?

One idea is that for all of Guardiola’s famed pre-planning he cannot take one thing into account: if Solskjaer’s team don’t know how they are going to play, then how can their opposition?

A more studied point of view might be that Guardiola’s team’s defensive high lines are easier to play against on the counter, which has usually been United’s mode of victory over City in recent years.

manchester-united-manager-ole-gunnar-solskjaer-left-and-manchester-city-manager-pep-guardiola-clash-during-the-premier-league-match-at-the-etihad-stadium-manchester-picture-date-sunday-march-7-2 Alamy Stock Photo Messrs Solskjaer and Guardiola. Alamy Stock Photo

The problem being now, of course, that Ronaldo’s presence has slowed United down somewhat.
Though that would not be their greatest vulnerability; the latest injury to Raphael Varane could be costly considering the form of Harry Maguire and the calming effect Varane had at Tottenham last week when United reverted to a back three, and pretty successfully.

Not that City are in the rarest of form at the moment. Last week’s defeat to Crystal Palace was a shock, but it did reveal that susceptibility to speedy attackers, and a continuing problem with scoring enough goals.

When the goals do come, they tend to come in gluts, but the sense of playing out a season without a recognised centre-forward must continue to be questioned. When Kevin De Bruyne is out of form and Jack Grealish is yet to look fully comfortable then the City machine is not quite working as Guardiola would like.

Where United are concerned, chaos is never too far away but this could actually be a low-amped affair. If United are capable of playing in any way defensively, it looks the best way for Ole to escape the latest exploration of his continuing presence as United manager.

John’s bet: Man City to win and Cristiano Ronaldo to score anytime @ 9/2

Bayern Munich v Freiburg, Bundesliga – 2.30pm Saturday

firo-02-11-2021-fuvuball-uefa-champions-league-cl-chl-season-20212022-group-stage-fc-bayern-mvonchen-benfica-lisbon-robert-lewandowski-bayern-jubilation-to-4-1 Alamy Stock Photo Bayern Munich hitman Robert Lewandowski. Alamy Stock Photo

A glance at the Bundesliga’s top four reveals a surprise package, that of Freiburg, the team from the Black Forest, newly installed in the Europa-Park Stadion, and enjoying life under club legend coach Christian Streich. Freiburg haven’t lost a game all season, not bad for a team whose top scorer is Lucas Holer, a striker who has scored just three league goals.

In ten matches, Freiburg have scored 17 goals, and conceded just seven. But here come Bayern, for whom Robert Lewandowski continues to show off his chops as Europe’s top striker, grabbing a hat-trick in Tuesday’s 5-2 defeat of Benfica. The Bayern defence, though, does look a tad shaky.

John’s bet: Bayern to win and both teams to score @ 23/20

AC Milan v Inter Milan, Serie A – 7.45pm Sunday 

milan-derby-vs-inter-championship-2020-21-in-the-photo-ibrahimovic-zlatan-ibra Alamy Stock Photo Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Inter's Marcelo Brozovic. Alamy Stock Photo

Last week at Roma, 40-year-old Zlatan Ibrahimovic was the star as Milan delivered Jose Mourinho’s first ever Serie A home defeat.

This week, having been kept on the bench until late on during the midweek draw with Porto, he will surely fancy getting one over one of his myriad former clubs.

The latest Milan derby will be a battle of second and third in the table, though the gap between Milan and Inter is seven points, and Milan are level on points with leaders Napoli. Both matches last season were an “away win” but this renewal’s San Siro hosts look in the better form.

John’s bet: AC Milan to win @ 2/1

Everton v Tottenham, Premier League – 2pm Sunday

file-photo-dated-20-08-2017-of-antonio-conte-who-has-vowed-to-create-a-tottenham-team-with-passion-and-fight-issue-date-wednesday-november-3-2021 Alamy Stock Photo Antonio Conte has returned to London. Alamy Stock Photo

How quickly can Antonio Conte turn Tottenham around? Perhaps those wild eyes and touchline gesticulations can have a rapid effect, especially when compared to what appeared the docile acceptance of Nuno.

The likes of Harry Kane will soon find they will have to run that bit harder, though the rewards can be great; Diego Costa, Romelu Lukaku and even dear Graziano Pelle were made to look like world-beaters under Conte.

Sunday’s opponents could be accommodating, particularly if Everton play like they did in Monday’s first half against Wolves. Things could be turning bad, and quickly for Rafa Benitez at Everton, though he has not been helped by injuries to key players like Dominic Calvert-Lewin.

John’s bet: Tottenham to win and both teams to score @ 4/1

Real Betis v Sevilla, La Liga – 8pm Sunday 

nabil-fekir-of-real-betis-and-jesus-navas-of-sevilla-during-the-spanish-championship-la-liga-football-match-between-sevilla-fc-and-real-betis-balompie-on-march-14-2021-at-ramon-sanchez-pizjuan-stadiu Alamy Stock Photo Nabil Fekir of Real Betis in possession with Sevilla pair Jesus Navas and Suso close by. Alamy Stock Photo

One of European football’s historic derbies takes place, with Sevilla also having their eye on a potential title challenge, with both Barcelona and Real Madrid operating as rather reduced forces.

And judging by the Seville club’s last couple of matches, the goals may well flow in. Betis’s last two Liga games were a 4-1 defeat of Valencia and a 3-0 loss to Atletico, while Sevilla beat Levante 5-3 a fortnight ago.

Both Manuel Pellegrini and Julen Lopetegui, the Betis and Sevilla managers, like to play attacking football with the handbrake off, so this seems destined to be quite a spectacle on and off the pitch.

John’s bet: Over 3.5 goals in the Seville derby @ 11/4

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

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