Klopp v Tuchel in the League Cup final and Barca look revitalised: John Brewin's standout games

Our European football expert is back with five fixtures to check out this weekend.

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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. 

This week, there’s silverware up for grabs at Wembley as recently-crowned Club World Cup champions Chelsea face an in-form Liverpool side. 

Chelsea v Liverpool, League Cup final – 4.30pm Sunday

02-january-chelsea-v-liverpool-premier-league-stamford-bridgemohamed-salah-tussles-with-antonio-rudiger-during-the-premier-league-match-at-stamford-bridgepicture-credit-mark-pain-a Liverpool's Mohamed Salah is marked by Chelsea defender Antonio Rudiger. Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

For the first time in five years, someone other than Manchester City will lift the English League Cup, and that honour will fall to one of the next best in the Premier League.

Chelsea, five-time winners and three-time runners-up, take on Liverpool, eight-times winners and four-time runners-up, with Thomas Tuchel in his fifth final in barely a year in charge at Chelsea.

He has celebrated victory in the finals of the Champions League, Super Cup and Club World Cup, but was a loser when Chelsea last visited Wembley and lost the FA Cup final to Leicester.

Jurgen Klopp takes Liverpool to only their second domestic cup final under his management, with the last coming way back in 2016 when Manchester City won on penalties. The idea of Wembley as “Anfield South” seems from the dim and distant past as Liverpool have concentrated their efforts on winning the Premier League and the Champions League.

Two German managers with very different styles of play have only met three times in English football, with a Chelsea win at Anfield in the early weeks of Tuchel’s tenure the only victory.

Both matches between them this season have been drawn. Back in August, a game shaping up to be a classic was spoiled by Reece James’ red card on half-time as Mohamed Salah scored from the penalty spot to cancel out Kai Havertz’s opener. Thereafter, Chelsea defended superbly.

file-photo-dated-28-08-2021-of-chelsea-manager-thomas-tuchel-left-and-liverpool-manager-jurgen-klopp-sundays-carabao-cup-final-will-be-billed-as-jurgen-klopp-versus-thomas-tuchel-the-guy-who-foll Thomas Tuchel and (right) Jurgen Klopp. Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

Similarly on 2 January, all the goals came in the first half in a 2-2 draw, when Matteo Kovacic and Christian Pulisic scored just before half-time to level out earlier goals from Sadio Mane and Salah.

Both teams represent different propositions now, with Liverpool in the groove and Tuchel having restored some solidity to his team.

Romelu Lukaku, so anaemic last week against Crystal Palace, seems likely to be benched unless Tuchel fancies him getting the better of Virgil van Dijk, while Klopp may have to field new signing Luis Diaz with both Diogo Jota and Roberto Firmino struggling with injury.

Just like in the league, this promises to be a tight game. Liverpool won’t have it as easy as they did against Leeds on Wednesday, and the same goes for Chelsea’s stroll past Lille.

John’s bet: Chelsea and Liverpool to be drawing after 90 mins @ 11/5

Sassuolo v Fiorentina, Serie A – 7.45pm Saturday

milan-italy-20th-february-2022-domenico-berardi-of-us-sassuolo-during-the-serie-a-match-at-giuseppe-meazza-milan-picture-credit-should-read-jonathan-moscrop-sportimage Domenico Berardi of Sassuolo. Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

Last week, Sassuolo’s 2-0 win in the San Siro denied Inter Milan the chance to go top of Serie A, and now Alessio Dionisi’s team can deny Fiorentina, who harbour hopes of playing European football next season.

It took a late Juventus goal in the Coppa Italia earlier this month to get past Sassuolo, a team of journeymen whose leading scorer, Domenico Berardi, is a former Juve player and was part of Italy’s Euro 2020-winning squad.

Gianluca Scamacca, linked with a move to Inter this summer, is another full international and scored against the Nerazzurri last week.

John’s bet: Sassuolo to beat Fiorentina @ 17/10

Vfl Bochum v RB Leipzig, Bundesliga – 2.30pm Sunday

berlin-germany-20th-feb-2022-soccer-bundesliga-hertha-bsc-rb-leipzig-matchday-23-olympiastadion-christopher-nkunku-from-rb-leipzig-plays-the-ball-credit-andreas-goradpa-important-note RB Leipzig's Christopher Nkunku. Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

Since 2022 began, no Bundesliga team has collected as many points as Leipzig (15), as the revival under Domenico Tedesco continues. Tedesco has improved his team’s defending, which was often ruinous under Jesse Marsch, and Christopher Nkunku has come to the fore as the main man in attack.

With Dani Olmo and Andre Silva as a high-class supporting cast, Leipzig are a threat to anyone in what has become a topsy-turvy division where even Bayern Munich are having a wobble.

Bochum beat Bayern 4-2 a fortnight ago, and can be a threat to Tedesco’s team but needed a last-minute penalty to draw at Stuttgart last week.

John’s bet: Leipzig to beat Bochum and both teams to score @ 11/5

Barcelona v Athletic Bilbao, La Liga – 8pm Sunday 

valencia-spain-february-20-2022-pierre-emerick-aubameyang-of-fc-barcelona-celebrates-a-goal-during-the-spanish-championship-la-liga-football-match-between-valencia-cf-and-fc-barcelona-on-february Pierre-Emerick Aubamayang bagged a hat-trick against Valencia. Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

There are signs of revival at Barca, who are top of the form table in La Liga with four wins from their last six matches and two draws.

Athletic, fresh from crushing Real Sociedad 4-0 in the Basque derby, are not far behind, having won four, drawn one and lost one of their last six.

Something will have to give, and Pierre Emerick-Aubameyang announced himself with a hat-trick in Barca’s thumping win at Valencia last week.

They last lost in La Liga on 4 December — to Betis — and have found their stride under Xavi. It’s Barcelona, though not as we know them, who may have to be fancied here.

John’s bet: Barcelona to beat Athletic Bilbao and both teams to score @ 5/2

Strasbourg v Nice, Ligue 1 – 4pm Saturday 

kevin-gameiro-of-strasbourg-celebrates-his-goal-during-the-french-championship-ligue-1-football-match-between-paris-saint-germain-and-rc-strasbourg-on-august-14-2021-at-parc-des-princes-stadium-in-pa Strasbourg striker Kevin Gameiro. Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

Under the management of the Christophe Galtier, who led Lille to the title last season, Nice are in the third and final Champions League qualifying spot in Ligue 1.

Last week’s 1-0 defeat of Angers came via a Justin Kluivert goal, and made up for being beaten 2-0 by Lyon the previous week as well as losing at home to Clermont the week before that.

Three points back, Nice’s closest challengers are Strasbourg — the northerners having a fine season considering they finished 15th last year.

Kevin Gameiro, the well-travelled former France striker, is their main man with five goals in his last five matches.

John’s bet: Kevin Gameiro to score and Strasbourg to win @ 13/5

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  

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