Madrid's big two face off and Gerrard returns to Liverpool: John Brewin's standout matches

Leaders Real Madrid have the upper hand on defending champions Atleti and other talking points from around the continent in 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. 

This week’s preview includes the Spanish capital’s major derby and a return to Anfield for club legend Steven Gerrard.

Real Madrid v Atletico Madrid, La Liga – 8pm Sunday

karim-benzema-of-real-madrid-and-jorge-resurreccion-koke-of-atletico-de-madrid-during-the-spanish-championship-la-liga-football-match-between-atletico-de-madrid-and-real-madrid-on-march-7-2021-at-w Madrid rivals Karim Benzema (left) and Koke. Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

Last season’s La Liga champions only narrowly squeaked into the last 16 of the Champions League. It took late goals from Angel Correa and Rodrigo De Paul for Atletico to beat Porto in a match that is best remembered for some A-class shithousery when Matheus Cunha got Wendell sent off.

Their historic rivals had no such trouble, Real beat Inter Milan impressively to top their group, and continue to show the form that keeps them top of the Liga table. Victory in the Madrid derby would make it ten wins in succession for Carlo Ancelotti’s team, a run of form that seemed beyond the wobbling mess he inherited last summer.

That’s not even halfway to the 22-match run he took his 2014-15 team to, though that was an all-star team even if it lost out on the Liga title to a brilliant Barcelona side.

The current Real is a combination of ageing stars like the evergreen Karim Benzema (who is an injury doubt), Luka Modric and Toni Kroos, plus the next-gen likes of Vini Jr, Eduardo Camavinga and Rodrygo, while David Alaba, one of just two summer signings, has added class to the defence.

With Barca languishing and now out of the Champions League, lying in fourth place represents a poor title defence from Atleti, who look exhausted from the efforts of last season.

Luis Suarez limping off against Porto, and his subsequent tears, was a reminder of the wear and tear that playing for Diego Simeone can exert, particularly if you are a near-35-year-old with so many miles on the clock. At least Cunha, in the Wendell incident, was able to replicate the old master’s dark arts.

madrid-spain-4th-dec-2021-l-r-matheus-cunha-diego-simeone-atletico-footballsoccer-cunha-and-simeone-celebrate-after-cunhas-goal-during-spanish-la-liga-santander-match-between-club-atlet Matheus Cunha high-fives Atleti boss Diego Simeone. Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

Suarez will miss this weekend and perhaps the next according to reports in Madrid, and that places pressure on Antoine Griezmann, another of the veterans, who has at least started to score goals again – notching one at Porto.

Even last season, when Atletico front-ran to the title, Real had their number in drawing 1-1 at the Wanda Metropolitano, and winning 2-0 at the Bernabeu; Atleti last beat Real in La Liga way back in February 2016 when Griezmann scored the sole goal. And it is tough to see that long wait being ended this weekend.

John’s bet: Real Madrid to win and both teams to score @ 17/5

RB Leipzig v Borussia Monchengladbach, Bundesliga – 2.30pm Saturday

leipzig-germany-07th-dec-2021-football-champions-league-rb-leipzig-manchester-city-group-stage-group-a-matchday-6-at-red-bull-arena-leipzigs-andre-silva-m-celebrates-his-goal-to-make-it RB Leipzig striker Andre Silva (centre) celebrates scoring in the win over Man City. Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

A classic new manager bounce took place on Tuesday when after shelling Jesse Marsch, the American coach who just couldn’t make it work like he had at Salzburg, Leipzig beat Manchester City 2-1 in the Champions League.

Achim Beierlorzer is the interim manager at the moment but Domenico Tedesco is the new man coming in, who was the last coach to make Schalke look halfway decent and was most recently at Spartak Moscow.

He has quite the salvage job at Leipzig, though it is by no means irretrievable with Leipzig, in 11th, sitting just seven points off fourth place. Gladbach are level on points amid a mid-table morass, but coming off heavy defeats to Cologne (4-1) and Freiburg (6-0), look ideal for either interim or new man to take advantage of.

John’s bet: Leipzig to score in both halves @ 13/10

Liverpool v Aston Villa, Premier League – 3pm Saturday 

birmingham-uk-05th-dec-2021-steven-gerrard-the-manager-of-aston-villa-fc-r-with-john-mcginn-of-aston-villa-after-the-game-premier-league-match-aston-villa-v-leicester-city-at-villa-park-in-bi Villa boss Steven Gerrard pictured with John McGinn. Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

Stevie G, once again ferrying ‘cross the Mersey because this land’s the place he loves. It’s the most eye-catching fixture of what is not a vintage round in the Premier League.

Liverpool look red hot, having come off six wins from six in the Champions League group stage and a handy late win at Wolves last weekend.

Having given Manchester City a scare on 1 December and then won the other three of their last four matches, Villa are no pushovers and play aggressively, in the chosen fashion of their manager.

Villa beat Liverpool 7-2 last season amid the pandemic lockdown but have a poor record at Anfield, last winning there in September 2014.

John’s bet: Mohamed Salah to score two or more @ 3/1

Udinese v AC Milan, Serie A – 7.45pm Saturday 

milan-italy-7th-december-2021-franck-kessie-of-ac-milan-is-closed-down-by-ibrahima-konate-of-liverpool-during-the-uefa-champions-league-match-at-giuseppe-meazza-milan-picture-credit-should-read Franck Kessie of AC Milan in action against Liverpool on Tuesday night. Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

Milan top Serie A having finished rock-bottom of Liverpool’s Champions League group, an admittedly tough quartet featuring Atletico and Porto but the sense is their efforts are focused on their domestic league.

While Napoli have slipped up, Milan have stolen into first ahead of Inter – also in decent form – and the race for the Scudetto is likely to turn into one between the Milanese giants.

Udinese have not won in a month, and have conceded seven goals in their last two matches, one of them a crazy 4-4 draw with Lazio.

John’s bet: Milan and both teams to score @ 3/1

Paris Saint-Germain v Monaco, Ligue 1 – 7.45pm Sunday

coach-of-psg-mauricio-pochettino-kylian-mbappe-of-psg-during-the-french-cup-final-football-match-between-as-monaco-asm-and-paris-saint-germain-psg-on-may-19-2021-at-stade-de-france-in-saint-denis Kylian Mbappe (right) comes up against his old side as Mauricio Pochettino's men take on Monaco. Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

Perhaps Lionel Messi might finally be waking up in Paris. Perhaps the Parisian traffic problems he has repeatedly complained about have stopped unsettling his rhythm.

His long-range goal against Club Brugge was from the old playbook, and he followed that up with a penalty. Still, those were the first goals in five matches and it was Brugge after all.

Kylian Mbappe was in the goals too, scoring twice by the seventh minute and it was something of a shock he didn’t score at least a hat-trick. His future is still up in the air, with talk he may even stay in Paris but he comes up against his old club on Saturday.

Monaco are on a decent enough run, unbeaten in five, with impressive wins over Metz and Angers. PSG drew their last two while Monaco won all three meetings between the the sides last season.

John’s bet: PSG and Monaco to draw @ 15/4

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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