It’s a huge weekend in European football filled with massive games — headlined by both El Clasico in Spain and the Derby d’Italia between Inter and Juventus taking place on Sunday.
Barcelona v Real Madrid, Sunday 3.15pm
It’s one of the biggest games in the world but Sunday’s El Clasico seems even bigger this season given the financial strife Barcelona continue to struggle from as they welcome fierce rivals Real Madrid to the Nou Camp.
Ronald Koeman has been roundly criticised for some of Barca’s displays this season, even though that’s a bit harsh considering he’s in charge of what essentially is a sinking ship of a club — and he’s managed to keep their heads just above water after all.
A win on Sunday, in fact, would take them above Real Madrid and fire them right into the title picture, which right now is a wide-open affair with Real Sociedad surprise leaders but with four teams sitting just one win behind them.
Defeat for Barca though would make Koeman just the second manager ever to lose his first three El Clasicos and pile even more pressure on his already perilous position as manager.
"The difference is that Madrid is made and Barca is born."
The rivalry runs deep between these two sides 😤
— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) October 22, 2021
Real Madrid are unbeaten in four against Barca (W3 D1) but Carlo Ancelotti’s side have suffered back-to-back bad results in the league with a draw against Villarreal followed by defeat at Espanyol — while Ancelotti is without a win in five visits to the Nou Camp.
There’s some history on the line for Real as well as they could win consecutive games at Barca for just the third time if they can claim a fourth straight El Clasico for the first time since 1965.
Barca have scored in 34 of their last 35 games at home and carrying that burden will be Memphis Depay and youngster Ansu Fati, but this could be the game Sergio Aguero truly marks his arrival at the club, even if off the bench.
Karim Benzema obviously leads the way for Real Madrid as the league’s top scorer but football being football this could be all set up for Aguero to steal the show at some point. He’s 13/10 to score on Sunday with Barcelona a big price at 17/10, but if they can have a packed-out crowd behind them they could get a huge win that could just mark the turning point in their season.
Roma v Napoli, Sunday 5pm
There’s not a bad warm-up game to Italy’s big derby on Sunday as Serie A leaders Napoli put their 100 percent record on the line against a Roma side that will still have a furious Jose Mourinho ringing in their ears after their embarrassing Europa Conference League defeat on Thursday.
Mourinho just doesn’t lose games 6-1 regardless of what team he’s managing or how many changes he makes, and the starting XI will be left in no doubt as to what’s expected as fourth-placed Roma look to end Napoli’s winning start at eight matches.
Roma themselves hold the record for the best winning start to a Serie A season at 10 games and they’d love to be the team to stop their ‘Derby del Sole’ rivals Napoli from equalling or even eclipsing that winning run. It may not make the headlines of some of the big northern Italian derbies but this is still a big rivalry game between the two giants of southern Italy.
Calling all #Giallorossi and #Azzurri—this one is for you! #SerieA Derby del Sole 🇮🇹 THIS SUNDAY 11:55a/et on #TLNTV—NOW ON FREE PREVIEW 🔥⚽️ Who are you rooting for? #TLNSoccer #Derby #DerbydelSole #roma #napoli pic.twitter.com/BOx9ReWNTU
— TLNTV (@TLNTV) October 21, 2021
Napoli have won eight away league games in a row so will head to Rome with confidence — they were the last team to beat Roma at the Stadio Olimpico back in March with the hosts winning the last nine in a row on their home patch.
It’s so tough to pick a winner here given their records and the draw at 5/2 will be a popular option with the stakes so high and with Mourinho’s usual approach in big games.
If anyone can find a breakthrough it could be Napoli’s Dries Mertens, who scored in both games against Roma last season — including two in the first half in this corresponding fixture — so it’d be no surprise if he popped up with a goal at 5/4.
Inter Milan v Juventus, Sunday 7.45pm
From the tasty starter we move on to the mouth-watering main course as two giants of Italian football renew their Derby d’Italia rivalry with neither of them as close to league leaders Napoli as they would like after mixed starts to the season.
Inter ended Juve’s streak of nine consecutive league titles by winning the Scudetto last season but then had to sell Romelu Lukaku and saw manager Antonio Conte depart and it seems a case this season of just trying to hang on to a Champions League place.
They lost their first game of the season last week to Lazio to drop to third and seven points off top spot, with Juve a further three points back down in seventh at the start of this round of fixtures after they’ve recorded four straight wins to claw back from a horror start.
DEL PIEROOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!! 😛
The best ever Derby d'Italia moment? 🇮🇹⚪️⚫️
— JuventusFC (@juventusfcen) March 7, 2020
It could be the start of the Old Lady warming up after suffering the shock loss of Cristiano Ronaldo at the start of the campaign, with successive 1-0 wins showing that they’re trying to build their success on a solid defence first and foremost.
Inter’s games at the San Siro have provided an average of five goals per game so far this season so Juve’s defensive mindset will be tested, and it’s usually a lot tighter in these derby games with only one of the last 15 featuring four goals or more.
Scoring only 12 goals will be a worry for Juve boss Max Allegri — Moise Kean is more likely than most of scoring given he’s got the opener inside half an hour in two of their four wins, while Inter have banged in 23 as the league’s top scorers with Edin Dzeko scoring six in seven.
Results have been mixed in these meetings but a recent constant has been the vast amount of bookings in what’s always a hotly-contested derby. They played four times last season with an average of 6.75 yellow cards per game — it’s 7/5 on another six cards being produced.
This one has the makings of a tight draw at 13/5.
Marseille v PSG, Sunday 7.45pm
The big games just keep on coming as the French Ligue 1 sees it’s ‘Le Classique’ between Marseille and PSG taking place for the 97th time on Sunday evening.
The Velodrome will be absolutely jumping for this battle with now Lionel Messi thrown into the mix of this ferocious derby game between the two biggest sides in France who have 19 league titles between them.
Qatar’s investment in PSG has seen them open up a big gap between themselves and Marseille more recently, but that has only served to intensify the rivalry between supporters and there’s a real and genuine loathing of each other that can often turn things nasty both on and off the field.
One mass brawl and 𝐅𝐈𝐕𝐄 red cards! 😳
Who could forget the last meeting between PSG and Marseille?
Tonight they renew their rivalry in the Trophee Des Champions 🏆
📺 BT Sport 2 HD, 7.45pmpic.twitter.com/3yZfmEju9I
— Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball) January 13, 2021
L’OM will hope that the old adage of form going out of the window in derby games rings true as they’re on a poor run of just one win in six, and although they’re third in the table they’re 10 points behind PSG — albeit with a game in hand.
Mauricio Pochettino’s side did lose at Rennes recently though, so it gives the hosts hope of a rare victory having won just one of the last 21 meetings over the last decade.
That victory did come last season though in what was an incredibly bad-tempered affair that saw 14 yellow cards and five reds altogether after a late fight broke out between two teams with plenty of hot heads on either side.
With Neymar possibly returning that adds further fuel to the fire but regardless Marseille will be out to stop Messi and Mbappe at all costs, so count on there being plenty of bookings again — over six cards at 15/8 looks a steal while PSG to score a penalty at 3/1 is also recommended.