Friday, 2 October 2020

Matches to look out for in Europe this weekend


There are two huge games in Italy, while Sevilla go to the Camp Nou, Bayern Munich look to return to winning ways in the Bundesliga and two of France's greatest rivals meet on Sunday. picks out some of the standout action in Europe this weekend:


Juventus v Napoli, Sunday

Juventus had Cristiano Ronaldo to thank when they drew at Roma last weekend and the Serie A champions face what looks like another major test when they entertain Napoli.

The sides have developed quite a rivalry in recent years, with Napoli finishing runners-up to Juve in three of the previous four campaigns prior to last season, when Gennaro Gattuso's side came seventh but beat the Turin giants in the Italian Cup final.

Napoli beat Juventus at home in their last Serie A meeting in January, and lost a thriller 4-3 when they last went to Turin.

Gattuso's side have also started this season superbly, trouncing Genoa 6-0 last weekend to make it two wins from two.

That suggests they should make life difficult for Juve and their novice coach, Andrea Pirlo. However, it all may hinge on Napoli avoiding a cluster of coronavirus cases after last week's opponents Genoa revealed 15 positives and had their game against Torino on Saturday called off.


Lazio v Inter Milan, Sunday

Inter are another side hoping to end the Juventus stranglehold this season and Antonio Conte's team have enjoyed quite a start, scoring nine goals in two games in beating Fiorentina (4-3) and Benevento (5-2). Romelu Lukaku has three goals to his name already.

A 2-1 defeat at Lazio was a hammer blow to Inter's hopes last season, but they may fancy their chances of revenge on Sunday with their hosts on the rebound from a 4-1 hammering by Atalanta. Goals should be expected at the Stadio Olimpico.


Barcelona v Sevilla, Sunday

At institutional level Barcelona may be in crisis but they remain a formidable team at home, even with no fans inside the Camp Nou. That was proven when they thumped Villarreal 4-0 last weekend in their first La Liga game under Ronald Koeman, and their first since the Lionel Messi transfer saga.

Sevilla, last season's Europa League winners, will hope to fare better and show they can close the gap to Spain's giants. With neither Barcelona nor Real Madrid as strong as they once were, maybe this will be a rare year when someone else can pip them to the title? Sevilla are seen as the most likely challengers after Atletico Madrid, and Sunday will give them an idea of where they really stand.


Bayern Munich v Hertha Berlin, Sunday

Last weekend Bayern were humbled 4-1 by Hoffenheim, ending a run of 23 straight wins. But the European champions have had a good few days since, beating Borussia Dortmund in the German Super Cup to claim their fifth trophy of 2020, before Robert Lewandowski won the Uefa men's player of the year and coach Hansi Flick won the coach's award.

The Hoffenheim debacle was surely a blip, but Hertha may provide Bayern with another stern examination. The club from the capital have spent more than 100 million euros on new signings in the last two transfer windows. They will want European qualification for such an outlay, although perhaps this game will simply remind them of how far they remain behind the best in Germany.


Lyon v Marseille, Sunday

These teams hate each other and the presence of Rudi Garcia, the former Marseille coach, on the Lyon bench adds spice to the occasion. It is just a shame there won't be a full house for the occasion, and that neither side is likely to challenge Paris Saint-Germain's supremacy over the course of a French season.

Marseille were runners-up last season and Andre Villas-Boas' side are hoping to build on that this time, while Lyon are at something of a crossroads, not in Europe for the first time in almost a quarter of a century and at risk of losing star players Houssem Aouar and Memphis Depay before Monday's transfer deadline.

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