Inter Milan vs Juventus, Borussia Dortmund’s opportunity, Barcelona’s final and what to watch around Europe

The Blaugrana face Athletic Club in the Super Cup final in Sevilla, while there is also the Rome derby in Italy

Karl Matchett
Friday 15 January 2021 14:36
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The best of Kulusevski at Juventus so far

While the Premier League has plenty of big games to look forward to this weekend, the rest of Europe’s big leagues also have entertainment to provide, with crunch clashes in Serie A taking top billing.

In Spain, LaLiga takes a back seat for a weekend of Copa del Rey action, but the Bundesliga throws up a few key fixtures which could continue to shape the title race and the battle for Champions League spots.

READ MORE: Champions League fixtures and standings — all matches by date and kick-off time

This week we also take a look at a couple of big clashes outside the major leagues, with an eye on either potential Premier League transfers or upcoming European competition rivals.

Here’s everything to watch for around Europe ahead of the weekend.

Derby weekend in Italy

Over in Serie A, AC Milan are flying high and searching for their first league title since 2011. They don’t play until Monday night, though, and will be hoping for the chance to increase their lead over at least one title rival, with the Derby d’Italia taking place on Sunday afternoon.

Juventus visit Inter Milan knowing they are playing catch-up, but also having hit their stride somewhat of late. Andrea Pirlo’s team are fourth, four points behind Inter and a further three off AC, but have a game in hand and are on a three-game win streak as the rookie manager continues to impress and confuse in almost-equal measure with some of his in-game changes.

Federico Chiesa is growing in influence from the wing, left-back Gianluca Frabotta keeps impressing going forward when given the chance and the rotating midfield cast means competition for places is keeping everyone at a high level.

Federico Chiesa of Juventus

Inter have failed to win either of their last two games, but Antonio Conte’s tactical nous and experience on the sidelines could be a deciding factor in this huge match-up.

On Friday night the Rome derby also takes place, Lazio hosting Roma - for what that’s worth, given they share a stadium and no fans will be there. Ciro Immobile is once again free-scoring this term, but a lack of depth and injuries to the likes of Joaquin Correa have been costly.

This game is likely to be one determined by which set of wing-backs impress most in either half of the pitch; Lazio’s Manuel Lazzari has been in good form down the right, but the Roma link-up between Rick Karsdorp and Lorenzo Pellegrini down their own right flank can be a match-winning combination.

Opportunity knocks for Dortmund

In Germany, Borussia Dortmund have been terribly inconsistent this season, contributing to them being five points off the pace and fourth in the table - but they might sense a chance to close the gap this weekend.

It’s a meeting of Jurgen Klopp’s former sides as BVB host bottom club Mainz, and after successive wins against top-four rivals, Dortmund simply have to find the edge in their game against the league’s lesser sides if they are to sustain a title fight. Jadon Sancho’s recent return to form should aid that push, as well as the record-breaking scoring rate of Erling Haaland.

Erling Haaland of Borussia Dortmund

Meanwhile, leaders Bayern Munich face a very tricky match, at home to Freiburg who are the Bundesliga’s most in-form side, on a run of five successive victories. Admittedly, those wins have all come against bottom-half clubs, but confidence is high and Christian Streich’s side will be hopeful of causing an upset against Hansi Flick’s champions, who lost last time out.

Former Manchester United defender Timothy Fosu-Mensah’s new team, Bayer Leverkusen, could go second on Friday night with a win over fifth-place Union Berlin, who themselves have two players in the squad on loan from United’s rivals Liverpool. Taiwo Awoniyi has been a striker in good form there, but goalkeeper Loris Karius is without a league appearance this season.

Sunday evening’s game is also of interest, with Eintracht Frankfurt having brought back Luka Jovic on loan from Real Madrid. If he reignites his old link-up with wide man Filip Kostic, it could be another long day at the office for Schalke - even if they are fresh from their first win of the season.

Best of the rest

It’s cup action in Spain this week, with the tie to watch out for in the Copa del Rey probably the all-Andalucian clash of Malaga against Granada on Sunday. The biggest clubs don’t play until midweek though, as they face Super Cup action instead.

Barcelona are in the final after beating Real Sociedad in a penalty shoot-out, where they’ll face Athletic Club, who edged past Real Madrid. The final takes place on Sunday, in Sevilla.

Elsewhere, Mauricio Pochettino’s PSG side are the only one of the top three - all in the title race at present - in Ligue 1 who are away from home, but they’ll be optimistic about beating Angers having just won the Trophee des Champions in midweek.

And over in Portugal, second hosts third as Porto and Benfica go head-to-head in a clash which can often define the destination of the Liga NOS title - though both teams trail Sporting CP this season by four points ahead of the weekend.

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