Dramatic derbies in Serie A and La Liga as Champions League battles begin to heat up around Europe

A number of teams in the chasing packs face off this weekend before the international break

Karl Matchett
Saturday 06 November 2021 09:46

Another midweek bout of Continental action, we return to domestic matters once more in LaLiga, Serie A and beyond - before clubs face another two-week break for the final international break of the calendar year.

As usual, every club will want to take a break on a high - but it’ll be rather more difficult for some than others with a number of big rivalries and top-of-the-table fixtures to look out for around Europe.

Barcelona will take the eye as they appoint Xavi as their new manager, of course, but he won’t be in the hotseat for their trip to Celta Vigo in any case and the big game in Spain is much farther south.

It’s derbies, derbies everywhere, and valuable points at stake between those both close geographically and by points in their respective leagues.

Here are all the matches and storylines to watch out for this weekend.

Title aspirations and a penultimate chapter of history

We start with the Milan derby on Sunday night, AC hosting Inter in the San Siro - one of the final editions of the Derby della Madonnina we’ll witness in the historic ground, before the two clubs switch to a new stadium.

This is a clash between challengers and champions, with the nerazzurri overhauling the rossoneri toward the end of 2020/21 to claim the title - but perhaps Stefano Pioli’s side are better-equipped to go the distance this time around. After an impressive 2-1 win over Roma last time out they remain joint-top of Serie A, level with Napoli and a full seven points clear of third-place Inter.

Questions are still being asked of Antonio Conte’s successor Simone Inzaghi and the most emphatic way he could answer them would be to see off his city rivals, becoming the first domestic team to beat them this season.

Not quite as stressful but perhaps a more enjoyable encounter for that will be Juventus against Fiorentina the day before.

After an upturn in form, Juve are now three without a win and ninth in the table - La Viola are two places and three points better off, with forward Dusan Vlahovic again drawing headlines after a hat-trick last time out. Transfer rumours continue to suggest he could be on the move in the winter window, with his weekend opponents one of many teams linked with a move.

Passion and points in the south

Over in Spain, the weekend derby is fifth against third and one of the most ferocious and spectacular rivalries in all of Europe, which somehow seems to remain underrated: Real Betis against Sevilla, down in Andalucia.

For most of the past five seasons, Sevilla have been European contenders and Betis wavering between a top-six or a bottom-six side; this time around it’s the former and they look well-set to make it a sustained challenge for a Europa League place at worst. That, of course, is somewhat aided by the scale of Barcelona’s drop-off, but los verdiblancos can still go level with their rivals and remain in the tight-knit group at the top if they take victory here.

Nabil Fekir, Willian Jose and Guido Rodriguez have shone with Real Betis this term

Their Sunday night challenge is made more difficult by coming into the game off back-to-back defeats in league and Europe, while Julen Lopetegui’s side were beaten by Lille in the Champions League.

For another potentially romantic storyline in Spain, don’t rule out a Rayo Vallecano shock of Real Madrid on Saturday night. Radamel Falcao and Co saw off Barcelona just a couple of weeks ago, and Carlo Ancelotti’s team haven’t won successive LaLiga matches since September.

Best of the rest

There’s a host of choice for what else to watch this weekend, with the best viewing for goals, excitement and development of insanely talented youngsters unquestionably taking place in Germany: RB Leipzig hosting Borussia Dortmund in the Bundesliga at 5:30pm GMT on Saturday.

Some of the brilliant players who will be on show are in fantastic form right now - Christopher Nkunku and Jude Bellingham are the pick from either club - even if as a collective, both sides are lacking consistency.

Around the rest of Europe, it’s a battle in and around the final Champions League places - or the play-off spot, for those leagues which have it.

Turkey’s Super Lig sees Besiktas (fourth) host Trabzonspor (top) on Saturday afternoon, in the Russian Premier League it’s Sochi (third) vs. CSKA Moscow (fourth) at the same time and in Portugal, the big Primeira Liga clash is late on Sunday, with Benfica (third) against Braga (fourth).

As ever, there’s no shortage of quality and excitement on offer.

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