Andy Brassell on European Football: Pressure crosses El Clásico divide

Zinedine Zidane (left) and Ronald Koeman
Zinedine Zidane came out of El Clásico with a bigger smile than Ronald Koeman

Real Madrid's win at Barcelona on Saturday has transferred the scouting onto Ronald Koeman ahead of Champions League week, writes Andy Brassell...

"While Zidane goes to Mönchengladbach with the boost of a fit-again Eden Hazard in his squad, Ronald Koeman and Barcelona travel to Juventus on Wednesday on the back of successive defeats in La Liga."

Pressure moves from Zidane to Koeman

Not that you'd ever know it from his famously sanguine features, but Zinedine Zidane arrived at Saturday's El Clásico as the coach under pressure. After two embarrassing home defeats for Real Madrid in a matter of days to Cádiz and Shakhtar Donetsk - very different in context but equally inept in terms of performance - the talk in the capital was that a reverse in Barcelona would see the French boss playing for his future at Borussia Mönchengladbach on Tuesday night.

What a difference an afternoon makes. El Real's 3-1 at Camp Nou bore all the hallmarks of vintage Zidane-era Madrid; nothing flashy but applied, organised and resolute. The champions were deserved winners and though he made the odd decisive contribution, not least a save from Lionel Messi, their best player this season Thibaut Courtois wasn't overworked.

The boot is now on the other foot. While Zidane goes to north-west Germany with the boost of a fit-again Eden Hazard in his squad, Ronald Koeman and Barcelona travel to Juventus on Wednesday on the back of successive defeats in La Liga. The coach complained extensively about the clásico officiating, but the reality is that his team were lethargic in the second half and Koeman didn't affect his changes until too late. Against a Juve who need to respond to being held in check by Verona on Sunday, a positive result is imperative.

Back Juventus to beat Barcelona at 2.767/4

Marseille far from fluent but pose danger for City

"(Can we be) more attractive than that? That'd be tough!" André Villas-Boas laughed when questioned on whether his Marseille side could and should be a little easier on the eye after Saturday's scratchy 1-0 win at Lorient. His response contained more than a hint of irony but also signalled his pride in his team, who dug in for a much-needed win in the wind and rain of Brittany. Those fighting qualities could be vital when Manchester City visit.

Villas-Boas' current issue is in the centre-forward position, where Dario Benedetto looks out of sorts and has yet to score this season. There are few other options, with a repositioning of Florian Thauvin - a wide player but a capable goalscorer - or recalling Valère Germain, not a favourite of the coach, among them.


The big plus is that Dimitri Payet, their creative chief whose season so far has been hampered by illness and suspension, is ready to play in Europe. In Marseille's last home game in the Champions League nearly seven years ago the now-33-year-old cut a frustrated figure, booting a corner flag out of its socket on the way off after being red-carded against Borussia Dortmund. Now he makes his team tick and his delivery from set-pieces in particular could give his side something to get at City's defensive caprices with.

Back both teams to score at 1.865/6

Leipzig freer on the road

There is little arguing with RB Leipzig's start to the season. Despite losing Timo Werner and only welcoming Marcel Sabitzer back from injury in Saturday's win against Hertha Berlin, they have began well enough to lead the early Bundesliga table. At home, where they were so often frustrated by inferior opposition in the final strait of last term, there have won four out of four in all competitions.

Even if this team are evolving, it's difficult not to think Julian Nagelsmann's men are still more dangerous on the road. He has been quite clear that there is no direct replacement of Werner, though Alexander Sørloth will nominally take his place as he settles in. This season Leipzig are once again making use of quick attacking midfield players, despite Sabitzer's absences. Emil Forsberg is becoming central to their plans again and has already found the net twice, while Dani Olmois revelling as a provider - and goals will come for him.


If we add to this Manchester United's winless home run at the start of their Premier League campaign, then Nagelsmann's eyes should be lighting up as Old Trafford comes into view across Salford Quays. Given Leipzig's adeptness on the break, United mustn't let their eagerness to get onto the front foot get the better of them.

Back Leipzig to beat Manchester United at 3.39/4

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