European Football Preview: Dortmund need to atone for Bayern debacle in Revier derby

Schalke boss Tedesco
Tedesco's reputation continues to grow at Schalke
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Schalke have the chance to finish above Dortmund for the first time in three years, making this weekend's Revier Derby huge, as James Horncastle discusses...

"Finishing second after winning in Gelsenkirchen would go a long way in helping the Black and Yellows and Peter Stöger atone for the Bayern debacle a fortnight ago."

The Revier derby

It feels entirely appropriate that the Revier derby concludes the Bundesliga action in a week of great comebacks in European football. The reverse fixture was one of the most memorable games of the season on the continent as Schalke came back from 4-0 down to Dortmund to draw 4-4 in stoppage time. A repeat of that would not go amiss.

Just one point separates the two rivals in the standings. Schalke have stood over Dortmund in 14 of the last 18 match days and must look at this as a golden opportunity to finish above the Black and Yellows for the first time in three years. It's been quite the turnaround under Domenico Tedesco. Schalke already have nine more points than they finished last season with and are primed to return to the Champions League for the first time since 2014.

Dortmund bounced back from their 6-0 drubbing in Der Klassiker with a 3-0 win against in-form Stuttgart last weekend. Michy Batshuayi was again among the goals and now has nine in 13 appearances for his new club. The Chelsea loanee has done an excellent job of replacing Pierre Emerick Aubameyang who was sent off when these sides met in November, leaving Dortmund down to 10 men at 4-2 with 20 minutes still to play. Batshuayi has been accused of going missing for long stretches of games. But when you are as decisive as he is in front of goal, Dortmund can't complain.

Finishing second after winning in Gelsenkirchen would go a long way in helping the Black and Yellows and Peter Stöger atone for the Bayern debacle a fortnight ago. The exchange makes them slight favourites to win on Sunday @ [2.7]. That despite Schalke trading at a shorter [1.31] to be this season's runners' up in Germany.

Inter's missing link

The Rome derby is the standout fixture this weekend in Serie A. But it isn't the only mouthwatering encounter whetting the appetite. On any other match day a game like Milan v Napoli would definitely take top billing.

The Partenopei are favourites @ [1.89] even though it's at San Siro. A finger in the eye for Rino Gattuso and the job he has done in reviving Milan. The former midfielder has performed well enough in the board's view to merit a new three-year deal, the longest contract any Milan manager has been offered since the days of Carlo Ancelotti.

Why then is the exchange taking the Rossoneri lightly? Is it as simple as Napoli being the better team or is there something more to it? Maurizio Sarri's side have been flagging lately although last Sunday's stoppage time win against Chievo turned Napoli's doubters into believers again.

The issue here is Milan will be without first choice centre-backs Leonardo Bonucci and Alessio Romagnoli. As such Napoli's three tenors, Dries Mertens, Jose Callejon and Lorenzo Insigne are presumably rubbing their hands together.

More value is to be had on Saturday when Inter make the short trip down the road to Bergamo to play Atalanta. This is one of the toughest places to go in Serie A and the difficulty rating increased last weekend when Marcelo Brozovic picked up a suspension that rules him out of this game.

Ordinarily Brozovic's absence wouldn't be considered a hindrance to the Nerazzurri. The Croatia international is a mercurial player who has cost Inter at times. But a new role in front of the defence has been the making of him. It has also sparked Inter back into life after a difficult spring. The reshuffle in midfield which has seen Borja Valero and Matias Vecino move to the back benches and Brozo, Roberto Gagliardini and Rafinha come to the fore has made Inter a lot better.

How they do without him remains to be seen. One imagines Atalanta will draw ulterior confidence from his absence. They beat Inter at the Atleti Azzurri d'Italia last season and Gian Piero Gasperini always seem to revel in proving them wrong to sack him all those years ago. Atalanta are [2.88] to win.

Jardim continues to deliver

A report in Il Corriere dello Sport last week claimed Napoli coach Maurizio Sarri has an offer from Monaco. If true, it would mean the French champions expect Leonardo Jardim to leave in the summer. The Portuguese manager has done an outstanding job in the Principality.

Every other year is a transition year at the Stade Louis II for the simple reason that Jardim overachieves and his team then gets broken up. This year has been less remarkable but impressive all the same. It was impossible to expect them to retain their title and go as deep in the Champions League after losing Kylian Mbappe, Bernardo Silva, Benjamin Mendy, and Tiemoue Bakayoko.

The situation it left Jardim in was tricky. Other players like Fabinho and Thomas Lemar thought they were going but were told to stay and had to get over the disappointment of not making a big move when their stock was higher than ever. The chemistry of the team was also upset. Monaco's defence no longer gets the protection it did in the past. The attack has to help out more and no longer has the same freedom to go forward with abandon. Mendy's absence on one side and Silva's on the other has made Monaco less effective out wide. They cross less and when they do they are less accurate.

And yet Monaco sit second, admittedly 14 points behind PSG but comfortably ahead of the rest. Lyon for example are seven points adrift. This should not be taken for granted. On Sunday night Monaco go to the Parc des Princes where they haven't won in two years. They have lost every game to PSG this year and are priced @ [9] to win. But Jardim's status as one of the best managers on the continent remains.


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