European Football Preview: Box office weekend on the continent

Diego Simeone
Diego Simeone storms the Bernabeu
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The Rome and Madrid derbies and a top of the table clash in Serie A make this an unmissable weekend, says our European football columnist James Horncastle...

"Bossed around by Sevilla, it does not bode well for Atletico's visit to the Bernabeu on Saturday night."

Real need to bounce back in Madrid derby

Real Madrid v Atletico Madrid
Saturday, 19:45
Live on Eleven Sports and Betfair Live Video

Julen Lopetegui refused to blame poor preparation for Wednesday's heavy defeat in Seville. Real sent a number of players to the FIFA Best awards in London on Monday night and there was some conjecture about how much the distraction and the travel played a part in their 3-0 defeat at the Sanchez Pizjuan. Bossed around by Sevilla it does not bode well for Atletico's visit to the Bernabeu on Saturday night.

Diego Simeone's side are beginning to live up to expectation after an impressive summer in the transfer window. The Rojiblancos' midweek win against Huesca was their third in a row in all competitions and took them within two points of their crosstown neighbours going into the weekend. Big signing Thomas Lemar was excellent in the 2-0 win against Getafe last weekend and the light work made of Huesca, with all Atleti's goals coming inside 33 minutes, suggests this team are not to be messed with.

Atleti beat Real in the Spanish Super Cup in September, going in front through Diego Costa before winning 4-2 in extra-time. Priced @ 3.9 to win at the Bernabeu this weekend, will Simeone have the edge on Lopetegui?

Title fight in Serie A

Juventus v Napoli
Saturday, 17:00
Live on Eleven Sports and Betfair Live Video

Napoli won on their last visit to Turin in April and believed Juventus' reign as champions of Italy was about to come to an end. Alas it wasn't to be but the Partenopei remain the No.1 contender for Juventus' crown this season and everyone but the most ardent Bianconeri fans are hoping they get a result on Saturday. Otherwise the title race looks like becoming a monologue.

Juventus have made a perfect start to the season in all competitions. The last time they won their opening seven games was in the 1930s and usurping them as the principal power in Italy looks harder than ever now Cristiano Ronaldo is around.

But Carlo Ancelotti is impressing at Napoli and his decision to change Lorenzo Insigne's position is yielding precious fruit. This is Insigne's best ever start to a season and Juventus will have watch him carefully on Saturday evening. Ancelotti is using the squad available to him much more than his predecessor Maurizio Sarri did and his willingness to mix things up in style and personnel makes Napoli more unpredictable in some respects.

A draw or away win is worth your time on Double Chance particularly as there might come a stage in this game when both teams start thinking about their upcoming Champions League engagements. Why not take a look at that market @ 2.166/5.

The Rome derby

Roma v Lazio
Saturday, 14:00
Live on Eleven Sports and Betfair Live Video

It remains to be seen how much Wednesday's comprehensive 4-0 win against Frosinone signals a change for the better at Roma. The punitive training camp imposed after last weekend's defeat to Bologna appears to have worked in bringing home the need to kickstart their season and Eusebio Di Francesco seems to now accept the players available to him are best suited to playing 4-2-3-1.

Lazio will sense vulnerability though and seek to take advantage on Saturday afternoon. Simone Inzaghi's team are starting to click, stringing together four wins on the bounce after an uphill start to the season against Napoli and Juventus. Sergei Milinkovic Savic looks like he is about to catch fire again and it was encouraging to see new signings Francesco Acerbi and Joaquin Correa play a decisive role in the midweek win in Udine.

Historically though tension often gets the better of these two teams on derby day and it's hard for them to express the same fluency as in a regular game. Every foul sparks a thousand protests and it's rare for all 22 players to still be on the pitch come full-time. Another draw like the one played out in April is attractive @ 3.613/5.

The Polish Pistolero

Frosinone v Genoa
Sunday, 14:00
Live on Betfair Live Video

It would be remiss not to mention Genoa striker Krzysztof Piatek in this week's column such has his impact been on Serie A. The 23-year-old Poland international has been a revelation since moving from Cracovia Krakow in the summer for the paltry sum of €4m, which now looks like an absolute bargain.

Piatek is already in double figures in all competitions and is the top scorer in Europe's top five leagues. His record of six goals in his first five Serie A appearances is bettered by only one other foreign import; a certain Zico who hit seven for Udinese over the same sample size back in the autumn of 1983.

Given who Genoa are playing this weekend, it'd be silly not to have a punt on Piatek making his mark again. While he celebrates by pretending to shoot a pair of pistols, Frosinone continue to fire blanks. Moreno Longo's side are winless in Serie A and became the first team not to score in their opening six league games since Catania in the early `60s. Sitting ducks for Piatek then, who is trading at 4/1 as the First Goalscorer and 17/10 as an Anytime Goalscorer on the Sportsbook. In light of how meek Frosinone are up front, Genoa are also worth a look @ 2.186/5 to win on the road.

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