Carlo Ancelotti, Cristiano Ronaldo, Edin Dzeko, Mauricio Pochettino

THE BIGGEST STORYLINES AND SUBPLOTS TO LOOK FOR AMONGST THE MYRIAD OF BLOCKBUSTER FIXTURES ON SUNDAY

Sunday. October 24. One of the most important days of the 2021-22 league season across Europe. Four marquee matches lined up which are steeped in history, tradition and of course, ambitions of silverware.

 

welcome to the Theatre of Dreams. Barcelona host Real Madrid without the presence of Lionel Messi in years. A deflated side will seek to break ’s winning streak before Serie A champions Inter meet a resurgent Juventus and finally, aim to stop the juggernaut that is .

 

 

The implications of the results might not have a seismic impact on the final standings at the end of the season, but in a battle of arch rivals, nobody likes to end up on the losing side. In a truly one-of-a-kind year, expect the unexpected all the time. FootTheBall details the five most intriguing storylines to watch out for this Super Sunday.

 

WILL THE EL CLASICO BRING OUT THE BEST IN THE BLAUGRANA OR DON CARLO TRIUMPH ON HIS RETURN?

have had a stuttering start to their season, picking up only four wins in La Liga and just a solitary one in the Champions League. Shorn of Messi’s genius, it remains to be seen who steps up to the fore at Camp Nou and write their names into the history books.

 

Ansu Fati has looked like his old self since his return while Memphis Depay’s contributions remain vital to the team. Depay will look to make an instant impact on his Clasico debut, as will Sergio Aguero and the young guns getting game time. Ronald Araujo will be a big miss in central defence, but Ronald Koeman knows he will not get a bigger stage to silence his critics this season.

 

Carlo Ancelotti’s return to the grand arena is backed by some old veterans along with fresh faces. Karim Benzema has arguably been the best striker so far in the new season, and his linkup play with Vinicius Jr. has been electrifying for everyone who has watched Los Blancos.

 

On the basis of recent form, Real Madrid are favourites but the defence remains a little bit of a worry after the exits of Sergio Ramos and Raphael Varane. This will be a great feat for Don Carlo if he can silence the home side with a win and move to the top of the table.

 

CAN THE REALLY GOOD PLAYERS OF MANCHESTER UNITED PULL OF AN UNDERDOG WIN?

The Red Devils have not had the greatest results in recent times. A deflating loss to Leicester City last weekend was followed by a hard-fought victory over Atalanta, where they trailed by two goals at halftime. An injury to Raphael Varane has destabilised their defence somewhat while Jadon Sancho is yet to have a goal contribution.

 

Solskjaer has been relying a lot on the prowess of Cristiano Ronaldo and Bruno Fernandes, which is further aided by the goal scoring return of Marcus Rashford. However, the pressure has been slowly mounting, especially with regards to the manager’s tactics and player selections at key times.

 

Will Paul Pogba start? If yes, then in which position and who gets benched? Can Sancho finally have an impact? How solid is Harry Maguire, really after his slow responses in the past two matches? All these and more need addressing before the match gets underway.

 

Liverpool have been steamrolling opponents for a while now, grinding out results against the best of them in Europe to go with it. Mo Salah’s form is terrifying while the entire front three has been in scoring touch. The defence has looked shaky which will no doubt please United a lot. Anything less than three points will be a disappointment for Klopp.

 

IT CANNOT GET WORSE FOR JOSE MOURINHO…RIGHT?

There are few lower points for a Champions League (twice), Premier League, Serie A, La Liga and Europa League winning manager than losing 6-1. The first time the Portuguese has let in that many goals, and even their fans verbally clashed with the players after the match.

 

That too against FK Bodo/Glimt, a side that only gained promotion to the Norwegian top flight in 2017 and whose fans carry novelty toothbrushes to games. Mourinho’s rant against the lack of quality players in his squad went viral and felt very familiar from his last few jobs. Unfortunately for him, their opponents have won eight out of eight, scored 19 times and conceded only three.

 

Napoli will know the timing cannot get better to compound Roma’s misery further as they seek to establish themselves at the summit in search of a long awaited title.

 

THE COEXISTENCE OF MNM FACES ITS FIRST GRAND TEST IN THE LEAGUE

Lionel Messi should not have to wait so long for a goal. Granted, he has only played three matches in a new country but…it is Messi.

 

His contributions in the Champions League have been vital but a returning Neymar along with a red hot Kylian Mbappe was supposed to be the most terrifying front three of the season. That has been hindered a lot by injuries and absences, along with continued speculation over Mbappe’s future next year.

 

But there will be no greater time to showcase their talents than against Marseille. A win over Jorge Sampaoli’s well-drilled machine who currently sit third will dispel some concerns over Mauricio Pochettino’s grip over the mega superstars amongst his ranks.

 

DZEKO VS DYBALA, BARELLA VS CHIESA… BATTLES ALL ROUND AT THE SAN SIRO

president Giusepe Moratta recent comments regarding there being “no difference” so far in the performances of Edin Dzeko and the departed Romelu Lukaku do have certain truths to them.

 

The veteran striker who came for free has six goals and one assist already, being brilliantly supported by a cast of rising young guns. If he can have a sizable impact in front of goal, there will be little doubt as to who’s the best striker in Serie A right now. On the other side will be a player looking to regain his best form- Dybala. The Argentina has shown flashes of his old self and no time is more crucial than Sunday to bring it all out.

 

Will Barella be able to keep the midfield on strings or can Chiesa notch up even more goals? The defensive partnership of Giorgio Chiellini-Leonardo Bonucci will be looking for another clean sheet in their illustrious career as the Old Lady look to climb up the table.

 

Max Allegri has so often been the dream killer of Inter, with the Nerazzurri triumphing in the one season he was away. Simone Inzaghi is new on the job and will dearly want a victory over an old nemesis as they hunt down Napoli.

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