Saturday Previews: Fulham-Palace, Genoa-Inter and Atletico-Betis across Europe

Chelsea Here Chelsea There: Loftus-Cheek debut for Fulham | Official Site | Chelsea Football Club

Read on for match previews from Europe’s top leagues taking place across Saturday, as Fulham host fellow London rivals Crystal Palace in the Premier League, while Antonio Conte’s Inter Milan and Diego Simeone’s Atletico Madrid side return to domestic action with tricky tests of their own after contrasting Champions League results on MD1 in midweek.

Fulham vs Crystal Palace: London derby awaits at Craven Cottage
Kick-off at 3pm BST

Sheff Utd 1 Fulham 1: Mitrovic misses penalty, concedes one after controversial VAR call and misses amazing chance

On-loan from Leipzig, Lookman (centre) made his presence felt at Sheffield United and needs to kick on

After finally earning their first Premier League point of the campaign away at Sheffield United last Sunday, Fulham host London rivals Crystal Palace on Saturday afternoon.

Following successive defeats against Everton and Chelsea, Roy Hodgson’s men were minutes away from a slender win over Brighton. Alexis Mac Allister’s first top-flight goal, a 90th-minute equaliser, ended their hopes of securing that.

They’ll target a return to winning ways against a vulnerable Fulham side who have improved with recent arrivals, yet still look destined for a relegation battle this term.

Seven of Fulham’s starting eleven away to Sheffield United were new summer arrivals, including goalscorer Ademola Lookman. The winger, on-loan from RB Leipzig, has begun life back in England’s top-flight well and is one of many with a point to prove this term.

Chelsea loanee Ruben Loftus-Cheek fits into that category seamlessly, given the midfielder’s troublesome injuries and inability to sustain a run of form.

The pair impressed at Bramall Lane, as did captain Tom Cairney (three key passes, two successful dribbles, one tackle) and the onus is on them to sustain consistency here.

The same could be said of a Palace side who often promise plenty but ultimately fall into mid-table by the season’s end.

Their shrewd summer business – Eberechi Eze (QPR), Nathaniel Clyne (Liverpool) and returning loanee Michy Batshuayi (Chelsea) hope to settle quickly in south London.

Ultimatly, time is finite as fixtures continue piling up with the winter months now upon us.

Wilfried Zaha’s penalty strike last week took him top of Palace’s top-flight goalscoring charts (40 goals) but frankly, the Ivorian needs more help. Can Andros Townsend and others provide that?

Final thoughts and possible line-ups

Although Saturday’s hosts have improved, I’m not entirely convinced they are yet ready to embark on a much-needed winning streak to escape the division’s bottom spot. On paper, Palace remain the better side and as such, I predict they’ll narrowly emerge victorious here.

Fulham: Areola; Robinson, Ream, Adarabioyo, Aina; Anguissa, Cairney, Loftus-Cheek; Lookman, Mitrovic, Cavaleiro.

Crystal Palace: Guaita; van Aanholt, Cahill, Kouyate, Clyne; Riedewald, Milivojevic; Schlupp, Townsend, Zaha; Batshuayi.

genoa vs inter milan: conte’s men target return to winning ways
Kick-off at 5pm BST

Champions League: Lukaku scores a brace as Inter Milan draw with Borussia Monchengladbach – Afroballers

Lukaku (centre) netted a well-taken brace against Gladbach and will need to remain on top form

After a promising start to the new campaign, Antonio Conte’s Inter side have stalled somewhat in recent weeks.

Their 2-2 home draw with Borussia Monchengladbach on Wednesday means they’re now winless in three for the first time in 2020. Can they return to winning ways away to an inconsistent Genoa side on Saturday evening?

Or will new head coach Rolando Maran oversee a surprising result on MD5 in Italy’s top-flight?

Romelu Lukaku – who else – saved Conte’s blushes in what looks a tightly-contested Champions League Group C, with Shakhtar Donetsk stunning Real Madrid. He showed great awareness and positioning to score a well-taken brace, reacting quickest to poach home from close-range.

He ghosted beyond Nico Elvedi to equalise in the 90th minute, slamming home with Yann Sommer helpless after Alessandro Bastoni’s headed flick-on.

Speaking of Bastoni, the 21-year-old will likely be recalled to Conte’s starting eleven after making a purposeful cameo on his Champions League debut.

He missed their 2-1 defeat by Milan, having tested positive for COVID-19, but made a full recovery and was involved to good effect here. Conte could shuffle the pack elsewhere, as Nicolo Barella and Alexis Sanchez both underwhelmed against Gladbach.

Marcelo Brozovic and Lautaro Martinez, both substitutes on Wednesday, appear probable replacements but Radja Nainggolan and Italy U21 international Andrea Pinamonti are wildcard options.

Genoa started the new season like they finished the last, with a comfortable win – beating Crotone 4-1 on September 20.

They were thumped 6-0 away by Napoli the following week and after their clash with Torino was postponed before the internationals, returned with a goalless draw at Hellas Verona.

Mattia Perin (on-loan from Juventus) was comfortably the Man of the Match on Monday, making ten saves as they held firm for a point. They’ll need to be much better to take all three here.

Final thoughts and possible line-ups

If Perin remains in inspired form, then Genoa have a chance. Inter have won their last four H2H meetings without conceding a single goal though, so I’m expecting this clash features a few too.

Genoa: Perin; Czyborra, Masiello, Zapata, Goldaniga; Radovanovic, Behrami, Rovella; Pandev, Scamacca, Ghiglione.

Inter: Handanovic; Kolarov, de Vrij, Bastoni, Darmian; Brozovic, Vidal, Eriksen; Perisic, Lukaku, Martinez.

Atletico vs Real Betis: simeone’s men hope for defiant response
Kick-off at 8pm BST

Bayern München

Atletico promised plenty but faltered big time away at Champions League winners Bayern in midweek

Having been embarrassed 4-0 away by a ruthless Bayern side in midweek, Atletico Madrid return to La Liga action hosting a motivated Real Betis team on Saturday evening.

While their humbling Champions League group stage defeat would have hurt Diego Simeone and his players’ morale, they can’t afford to dwell for long.

Betis – who lost 3-0 at home to Sociedad on MD6 – have a tendency to step up against top opposition and will relish that opportunity here, against a potentially vulnerable Atleti side. Can either side prevail here, in a compelling clash?

Kingsley Coman had a brace and assist, Corentin Tolisso scored a wonder strike while Leon Goretzka also had one.

Bayern ultimately cruised to victory on Wednesday to kick off their Champions League defence in style, but it could’ve been a completely different match.

Luis Suarez, Joao Felix and Yannick Carrasco all squandered chances,  Atletico’s midfield was seemingly non-existent when called upon and Simeone’s team selection was questioned.

Be sure to watch what changes he makes for Saturday, as Lucas Torreira and Angel Correa were among their better performers during the 2-0 Celta win last week.

Patience is wearing thin for Thomas Lemar, who joined for £60m in 2018 but isn’t producing consistently enough to justify a starting berth. Elsewhere, Diego Costa’s hamstring injury means the Suarez-Felix combo should continue against a Betis backline that may struggle defensively.

They have a few injuries too, but the Marc Bartra-Sidnei CB pairing has been quite inconsistent. Their frontmen are certainly dangerous and pose threats aplenty – Nabil Fekir is one of the league’s best, when he applies himself.

Cristian Tello and captain Joaquin continue exceeding critics’ expectations, while Antonio Sanabria wants to start after an effective cameo in last week’s Sociedad defeat. In 17 previous H2H meetings, Atletico’s dominance over Betis rather speaks for itself (W13, D3, L1).

Final thoughts and possible line-ups

Manuel Pellegrini is winless in four matches against Simeone, though games between the two sides have become increasingly competitive in recent seasons. I’m backing Atletico, eager to respond after their midweek drubbing.

Atletico: Oblak; Lodi, Hermoso, Savic, Trippier; Torreira, Koke, Llorente; Carrasco, Suarez, Félix.

Betis: Bravo; Moreno, Bartra, Sidnei, Mandi; Rodriguez, Canales, Fekir; Joaquin, Sanabria, Tello.

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