Premier League (England)
The first weekend of the Premier League season is in the books and it was a wild one. Friday saw Arsenal score twice from the 83rd minute on against Leicester to take all three points despite twice being down a goal. Liverpool dropped two points in added time to what looked like a clearly offside goal from Watford who salvaged a 3-3 draw. Just those two matches alone saw 13 goals. Chelsea played with ten and then nine men en route to losing at home to Burnley, Wayne Rooney’s header was the only goal in a 1-0 Everton win in his debut, and new boys Huddersfield Town put a 3-0 hurting on Crystal Palace. Here’s a look at our favorite matches this weekend, including the big London derby on Sunday between Spurs and Chelsea.
Swansea City vs. Manchester United: Swansea held Southampton to a goalless draw last weekend to open their campaign and will need a to summon all their defensive prowess when they welcome Manchester United to Liberty Stadium in the first match of Saturday’s action. The Swans will have to do without Gylfi Sigurdsson, who completed a £40M transfer to Everton during the week. They will be facing a Manchester United side that is riding high off their first match, a 4-0 thrashing of West Ham at Old Trafford. They got two goals from new striker Romelu Lukaku as well as goals from Anthony Martial and Paul Pogba who was allowed to roam dangerously with midfield help from another new face in Nemanja Matic. The Red Devils will look for more of the same as they try to stay atop the table, even if it is only Week 2.
Liverpool vs. Crystal Palace: Liverpool return home to Anfield to face Crystal Palace after a disappointing 3-3 draw away to Watford last weekend which saw them drop two points in the waning moments of the match. They did see their attacking danger as the front three of Sadio Mané, Roberto Firmino, and new winger Mohamed Salah all found net. But while manager Jürgen Klopp and Reds fans alike will no doubt bemoan what seemed a horrible missed offside call to allow the final goal, they must also note that their defending of set pieces, from which Watford got two of their goals, was woeful. They will need to tighten it up against Crystal Palace striker, former Red, and aerial threat Christian Benteke. Palace are also coming off a woeful performance, however, losing 3-0 at home to freshly promoted Huddersfield Town making their Premier League debut. Both teams will be hoping to get a sour taste out of their mouths.
Stoke City vs. Arsenal: Stoke City show off their newly renovated bet365 Stadium with a lofty opponent coming to town in Arsenal. Stoke got off to a frustrating start to the new league season last weekend with a 1-0 defeat at Everton, but Xherdan Shaqiri looks to lead the Potters into the win column and notch their first points of the campaign. Meanwhile, Arsenal are riding high on momentum after a heart-racing 4-3 comeback win last Friday against Leicester City. Star forward Alexis Sánchez is likely to be available after returning from injury, hoping to link up with Mesut Özil and new striker Alexandre Lacazette to continue their strong start to the season.
Tottenham vs. Chelsea: Do-or-die time rarely comes in August for reigning EPL champions, but Chelsea are undoubtedly up against it entering their star-studded clash with Tottenham at Wembley Stadium on Sunday. The Blues face-planted out of the gates in a loss to lowly Burnley, in which Cesc Fàbregas and Gary Cahill picked up red cards that see them suspended against the Spurs. Conveniently enough, Tottenham mounted the biggest challenge to Chelsea’s title last season and look poised to contend again this season after keeping a blistering strike force of Harry Kane, Dele Alli and Christian Eriksen intact through the summer. But after closing White Hart Lane, their home for the past 118 years, will there be an emotional let-down in their temporary home at Wembley?
Manchester City vs. Everton: Manchester City took care of newly promoted Brighton & Hove Albion last weekend and will welcome the Toffees to the Etihad in the first Monday match of the season. While City will no doubt be thrilled with the goal from star Sergio Agüero, they will likely be more thrilled with keeping a clean sheet. The test will be tougher against an Everton side who also won last weekend through new man and long-time City nemesis Wayne Rooney, who headed home the only goal in a 1-0 Everton win at Goodison Park before a delighted Merseyside audience who watched him make a splashy (second) debut for his boyhood team. It promises to be a fun one under the lights in Manchester.
La Liga (Spain)
It was another top-heavy season last year in Spain, with world giants Real Madrid winning the league as well as Europe, though they were denied the treble as fellow powerhouse Barcelona took home the Copa del Rey trophy but fell three points shy in the league. The biggest football story in Spain, if not the world, this summer, was the huge money departure of Brazilian super-star Neymar from Barcelona. The Catalan giants are looking to leverage their financial might in their quest to replace him, including a long-running drama over their pursuit of Liverpool’s Philippe Coutinho, and there seems to be no end in sight to the whirlwind until the transfer window closes come September. Whoever they acquire, most agree it will be another La Liga campaign of everyone trying to usurp Real Madrid from their throne. The two Spanish giants start their campaigns this weekend.
Barcelona vs. Real Betis: The Catalan giants can begin to put a disastrous summer behind them when they kick off their La Liga campaign against Real Betis at the Camp Nou. Barcelona got blind-sided throughout a dramatic transfer saga that saw superstar forward Neymar join Paris Saint-Germain on a record €222M fee, and recently lost 5-1 on aggregate to bitter rivals Real Madrid in the Spanish Super Cup. Now with Luis Suárez benched for at least a month with a knee injury, Lionel Messi’s side could be nearing an all-out collapse and need a morale-boosting thumping of Real Betis, who finished 15th last season.
Deportivo vs. Real Madrid: Nothing short of a dominating La Liga title repeat will be acceptable for Real Madrid on the heels of another historic season, and they begin those efforts with a Sunday trip to face Deportivo. Cristiano Ronaldo remains banned for the next four matches following a referee-shoving incident in the first leg of the Spanish Super Cup, but that didn’t stop his Madrid comrades from pounding Barca in the second leg. Midfielders Isco and Marco Asensio are coming into their own for a Los Blancos side that has won four trophies in the last three months, but they can’t afford to get complacent entering the new season.
While there are dozens and dozens of teams in Germany with passionate fans and storied histories, it is hard for neutral fans not to simply associate German football with Bayern Munich lately. The 2016/17 season was no different. Upstart RB Leipzig made the first half of the season interesting, but Bayern still won the league by 15 points, their fifth consecutive league title. There will no doubt be challenges and intrigue as the season unfolds, but the Bundesliga season begins on Friday, with the champions in action.
Bayern Munich vs. Bayer Leverkusen: The 2017/18 Bundesliga campaign kicks off at the Allianz Arena as Bayern Munich look to begin their quest for a record-extending sixth straight league title against last season’s 12th place finisher Bayer Leverkusen. They have taken young star James Rodríguez on loan from Real Madrid and still boast a deadly squad featuring captain and one of the world’s top goalkeepers in Manuel Neuer, Franck Ribéry, Robert Lewandowski, and long-time attacker Thomas Müller. However, the Bavarian giants over the summer said goodbye to long-time servants Xabi Alonso and Philipp Lahm, who both retired. For Bayer Leverkusen, they will hope the addition of center back Sven Bender from Borussia Dortmund will help them stay stout defensively against the dangerous firepower of their hosts, though they will be without striker Chicharito, who returned to English football this summer with a move to West Ham United.
Serie A (Italy)
If Bayern Munich is synonymous with German football of late, Juventus is Italian football. The Old Lady won her record sixth consecutive Serie A title as well as her record third-straight Coppa Italia. They were a match away from the dream treble, but fell to Real Madrid in the Champions League final over the summer. Fittingly, the 2017/18 Serie A campaign begins with the champions.
Juventus vs. Cagliari: Juventus begin yet another title defense at home in Turin against Cagliari, who finished 12th last season. Despite a dominating season (decade), Juventus supporters will no doubt be anxious over some summer departures, most notably long-time servant and back line fixture Leonardo Bonucci, who moved to AC Milan for €42M over the summer. The ageless Gianluigi Buffon returns between the posts, however, as does a dangerous squad featuring Giorgio Chiellini, Sami Khedira, and deadly attackers Gonzalo Higuaín and the young Paolo Dybala. With their home fans in full throat behind them, Juve will be a handful for a Cagliari squad who begin their campaign with the toughest challenge the league could provide them.