The Premier League returned in bombastic fashion last weekend and in the coming days three more major European competitions will get underway.
In La Liga, Real Madrid resume as the dominant force in European football, with Barcelona reeling from the loss of Neymar. But there are matches elsewhere that stand out, with two potentially brilliant contests in the Bundesliga and the first look at a new-look rising force in Serie A.
Elsewhere, in Ligue 1 the most expensive player in the history of the game will make his first appearance in front of home support. And in the Premier League, last season’s top two do battle at Wembley.
Read on for the five selected matches this weekend. Kick-offs are in Eastern Time; enjoy your weekend and enjoy the games.
BAYERN MUNICH VS. BAYER LEVERKUSEN
Friday, August 18, 2:30 p.m. ET, FOX Sports 1, FOX Deportes, DIRECTV NOW, Sling Blue and fubo Premier
After a torrid pre-season, Bayern rediscovered some swagger in their Super Cup win against Borussia Dortmund. They’ll hope to bring that impetus into their Bundesliga curtain-raiser against Bayer.
In fairness to Bayern boss Carlo Ancelotti, it’s been a summer of significant change for the club. That’s after Xabi Alonso and Munich icon Philipp Lahm hung up their boots at the end of the previous campaign; it’s little surprise they looked rudderless during some matches ahead of the big kick off.
Still, Ancelotti has the best squad in Germany at his disposal. Bayern have made some savvy signings too, with Corentin Tolisso, Niklas Sule, James Rodriguez and Sebastian Rudy arriving. It means there is class and depth in every position on the pitch, plus a sense of intrigue to see how Bayern will set up on Friday.
Heiko Herrlich’s side face the unenviable task of going to the Allianz Arena and trying to tame Bayern, especially after losing Javier Hernandez and Hakan Calhanoglu already this summer. It’ll take a special performance from Leverkusen if they’re to emerge with any kind of positive result here.
WOLFSBURG VS. BORUSSIA DORTMUND
Saturday, August 19, 9:30 a.m. ET, FOX Sports 1, FOX Deportes, DIRECTV NOW, Sling Blue and fubo Premier
A day after the big Bundesliga opener, Borussia Dortmund make the trip to Wolfsburg in a match that has the potential to be the most exciting of the weekend.
Dortmund’s buildup to the new season has been blemished by some transfer speculation. The club have suspended Ousmane Dembele after he missed training; that’s amid links to Barcelona, who have reportedly targeted him as a possible replacement for Neymar. Manager Peter Bosz, in his first league game, will be disappointed to see he is unavailable.
Still, Dortmund have done well to keep a lot of their squad together, with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang still around to lead the line. Factor in players like Christian Pulisic, Alexander Isak and Julian Weigl are another year older, and they should be set for an intriguing season.
Wolfsburg need to improve on last term, as they flirted with relegation at times. Andries Jonker will hope new signings John Brooks and Ignacio Camacho will make them tougher to beat, although Ricardo Rodriguez and Luiz Gustavo are big losses.
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR VS. CHELSEA
Sunday, August 20, 11 a.m. ET, NBCSN, Telemundo, Sling Blue, DIRECTV NOW and fubo Premier
Ahead of the season, predictions about how Tottenham would fare came with a caveat—the “Wembley Factor.” When Chelsea arrive on Sunday, we’ll get to see just how much of a hindrance, or help, it may be.
The two sides enjoyed very different beginnings to the Premier League season. Spurs went to newly-promoted Newcastle and put on an opening-day clinic, with Dele Alli inspiring them to a comfortable away win. They may not have made any new signings, though when they have their preferred XI on the field, it’s still the best in the Premier League.
Chelsea, the champions, have done business in the transfer window, yet they were undone in dramatic fashion by Burnley in Week 1. The Blues lost their discipline—Gary Cahill and Cesc Fabregas were sent off—and their cohesion in a 3-2 loss. The introduction of Alvaro Morata saved Chelsea from an even more embarrassing scoreline.
The suspensions as a result of the sendings off mean Antonio Conte has some big decisions to make in terms of personnel. Wembley or not, that’ll be a big worry agains their formidable London rivals.
CROTONE VS. AC MILAN
Sunday, August 20, 2:45 p.m. ET, beIN SPORTS Connect and fuboTV
One of the most fascinating stories of the summer transfer window has been the recruitment drive going on at the San Siro. And we’ll get to see Milan in action for the first time in Serie A against Crotone on Sunday.
It’s tough to know quite where to start with Milan’s purchases, though the signing of Leonardo Bonucci is one that has really caught the eye. The Rossoneri did tremendously to not only sign arguably the world’s best central defender, but pinch a key man from a massive rival in Juventus. He will make a huge impact this term.
Elsewhere, they’ve added Ricardo Rodriguez, Mateo Musacchio, Franck Kessie, Hakan Calhanoglu, Lucas Biglia and Andre Silva to name but a few. Manager Vincenzo Montella has so many options at his disposal, though there’ll be a pressure on him to put together a winning blueprint quickly.
Crotone will play host to this revamped side’s Serie A bow and will not be pushed around. Davide Nicola’s team did superbly to preserve their top-flight status last season, winning 3-1 against Lazio on the final day to stave off relegation.
PARIS SAINT-GERMAIN VS. TOULOUSE
Sunday, August 20, 3 p.m. ET, beIN SPORTS Connect and fuboTV (free 7-day trial)
PSG have unveiled Neymar at the Parc des Princes in a press conference and in front of the supporters ahead of the meeting with Amiens. Against Toulouse, the Parisians will get to see the world’s most expensive player in action for the first time.
Neymar made his debut for PSG in the 3-0 win over Guingamp last Sunday, setting up a goal for Edinson Cavani and getting on the scoresheet himself. At times, the £200 million looked a class above the rest of the players on the pitch, as he sashayed around the final third creating opportunities.
After seeing him behind a desk and in the iconic blue jersey, the Parc des Princes faithful will be itching to see their new No. 10 kicking a ball in anger. And it’s a crucial game for PSG, as they will be keen to keep their perfect Ligue 1 record intact for as long as possible.
Toulouse will be challenged with stopping the attacking talent at Unai Emery’s disposal, although it’ll take a monumental effort if they’re to avoid defeat. A fired-up Neymar will undoubtedly be keen to impress in his first outing in front of his new admirers.
17 August 2017 | 11:21 pm