By Marcus Louison
The Italian Serie A, fashionably late with their kick off this weekend, completes the quintet of up and running top European leagues. With all of the elite teams in action, there is plenty to whet the footy-loving appetite, and this is your one-stop shop to the weekend’s most highly anticipated matches.
ENGLISH PREMIER LEAGUE
Burnley vs Manchester United: Saturday August 30th @7:45AM EST
Louis Van Gaal will be hoping for a touch of inspiration from his new record signing, Angel Di Maria, as he takes his beleaguered Red Devils side to Turf Moor to battle with a Burnley team also desperate for points. United, fresh off of a humiliating League Cup elimination at the hands of third tier MK Dons, are crying out cohesion, belief and quality, as they seek fresh impetus going into the international break. A host of first team injuries, as well as the delayed work permit for new addition, Marcos Rojo, won’t aid their cause, but no excuse will be satisfactory if they fail to secure maximum points against a team with a shoestring budget, and two losses from two so far this season.
Manchester City vs Stoke: Saturday August 30th @10AM EST
Manchester City, buoyed by their 3-1 win vs Liverpool, have begun their title defence in fine fettle with 6 points from 6. Stefan Jovetic, sidelined last season with injury, has brought his fine pre-season form into the EPL, and his confidence and goals will be needed alongside Sergio Aguero as Edin Dzeko and Alvaro Negredo attempt to shake off early season injuries. Mark Hughes’ Stoke side have stuttered out of the gate, and will likely need Asmir Begovic to be at his shot-stoppng best to escape the Etihad without defeat.
Everton vs Chelsea: Saturday August 30th @12:30PM EST
Romelu Lukaku and Samuel Eto’o will be keen to gun down their former team, as they seek to help Everton to their first win of the season. The 2-2 draw vs Arsenal on Saturday would have felt like a defeat for the Toffees, and Roberto Martinez will be hoping for a more positive result this time around. Jose Mourinho will be hoping The Blues have shaken the lethargy that plagued their 2-0 win over Leicester City. Diego Costa has been passed fit, and will aim to add his two league goals. The much maligned Fernando Torres will not be available for selection, as he is on the verge of wrapping up a two year loan deal to AC Milan.
Tottenham Hotspur vs Liverpool: Sunday August 31st @8:30AM EST
The enigmatic Mario Balotelli is in line for a Liverpool debut after his shock move from AC Milan. Adam Lallana is also set for his first Reds appearance after recovering from a knee ligament injury and adds to the wide array of attacking talent that Brendan Rodgers now has at his disposal. Liverpool smashed Spurs 5-0 at the Lane last season, but Tottenham, impressing under the astute tutelage of new gaffer Mauricio Pocchettino, will expect to provide Liverpool with a much stiffer test on their visit on Sunday. Erik Lamela has finally begun to show the quality that prompted Andre Villas-Boas to trigger a $49.8M purchase last season, and he will be chomping at the bit to show he can continue his impressive form against a top-quality opponent. The prospect of a new-look Balotelli/Sturridge partnership allied with the prompting of Raheem Sterling and Philippe Coutinho is enough to convince many that this is one of the must-see European clashes of the weekend.
Arsenal vs Leicseter City: Sunday August 31st @11AM EST
Arsenal, often leggy after European Champions league exertions, should have enough to see them over the line against newly-promoted Leicester City at the Emirates. Alexis Sanchez will likely lead the line again, as the unfortunate Olivier Giroud faces 10-12 weeks out of action with a broken tibia. Arsene Wenger insists attacking reinforcements are not needed, as he feels Joel Campbell, Yaya Sanogo, Theo Walcott and Lukas Podolski provide enough center-forward cover. Gunners fans may disagree.. Time will tell who was correct.
LA LIGA BBVA
Atletico Madrid vs Eibar: Saturday August 30th @3PM EST
Diego Simeone continues his 8 match touchline ban, and will be hoping his absence has minimal to no impact, as his Atleti team go for their first win of the season against newly promoted Eibar. Eibar will be buoyed by their win vs Real Sociedad last weekend, but they’ll have to be on top of their game to force a similar result vs the Liga champions, as Messrs Mandzukic, Koke, Griezmann and Raul Garcia bear down on goal.
Villareal vs FC Barcelona: Sunday August 31st @1PM EST
Munir El Haddadi, Ivan Rakitic, Rafinha and Jeremy Mathieu were all handed first team debuts last weekend, as a new look Barcelona side strutted their stuff vs Elche at Camp Nou. They’ll be hoping for more of the same when they visit El Madrigal, but Villareal are likely to provide stern opposition after impressing on the road in their first match at Levante.
Real Sociedad vs Real Madrid: Sunday August 31st @3PM EST
Les Merengues started the season with a win, but they were far from convincing, as Toni Kroos and Luka Modric combined with James Rodriguez in a new look midfield. CR7 will likely have an added spring in his step after receiving yet another individual accolade, but it will be interesting to see how The Whites cope without freshly departed midfield anchorman Xabi Alonso, as the bearded pass-master was a part of the Bernebeu fabric for the last five years. Carlos Vela will look to provide the ammunition for a Sociedad side shorn of the impressive attacking talent of last season’s main man, Antoine Griezmann.
FC Augsburg (2) vs Borussia Dortmund (3): Friday August 29th @2:30PM EST
Marco Reus, deployed in midfield this season by Jurgen Klopp, inspired BVB to a hard-fought road win at Augsburg. Reus, operating just behind the jet-heeled Aubemeyang, scored once and prompted and probed throughout, as Dortmund just about did enough to hold off the hosts’ spirited late flurry.
Schalke 04 vs FC Bayern Munich: Saturday August 30th @12:30PM EST
In a surprising move, Xabi Alonso decided to join Bayern from Real Madrid. The move was a no-brainer for Pep Guardiola, as Bastian Schweinsteiger, Thiago Alcantara and Javi Martinez are out injured. The need for midifled reinforcements was highlighted last weekend when David Alaba and 17 year old Gianluca Gaudino started centrally vs Wolfsburg. Alonso will bring his midfield guile, intelligence and passing range to a Bayern team already chockfull of quaility when the full compliment are available. The Spaniard will be available for the trip to Gelsenkirchen this weekend, and Bayern will likely need him as Schalke seek to ride their raucous home support in search of an early Bundesliga upset. The addition of Maxim Choupo-Moting to the attacking talents of Kevin-Prince Boateng, Klaas Jan Huntelaar and Julian Draxler and Jefferson Farfan ensures we have all the ingredients for an enthralling Bundesliga contest.
Italian Serie A
Chievo vs Juventus: Saturday August 30th @12PM EST
End of an era in Turin? Champions Juventus begin their title defense and new era under Massimiliano Alegri at Chievo, and many will be looking to see if their stranglehold on Italian domestic football continues. They come into this match without the peerless Andrea Pirlo, as he’s out of action with a hip injury. The Flying Donkeys will feel this is the best possible time to play the Bianconeri, as they come to grips with a new coach, personnel and playing style.
AS Roma vs Fiorentina: Saturday August 30th @2:45PM EST
Rudi Garcia has his eyes firmly on the prize this season, and aims to start with a win vs the Viola at the Olympic Stadium. The ageless Francesco Totti will battle Mattia Destro for a central starting spot, while Ashley Cole will likely make his debut at left back, and should have a tasty tussle with box-of-tricks Juan Cuadrado, and Josip Ilicic if he switches flanks.
Paris St Germain vs St.Etienne: Sunday August 31st @3PM EST
Second placed St.Etienne, riding the goals Mevlut Erdinc, take their hot form to the Parc De Princes hoping to upset the champs. Edinson Cavani will again lead the line in the absence of the mercurial Zlatan Ibrahimovic, but Erdinc and co will have an upset on their mind as PSG struggle to come to grips with the continued absence of Thiago Silva.