By Marcus Louison
Domestic league football returns after a two-week hiatus, and the excitement is heightened by the glut of likely debuts all over Europe post-transfer deadline day. Toss in the small matter of a Madrid derby and a Champions visit to North London, and we have far more than enough to ensure an extremely low level of weekend housework productivity. Onefootball has you covered with mini-previews of all of the weekend’s tastiest match-ups..
ENGLISH PREMIER LEAGUE
Arsenal (7th) vs Manchester City (4th): Saturday September 13th @7:45AM EST
New signing Danny Welbeck, fresh off of a two-goal match-winning performance for The Three Lions, will be seeking more of the same on Saturday, as he looks to inspire his Arsenal teammates to a victory over Manchester City at the Emirates. Arsene Wenger will be hoping to have the vitally important Aaron Ramsey available, after the Welshman turned an ankle on a plastic pitch in Andorra.
City will be keen to recover from the shock defeat at home to Stoke City on the last PL matchday. A victory for The Citizens, however, will have to be achieved without the impressively robust Fernando, as he’s yet to recover from the groin injury suffered vs Stoke; Fernandinho is in line to deputize. Sergio “Kun” Aguero and Edin Dzeko is the obvious strike partnership, due to the injury-stricken Stefan Jovetic and the freshly-departed Alvaro Negredo.
Chelsea (1st) vs Swansea City (2nd): Saturday September 13th @10AM EST
Premier league manager of the month, Garry Monk, takes his Swansea City side to Stamford Bridge hoping to maintain their 100% start to the season. Swansea, led by their no-nonsense skipper, Ashley Williams, have been inspired by the dynamic wing-play and goals from the diminutive duo, Wayne Routledge and Nathan Dyer. They, along with Ivory Coast front-man Wilfried Bony, will have to be at their best to penetrate The Blues ever-reliable back line.
Jose Mourinho will be expecting more early-season excellence from Francesc Fabregas, as he continues a burgeoning midfield partnership with Nemanja Matic. Diego Costa injured a hamstring on international duty with Spain, but should be fit to start, as he looks to solidify his place atop the EPL scoring chart. Didier Drogba and Loic Remy are in line to stand in if the ex-Atletico man fails a late fitness test.
Liverpool (5th) vs Aston Villa (3rd): Saturday September 13th @12:30PM EST
Tom Cleverley, chronically maligned at Manchester United, is fit to debut for an Aston Villa side bursting with confidence, following an impressive start to the season. Getting into the XI is an altogether different matter, as Ashley Westwood and Fabian Delph have combined well, with the latter making his England debut during the recent international break. Carlos Sanchez, one of Colombia’s best players during the 2014 World Cup, is another quality option in central midfield.
Liverpool come into the match with a host of injuries, as Martin Skrtel, Glen Johnson, and Jon Flanagan have been joined by Emre Can and Daniel Sturridge on the treatment table. Joe Allen, away with Wales in midweek, is also struggling, and faces a late fitness test.
Positive injury news sees the return of England international, Adam Lallana, and he is set to battle Philippe Coutinho and Lazar Markovic for a starting spot. Raheem Sterling, truly emerging as creator-in-chief for club and country, will be the most likely source of ammunition for the prodigiously talented, but always unpredictable, Mario Balotelli.
Manchester United (14th) vs Queens Park Rangers (12th): Sunday September 14th @11AM EST
The Old Trafford hierarchy have loosened the purse strings in an attempt to halt a downward spiral that has been shockingly rapid. The free-scoring Radamel Falcao, a surprise last-gasp addition on transfer deadline-day, is in line to make his OT bow alongside fellow new signings, Daley Blind, Marcos Rojo and Luke Shaw. Defensive solidity has been non-existent for Manchester United this season, and Louis Van Gaal will be hoping the availability of Rojo and Shaw will offset the continued absence of Chris Smalling and the freshly injured Phil Jones. Midfield cohesion has also been painfully absent, but this should be aided by the return of ex-Bilbao man, Ander Herrera, as he seeks a place alongside or instead of the versatile Blind. Angel Di Maria will look to build on an impressive debut vs Burnley, and Van Gaal has a selection “headache” on his hands for the remaining attacking positions, with Rooney, Mata, Van Persie and Falcao all available.
Manchester United legend Rio Ferdinand will be entrusted with the task of keeping his ex-team quiet, and it will be interesting to see if Harry Redknapp persists with the 3-5-2 system that has unsettled his players to start the season.
FC Barcelona (1st) vs Athletic Bilbao (7th): Saturday September 13th @10AM EST
All of the noises emanating from Catolonia are positive ones, as Luis Enrique has brought the feel-good factor back to the Blaugrana. Neymar, in fantastic form for Brazil during the international break, is ready to make his first start of the season alongside Camp Nou favorite, Lionel Messi. Andres Iniesta is also fit, giving Enrique a full complement to choose from.Youngsters Rafinha Alcantara and Munir El Haddadi will be hoping to keep their places, after impressing with enterprise, exuberance and skill in the first two matches of the season.
Ernesto Valverde’s Bilbao team have not won at the Camp Nou for 13 years, but he’ll be hoping for an upturn in fortunes, as Messrs Muniain, Susaeta, and Aduriz have begun the season in solid form.
Both teams have UEFA Champions league matches to contend with in midweek, and this may come into the mind of both managers when selecting personnel.
Real Madrid (10) vs Atletico Madrid (6): Saturday September 13th @2PM EST
Diego Simeone takes the Liga Champs to the Bernebeu in what is the European clash of the weekend. A repeat of the 2014 UEFA Champions league Final sees the big spending Merengues go head to head with the tactically sagacious Atleti in a derby extremely low in love and high in passion.
The Whites are boosted by the fitness of CR7, but Ancelotti will be keen to get the balance between defense and attack right following the debacle in San Sebastian vs Real Sociedad. Javier Hernandez will be hoping to make his debut, likely off the bench. James Rodriguez, Gareth Bale, Isco, Toni Kroos and Luka Modric are also fit and in the matchday squad.
Simeone’s men will be confident after beating their cross-town rivals in the Spanish Super Cup. Antoine Griezmann, Mario Mandzukic, and Alessio Cerci are available to make their Liga Madrid derby debuts.
OTHER NOTABLE EUROPEAN MATCHES
ITALIAN SERIE A
Juventus (5) vs Udinese (3): Saturday September 13th @2:45PM EST
FC Bayern Munich (5) vs VFB Stuttgart (3): Saturday September 13th @9:30AM EST
Rennes (5) vs Paris Saint Germain (2): Saturday September 13th @11AM EST
ENJOY the matches!