So, on the brink of another bumper weekend of soccer, we’ve scoured the globe (and the TV guides) to help pick the best five games for you to watch this weekend. So put your feet up and get ready to enjoy two huge local derbies, a guaranteed goal-fest and the return of a world class striker.
All kick off times are Eastern Time
1. Spurs vs Chelsea. Saturday, 7:45am, NBC Sports Network
What a way to kick-start the Premier League weekend.
Andre Villas-Boas’s revamped Tottenham outfit take on Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea in the Saturday’s early kick off. And it’s a classic case of the master taking on the apprentice. Villas-Boas plied his trade under Mourinho at Chelsea, and will be keen to get one over a man who according to the Spurs boss is ‘not my friend’.
It’s a clash between two sides that are considered to be genuine title challengers. Neither side has caught fire quite yet and have been very pragmatic in their opening encounters. But securing an important win over a local rival could be enough to inject some real impetus into either team’s season.
It will be interesting to see if Mourinho goes with Juan Mata in this one after he impressed midweek against Swindon. The Spaniard starred in Chelsea’s 4-2 victory in this fixture last season, but has been told by his boss that he must do more if he is to nail down a starting berth.
Expect this to be a much tighter affair than last year’s thrilling encounter. Both teams like to play on the counter, which could lead to a tactical stalemate early on. But the subtle tactical adaptations made by Villas-Boas and Mourinho should make for fascinating viewing as the game wears on.
2. Swansea vs Arsenal. Saturday, 12:30pm, NBC
The last ten days have been pretty hectic for the Swans. It began with a topsy-turvy 2-2 draw with Liverpool, which was followed up by a magnificent 3-0 win in Valencia. Last weekend, they swept aside Crystal Palace with consummate ease, before a much tinkered-with side fell 3-1 to Birmingham City in the League Cup.
But you can bet they will be right up for their next game, as Arsenal visit the Liberty Stadium in Saturday’s late kick-off. The Gunners have hit top form after a stuttering start, and away from home in particular, they’ve been absolutely fantastic. Wenger’s men have triumphed in their last eleven consecutive away trips.
Whilst the earlier game looks set to be a tight, tactical battle, this encounter should be awash with free-flowing, penetrative attacking football. Players like Mesut Ozil and Michu should flourish in the space that looks likely to be afforded to them and that’ll see both sides create a host of opportunities.
If you’re all about goals, then this game is a must watch.
3. Real Madrid vs Atletico Madrid. Saturday, 4pm, beIN SPORT
Atletico have started the season in barnstorming fashion, having won all of their opening six games. After losing Falcao in the summer, the squad have rallied and players like Diego Costa, Arda Turan and Koke have all been sensational in the infancy of the campaign.
But there will be no truer test of their early season form than a trip to the Bernabeu. Recent memories of playing in the backyard of their great rivals will be positive, after Atletico beat Real 2-1 in the final of the Copa Del Rey last season. But that triumph aside, Atletico have a horrendous record in this particular fixture.
In La Liga, Atletico have failed to beat Real since 1999. That’s in both home and away contests. For a side that have been as successful has Atletico in recent years, that is a staggering return and a statistic that points towards a severe inferiority complex on their part.
It promises to be a very tough task indeed for Diego Simeone’s side. Cristiano Ronaldo has smashed nine goals in the opening seven games and Isco has slotted seamlessly into the Real Madrid line-up. Just to compound matters even further, the world’s most expensive player Gareth Bale looks set to make his home debut for the club.
The first goal will be vital here. If Madrid net early, then they could run out comfortable winners. But if Atleti take the lead, their tenacious, dogged qualities could see them take the points.
4. Sunderland vs Liverpool. Sunday, 11am, NBC Sports Network
A game in which almost anything could happen. Sunderland begin life without Paolo Di Canio and look likely to be under the stewardship of Kevin Ball for this one.
The departing Italian was a divisive figure; one who was never shy of hanging his own players out to dry following a poor performance. So it will be compelling to see just how the players react to his departure.
Quite simply, the response must be positive. Otherwise, Sunderland are in real trouble. Having picked up just one point from five games, another defeat here could see them become cut adrift at the bottom of the table, even at this early stage.
But on a positive note for the Black Cats, this could be a good time to play Liverpool. The Reds started the season in red-hot form, but after their midweek defeat to an understrength Manchester United side, are now on a run of three games without victory.
Philippe Coutinho is obviously a major loss; his ability to link the play and thread the killer ball have been sorely missed. But Brendan Rodgers will be able to welcome back Luis Suarez for his first league game since returning from his ban. A big performance from him could see Liverpool to victory up in the North East.
5. Seattle Sounders vs New York Red Bulls. Sunday, 9pm, ESPN & ESPN Deportes
What a contest this promises to be, as the two conference leaders go head to head at CenturyLink Field on Sunday night.
The Sounders will be hoping a typical hot-bed atmosphere can help them see off their visitors from the East coast. Obafemi Martins and Eddie Johnson have formed a dynamic front line this campaign, having helped themselves to eight goals a piece already this season and should pose problems for the New York back-line. Sigi Schmid’s men have been performing well as of late. and come into this one unbeaten in their last six contests.
But so are they Red Bells, having won their last four in a row. Boss Mike Petke will have to cope with some injury woes however, and they could have a dearth of attacking options heading into this one. It is a concern, especially after a pretty toothless showing saw the team struggle to an unconvincing 1-0 against FC Dallas last time out.
Bradley Wright-Phillips will miss the game, whilst captain Thierry Henry might sit this one out due to an ongoing achilles complaint. Tim Cahill does remain a goal threat, though. He has scored eight times this campaign at better ratio that one in every three games.
In many experts books, these two are the best two sides in the MLS, and they could yet line-up in this season’s December showpiece.
What do you think? Let me know in the comments section or on Twitter: @MattJFootball