Back in the routine yet? You probably will be after this weekend!
Competitive soccer is back on the menu all over Europe, and after the Premier League curtain raisers were played out last weekend, a host of leagues across the continent begin their season too.
But such is the calibre of the fixtures that are to take place in the English football league this weekend, our focus falls primarily onto some potentially enticing clashes as we select our top five games to watch this weekend.
So we’ve got two age-old foes reuniting their rivalry in the Championship and three major clashes from the EPL. We also look at a battle between two of Germany’s biggest sides, as the Bundesliga gets back underway.
All kickoff times are Eastern Time. Enjoy your weekend and enjoy the games!
Programming note: For viewers in the United States, select games from this weekend’s La Liga, Championship and Serie A games are being shown exclusively on beIN SPORTS, beIN SPORTS Espanol and DishWorld. Even if you don’t have a TV subscription to beIN SPORTS, you can access those channels via online streaming service DishWorld for $10/month. Read our review of DishWorld. And sign up for DishWorld via their website.
Ipswich Town vs. Norwich City
After the Canaries’ recent stint in the Premier League, one of English football’s biggest rivalries will be resumed at Portman Road this weekend. South-East sides Ipswich Town and Norwich City meet at the home of the former, and Mick McCarthy’s side will be keen to put a halt to their sworn enemy’s strong start to life in the Championship.
Some sides—as we’ve already seen from Fulham since their relegation—can really struggle to adapt to the abrasive nature of English football’s second tier. But after preserving a strong core of players through the summer, Neil Adams’ team have begun their stint in the Championship with two wins from their opening three wins.
But a trip to Ipswich, where they’ll face a very capable team and a hostile crowd, will undoubtedly be their toughest test of the season so far. The Tractor Boys have yet to find their best form as of yet, winning one, drawing one and losing one in their trio of games to date, but a win over Norwich could be enough to get their promotion push into gear.
Borussia Dortmund vs. Bayer Leverkusen
Saturday, August 23, 12:30PM, GolTV
Bundesliga supporters will be hoping for a much more evenly contested campaign throughout 2014/15. Bayern Munich romped to the title last season in no time at all, and two of the sides looking push the Bavarian giants close will meet on the opening day of the season.
After a stuttering start to last season, Borussia Dortmund recovered well to finish in second place come the end of the campaign. Jurgen Klopp will be pleased with the acquisitions made throughout the summer after losing star centre-forward Robert Lewandowski, and although speculation continues to linger surrounding the futures of Marco Reus and Mats Hummels, BVB look in good shape ahead of the new season.
Bayer Leverkusen enjoyed fortunes quite the opposite to Dortmund last season. They began in excellent form, but an extremely poor run towards the end of last season saw then-boss Sami Hyypia sacked and Bayer cling onto a Champions League qualifying spot by the skin of their teeth.
Roger Schmidt will be hoping to guide Leverkusen to a much more consistent campaign this time round, and after making some astute acquisitions this summer, will feel as though they may have enough to challenge the might of Germany’s big two. We’ll get a very good indication of how capable they are when they rock of up at the Westfalenstadion in Bundesliga Week 1.
Everton vs. Arsenal
Saturday, August 23, 12:30PM, NBC and NBC Sports Live Extra
These two sides met in this fixture back in April, a game in which Everton wiped the floor with Arsenal. But plenty has occurred since the Toffees’ 3-0 win, which makes this clash one of the most enticing of the weekend.
Despite losing ground in the race for a Champions League spot in that capitulation at Goodison Park, the Toffees weren’t able to overhaul the Gunners in the race to qualify for European football’s premier competition. But after Arsene Wenger’s side travelled to Turkey to face Besiktas in midweek, Everton will fancy their chances of overcoming the Londoners once again.
In truth, neither side really sparkled on the weekend of the season. Everton were well in control of their game against Leicester City, but bad luck and bad defending meant they twice relinquished a two-goal lead against the Foxes to draw 2-2. The club’s record signing Romelu Lukaku started, but was well short of match fitness; Roberto Martinez will be hoping the Belgian can terrorise the Gunners in a manner similar to the 3-0 drubbing last season.
The visitors on Saturday got their season off to a winning start, but they were made to work exceptionally hard for their three points by Crystal Palace. The Gunners failed to really click into gear for long spells against the manager-less Eagles, and Wenger will be well aware his side must raise their game if they’re to take all three points away from Goodison Park.
Sunderland vs. Manchester United
Sunday, August 24, 11:00AM, NBCSN and NBC Sports Live Extra
If Louis van Gaal wasn’t aware of the magnitude of the task he faces as manager of Manchester United, he will be after the Red Devils’ Premier League opener against Swansea. The Dutchman’s team put in a wholly unconvincing performance during their first competitive game under his tutelage, losing 2-1 to the Welsh side.
Suddenly, what looked to be a relatively straightforward start to the season on paper becomes a very difficult one indeed, as United face a tricky away game against Sunderland on Sunday. And although the 2014/15 season is still in its infancy, a loss at the Stadium of Light would heap piles of pressure onto the new United boss.
Sunderland will be in pretty good spirits ahead of this one too. They recovered well from going behind to West Brom on the opening day to snaffle a 2-2 draw, and after beating United in front of their own supporters in the Carling Cup last season and at Old Trafford towards the conclusion of last season, Gus Poyet and his players will be desperate for a repeat result.
The supporters on Wearside need little encouragement to make a racket, and with the 20-time champions of England rocking up for the first home game of the season, there’ll be a fervent atmosphere for Sunday’s late game. Make no mistake, The Black Cats will be a major test for Van Gaal’s United.
Manchester City vs. Liverpool
Monday, August 25, 3:00PM, NBCSN and NBC Sports Live Extra
After taking the Premier League title race down to the wire last season, Manchester City and Liverpool got their season’s off to solid starts with wins over Newcastle United and Southampton respectively. But both sides have a fine opportunity to make a statement early on in the campaign, as they do battle in just the second week of the season at the home of the champions.
City negotiated what looked a testing opener with the poise and professionalism of champions. Goals from David Silva and Sergio Aguero capped off a fine performance against a motivated Magpies outfit and they’ll be looking to continue the superb home form they showcased at the Etihad last season with a strong performance against Liverpool.
Brendan Rodgers and his team looked a little out of sorts against Ronald Koeman’s Southampton team, but Daniel Sturridge’s late winner ensured they got off to a winning start in 2014/15. Against City you suspect we’ll see a much sterner test of the Reds’ credentials since the departure of Luis Suarez.
With both teams looking to make an early mark in the race for the Premier League crown, a victory here could be a catalyst for a strong opening to the season. These two love to attack and the 90 minutes should yield plenty of goals; this could be the clash of the weekend.