When we have an honorable mentions section on this feature, its always a firm indicator that the weekend is going to be a bit of a special one. And a week ahead of the dreaded international break (I know, I know, sorry for mentioning it) we have a few days bristling with top quality action is most welcome.
Serie A joins the Premier League, Bundesliga and La Liga this weekend in getting their campaign underway, making the five top games of the weekend exceptionally difficult choices. But fear not, if you don’t like the look of one of our selected five ties, there’s plenty more to whet the appetite.
So before the domestic leagues take a brief yet untimely hiatus, why not immerse yourselves in a few games that should be thoroughly engrossing?
As usual, all kick times are Eastern time. Enjoy the games and enjoy your weekend!
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.
Burnley vs. Manchester United, Saturday August 30, 7:45AM, NBCSN and NBC Sports Live Extra
Turf Moor should be the venue where Angel di Maria makes his first ever appearance in English football. Can he inspire United to their first win of the season, or can Burnley raise their game to snatch three points against the Red Devils?
Schalke 04 vs. Bayern Munich, Saturday August, 12:30PM, GolTV
A trip to Schalke represents one of Bayern’s toughest games of the campaign, and we’ll be afforded an early indication of just how good Pep Guardiola’s team are going to be this season by their showing at the Veltins Arena.
After getting their first ever season in the top flight off to a dream start with a 1-0 win over Real Sociedad, minnows Eibar travel to the capital to take on Diego Simeone’s Spanish champions. Atleti toiled at Rayo Vallecano in their season opener and will be desperate to make amends in front of their own fans.
Even though box office Mario Balotelli will no longer frequent the San Siro, the progress of the Rossoneri is well worth keeping an eye on. They start life under Pippo Inzaghi with a tricky test against Lazio; the legendary forward will be desperate to get his tenure off to a winning start.
Everton vs. Chelsea
Saturday August 30, 12:30PM, NBC and NBC Sports Live Extra
The Toffees face their second consecutive home game against a big hitter as they get set to welcome Jose Mourinho’s men to Goodison Park in the Premier League’s late game on Saturday.
For Roberto Martinez, it’s been a frustrating start to the campaign. Everton have looked a little undercooked in their outings so far, letting slip four vital points in the latter stages of their opening games. But a gritty win against Chelsea in their second home game of last season helped spark a wonderful run and Evertonians will be hoping history repeats itself here.
The visitors are an extremely tough team to beat, though. Defensively ruthless and boasting a wealth of quality midfield options, Chelsea look like they could be the team to beat in the Premier League this season. Although some hope will have been afforded to Everton with the news that Diego Costa—the Blues’ prolific £32 million summer signing—is coming into this one with a hamstring injury, leaving Chelsea without myriad striking options.
By contrast, Everton now boast a pair of excellent forwards and both Romelu Lukaku and Samuel Eto’o will be desperate to prove themselves against their former employers. If the Toffees are going to take all three points here, then you suspect one of that pair will play a critical role.
Roma vs. Fiorentina
Serie A is back on our screens this weekend, and one of the teams every will be keeping a close eye on is big spending AS Roma. The Giallorossi will have little time to settle either, as they face an exuberant Fiortentina team first up.
Not only has Roma boss Rudi Garcia recruited experienced figures like Ashley Cole on cheap deals, they’ve splashed the cash on quality players like Radja Nainggolan and Juan Iturbe. And after former Juventus manager Antonio Conte walked out on the Bianconeri in pre-season, many are tipping the capital club to mount a title charge.
But Fiorentina will be buoyed heading into this one too. Speculation has lingered over the club all summer regarding the future of Juan Cuadrado, but up to now La Viola have managed to keep hold of their prized asset. And with the Colombian flyer set to remain in florence, this team could be capable of mounting a charge towards the Champions League.
After the dominance Juventus have enjoyed over the past few seasons, Serie A looks the most open it has done for many a year. These two teams will desperate to make a positive impression in Week 1.
Tottenham vs. Liverpool
Sunday August 31, 8:30AM, NBCSN and NBC Sports Live Extra
Inspired by Luis Suarez’s majestic display, the Reds thumped an abject Spurs side 5-0 in this fixture last season. But plenty has changed since Liverpool ran riot at White Hart Lane back on that cold December night.
The Uruguayan that inspired that stunning performance has since departed, of course. And although his big money sale has yielded a flurry of incoming players through the Anfield gates, Liverpool haven’t really clicked into gear as of yet. Even more of a concern for Brendan Rodgers is that the Reds have showcased the same defensive deficiencies that curtailed their campaign last season.
Tottenham will be looking to take advantage of those lapses at the back and with players like Erik Lamela and Nacer Chadli looking revitalised, they’ll fancy their chances of handing the Merseyside outfit their second consecutive defeat on the road. Mauricio Pochettino has overseen two wins from his two games in charge so far, but this match against last season’s runners-up represents his biggest test as Spurs manager by far.
Both teams will play with intensity and an attacking purpose that should make this a fascinating battle. That should guarantee goals and if the game starts at a fast tempo, this one could catch fire. Oh, and Mario Balotelli will be making his debut too.
Villarreal vs. Barcelona
There was plenty to be encouraged about in Luis Enrique’s first La Liga outing as Barcelona boss. The Blaugrana ran out comfortable 3-0 winners against Elche in Week 1, and there were promising facets aplenty to take from the match ahead of this tricky trip to Villarreal.
While he was flanked by strong performances by young players Munir and Rafinha, Lionel Messi hogged the spotlight once again with two goals and an all-round dazzling display. The majestic No.10 looked sharp and confident in this early outing, and Enrique will be delighted at the focus and leadership his star man showcased throughout.
Aside from Messi’s typical brilliance, Ivan Rakitic was marvellous alongside Andres Iniesta at the heart of the Barcelona midfield, while Jeremy Mathieu was solid in defence. But the upcoming visit to the Madrigal will afford us a much more realistic indication as to where this new look Blaugrana outfit currently stand.
Enrique could be set to welcome Neymar back to his squad for this one after he trained this week for the first time since spraining his ankle. And he could be needed too, as Villarreal are an extremely capable outfit capable of giving anyone a game on their day. If the Catalans aren’t on it from the get go, then the team dubbed the Yellow Submarine could capitalise.
Real Sociedad vs. Real Madrid
After securing an historic tenth European Cup last season and spending the cash in typical fashion throughout the summer, the vast momentum Real Madrid have accrued pointed towards an opening day demolition of Cordoba.
But stellar names like Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale, Toni Kroos and James Rodriguez struggled for long spells against their less illustrious opponents, although goals from Karim Benzema and Ronaldo eventually saw Carlo Ancelotti’s side notch an unconvincing victory.
After toiling in Week 1, Ancelotti will be well aware that his team must improve when they travel to the Anoeta to face Real Sociedad. And although the Basque outfit have lost a key man in Antoine Griezmann, they still boast some quality players and will be keen to bounce back from that disappointing away defeat against Eibar.
Without Xabi Alonso in their ranks, it’ll be intriguing to see what player is tasked with filling the void of playmaker for Real Madrid. And if Los Blancos fail to snaffle three points here, questions will undoubtedly emerge about the wisdom of letting the veteran midfielder leave.