Football, the American version, will be back on a lot of screens across the United States this weekend after a prolonged absence. But soccer, following a two-week international break that felt like a summer layoff, still takes centre stage here.
In Europe the top divisions can settle into a groove until the next international layoff, that is, somewhat annoyingly, in a month’s time. Still, for the continent’s grandest sides, there’ll be an expectancy to recoup a lot of points early on; lavish summer spending leads to more pressure.
This week’s selections have an especially cosmopolitan feel to them, with fixtures from the Premier League, La Liga, Ligue 1, Major League Soccer and Serie A to enjoy.
All kick-offs are in Eastern Time. Enjoy your weekend and enjoy the games!
Manchester City vs. Liverpool
There’s going to be goals here. City, who will be seeking to take the initiative on home soil, against a Liverpool side that are the most dangerous in the Premier League on the counter-attack should produce a cracker.
Though City are sitting pretty on seven points after three games, as of yet Pep Guardiola’s side haven’t hit top gear. Against Brighton in Week 1 they were efficient, against Everton in Week 2 they battled hard, while against Bournemouth, after 96 minutes of toil, they eventually grabbed a late winner through Raheem Sterling.
This will be their first meeting with a genuine title rival and it’ll be fascinating to see what approach Guardiola opts for. Especially against a Liverpool side that overcame their first major test of the season with a flourish, annihilating an appalling Arsenal outfit 4-0 at Anfield. You can guarantee manager Jurgen Klopp will have his players up for this one.
The Reds have fared pretty well at City under Klopp too, with Liverpool winning 4-1 at the Etihad Stadium on his first visit. Last term the two teams played out a breathless 1-1 draw and you sense the pattern of the match will be similarly frantic.
Valencia vs. Atletico Madrid
With the Wanda Metropolitano Stadium not ready for a while yet, Atletico Madrid will continue their run of away games with a testing trip to Valencia.
Given their iconic manager Diego Simeone signed a new contract with the football club leading up to this game, Atletico should be bouncing into this one. Their coach had previously reduced his deal until 2018, though a two-year extension will see him stay until 2020. For a team that’s been built in his image, that’s vital.
Valencia manager Marcelino is seeking to construct a similar blueprint you feel. Granted, it’s early days for Los Che under his guidance, but the initial signs have been positive. A win over Las Palmas on the opening day was followed by a fantastic 2-2 draw against Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu.
The visit of Atletico will be another enormous challenge, even with star forward Antoine Griezmann set to miss the contest because of suspension. If Valencia can take a positive result from this one, excitement will gather pace at the Mestalla about what they are capable of doing this term.
Nice vs. Monaco
Saturday, September 9, 11 a.m., beIN SPORTS Connect and fubo Premier
The performances of Nice and Monaco were two of European football’s most fascinating storylines last season, and they’ve each responded to summers of transition in very different ways so far.
Nice have stuttered out of the blocks in 2017-18. They were unable to secure a spot in the UEFA Champions League group stages proper, as they were eliminated by Napoli. In Ligue 1, meanwhile, they’ve slumped to three defeats from their first four outings; the heady days of last term feel a long way away.
Lucien Favre’s side need a spark to get going, although finding it against Monaco will be tough. The French champions have won 15 league matches in a row, a competition record, and despite some seismic shifts in the playing squad, they’ve been in typically scintillating form at the start of the 2017-18 term.
While Kylian Mbappe, Bernardo Silva, Tiemoue Bakayoko and Benjamin Mendy have all departed, the Monaco supporters will be excited to see the likes of Keita Balde and Stevan Jovetic in action. Even in a potentially difficult away encounter, you sense the new forwards will be keen to get at a Nice defence that has been so brittle.
New York City vs. Portland Timbers
Saturday, September 9, 5:30 p.m., MLS LIVE, ROOT Sports NW, YES and fubo Premier
New York City and Portland Timbers will each be out to apply pressure to the league leaders at the top of their respective conferences on Saturday, as they meet in what should be a fascinating contest.
Patrick Vieira’s side grabbed an impressive 1-0 win over Sporting Kansas City in midweek to continue their excellent recent form. NYCFC have now won four of their last five matches, keeping Eastern Conference leaders Toronto FC in their sights; there’s six points between the two teams after 27 games.
New York will also be keen to put distance between themselves and those sides chasing them in second spot, a position they’ve consolidated after Chicago Fire’s recent slump. Portland, by contrast, are in a massive battle to finish in the top two in the Western Conference.
Indeed, they head to New York knowing they could end the weekend between top spot—they trail Seattle Sounders by a point—and fifth position. With just seven points separating the top eight sides in this division, any kind of positive result at the end of a tricky away trip will be vital.
Lazio vs. Milan
The new-look AC Milan side have scrapped to two wins in their opening two Serie A matches so far. This match against Lazio will require them to step up their standards again.
On the opening day of the campaign a red card for Crotone early on allowed Milan to saunter to a 3-0 win, while a fine late goal from Suso bailed them out against Cagliari. Naturally, for a team that has so many new players in it, the signs are this outfit will take some time to gel under Vincenzo Montella.
The Stadio Olimpico is a venue that demands some of these big-money acquisitions step up in. Indeed, so far this season it’s been the longstanding players, like Suso, and academy star Patrick Cutrone who have been the leading lights. The latter has grabbed two goals and an assist in the first two games of the campaign.
Lazio are one of a clutch of teams who will feel they have an outside chance of securing Champions League football next season. After the sale of a key attacker in Keita, a win would help keep spirits high after such a vital departure.