As international breaks go, that wasn’t one of the worst, was it?
There were some intriguing games, the UEFA Nations League was a nice addition and I suppose we’re all on decent terms with the national teams following the World Cup. Still, it’s nice to have domestic football back again.
It’s all going on Saturday this week. Spain’s two early pace-setters face massive challenges in the Basque Country, there are two vital matches in the Premier League and a meeting between two of Germany’s biggest clubs too.
A jam-packed day of football is in store. All fixtures are in Eastern time, enjoy your weekend and enjoy the games.
Tottenham Hotspur vs. Liverpool
It’s a potential cracker to start the weekend, as Liverpool put their perfect Premier League record to the test against Tottenham Hotspur at Wembley Stadium.
Aside from their destruction of an abject West Ham team on the opening day, Liverpool haven’t been especially fluid in their last three matches. However, they’ve got four wins on the board and shown they can be cohesive and compelling in equal measure. That makes them a major threat on Saturday.
Spurs supporters will be feeling as though this game is coming at the wrong time. Not only did they lose to Watford a fortnight ago, their star man Harry Kane has looked a little jaded as of late, while Dele Alli and Hugo Lloris will miss this one due to injury. Even so, on home soil, they’ll surely attack and surely fancy their chances.
For Liverpool it’s huge. Not only are they facing a vulnerable Tottenham team, but a win here will surely cement their status as a serious challenger to Manchester City this season. If they can deliver a win, excitement will stir on the red half of Merseyside.
Bayern Munich vs. Bayer Leverkusen
At the start of the Bundesliga season the signs have been ominous from Bayern Munich, especially with one of their closest rivals and upcoming opponents, Bayer Leverkusen, struggling in the nascent stages of the term.
For the German champions it’s been business as usual in their first two matches. Nico Kovac has watched his side score three times in their two games, giving them two pretty straightforward victories. Even at this early stage in the campaign, there appears to be a chasm between them and the rest of the division.
Leverkusen entered the season with promise and were tipped by many to be the closest challengers to the Bavarian juggernaut. However, they’re already six points off the pace, with Heiko Herrlich’s side falling to shock losses against Borussia Monchengladbach and Wolfsburg. It’d be a big surprise if they avoided three in a row this weekend.
Still, in theory this match should represent one of the biggest domestic challenges for Bayern, as players like Leon Bailey, Julian Brandt and Kai Havertz have it in them to hurt opposition defences. However, Leverkusen haven’t looked like a side capable of getting anything from an opponent like this so far this term.
Real Sociedad vs. Barcelona
Real Sociedad’s Anoeta stadium has traditionally been a hugely difficult venue for Barcelona down the years. The Blaugrana head there again on Saturday looking to keep their winning start to La Liga going.
In January, Barcelona came from two goals down to beat Sociedad 4-2 in a thrilling contest. It kept their unbeaten run in the 2017-18 term going and was the first time since 2007 that the La Liga giants had come away from the Anoeta with three points in a league match. You sense that would’ve been a huge weight off everyone’s shoulders.
As such, Barcelona stalwarts like Lionel Messi, Gerard Pique and Sergio Busquets should head to the Basque Country without the same sense of trepidation. Not only have they experienced a win there recently, but the team has started 2018-19 well overall, winning their previous game 8-2 against newly-promoted Huesca.
Sociedad will want to dish out some more misery to the Catalan outfit in front of their own fans. After winning the opening two games of the season, they slipped up last time out, losing 2-1 to Eibar.
Watford vs. Manchester United
Watford’s magnificent winning start to the season has earned comparisons to the Leicester City team of 2015-16. Manchester United are the visitors on Saturday and will want to bring the Hornets back down to earth.
The parallels between Watford and the Foxes are there, though. Like that Leicester side this is team that operates in a traditional 4-4-2 system and is packed full of players willing to put in a major shift for the cause. They’re defensively robust, have creativity out wide and in central areas have a brilliant balance provided by Abdelaye Doucoure and Etienne Capoue.
At the moment the Hornets are fluid, in unison and are winning matches. Under the lights with a raucous support behind them, the Red Devils are going to face a massive challenge. If the players aren’t behind manager Jose Mourinho, it’ll likely show in this pressure cooker environment.
The Red Devils did win their previous fixture, doing a job on Burnley in a 2-0 triumph. This feels like a much more significant test of where United are at and for Watford, three points here will keep their supporters in dreamland for a little longer yet.
Athletic Club vs. Real Madrid
Despite losing manager Zinedine Zidane and all-time top goalscorer Cristiano Ronaldo this summer, Real Madrid have transitioned into a new era well.
Their first three games may have been favourable, but manager Julen Lopetegui appears to have got his principles across quickly. The coach’s approach seems to invigorated individuals within the squad and Los Blancos head to San Mames, for their first major test of the campaign, in fine spirits.
Up top they’ve still looked dangerous without Ronaldo. Gareth Bale has stepped in to lead the attack to great effect, picking the ball up in pockets of space, driving at defences and scoring goals. Karim Benzema has also found an edge in the penalty area, playing all 90 minutes of Real’s first three game and scoring four times.
Athletic have only played two games so far, picking up four points in the process. While they aren’t expected to push for a European spot this term, at the San Mames they have it in them to upset some of the best sides in the Spanish top flight.