A surfeit of superb games are on offer this weekend, as clubs across Europe begin to get stuck in to their respective domestic leagues.
Some are desperate to atone for a stuttering start, others keen to continue a prosperous beginning to their seasons. And with the league table beginning to take shape in some nations, there are opportunities to make some big statements early on in the campaign.
We’ve picked five matches from four different divisions that’ll keep you engrossed this weekend.
All kick offs are Eastern Time. Enjoy your weekend and enjoy the games!
Aston Villa vs. Arsenal
Saturday, September 20, 10:00AM, NBCSN and NBC Sports Live Extra
Paul Lambert will be looking to continue his side’s excellent start to the season, when high-flying Aston Villa welcome Arsenal to Villa Park.
For the home side, it’s been an astonishing beginning to the campaign. From the four games played so far, Villa have a draw and three victories, the most impressive of which came last time out when they beat Liverpool 1-0 at Anfield. And their marriage of set-piece prowess and counter-attacking verve means they’re capable of giving anyone a game at the moment, including Arsenal.
The Gunners will be hoping to bounce back from their disappointing defeat against Dortmund in the Champions League and Arsene Wenger has some big decisions to make ahead of this one. Alexis Sanchez aside, the Gunners have yet to sparkle as an attacking force, and it’s imperative they find some form in this one if they’re to breach this diligent Villa defence.
The home side play in a style that looks tailor-made to give the Londoners problems and it’ll be intriguing to see just how well Arsenal cope with that. Villa are a side with some serious momentum behind them, and if Wenger isn’t careful, he could find himself on the end of back-to-back losses.
Mainz 05 vs. Borussia Dortmund
Saturday, September 20, 12:30PM, GolTV
Jurgen Klopp takes his Dortmund side to his former club Mainz in Saturday’s late kick off and both sides will be desperate for a result after stuttering starts to the campaign.
In fairness to Die Borussen, they’ve recovered well after an opening day defeat to Bayer Leverkusen, dispatching of Augsburg and Freiburg in Week 2 and 3 respectively. And although Klopp’s squad is once again crippled by injuries to key players, Dortmund were wonderful in their 2-0 defeat of Arsenal in the Champions League.
But Mainz have shown flashes this season that suggest they could trouble the best sides. They’re unbeaten for starters, winning one and drawing two of their opening three games, but they were excellent in their last Bundesliga outing, dispatching of Hertha Berlin 3-1 on the road.
It’s a big test for Dortmund and if they’re to harbor any genuine title ambitions this season, the kind of game they must be winning. Klopp is still held in deistic regards by the Mainz faithful, but his former side should have enough to run Dortmund close and make this a fascinating spectacle.
Milan vs. Juventus
We’re set for an enticing contest at the San Siro, as two of Italy’s biggest sides put their perfect starts on the line.
After a deplorable showing throughout the 2013/14 season, things are looking a lot better for Milan under the tutelage of new boss Pippo Inzaghi. The Rossoneri have played with a vibrancy and a flair under their former forward, scoring eight goals in their first two games of the season; their last game was a phenomenal nine-goal thriller against Parma, one that Milan won 5-4.
Indeed, Milan look like a side revitalized, but when the Serie A champions rock up at the San Siro we’ll get a true measure of just how far this they’ve come. That’s because Juventus also look in formidable form, winning both of their first two games without conceding a goal. And after being sacked by the Rossoneri last season, you can bet Massimiliano Allegri will be desperate for his new side to put on a show in front of his former employers.
A virtuoso display from Carlos Tevez helped the Bianconeri to an easy 2-0 win in this fixture last season, but Milan—who could hand a debut to Fernando Torres in this one, fitness permitting—look as though they’ll provide much sterner opposition this time round. The result should be an engrossing contest and a wonderful atmosphere.
Manchester City vs. Chelsea
Sunday, September 21, 11:00AM, NBCSN and NBC Sports Live Extra
The two favorites for the Premier League title go head-to-head in what’ll undoubtedly be a titanic clash at the Etihad Stadium. And in an intriguing side-plot Chelsea’s all-time top goal-scorer Frank Lampard could play against the Blues for the first time since he left the club this summer.
Despite the campaign being in its infancy, Manchester City will be well aware of just how important it is for them to get a result here. Win and they’ll cut the deficit to the league leaders to just two points, but lose—as they did in this fixture last season—and they’ll trail Chelsea by a whopping eight points.
Watching Manuel Pellegrini’s side in the opening weeks of the season, you get the impression that there’s another gear for them to push into. And after suffering defeat to Bayern Munich in the Champions League and a loss to Stoke City in their last home outing, City will be keen to put things right and make a statement against the league leaders.
But there’s no guarantee of that against a Chelsea side who look formidable. The Blues will rock up in Manchester with four wins from four and the league’s hottest striker in their ranks, and after Jose Mourinho did a number on Pellegrini in this fixture last season, you can bet the visitors will be confident of making it five wins from five in the Premier League.
Levante vs. Barcelona
Luis Enrique will be hoping to preserve his immaculate record as Barcelona boss in Week 4 of La Liga, but it could be under threat this weekend, as the Blaugrana face a tricky trip to Levante.
With three wins from their opening three games, Barcelona look to be going in the right direction under Enrique. The team has played with an intensity that has been a little lacking in recent years and in addition, Lionel Messi has clearly bought into these ideologies, making the Nou Camp outfit look pretty formidable at the moment.
And when you factor in Neymar’s return from injury—the Brazilian netted a brace in Barca’s last La Liga game against Athletic Bilbao—Enrique has myriad attacking riches at his disposal. Riches that should be enough to beat Levante in their next clash and re-assert their position atop the table.
But the home side will have something to prove against their illustrious opponents, especially when you consider that Les Granotes are currently bottom of the table with a solitary point. The Ciutat de Valencia is usually a tough place to go though, and Levante could accrue some vital momentum with a shock win here.
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