The international break yielded a much more tolerable set of fixtures than we’re used to, but there’s nothing quite like domestic competition to get the soccer senses stimulated. And this weekend we’ve got a host of different clashes to savor from across the globe, each with their own unique connotations and surrounding circumstances.
Featuring in our five feature games this week is one of European soccer’s most volatile derby matches, a game between two Italian giants looking to get their season’s kickstarted and battle between two of the most talented teams in the MLS.
We’ve also got some enticing matches from the English top flight to look forward to, as the two favorites for the Premier League title both face differing, but equally awkward opponents.
As per usual, all times are in 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.
Manchester City vs. Tottenham
Saturday, October 18, 7:45AM, NBCSN & NBC Sports Live Extra
Manuel Pellegrini’s team hammered in 11 goals against the men from White Hart Lane last season, and we’re surely guaranteed more goals in this enticing clash to get the weekend underway.
After some early promise fizzled out, Mauricio Pochettino looks to be putting his stamp on this Tottenham side in earnest. A draw at Arsenal was followed up by victory against high-flying Southampton, but you suspect a trip to the Etihad will provide us with a much clearer measure of Spurs’ progress under the tutelage of the Argentine.
City also look to have got their act together as of late, and their win at Villa Park was a performance oozing with the nous and class of champions. They were purposeful, patient and eventually got their reward against a dangerous Aston Villa side; Yaya Toure and Sergio Aguero notched late goals to win it City.
In David Silva, Pellegrini might just have the league’s finest player at his disposal too. The Spanish playmaker has been magnificent as of late, floating into space majestically and picking dangerous passes with unerring consistency. If Spurs are to have any chance of taking a positive result back down to the capital, they’re going to have to shut him down.
Crystal Palace vs. Chelsea
Saturday, October 18, 10:00AM, NBCSN & NBC Sports Live Extra
Chelsea’s title challenge was dealt a major blow last season after a John Terry own goal condemned the Blues to a 1-0 defeat at Selhurst Park. But with Jose Mourinho’s men looking formidable in the opening weeks of the campaign, they’ll have high hopes of a different outcome this time round.
Indeed, this current Chelsea crop has the Mourinho stamp on it in earnest. They’re not only a cohesive, diligent team, but the additions of Cesc Fabregas and Diego Costa has given them a refreshed attacking edge. They’ve won all but one of their opening seven games, and will be desperate to banish the bad memories of last season and keep their stellar run going.
Neil Warnock’s side suffered a defeat in their last outing against Hull City, but prior to their surrender at the KC Stadium there have been some promising signs. Palace were excellent in their recent wins over Everton and Leicester City, and if they can counter attack well against this Chelsea team, they have the pace to exploit spaces.
The speed of Fraizer Campbell, Wilfried Zaha and Yannick Bolasie will give any defence problems and there have been times this season that Chelsea have looked a little ropey at the back this season. Whether Palace can stay strong in the wake of some inevitable Blues pressure is another matter entirely, though.
Galatasaray vs. Fenerbahce
Saturday, October 18, Noon, no US TV listings available (check online)
Clashes between Turkey’s two biggest sides are always volatile, always vital and always keenly contested. And ahead of this massive derby from the Superlig, there looks to be very little between the two Istanbul giants, who boast almost identical records at this early stage of the season.
Fenerbahce and Galatasaray are currently languishing down in third and fourth place respectively, and a win for either side would temporarily take them back to the top of the table with league leaders Besiktas not playing until Sunday. But in the infancy of this campaign, the two fierce rivals will be looking to land an early blow.
Both teams have won three, drawn one and lost one of their opening five games, and while the attacking quality within their ranks typically allow the pair to create chances regularly and score freely, at this juncture the two sides have notched just 10 goals between them. But a win for either here would surely be a springboard to better things.
In this fixture last season, Wesley Sneijder scored the only goal in a 1-0 win for the home side and the raucous Galatasaray supporters that pack out Turk Telekom Arena will inevitably conjure a magnificent atmosphere. For the exuberant shows of fanaticism alone, this one is an absolute must watch.
Inter vs. Napoli
The pressure is on both Walter Mazzarri and Rafael Benitez heading into this one, as Inter and Napoli meet at the Giuseppe Meazza. The two Italian giants have endured difficult starts to the campaign and are already trailing Juventus by a substantial margin. A loss for either side here and you wonder what fate would await the vanquished manager.
Inter actually began their Serie A campaign with some conviction. They won two and drawn two of their opening four games, conceding just one goal in the process, but things have taken a turn for the worse in recent weeks. Consecutive heavy defeats to Cagliari and Fiorentina—4-1 and 3-1 losses respectively—have sapped momentum from their season.
The Nerazzuri have been especially shaky at the back, and a Napoli side boasting Gonzalo Higuain, Marek Hamsik, Dries Mertens and Jose Callejon would typically capitalise. But the Partenopei have been toothless in attack this season, netting just eight times in their six games to date; their Argentine hitman has yet to find the back of the net in Serie A this season.
Encouragingly for Napoli, they’ve managed to pick up victories in their last two games, albeit against bottom side Sassuolo and a nine-man Torino outfit. Nonetheless, it’s Benitez’s side that carry the impetus into this one, although a trip to the San Siro is always a daunting prospect.
LA Galaxy vs. Seattle Sounders
Sunday, October 19, 8:30PM, ESPN2, ESPN Deportes & WatchESPN
The top two teams in the Western Conference lock horns at the StubHub Center, with LA Galaxy and Seattle Sounders battling it out to secure the top spot ahead of the MLS Cup playoffs.
Seattle currently lead the way in the Western Conference and although their playoff spot is already secured, Sigi Schmid’s team will be looking to get that No. 1 spot secured sooner rather than later. They’ll also be looking to put right their poor record on the road against the Galaxy; the Sounders haven’t won in LA since 2009.
The Galaxy will also be looking to clinch the Supporter’s Shield and can take a big step towards it with a win here. The match will be Landon Donovan’s last regular season game in front of his adoring supporters, so expect sellout crowd to be in high spirits for this one. If LA pick up the Supporter’s Shield this season, it’ll be their fifth in total; more than any other side.
The MLS Cup will be the ultimate goal for these two sides, but this clash—the first of back-to-back matches between the pair—could be vital to either achieving their eventual end of season goal. Getting the No. 1 spot and the Supporter’s Shield can stir confidence, while a supposed easier draw can streamline the progess to MLS showpiece too.
Follow Matt on Twitter @MattJFootball
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