Sometimes a weekend of soccer works out perfectly. It’ll be varied, including games from different leagues, at different times, with plenty riding on them. Thankfully, this weekend looks set to be one of those.
Five quality games all spread nicely over two days from arguably the five most exciting leagues anywhere in world soccer. So settle in for absorbing matches from the Premier League, Bundesliga, Serie A, La Liga and Major League Soccer.
All kickoffs are in Eastern time. Enjoy your weekend and enjoy the games!
Newcastle United vs. Arsenal
Saturday, August 29, 7:45AM, NBCSN and NBC Sports Live Extra
St James’ Park will be the venue for the first of our five selections, as Arsenal get set to take on Newcastle United in Saturday’s early kick-off.
The Gunners will be glad to get away from the Emirates Stadium. In five of their last six league matches they’ve failed to score on home soil, a run which was continued on Monday with a 0-0 stalemate against Liverpool. But with Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny both big doubts for the match, it’s the defensive side of this team which Arsene Wenger will be most concerned about.
Newcastle, by contrast, are likely to see this as a fine opportunity to spring a shock. Steve McClaren’s side were surprisingly cohesive and determined in their trip to Old Trafford last time out, holding Manchester United to a 0-0 draw. Getting their first win of the season against the Gunners would be a major boost for the Magpies.
Going up against Arsenal has been tough going for the Tyneside outfit recently, though. In Olivier Giroud, Newcastle will be facing a forward who always seems to score against them, while all seven of the last Premier League encounters have gone the way of the Londoners.
Bayern Munich vs. Bayer Leverkusen
Saturday, August 30, 12:30PM, FOX Sports 2 and FOX Soccer 2GO
The early indications this season in the Bundesliga suggest that Bayern Munich are going to waltz away with another easy title win, but this weekend, they could well come up against their most likely challengers in Bayer Leverkusen.
Roger Schmidt has done a remarkable job at the BayArena since taking over midway through last season. Leverkusen have some marvellous footballers, particularly Karim Bellarabi and Hakan Calhanoglu, but it’s the collective intensity with which they play that makes this team so impressive. They were traits that were on show in earnest in midweek as Bayer swatted aside Lazio 3-0 to secure their place in the Champions League.
Still, going to the Allianz Arena and getting something from the game is an almighty ask for any side. Bayern have settled into an early groove this season too, with the effervescence of Douglas Costa and the commanding midfield play of Arturo Vidal affording Pep Guardiola’s men two refreshed dimensions. In front of their own supporters, they’ll be very confident for this one.
Both sides have perfect records from their two games so far and although the champions are wonderful to watch in full flight, there will be plenty of neutrals hoping Bayer can find a surprise result and potentially spark a title race into life.
Roma vs. Juventus
Sunday, August 30. Noon, beIN SPORTS, beIN SPORTS Español and fuboTV
Another division in which we’ve been witness to recent processions is Serie A, but there have been some indications that Juventus may not be quite so infallible this time round. Roma, arguably their nearest challengers, will look to test that resolve on Sunday.
After losing Andrea Pirlo, Arturo Vidal and Carlos Tevez during this transfer window, the last think the Bianconeri needed was a poor start to the campaign. But that’s exactly what the European champions got, as they fell to a shock 1-0 loss at home to Udinese in Week 1, with new players and longstanding figures failing to gel.
The cohesion of this unfamiliar group will be tested emphatically by Roma. The Stadio Olimpico is a very difficult venue to play football and after drafting in players of the quality of Edin Dzeko, Antonio Rudiger, Mohamed Salah and Lucas Digne, the Giallorossi have a squad which looks primed for a title charge.
One major issue with Rudi Garcia’s Roma side, although undeniably talented, is their mental strength. Over the past couple of seasons they don’t seem to have possessed the intangible fortitude needed to push the likes of Juventus hard; an early season win over the vulnerable champions would represent a massive hurdle overcome.
Sevilla vs. Atletico Madrid
Sunday, August 30, 2:30PM, beIN SPORTS Español and fuboTV
There’s an incredible amount of depth in La Liga at the moment, which means aside from the matches involving Real Madrid and Barcelona, there will be plenty of games between other sides that are well worth sampling. Including this one between Sevilla and Atletico Madrid.
The Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan crowd will be treated to Champions League football once again this season and as the Andalusians get their home season underway, there is another crop of new faces to savour. Yevhen Konoplyanka is definitely a talent to look out for, although ex-Stoke City man Steven N’Zonzi won’t feature after being sent off on his debut last week.
Atletico should be a thrilling team to watch this season too. Diego Simeone has done some superb summer business, drafting in the likes of Lucian Vietto, Jackson Martinez and Filipe Luis to bolster their already impressive squad. With Antoine Griezmann and Fernando Torres also in situ, expect plenty of goals when the Rojiblancos take to the field.
Both of these teams are probably a little short when it comes to challenging for the title, but a win here would lay down a substantial marker. Expect the teams to be aggressive as a result and for the match to be an extremely entertaining affair.
Seattle Sounders vs. Portland Timbers
It’s rivalry weekend in Major League Soccer and of all the intriguing clashes set to be played out, the most interesting of the lot will see Seattle Sounders host the Portland Timbers at Century Link Field.
The Sounders will be backed by a raucous home support on the night and it’s certainly something this team could do with. Seattle have really been struggling for form in recent outings, having lost six of their last seven MLS matches. Five of those have seen the Sounders shut out too, which is a major concern for a side with attacking players like Obafemi Martins and Clint Dempsey.
By contrast, Portland seem to be coming back into some kind of form. They’re unbeaten in their last four matches and have gradually crept up towards the summit of the Western Conference. Indeed, if Caleb Porter’s men can secure a win over their biggest rivals in this match then they’ll build an eight-point gap back to the Sounders.
But Century Link Field hasn’t been a happy hunting ground for Portland, having never won at the venue in the regular season. Given the awful form of the hosts, the Timbers may never get a better chance to put an end to that wretched run and plunge their illustrious enemies deeper into crisis.
Follow Matt on Twitter @MattJFootball
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