Soccer fanatics in years to come will look back on Sunday, Oct. 4, 2015, and wonder if there’s ever been a day of action that rivals it. Across the globe there are a host of gripping clashes to savor between elite teams, bitter enemies and title competitors. Fans with an eclectic tastes would probably struggle to write a better fixture list off the cuff.
It made picking this week’s top five games a joyous but difficult task. So there is naturally room for a few honorable mentions. Every game on this list has something huge riding on it, whether it be prestige, regional pride or positional gains; there will be few weekends quite as enjoyable as this one for soccer nuts.
All kickoffs are in Eastern time. Enjoy your weekend, and enjoy your football.
Borussia Monchengladbach vs. Wolfsburg
Saturday, October 3, 9:30AM, FOX Sports 1 and FOX Soccer 2GO
The third and second best teams in the Bundesliga from the 2014-15 season, Borussia Monchengladbach and Wolfsburg will be keen to bounce back from defeats to Manchester outfits in midweek in the Champions League. Both teams have had testing starts to the campaign but will be hopeful of building some impetus with a win here.
Sevilla vs. Barcelona
Saturday, October 3, 10:00AM, beIN SPORTS, beIN SPORTS Español & fuboTV
It’s been a rocky start to 2015-16 for Barcelona, with key men picking up injuries left, right and centre. Usually, a trip to the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan would be a major test for this team, but Sevilla have had an awful beginning to the La Liga season and come into this match languishing in 16th position.
Ajax vs. PSV Eindhoven
Sunday, October 4, 8:30AM, NGSN
These two giants of Dutch football are the two teams most likely to contest the title this season, and it’s always a wonderful atmosphere when Ajax and PSV Eindhoven go head-to-head. The hosts will be hoping to open up an eight-point lead on the reigning champions with a win at the Amsterdam Arena.
Paris Saint-Germain vs. Marseille
Sunday, October 4, 3:00PM, beIN SPORTS and fuboTV
Paris Saint-Germain are racing off into the distance at the summit of Ligue 1, and while Marseille may not have the capabilities to challenge the champions over a season, in a one-off contest, they definitely have the quality required. The enmity between these two, in a game so often dubbed as Le Classique, will also ensure this is a gripping occasion.
Everton vs. Liverpool
Sunday, October 4, 8:30AM, NBCSN and NBC Sports Live Extra
Merseyside derby matches are never dull affairs, and despite their atrocious record in this fixture, Everton go into this clash as favorites to beat a stuttering Liverpool in the eyes of many supporters, especially after the stunning comeback win put together by the Toffees against West Bromwich Albion on Monday.
In the previous campaign, Roberto Martinez’s side would have meekly surrendered and lost the game after going 2-0 down, but galvanized by a crop of fearless young players, Everton roared back and accrued massive momentum going into Sunday’s showdown, grabbing a 3-2 win.
Liverpool have endured a really wobbly beginning to the Premier League season, with manager Brendan Rodgers once again struggling to integrate an influx of summer signings. The boss remains under big pressure despite a 3-2 win over Aston Villa in their previous domestic match, and you wonder if there’d be any way back if the Reds were to lose at Goodison Park.
Everton do seem to have a mental block when it comes to playing their neighbors, having failed to beat the Anfield outfit in the league since 2010. But with long-term nemesis Steven Gerrard now in Los Angeles, Martinez will be hopeful his team can end Liverpool’s longstanding stranglehold on this fixture.
Arsenal vs. Manchester United
Sunday, October 4, 11:00AM, NBCSN and NBC Sports Live Extra
Following on from the big clash in Merseyside will be a tantalizing affair in north London, as Arsenal welcome their age-old rivals Manchester United to the Emirates Stadium.
If the Gunners win, they can go level on points with the Red Devils, who top the table heading into Week 8 of the season. Arsenal are capable of winning the game, too, but whether they do will depend largely on which shade of this team shows up: the one which hammered Leicester City 5-2 with a swagger, or the one that meekly surrendered to Olympiacos in midweek.
There’s a festering cohesion and confidence about the Red Devils. They turned things around superbly against Wolfsburg in the Champions League, and Louis van Gaal seems to have instilled a massive amount of fortitude into this group. In Anthony Martial, United have a young forward that’s causing major problems for opposition defences, too.
United produced a counter-attacking clinic to win this fixture last season, but adopting those sorts of tactics has been less commonplace in the 2015-16 term. It’ll be intriguing to see whether van Gaal reverts to those mantras, and if he does, whether Arsene Wenger possesses the antidote to nullify it.
Bayern Munich vs. Borussia Dortmund
Sunday, October 4, 11:30AM, FOX Sports 2 and FOX Soccer 2GO
After some positive early signs that Borussia Dortmund were ready to compete with Bayern Munich for the Bundesliga title in 2015-16, there have been some ominous glimpses in the past two games. But Dortmund have the chance to haul themselves back to within a point of the league leaders when the two square off on Sunday.
Bayern, in fairness, have been marvelous so far. Pep Guardiola’s team have won all eight of their league games, and in Robert Lewandowski they are in possession of European football’s hottest striker. The Pole has scored a staggering 10 goals in his last three games and will be desperate to continue that run against his former employers.
Dortmund have been very impressive, though. Thomas Tuchel has expedited the club’s transition from the Klopp era and made a few crucial tweaks to the set-up. After winning their first six games, BVB have dropped off a little with draws in their last two Bundesliga outings, but a clash against Bayern should be enough to galvanize this group.
Most neutrals will be hoping Dortmund can spring a result, as Bayern will surely romp away with the title otherwise. Der Klassiker is a fixture which has churned out some surprises in recent seasons, and a fearless BVB team surely have the best chance of any team putting a stop to the juggernaut Guardiola has assembled.
Atletico Madrid vs. Real Madrid
Sunday, October 4, 2:30PM, beIN SPORTS and fuboTV
It was this fixture last season when things began to unravel for Real Madrid, as Atletico Madrid trounced them 4-0 at the Vicente Calderon, Cristiano Ronaldo enjoyed his birthday celebrations with Kevin Roldan a few hours later and Barcelona took complete control of the La Liga title race.
You can bet that with the pragmatic influence of Rafael Benitez now heading up Los Blancos, there is no way that scoreline will be repeated. It may not be the standard Real Madrid way, but the ex-Liverpool boss has made this team much more difficult to beat, and at difficult venues such as this one, that’ll serve them well.
Atletico have definitely had the edge in recent derby matches, but they’re in poor form coming into this one. Diego Simeone’s side were beaten by surprise leaders Villarreal last weekend and they were unable to recover in the Champions League in midweek, falling to a shock defeat to Benfica at the Calderon. Following some strong summer additions, their slump has been a big surprise.
There’s nothing quite like the visit of their local enemies to spice this raucous stadium into life though, and this will be the first major test of Benitez’s Madrid. If they pass it with flying colors, Los Blancos may well just edge ahead of Barcelona as favorites for this season’s La Liga crown.
Seattle Sounders vs. LA Galaxy
Sunday, October 4, 9:30PM, FOX Sports 1
Capping off a top-class weekend will be a clash between two of Major League Soccer’s most illustrious outfits, as Seattle Sounders welcome their Western Conference rivals LA Galaxy to CenturyLink Field.
The visitors showed encouraging signs that they’re beginning to click into gear as the end of the regular season draws increasingly closer. Their 3-2 against FC Dallas last time out saw Giovani dos Santos, Robbie Keane and Steven Gerrard all find the back of the net as the high-profile names seem to be gelling as an attacking force.
Seattle are still looking to recover after their slow start to the campaign and have shown some positive signs in recent weeks. On home soil, they’re a tough outfit to get the better of and with LA just four points clear atop of the Western Conference, a win here could reignite their own quest to clinch the Supporters’ Shield.
Galaxy haven’t been convincing at all on the road, as they possess the second worst traveling record in the entire conference with just two wins from 15 games. But it’s this stage of the season when this side usually clicks into gear, and they’ll be hopeful of landing a decisive blow against a major rival with the playoffs quickly coming into view.
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