We’re not long into the new season and already there’s pressure on managers, players and coaches.
Pressure to keep up good form in pursuit of prizes. Pressure to justify summer spending. Pressure to stay afloat in the league. Pressure to win a local derby. Pressure to keep your job.
Those themes are laced throughout the quintet of matches that have made the cut this week.
All kick offs are in Eastern time. Enjoy your weekend and enjoy the games!
AC MILAN VS. ROMA
Friday, August 31, 2:30 p.m. ET, ESPN+
Milan’s challenging beginning to the Serie A season continues on Friday, as they welcome Roma to the San Siro.
After their first game was postponed, the first glimpse of a new-look Milan came against Napoli a week ago and the team performed well for long spells of the game. However, after going 2-0 up the Rossoneri ended up losing 3-2, as a brace from Piotr Zielinski inspired his team into a brilliant fightback at the San Paolo.
Roma have also been an entertaining outfit in the early weeks of the campaign. After winning 1-0 away at Torino in their opener they were involved in a 3-3 draw against Atalanta on Monday, recovering from a 3-1 deficit to take a point.
While neither of these sides are considered serious title challengers, they will each have eyes on a possible top-four finish this term. A big win for either here ahead of the upcoming international break would represent a massive early boost.
LEICESTER VS. LIVERPOOL
Liverpool have gone through the first three weeks of the Premier League season with the aura of a team in control, although this trip to Leicester will be their biggest challenge so far by quite a considerable margin.
Leicester may have lost their opener to Manchester United and will be without Jamie Vardy for this one due to suspension. But in their last two games they dug out wins, with the most recent coming after a stoppage-time winner from Harry Maguire at Southampton. After a tough end to the previous term, they appear dangerous again.
It’ll be intriguing to see if they can get at a Liverpool defence that has yet to concede a goal in the Premier League yet this season. While Alisson Becker and Virgil van Dijk have made an impact for the Reds, as of yet the likes of West Ham, Crystal Palace and Brighton haven’t showed much attacking ambition against Jurgen Klopp’s side.
This one has the potential to turn into an end-to-end affair. And while Liverpool’s defence may be a little more troubled than they have been as of late, the attacking trio of Sadio Mane, Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino should win this one for them.
BURNLEY VS. MANCHESTER UNITED
Few would’ve anticipated Jose Mourinho being under quite so much scrutiny early in the season at Manchester United. This Burnley game feels vital for the Portuguese.
United were picked off in the second half against Tottenham Hotspur on Monday, with Lucas Moura exposing the defensive issues they have with devastating effect. While there were some positive signs from the Red Devils in terms of their first-half performance, you feel a result is imperative more than anything on Sunday.
Burnley haven’t had a straightforward start themselves. The 4-2 loss to Fulham a week ago saw the team make a number of uncharacteristic mistakes; it’s easy to say, but the UEFA Europa League commitments they have had early in the campaign seem to be having an adverse effect on their Premier League performances.
Regardless, it’s the type of game the Clarets players and fans should be able to lift themselves for, so expect a challenging afternoon for United. Anything other than three points for the visitors and the knives will surely be out for their disgruntled boss.
REAL BETIS VS. SEVILLA
Last season Real Betis were one of the most entertaining teams to watch anywhere in European football and they’ll be looking to give their season liftoff on Sunday when they meet local rivals Sevilla.
Despite some smart summer investment from Quique Setien’s side, as of yet Betis haven’t been able to hit full throttle. After a shock 3-0 loss at home to Levante on the opening day of the season, they were frustrated at Alaves last time out in a 0-0 draw.
Sevilla, meanwhile, have four points from their opening two matches and appear in fine form at the beginning of the season. While they will have a Europa League showdown with Sigma to negotiate on Thursday, they shouldn’t be exerting too much energy in that one ahead of their meeting with their Andalusian rivals.
Last term these two enemies played out a couple of brilliant matches, with the 5-3 win for Betis away from home—arguably the best game in Europe anywhere in 2018-19—followed up by a 2-2 draw in the return fixture. If this game ignites early on, then supporters may be in for something similar.
MONACO VS. MARSEILLE
Although PSG are considered by far and away the strongest team in France, both Monaco and Marseille are expected to be in the conversation to finish in second spot this term. As of yet, neither have impressed.
Indeed, both sides go into this fixture with a win, a draw and a defeat from their opening three games, having failed to build on wins in Week 1. Both will see this match as a chance to inject some impetus into these stuttering starts.
Monaco did end up finishing in second last season, although the club have sold key men once again this summer, giving manager Leonardo Jardim a tough job to do. Last weekend they were devoid of ingenuity and cohesion against manager-less Bordeaux, slumping to a 2-1 in the end.
Marseille fans were also left frustrated last weekend, as they saw their team held to a 2-2 draw on home soil. While manager Rudi Garcia is unlikely to have many major issues in terms of goalscoring this season, so far Marseille have really struggled to keep opposition attacks contained.
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