We’ve now broken the back of the international break and there’s elite domestic football from Europe to look forward to again.
There’s high-class action across the continent, with rivalries old and new to be resumed in England, Germany, Spain and Italy. Typically, after these hiatuses, the games are enthralling and the results are surprising.
All kick-offs are in Eastern time. Enjoy your weekend and enjoy the games!
Chelsea vs. Manchester United
The first showcase match of the weekend may well be the most important, as United manager Jose Mourinho heads to former club Chelsea in need of a result.
While United recovered to beat Newcastle 3-2 in the game before the international break, throughout that contest there were severe structural issues, most notably in terms of the team’s defensive setup. That’ll be a big worry heading to Stamford Bridge on Saturday.
Mourinho will at least hope his important players from an attacking sense can stand up as they did a fortnight ago, with Juan Mata, Anthony Martial and Alexis Sanchez all on the scoresheet. After all, Chelsea have an attacking star in Eden Hazard who is almost guaranteed to have an impact on any game.
Hazard has been the best player in the top flight this season and as such you can bet Mourinho will have a contingency plan to try an limit his influence on the game. Stopping the Belgium international may be beyond the capabilities of this current United team, though.
Wolfsburg vs. Bayern Munich
In recent years it’s been rare to see Bayern as low as sixth in the Bundesliga table after the second international break. The pressure will be on manager Niko Kovac to start turning things around on Saturday at Wolfsburg.
Bayern supporters would’ve been stewing over their 3-0 loss to Borussia Monchengladbach in the defeat prior to the internationals. In recent years it’s been rare for the Munich giants to be picked off with quite that ease at the Allianz Arena.
It may seem ridiculous to suggest Kovac is under pressure already, but there are some worrying early signs. Compared to recent managers like Pep Guardiola and Jupp Heynckes, there’s a noticeable lack of structure within the side, while there is still a reliance on veteran players to pull the team out of testing situations.
Wolfsburg, who have been solid and sit in ninth after seven matches, will sense there is a chance to spring an upset here. If Bayern don’t start well, it’s easy to see the same issues that crept in before the break rearing their head again.
Villarreal vs. Atletico Madrid
Given the recent struggles endured by Real Madrid and Barcelona in La Liga, Atletico Madrid will feel as though they have a fair shot at winning the title this term.
After some early-season issues endured themselves, Atletico seem to be back in a rhythm again under Diego Simeone too. They’ve won three of their last four, with the other a decent draw away at their city rivals, and are beginning to settle into an ominous defensive groove; they’ve conceded just four goals from their nine games.
There have also been signs that some of the high-profile summer acquisitions are beginning to settle too, most notably Thomas Lemar, who has been tremendous in recent outings. At Villarreal, Simeone will want to see these players leave their mark on the match.
The home side are in desperate need of a win, as having lost their last two matches they start the weekend in 16th, just one point and two places above the relegation zone. With that in mind, for manager Javier Calleja, a meeting with the Europa League winners is a far from ideal fixture.
Barcelona vs. Sevilla
The team that has benefitted the most from a remarkable La Liga season so far is Sevilla, who sit top of the pile ahead of their trip to the Camp Nou this weekend.
Although Sevilla are always expected to be competing at the top end of the Spanish top flight, few would’ve anticipated them to be quite so high up in the standings at this stage in the campaign. Pablo Machin has done a fine job and can fuel further hopes of achieving something special this season with a good performance at Barcelona.
Sevilla have it in them to give their upcoming opponents big problems too. So far this season the strike duo of Wissam Ben Yedder and Andre Silva have been sensational for the Andalusian team, with their movement, inventiveness and finishing ability enough to trouble a Blaugrana defense that’s been slack throughout 2018-19.
In La Liga it’s now four games without a win for Barcelona, who are struggling to find the same balance that served them so well last term. At the moment, they look vulnerable and it’ll be intriguing to see how Sevilla approach this one with that in mind.
Inter Milan vs. AC Milan
Sunday, October 21, 2:30 p.m. ET, ESPN+
It’s the Derby della Madonnina to wrap the weekend up, with both Inter Milan and AC Milan coming into this fixture with reasons to be positive.
After a summer of many major acquisitions it took Inter some time to get fully into their stride this season domestically. However, Luciano Spalletti is finally beginning to get the best from this excellent squad of players, with four wins put together in a row. Crucially, star man Mauro Icardi is back among the goals too.
For Milan, things haven’t been going quite so well, but there have been signs of improvement from Gennaro Gattuso’s side as of late. In the final third they are beginning to look dangerous, with Suso, Gonzalo Higuain, Patrick Cutrone and Hakan Calhanoglu all footballers capable of doing real damage.
At the moment Inter do appear to be a little further advanced in their development, but if they aren’t at full throttle then their rivals have shown enough to suggest they can capitalize.
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