Editor’s note: World Soccer Talk veteran correspondent Matt Jones returns with his picks for the top five matches to watch this weekend. Living in England, Matt has been a regular contributor to World Soccer Talk since 2012.
Welcome back to the feature. It’s good to see you all again.
There’s just too much good football around at the moment to not write about it, isn’t there?
Well, certainly this weekend anyway.
Over the coming days, we focus on the Premier League, with two key games for the two title challengers. Other standout matches come from La Liga, the Bundesliga and in the Major League Soccer playoffs.
All kick-off are Eastern time.
Atletico Madrid vs. Valencia
After a strong start to the campaign, Atletico’s form has faded in recent weeks. With the international break over, they’ll be out to get back to winning ways against Valencia.
Diego Simeone’s side underwent a significant facelift in the summer, with the acquisition of players like Joao Felix pointing towards a potentially more attack-minded outlook this term. So far, the capital club have only scored seven goals from their eight La Liga games.
Valencia endured a torrid start to their season, with the popular Marcelino sacked. Albert Celades represented a curious replacement, but they’ve won their last two games and have surged up to seventh spot. A win at the Wanda Metropolitano would put them level on points with Atletico, who sit in third position.
Atletico are three points off the top themselves, which will disappoint Simeone given the sluggish football Real Madrid and Barcelona have played at times this season. He will be desperate to see his team up the ante in coming matches and make a case to be considered title challengers.
Crystal Palace vs. Manchester City
For Manchester City supporters, you sense the international break dragged. After all, they had a 2-0 home loss to Wolverhampton Wanderers to stew on, not to mention the fact Liverpool were able to build up an eight-point lead at the top of the table.
Crystal Palace will be another big test for Pep Guardiola’s side and you suspect the home side will see some vulnerability in the champions at the moment. The Eagles have enjoyed a strong start to the season too, with a win at West Ham United before the international break the latest impressive result for Roy Hodgson’s squad.
City have bounced back well from adversity under Guardiola in the main, but with just one fit senior centre-back available to the manager, there’s no doubt they have a soft centre. With that in mind, they may go to Selhurt Park in an ultra-attacking mindset.
Palace can cause problems for opponents on the break, especially through the blistering transitions of Wilfried Zaha. While City will always cause issues in attack, stemming that threat will be key to them earning all three points.
Borussia Dortmund vs. Borussia Monchengladbach
Arguably the game of the weekend will see shock Bundesliga leaders Borussia Monchengladbach visit Borussia Dortmund, as they look to cement their status as challengers for the German title.
Dortmund and Bayern Munich were expected to jostle it out for top spot this season, with RB Leipzig the outfit seemingly most likely to join that duo in the title race. Few would have had Marco Rose’s side leading the way seven games into the campaign, although they’re well worth their impressive standing.
Four wins in a row from BMG have pushed them to the top of the table. In their previous outing, they sizzled in a 5-1 win over Augsburg, with the attacking trio of Marcus Thurham, Alassane Plea and Patrick Herrmann too hot to handle.
Dortmund may also find them difficult to stop, as they’ve endured defensive issues of their own recently. They may be down in eighth spot, but they’re just four points behind their opponents on Saturday and have the chance to congest a tight top half further with victory.
Manchester United vs. Liverpool
Liverpool have the chance to extend their perfect start to the Premier League season to nine games on Sunday. You feel they would take great pleasure in doing so at Old Trafford against Manchester United.
United have been shambolic at times this season and were especially poor in their 1-0 loss to Newcastle United before the international break. With that in mind, it feels like Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and his players will need to produce something spectacular if they are to get a positive result against the European champions.
A tough ask was made even harder this week too, as Solskjaer confirmed Paul Pogba and David De Gea—arguably the team’s two key players—will miss the match due to injuries. Given the other fitness issues in the squad, it leaves the Norwegian with a threadbare squad.
Liverpool will be big favourites as a result, especially with starting goalkeeper Alisson Becker set to return to action. If they turn up and are focused on the job at hand, it’s difficult to see the Reds having too many problems against their bitter rivals.
Minnesota United vs. Los Angeles Galaxy
The serious stuff will get underway in MLS this weekend, with playoff places up for grabs across the country. The most fascinating fixture may well be the final one, as Los Angeles Galaxy make the trip to Minnesota United.
Minnesota were able to finish in fourth spot in the Western Conference at the end of the season, ensuring they have home advantage for the game. The Galaxy would have usurped their opponents had they won at Houston Dynamo on the final day of the regular season, but they slumped to a disappointing 4-2 defeat.
That loss will concern manager Guillermo Schelotto, as their defence will need to be much tighter for a trip to Minnesota. As much as the team will be expecting Zlatan Ibrahimovic to stand up on these big stages, the mercurial Swede can’t always be relied on to pull the Galaxy out of trouble.
Allianz Field is a tough place to win too, as United were only beaten once on their own patch in 2019. A challenging night is on the cards for the visitors as a result, with a monumental effort set to be needed to keep playoff hopes alive.
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