Although European football is undoubtedly missing something without supporters, the players on the pitch have been doing their best to make up for it—there were goals everywhere last weekend.
A week on and there are another set of exciting fixtures to look forward to, as some of the strongest teams on the continent seek to hit the ground running.
All kick offs are in Eastern time. Enjoy your weekend and enjoy the games!
Bayer Leverkusen vs. RB Leipzig
Saturday, September 26, 12:30 p.m., ESPN+
For Leverkusen and Leipzig, the 2020-21 season is poised to be one of transition having lost important players in the summer window.
Bayer sold their star creator Kai Havertz to Chelsea and will be looking for someone to step up and fill the void his departure has left in the team. That attacking edge was absent in their opener, as they were only able to muster a 0-0 draw away at Wolfsburg.
While Leverkusen are seeking someone to pull the strings, Leipzig are after someone to replace the goals of Timo Werner, who followed his compatriot Havertz to London. They enjoyed a much more promising opening to the campaign, winning 3-1 at home to Mainz and impressing with the control they exerted on the game.
Despite their significant sales, both outfits will be expected to push for Champions League qualification again this term. Three points at the expense of a rival here would be a timely early-season boost for the victors.
Real Betis vs. Real Madrid
Real Betis have enjoyed a perfect start to the La Liga term with two wins from two and they’ll fancy their chances of upsetting defending champions Real Madrid on Saturday.
Los Blancos failed to find any fluency in their curtain-raiser last weekend, where they were held to a 0-0 draw by Real Sociedad. Manager Zinedine Zidane would have been worried by the lack of thrust in their attacking play, especially boasting a midfield that consisted of Toni Kroos, Luka Modric and Martin Odegaard.
The manager will hope to have Eden Hazard available for the encounter in Andalusia, as Madrid were without penetration from wide areas at Sociedad. They will need to be savvy in their attacking play to break down a Betis team that have yet to concede a goal this season too.
If Betis can maintain that defensive solidity for the season then they should be on for a prosperous finish. The attacking flair of Nabil Fekir, Joaquin and Sergio Canales can cause any side issues in the top flight.
Roma vs. Juventus
Sunday, September 27, 2:45 p.m., ESPN+
Andrea Pirlo’s first match in charge of Juventus went as well as possible last weekend, although his second will be a much stiffer examination in the capital.
The champions simply had too much for Sampdoria in Week 1, Pirlo’s 3-4-3 setup giving them a number of headaches at the back. Cristiano Ronaldo was on the scoresheet but should have scored even more, while Aaron Ramsey and Dejan Kulusevski shone.
After that routine victory, it will be intriguing to see what adaptations Pirlo makes to his team when they visit Roma. Although Juventus will still be expected to operate on the front foot, the hosts will have more to trouble the three-man defence on the counter-attack should they get an opportunity to break.
Roma will need a big improvement from their previous display to take anything from the match though. Despite bossing possession for long spells, the Giallorossi were wide open in defense and Verona took their chances in an emphatic 3-0 win.
Barcelona vs. Villarreal
Barcelona will begin life under Ronald Koeman in earnest on Sunday when they welcome Villarreal to the Camp Nou.
Crucially for the Blaugrana, Lionel Messi will be lining up in red and blue this weekend, with his position at the club under major scrutiny during the off season. Despite his initial desire to leave the club, the forward has agreed to stay for another campaign and will once again be key to Barcelona’s hopes of success.
There will also be an emphasis on other players to step up. Following the departure of Luis Suarez to Atletico Madrid, Ansu Fati and Antoine Griezmann appear primed for more minutes this term, while in midfield Miralem Pjanic will be tasked with being the conductor of the team.
Villarreal are a dangerous opponent first up. Not only have they bolstered their midfield with the signings of Dani Parejo and Francis Coquelin, in attack Gerard Moreno and Paco Alcacer have started 2020-21 in strong goalscoring form.
Liverpool vs. Arsenal
Monday, September 28, 3 p.m., Peacock Premium (free trial)
Liverpool and Arsenal have both enjoyed perfect starts to their respective campaigns and will meet at Anfield on Monday in what should be a captivating affair.
Liverpool erased any sense that they were going to start this season with any complacency when they beat Chelsea 2-0 on Sunday, with Sadio Mane at his lethal best and Thiago Alcantara shining in his second-half cameo.
Arsenal will feel as though they can cause problems for their opponents though. After all, the Gunners have got the better of Liverpool in their two recent meetings and Mikel Arteta will be delighted with the cohesion and attacking swagger with which his team are operating.
Nevertheless, Arsenal will be the underdogs on Merseyside, having suffered some heavy defeats at the home of the champions in recent years. They’ve lost on their last four visits to Anfield in the Premier League and conceded at least three goals in all of those contests.
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