The football season is well and truly underway this weekend as we welcome European football back to our screens, here is a preview of some of the weekend’s best fixtures.
Celta Vigo v Real Madrid
Real Madrid back under the management of Zinedine Zidane begin their campaign away at Celta Vigo. It has been a busy summer transfer window for The Galácticos as they brought in 6 players to take their summer spending in excess of 250 million, with their most marquee signings Eden Hazard and Luka Jovic.
Zidane and Madrid will be looking for a fast start to La Liga after a disappointing campaign that saw them finish in 3rd, 19 points behind champions Barcelona, and 8 points behind city rivals Atletico Madrid.
It’s been far from a perfect pre-season for Zidane’s men who only managed 1 win from 5 pre-season games. Real have won each of their last 5 games against Celta Vigo, and it will be interesting to see how this new-look Madrid team fares against a side that finished 4 points clear of the relegation zone.
Athletic Bilbao v Barcelona
Much of the ongoing news coming out of the Nou Camp all summer has surrounded the potential return of Neymar back to Barcelona. Whilst we still might see that transfer happen, it looks although Barcelona will just have to make do with the attacking options of Luis Suarez, Ousmane Dembele, Phillipe Coutinho and new signings Frankie De Jong and Antoine Griezmann, as they travel to the San Mamés Stadium.
However, Barcelona will start their title defence without star man Lionel Messi after he suffered a calf problem. Athletic Bilbao have only beaten Barcelona once in their last 10 meetings so the odds will be stacked against them, but they will be looking to their key man Inaki Williams who recently signed a 9-year contract this week if they want to get anything from the Spanish giants.
Manchester City v Tottenham
Both teams got off to winning starts to the campaign but in a different fashion, Man City with a convincing 5-0 away win to West Ham and Tottenham and Harry Kane left it late scoring two late goals in a 3-1 home win.
Matchups between City and Spurs are often goal fests with 20 goals in 5 games between the 2 sides at The Etihad with City having most of the joy. You’d have to go back to February 2016 for the last time Spurs beat City at home.
Spurs are still without the suspended Heung Min Son and injured Dele Alli, so they’re going to need Kane fit and firing. No new injury concerns for City who are still without Benjamin Mendy (knee) and Leroy Sane (ACL) and Fernandinho who is still lacking match fitness. Whilst the midfield battle between summer signings Tanguy Ndombele and Rodri could be decisive in deciding the match.
Sunderland v Portsmouth
Hardly a decisive game so early into the League 1 season, but the bookies two favourites for promotion to the Sky Bet championship lock horns in Saturdays early kick-off.
Sunderland gathered a reputation last season for being draw specialists with a league-high 19 last season and started this season off in similar fashion with two 1-1 stalemates. Those draws ultimately cost The Black cats a chance at automatic promotion last season as they finished 5th behind this weekend’s opponents Portsmouth.
The Pompey started off their campaign with a disappointing 1-0 defeat to Shrewsbury but bounced back at home as they strolled to a 2-0 win against Tranmere. These sides last met in the playoffs and it was Sunderland who got the better of their opponents, as they won 1-0 on aggregate, but both sides will be looking to set their mark on the league as they both fight for promotion.
Chelsea v Leicester
Far from the perfect start for Frank Lampard and his Chelsea as they fell to a heavy 4-0 defeat at the hands of rivals Man Utd, but Lampard will be optimistic his side can pick up their first win as they host Leicester at the bridge.
Individual errors cost Lampard’s side as they conceded 4 goals from just 5 on target and failed to really trouble David De Gea despite arguably being the better team for 45-60 minutes. Lampard looked to youth more than experience, starting players such as Mason Mount and Tammy Abraham in an injury-hit Chelsea team, but we could see the likes of Willian, N’Golo Kante, and Oliver Giroud return to the team this weekend.
Leicester started their campaign with a 0-0 draw at home to Wolves and had VAR to thank as it ruled out Leander Dendonker’s goal. After a solid transfer window bringing in Ayoze Perez and Denis Praet, as well as securing Youri Tielemans on a permeant transfer.
The Foxes have emerged as one of the favourites to break into the top 6 at the expense of Chelsea, and what better way to make a statement than picking up a win at Stamford Bridge.