Football Across Europe: September 23 | Manchester Clubs Look to Pull Away

Premier League (England)

Match Week 6 in England gives us a range of interesting matches this weekend. Manchester City is riding high, now level with United atop the table on the heels of a 6-0 thrashing away to Watford. Spurs and Liverpool were held to draws on their home grounds by Swansea and Burnley respectively, and Chelsea and Arsenal battled to a goalless draw in London, which could be a big confidence boost to a Gunners squad seemingly adrift a few short weeks ago. None of the big six clubs play one another this weekend, but four of them hit the road, and there could be some tricky tests in store for the top clubs. Here, we take a look at them:

West Ham vs. Tottenham: The Spurs are riding high but can’t afford another slip-up in the league as they visit troublesome West Ham. The Hammers could give Tottenham serious problems if they continue a recent trend; Spurs have only won once at West Ham in the last four seasons including two successive 0-1 defeats. Currently in fifth, Tottenham’s Harry Kane and Dele Alli will have to be at their brilliant best against a West Ham side that’s struggled with just four points through five games. One positive pointing Tottenham’s way is that the Hammers are tied for the most goals conceded in the league.

Manchester City vs. Crystal Palace: Pep Guardiola’s City bring their world-class form into a Saturday fixture against Crystal Palace, pegging the team atop the EPL table against the only team yet to notch a single point. The Manchester City strike-force of Sergio Agüero and Gabriel Jesus have been unstoppable in recent weeks, as the club produced 15 goals in three matches before a League Cup win to West Brom this week. Crystal Palace have undergone such a treacherous start to their 2017/18 campaign that they fired Frank de Boer after just four matches, replacing him with former England manager Roy Hodgson, who will surely be on a short leash with Palace falling further into the relegation zone.

Southampton vs. Manchester United: The Red Devils take aim at keeping pace with their Manchester rivals and eye three points on a road trip to Southampton. With victory this weekend, Manchester United would equal a club record with 16 points through six matches. Paul Pogba is out with injury, putting the onus on United’s deep midfield to get the job done against the Saints, who are coming off a win and looking to break out of a seven-team deadlock of teams with eight points. United striker Romelu Lukaku has been in fine form with his new club, and could be the first Premier League player to score at St. Mary’s for three different clubs after scoring there for Everton and West Brom.

Stoke City vs. Chelsea: It’s been a trying few days for Stoke City since being the only team to manage a result against Manchester United earlier in the month. They followed that up with a 1-2 loss to newly returned Newcastle last weekend and a 0-2 League Cup defeat to Championship outfit Bristol City midweek. The good news is they are back at home in newly renovated bet365 Stadium on Saturday. The bad news is they welcome the champions of Chelsea to town. Chelsea drew Arsenal last weekend before dispatching Nottingham Forest 5-1 in their League Cup match on Wednesday. They will be without David Luiz who is out through suspension, but Eden Hazard, N’Golo Kanté, and so-far fairly quiet new man Álvaro Morata will still be a lot to handle for the Potters.

Leicester City vs. Liverpool: It’s been a tough slate of games for Leicester, registering only a point against newly promoted Huddersfield in their last three league matches. They will be full of confidence, though, at home in King Power Stadium for the final kickoff this Saturday despite welcoming the Reds of Liverpool to town. For one, Liverpool do not have a win since August in all competitions. For another, Leicester beat Liverpool on the very same ground 2-0 in the League Cup on Tuesday. It will likely be two very different squads on Saturday, but Leicester manager Craig Shakespeare will be happy to hear Liverpool’s already shaky defense may be in crisis mode, with many defensive names on the injury sheet. The Reds will also be without key man Sadio Mané, who is serving suspension time. They should, however, see Philippe Coutinho in close to full-match action after a 45 minute tune up midweek that saw him closer to his usual full speed and dangerous form. Jürgen Klopp will absolutely want to see something positive before his squad flies off to Russia for their Champions League match early next week.

Football Across Europe: September 16-17 | Chelsea, Arsenal Clash in London

Premier League (England)

We are on to Match Week 5 in the Premier League. Seven clubs had European play midweek and may need to shuffle their starting XI for weekend clashes. Match Week 4 brought us some attention-grabbing results. Ten-man Liverpool suffered their worst defeat of the Klopp era. Arsenal got back on the winning side. Stoke held United to a draw. Chelsea won their third straight to make their opening day loss a far more distant memory. Here are the matches we’re most interested in this weekend, including the huge derby in London on Sunday:

Liverpool vs. Burnley: Liverpool take aim at bouncing back from their first true adversity of the season when Burnley FC visit Anfield in a Saturday fixture. The Reds got embarrassed seven days prior, a 5-0 drubbing at the hands of perceived title favorites Manchester City that saw star winger Sadio Mane sent off for a high challenge. With Mane suspended for the next three matches, it’s the perfect time for Philippe Coutinho to be re-inserted into the squad. After a tumultuous summer in which Coutinho was linked heavily to Barcelona, the Brazilian made his season debut in a mid-week Champions League draw to Sevilla. Meanwhile, Burnley have been one of the surprises of the EPL season with wins at Chelsea, versus Crystal Palace and a draw to Tottenham. Liverpool will need to flush out their defensive woes, or risk plummeting down the table.

Tottenham vs. Swansea: After a shaky August, Tottenham Hotspur are riding high entering their fifth match at temporary home Wembley Stadium as Swansea City comes to town for the league’s marquee Saturday match. The opening month saw defeat at home to Chelsea and a draw to Burnley, but Spurs opened September by smacking Everton 3-0 and toppling Borussia Dortmund 3-1 in the Champions League. Harry Kane is back to goal-scoring form, while Dele Alli and Christian Eriksen are causing loads of trouble for opposing defenses. Swansea have only scored twice in four league matches, and they’ll need much more offensive output to keep pace with Tottenham’s electric attack.

Chelsea vs. Arsenal: Two London giants that appeared to be in serious trouble just weeks ago are both showing signs of life, and they clash at Stamford Bridge on Sunday as Chelsea host Arsenal. The reigning champions emerged from a shocking opening defeat to Burnley and have since won three straight in the league, appearing to be serious challengers yet again. Arsenal are still stuck in tough times with uncertainty around Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil’s future, but they got back to their winning ways last weekend with a 3-0 win over Bournemouth before a 3-1 Europa League victory over FC Koln. If Eden Hazard can make his first start of the season after injury, the Gunners will be hard-pressed to continue their win streak against their rivals.

Manchester United vs. Everton: It should be a warm welcome for Wayne Rooney in his first return to Old Trafford in a blue shirt as Everton travels to take on Manchester United in the final kickoff of the weekend on Sunday. It has been a brutal opening schedule for the Toffees, as they have faced City, Chelsea, and Spurs in their last three league matches since their opening victory at home. To make it worse, they suffered a 0-3 loss to Italian outfit Atalanta in the Europa League on Thursday. United also played midweek, beating Basel 3-0 on Tuesday. The Red Devils did, however, only manage a draw against Stoke in their last league match, the first time this season they were forced to settle for less than three points. Romelu Lukaku scored again, joined by Marcus Rashford. They’ll be looking to get back to winning ways against an Everton club that is looking to weather a tough stretch of fixtures.

La Liga (Spain)

 

Getafe vs. Barcelona: Barcelona travel to take on Getafe on Saturday atop the La Liga table, yet to drop a point or concede a goal. Lionel Messi is in exceptional form, even for him. He’s scored seven of his team’s ten goals in all competitions so far this season. Luis Suárez is back healthy and Ousmane Dembélé debuted and showed that anyone who predicted the coming downfall of the Catalan club was perhaps being hasty. For Getafe, the final club winning promotion from Spain’s second division last year, is coming off the first win of the season, beating then-undefeated Leganés last week. Still, they are enormous underdogs even at home in the Coliseum Alfonso Pérez.

Real Sociedad vs. Real Madrid: It might seem strange to say a win and two draws is a disappointing start to a season, but for Spanish giants Real Madrid, their title defense season is not off to the start they’d hoped. Los Blancos beat APOEL, the reigning champions of Cyprus, 3-0 in the Champions League midweek, but have drawn their last two league matches. This match will be the final match without suspended Cristiano Ronaldo, though Marcelo will also miss the match through suspension and there are reports that both Karim Benzema and Marco Asensio will miss out due to injury. And they will be facing an in-form club in Real Sociedad. The Basque Country team has won four straight in all competitions, including a 4-0 midweek thrashing of reigning Norwegian champions Rosenborg in the Europa League. They will be looking to keep it going at home and take advantage of a Real Madrid squad missing  a number of big names.

Bundesliga (Germany)

 

Bayern Munich vs. Mainz: It was a rare stumble for Bayern Munich last weekend, losing 0-2 to Hoffenheim, who find themselves tied atop the Bundesliga through the first three match weeks. The Bavarian giants did, however, thrash Anderlecht 3-0 at home in the Champions League midweek, and will be in front of friendly fans again against Mainz this weekend at the Allianz Arena. Robert Lewandowski and co. will be looking to get back to their goal-scoring and winning ways against a Mainz club who only have three points to their name, but did secure them in their last league match against Bayer Leverkusen last weekend. They will be looking to give Bayern a rare losing streak, but will enter the match as heavy underdogs.

Football Across Europe: September 9 | Liverpool Travels to the Etihad

Premier League (England)

The long International Break is over and Match Week 4 in England is upon us. Managers will be hoping all of their squads are back healthy and can either start fresh after an abysmal start (West Ham, Palace, Arsenal) or continue their momentum (United, Liverpool, Huddersfield). Here are the matches we’re most excited about this weekend, starting with the opening kickoff.

Manchester City vs. Liverpool: Liverpool manager Jürgen Klopp was likely among the managers cursing the timing of the break as his club is coming off a dazzling display. They carved Arsenal to pieces at Anfield, 4-0. The front three of Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mané, and Mohamed Salah all found net, as did Daniel Sturridge off the bench. The Reds will hope this attack stays on full throttle at the Etihad. Klopp has successfully retained Philippe Coutinho, though he likely won’t join the affair on Saturday. City are level on seven points in the table and are coming off an away win at Bournemouth. They drew Everton 1-1 in their last home match, however, and their last-gasp effort to acquire Alexis Sánchez fizzled by Deadline Day. With Sergio Agüero and Kevin De Bruyne leading the attack and what seems so far an improved defense, however, City remain a deep and dangerous squad. It’s a clash of two clubs with legitimate hopes for the league title.

Leicester City vs. Chelsea: Leicester have alternated losses and wins through their first three matches. Losses away to Arsenal and United surround a home win against Brighton. Their tough early-season schedule continues with reigning champs Chelsea visiting the King Power Stadium. Manager Craig Shakespeare will be hoping the home crowd and long break will give his team a good chance to secure a result. But the test will be tough. After a nightmare season opener, Chelsea have beaten Spurs and handily beat Everton before the break. Star man Eden Hazard should be in the squad on Saturday, as well as former Leicester man N’Golo Kanté, though his fellow recent Leicester transfer Danny Drinkwater will not. Still, Chelsea has the depth and quality to test every ounce of Leicester’s resolve.

Everton vs. Tottenham: Everton opened the season with a 1-0 win at home and then hit the road for tough matches away to City and Chelsea. They managed a point from those two and will be happy to return to Goodison Park where new man Wayne Rooney will look to continue his good form. The competition, however, will not let up this weekend as Tottenham come to town. Spurs will be looking to right the ship, however, as they suffered a loss to Chelsea and a home draw to Burnley just before the break. Harry Kane has fired over twenty shots this campaign but has yet to open his scoring account and will no doubt be looking to do so on Saturday.

Stoke City vs. Manchester United: In Saturday’s last kickoff, Manchester United travel to the newly renovated bet365 Stadium to take on Stoke City. The Potters have won at home over Arsenal and drew West Brom away since their opening loss away to Everton. They will no doubt be inspired to spring the upset as they look to build momentum early in this season in front of their home fans. Their guests, however, have so far looked impossible to slow down. United have taken all nine possible points and have scored ten goals without conceding. Romelu Lukaku has looked the perfect fit and Nemanja Matic and Paul Pogba have looked lethal in midfield. With Spain keeper David de Gea manning the posts, Stoke will have their hands full everywhere on the pitch on Saturday.

La Liga (Spain)

Real Madrid vs. Levante: Levante were promoted to La Liga this season after winning the Segunda Division last season. They’ve already captured four points from their first two matches, but the test will be exponentially tougher on Saturday at the Bernabeu. Even without Cristiano Ronaldo, Real Madrid have looked just as dangerous as ever. Isco, Marco Asensio, and a whole host of others have ensured that Los Blancos fans see the results they will demanding all year as they looked to defend their league and European titles.

Barcelona vs. Espanyol: The hectic and dramatic Barcelona summer transfer window is finally closed. Neymar is gone, yes, and their long-running pursuit of Liverpool’s Philippe Coutinho ended in frustration. However, they have all six possible points and have kept two clean sheets. Saturday could see the debut of new man Ousmane Dembélé and the season’s first action for Luis Suárez who was able to play for his native Uruguay during the international break. It is a derby weekend, though, with fellow Barcelona club Espanyol visiting Camp Nou. However, Barca and Lionel Messi are 9-1-0 in the last ten fixtures of this derby, and Espanyol will need an epic performance to buck that trend on Saturday.

Football Across Europe: August 26-27 | Arsenal Visit Anfield

Premier League (England)

Heading into Match Week 3 in England, there are usual suspects (Man United) and some new faces (Huddersfield Town) atop the table, with all possible six points in hand, joined by West Brom. West Ham sits in the cellar, having conceded seven goals through the first 180 minutes of the season. Chelsea responded to their dreadful start with a big win over London rivals Spurs last week. Here are our favorite matches this weekend, including Sunday’s clash between Liverpool and Arsenal.

Manchester United vs. Leicester City: With back-to-back 4-0 wins, nobody is flying higher to start the season than Manchester United. Summer signing Romelu Lukaku is scoring goals, the defense has yet to concede, and former Chelsea man Nemanja Matic has looked like the key in midfield, allowing Paul Pogba to show off his great skill. But with wins over injury-depleted West Ham and Swansea, the test may get tougher when Leicester come to Old Trafford on Saturday. The Foxes are coming in on the heels of a 2-0 win over promotion side Brighton & Hove after their heartbreaking last-minute 3-4 loss to Arsenal in the opening match of the season.

Chelsea vs. Everton: The defending champions rebounded last weekend with a needed win over Spurs in a match that could have left them with no points coming into the third weekend of play. Though they had less than 40% possession, Chelsea‘s defense held stout, with the only Spurs goal an own goal from Michy Batshuayi. Fullback Marcos Alonso provided both Chelsea goals. On Sunday, Everton come to Stamford Bridge. Key men Eden Hazard and N’Golo Kanté will look to lead a convincing display against the Toffees who come in with a win and a draw away to Manchester City on Monday, with new striker Wayne Rooney scoring in both. He’ll look to lead the Merseyside club to make an even louder statement that they are to be taken seriously this season by beating the reigning champs in their home.

Liverpool vs. Arsenal: The Gunners of Arsenal visit Anfield on Sunday to take on Liverpool. After a thrilling 4-3 comeback win to open the season, Arsenal looked flat in a 1-0 loss to Stoke last weekend. They should have star man Alexis Sánchez fit and on the pitch, though, joining Mesut Özil and the rest of the Arsenal attack who will look to make Liverpool pay for its high-pressing attacking style. The Reds must avoid an emotional letdown after securing advancement to this season’s Champions League group stage with a win over German side Hoffenheim midweek. Though it’s looking increasingly likely that the dangerous midfielder will remain on Merseyside, Liverpool will once again be without star player Philippe Coutinho and fellow midfielder Adam Lallana, further limiting manager Jürgen Klopp’s options should he look to shuffle his XI for fresh legs.

La Liga (Spain)

 

Alavés vs. Barcelona: It was an emotional opening match at the Camp Nou for Barcelona last weekend in the wake of the recent terror attack. The Catalan club won, though Lionel Messi, looking for his 350th La Liga goal, was denied, hitting the post three times. He will be looking to hit another historic milestone against an Alavés club who lost their opener on the road, but will be looking to spring the upset in front of home fans at the Estadio Mendizorrotza.

Real Madrid vs. Valencia: The title defense for Real Madrid got off on the right foot last week with a 3-0 win on the road over Deportivo. Though Cristiano Ronaldo remained suspended, Gareth Bale, Casemiro, and Toni Kroos all found net. They return home this weekend to open the season at the Santiago Bernabéu Stadium in front of their home fans.  Los Blancos will be without Ronaldo once again, as well as Sergio Ramos, who picked up a red card in the waning moments of last weekend’s match. Valencia comes to town with a win under their belt but will have to rise to the challenge of considerably tougher competition this weekend.

Bundesliga (Germany)

 

Werder Bremen vs. Bayern Munich: It was a 3-1 win for defending champs Bayern Munich at the Allianz Arena last Friday in the Bundesliga opener, but manager Carlo Ancelotti could not have been pleased. Despite the scoring, including a Robert Lewandowski goal from the spot, they conceded 50% possession and 16 shots to Bayer Leverkusen. They hit the road this weekend, heading to the Weserstadion to take on hosts Werder Bremen who started their season last weekend with a 1-0 loss to Hoffenheim, though they were six minutes away from a point. They will need a similarly stout defensive effort against the German champions.

Serie A (Italy)

 

Genoa vs. Juventus: The Italian champs Juventus opened their title defense campaign at home in dominating fashion last weekend. Stars Mario Mandzukic, Paolo Dybala, and Gonzalo Higuaín all scored as The Old Lady dispatched Cagliari with ease. This week they travel to Genoa, who fought Sassuolo to a goalless draw last weekend and return to the home crowd in the Stadio Luigi Ferraris. Manager Ivan Juric will be looking for his squad to pull the upset as Juventus will be looking to keep showing why they are the giants of Italian football.

Roma vs. Inter Milan: It’s a clash of two iconic Italian teams as Inter Milan travel to the Stadio Olimpico to take on Roma. Inter opened their season at the San Siro with a 3-0 win over Fiorentina last weekend, while Roma were 1-0 victors away to Atalanta. This season, both clubs will be looking to put more pressure on Juventus at the top of the table and will see this match as a major test. Italy midfielder Daniele De Rossi is the new Roma captain, inheriting the armband from the long-time and legendary Roma star Francesco Totti.

Football Across Europe: August 18-20 | Spain, Germany, Italy Kick Off

Premier League (England)

The first weekend of the Premier League season is in the books and it was a wild one. Friday saw Arsenal score twice from the 83rd minute on against Leicester to take all three points despite twice being down a goal. Liverpool dropped two points in added time to what looked like a clearly offside goal from Watford who salvaged a 3-3 draw. Just those two matches alone saw 13 goals. Chelsea played with ten and then nine men en route to losing at home to Burnley, Wayne Rooney’s header was the only goal in a 1-0 Everton win in his debut, and new boys Huddersfield Town put a 3-0 hurting on Crystal Palace. Here’s a look at our favorite matches this weekend, including the big London derby on Sunday between Spurs and Chelsea.

Swansea City vs. Manchester United: Swansea held Southampton to a goalless draw last weekend to open their campaign and will need a to summon all their defensive prowess when they welcome Manchester United to Liberty Stadium in the first match of Saturday’s action. The Swans will have to do without Gylfi Sigurdsson, who completed a £40M transfer to Everton during the week. They will be facing a Manchester United side that is riding high off their first match, a 4-0 thrashing of West Ham at Old Trafford. They got two goals from new striker Romelu Lukaku as well as goals from Anthony Martial and Paul Pogba who was allowed to roam dangerously with midfield help from another new face in Nemanja Matic. The Red Devils will look for more of the same as they try to stay atop the table, even if it is only Week 2.

Liverpool vs. Crystal Palace: Liverpool return home to Anfield to face Crystal Palace after a disappointing 3-3 draw away to Watford last weekend which saw them drop two points in the waning moments of the match. They did see their attacking danger as the front three of Sadio Mané, Roberto Firmino, and new winger Mohamed Salah all found net. But while manager Jürgen Klopp and Reds fans alike will no doubt bemoan what seemed a horrible missed offside call to allow the final goal, they must also note that their defending of set pieces, from which Watford got two of their goals, was woeful. They will need to tighten it up against Crystal Palace striker, former Red, and aerial threat Christian Benteke. Palace are also coming off a woeful performance, however, losing 3-0 at home to freshly promoted Huddersfield Town making their Premier League debut. Both teams will be hoping to get a sour taste out of their mouths.

Stoke City vs. Arsenal: Stoke City show off their newly renovated bet365 Stadium with a lofty opponent coming to town in Arsenal. Stoke got off to a frustrating start to the new league season last weekend with a 1-0 defeat at Everton, but Xherdan Shaqiri looks to lead the Potters into the win column and notch their first points of the campaign. Meanwhile, Arsenal are riding high on momentum after a heart-racing 4-3 comeback win last Friday against Leicester City. Star forward Alexis Sánchez is likely to be available after returning from injury, hoping to link up with Mesut Özil and new striker Alexandre Lacazette to continue their strong start to the season.

Tottenham vs. Chelsea: Do-or-die time rarely comes in August for reigning EPL champions, but Chelsea are undoubtedly up against it entering their star-studded clash with Tottenham at Wembley Stadium on Sunday. The Blues face-planted out of the gates in a loss to lowly Burnley, in which Cesc Fàbregas and Gary Cahill picked up red cards that see them suspended against the Spurs. Conveniently enough, Tottenham mounted the biggest challenge to Chelsea’s title last season and look poised to contend again this season after keeping a blistering strike force of Harry Kane, Dele Alli and Christian Eriksen intact through the summer. But after closing White Hart Lane, their home for the past 118 years, will there be an emotional let-down in their temporary home at Wembley?

Manchester City vs. Everton: Manchester City took care of newly promoted Brighton & Hove Albion last weekend and will welcome the Toffees to the Etihad in the first Monday match of the season. While City will no doubt be thrilled with the goal from star Sergio Agüero, they will likely be more thrilled with keeping a clean sheet. The test will be tougher against an Everton side who also won last weekend through new man and long-time City nemesis Wayne Rooney, who headed home the only goal in a 1-0 Everton win at Goodison Park before a delighted Merseyside audience who watched him make a splashy (second) debut for his boyhood team. It promises to be a fun one under the lights in Manchester.

La Liga (Spain)

It was another top-heavy season last year in Spain, with world giants Real Madrid winning the league as well as Europe, though they were denied the treble as fellow powerhouse Barcelona took home the Copa del Rey trophy but fell three points shy in the league. The biggest football story in Spain, if not the world, this summer, was the huge money departure of Brazilian super-star Neymar from Barcelona. The Catalan giants are looking to leverage their financial might in their quest to replace him, including a long-running drama over their pursuit of Liverpool’s Philippe Coutinho, and there seems to be no end in sight to the whirlwind until the transfer window closes come September. Whoever they acquire, most agree it will be another La Liga campaign of everyone trying to usurp Real Madrid from their throne. The two Spanish giants start their campaigns this weekend.

Barcelona vs. Real Betis: The Catalan giants can begin to put a disastrous summer behind them when they kick off their La Liga campaign against Real Betis at the Camp Nou. Barcelona got blind-sided throughout a dramatic transfer saga that saw superstar forward Neymar join Paris Saint-Germain on a record €222M fee, and recently lost 5-1 on aggregate to bitter rivals Real Madrid in the Spanish Super Cup. Now with Luis Suárez benched for at least a month with a knee injury, Lionel Messi’s side could be nearing an all-out collapse and need a morale-boosting thumping of Real Betis, who finished 15th last season.

Deportivo vs. Real Madrid: Nothing short of a dominating La Liga title repeat will be acceptable for Real Madrid on the heels of another historic season, and they begin those efforts with a Sunday trip to face Deportivo. Cristiano Ronaldo remains banned for the next four matches following a referee-shoving incident in the first leg of the Spanish Super Cup, but that didn’t stop his Madrid comrades from pounding Barca in the second leg. Midfielders Isco and Marco Asensio are coming into their own for a Los Blancos side that has won four trophies in the last three months, but they can’t afford to get complacent entering the new season.

Bundesliga (Germany)

While there are dozens and dozens of teams in Germany with passionate fans and storied histories, it is hard for neutral fans not to simply associate German football with Bayern Munich lately. The 2016/17 season was no different. Upstart RB Leipzig made the first half of the season interesting, but Bayern still won the league by 15 points, their fifth consecutive league title. There will no doubt be challenges and intrigue as the season unfolds, but the Bundesliga season begins on Friday, with the champions in action.

Bayern Munich vs. Bayer Leverkusen: The 2017/18 Bundesliga campaign kicks off at the Allianz Arena as Bayern Munich look to begin their quest for a record-extending sixth straight league title against last season’s 12th place finisher Bayer Leverkusen. They have taken young star James Rodríguez on loan from Real Madrid and still boast a deadly squad featuring captain and one of the world’s top goalkeepers in Manuel Neuer, Franck Ribéry, Robert Lewandowski, and long-time attacker Thomas Müller. However, the Bavarian giants over the summer said goodbye to long-time servants Xabi Alonso and Philipp Lahm, who both retired. For Bayer Leverkusen, they will hope the addition of center back Sven Bender from Borussia Dortmund will help them stay stout defensively against the dangerous firepower of their hosts, though they will be without striker Chicharito, who returned to English football this summer with a move to West Ham United.

Serie A (Italy)

If Bayern Munich is synonymous with German football of late, Juventus is Italian football. The Old Lady won her record sixth consecutive Serie A title as well as her record third-straight Coppa Italia. They were a match away from the dream treble, but fell to Real Madrid in the Champions League final over the summer. Fittingly, the 2017/18 Serie A campaign begins with the champions.

Juventus vs. Cagliari: Juventus begin yet another title defense at home in Turin against Cagliari, who finished 12th last season. Despite a dominating season (decade), Juventus supporters will no doubt be anxious over some summer departures, most notably long-time servant and back line fixture Leonardo Bonucci, who moved to AC Milan for €42M over the summer. The ageless Gianluigi Buffon returns between the posts, however, as does a dangerous squad featuring Giorgio Chiellini, Sami Khedira, and deadly attackers Gonzalo Higuaín and the young Paolo Dybala. With their home fans in full throat behind them, Juve will be a handful for a Cagliari squad who begin their campaign with the toughest challenge the league could provide them.

Football Across Europe: August 11-13 | Premier League Returns

Premier League (England)

The 2017/18 Premier League season is finally upon us. Chelsea will look to defend their title. Hull City, Middlesbrough, and Sunderland have left us, relegated to the Championship, replaced by long-time Premier League regulars Newcastle as well as Brighton & Hove Albion and Huddersfield Town. Many players have come, many have gone. But on opening weekend, the table is level and everyone will have their eyes on a dream finish. Here we look at the most intriguing matches from the opening weekend of a brand new season.

Arsenal vs. Leicester City: The first match of the season is a Friday clash at the Emirates between the Foxes of Leicester and the North London giants of Arsenal. A year after their storybook season for the ages, Leicester stumbled in their title defense. Manager Claudio Ranieri was sacked despite an impressive run in the Champions League, and Leicester finished a meager 12th. Key men Riyad Mahrez, Jamie Vardy, and keeper Kasper Schmeichel return, though of course the transfer window remains open until September. For the Gunners, manager Arsene Wenger has decided to stay and will look to improve on the Gunners’ fifth place finish last season when they fell one point short of the top four on the last day of the season. Star Alexis Sanchez is reportedly staying in London, though will miss the opener due to injury. Mesut Özil, however, should be fit. He’ll be joined by new £52M addition and France international Alexandre Lacazette, the former Lyon striker. Both clubs will look to start their campaign off on the right foot after both losing their opener last season.

Watford vs. Liverpool: Saturday’s jam-packed slate of EPL football begins with Jürgen Klopp’s electric Liverpool traveling to face Watford. Coming off a top-four finish last season, the Reds aim to flex their attacking muscle in Vicarage Road against a side that barely finished above the relegation zone in 2016/17. Although the Hornets are relegation candidates again this season, they’ve revamped their squad over the summer with club-record signing Andre Grey along with arrivals of Tom Cleverley and Nathaniel Chalobah. For Liverpool, it’s been a turbulent summer marred by drama surrounding Philippe Coutinho’s link with a move to FC Barcelona and struggles to secure some of Klopp’s most coveted targets. Despite Coutinho and Adam Lallana being unfit for the opener, new signing Mohamed Salah should link up with Sadio Mané and Roberto Firmino to create a lightning-fast strike force.

Chelsea vs. Burnley: The reigning English champions will open their title defense at Stamford Bridge expecting to overpower Burnley in front of their home fans. Despite winning the title in Antonio Conte’s first season with the Blues and returning the club to Champions League football, Chelsea have endured a surprising amount of squad turnover with Diego Costa and Nemanja Matic departing along with several squad players. Conte did secure the £70m Alvaro Morata, but only after losing the Romelu Lukaku sweepstakes to Manchester United. Fellow new signing Tiemoue Bakayoko will look to build chemistry in the middle with last year’s PFA Player of the Year N’Golo Kante as they face a lowly Burnley side whose point total they more than doubled a year ago.

Brighton & Hove Albion vs. Manchester City: The Seagulls of Brighton & Hove Albion make their Premier League debut and first return to the top flight in over 30 years in Saturday’s final match as hosts to Manchester City. They secured the second automatic promotion last season by finishing second in the Championship. Manager Chris Hughton and his squad will be looking to put their best foot forward against one of the league’s powerhouses. Pep Guardiola’s City squad finished third last season and were busy in the summer, adding fullbacks Kyle Walker from Spurs, Danilo from Real Madrid, and Benjamin Mendy from Monaco. Guardiola will hope the trio, which cost more than £100M in total, and new keeper Ederson will help firm up City’s defense to complement their dangerous attack. Sergio Agüero, Raheem Sterling, Kevin De Bruyne, youngster Gabriel Jesus, and many more dangerous names will be looking to give City a win in their first test as they eye a title run this season.

Newcastle United vs. Tottenham: With their one-year stint in the second tier behind them, Newcastle United rightfully return to the EPL with a daunting challenge looming on their first matchday. Tottenham Hotspur come to town Sunday, a club that’s come up short in the past two seasons but have surprisingly mounted the biggest title challenge in each. While some Spurs fans are frustrated with a lack of transfer activity and the loss of full-back Kyle Walker, the squad largely remains intact from the last two seasons headlined by Harry Kane, Christian Eriksen and Dele Alli. Tottenham’s dominant attack notched the league’s largest goal differential in each of the last two seasons, and Newcastle will have their hands full limiting them in their return to the Premier League.

Manchester United vs. West Ham United: It was an up and down season for Manchester United last year, finishing sixth but winning both the League Cup and the Europa League, granting them a berth in this year’s Champions League group stage. José Mourinho will no doubt be looking for more this season, however. United welcome former Everton striker Romelu Lukaku to Old Trafford, as well as former Chelsea man Nemanja Matic. Paul Pogba, Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial, and world-class keeper David de Gea all remain as well. West Ham endured an 11th place finish last season, but they have welcomed a number of new names this summer, including former Man United player Javier Hernández, better known to the footballing world as Chicharito. They’ve taken former City keeper Joe Hart on loan to fix last season’s issues between the posts, and also added fullbacks Marko Arnautovic and Pablo Zabaleta. Manager Slaven Bilic will be looking to lead the Hammers to an upset victory away from home to start their season with a dream result.

WATCH: Golden State Warriors Minute-by-Minute Sales Following NBA Finals Win

It’s been quite a ride for the Golden State Warriors. Two years ago they climbed to the pinnacle of the basketball world, bringing an NBA title to the Bay Area and Dub Nation. A year later, they made history, winning 73 regular season games and storming all the way to the NBA Finals once again.

And then, up 3-1, one win away from repeating, the champs slowly began to slip. Game by game, they watched their fortunes change. From the highest summit to the crushing low of watching a 3-1 NBA Finals lead evaporate, the Warriors and their fans had certainly felt a range of emotions.

And then just a few weeks after losing the Finals, the Warriors signed Kevin Durant. The rest, as they say, is history. And while the 2017 Golden State Warriors did not quite match their 73 win season the year before, they are now, once again, the champions of the NBA. And they have achieved some history of their own: a near-perfect postseason. 16-0 and their second title in three years is a pretty good way to exorcise the demons of last year.

And Dub Nation is celebrating. Below, check out a heat map video breakdown of how Warriors sales across Fanatics platforms after the historic win.

Football Across Europe: April 8-10

Premier League (England)

Tottenham vs. Watford: Tottenham have taken 15 points from their last five league matches, have now lost the fewest matches in the Premier League this season, and are tied for first in goal differential. Yet they still find themselves seven points back of leaders Chelsea. They will look to keep the pressure on this weekend when they welcome Watford to White Hart Lane. Watford has won its last two league matches and sit tenth in the table. Midweek, Spurs saw themselves down 1-0 away to Swansea until Dele Alli leveled in the 88th minute and Son Heung-Min and Christian Eriksen scored in stoppage time to secure all three points.

Stoke City vs. Liverpool: Liverpool were riding high going into their midweek fixture with Bournemouth. They won the Merseyside Derby last weekend 3-1, but lost key attacker Sadio Mané, likely for the season. Still, they saw themselves minutes away from a key win in their top four push before having to settle for a late draw midweek. Still injury-depleted, the Reds will travel to bet365 Stadium to take on Stoke City on Saturday. The Potters have dropped their last three in the league since a goalless draw at City in early March. Liverpool will hope star winger Philippe Coutinho continues to show he is back in fine form and leads them to a needed victory.

Manchester City vs. Hull City: Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City begin a pivotal three-match stretch to maintain their top-four hopes when they host relegation candidates Hull City. City are reeling from a key 2-1 mid-week defeat to Chelsea that puts them 14 points back of the league leaders and just four points up on fifth-placed Arsenal. Sergio Aguero must keep firing for City to keep pace in what’s turned into an electrifying top-four battle.

Bournemouth vs. Chelsea: It was a rare stumble for Chelsea at home last weekend, a 2-1 loss to lowly Crystal Palace. But the Blues responded in their midweek fixture, beating Manchester City by the same 2-1 scoreline via an Eden Hazard brace. This weekend, they travel to Dean Court to take on a Bournemouth squad that is unbeaten in its last five league matches. The Cherries are coming off a 2-2 draw at Anfield midweek which saw them equalize in the 87th minute to steal a late point. They will be looking to pull off a stunner and perhaps call Chelsea’s likely league title into some doubt.

Sunderland vs. Manchester United: After being held to a goalless draw at Old Trafford last weekend by an entrenched West Brom, Manchester United needed a very late penalty from Zlatan Ibrahimović to manage yet another draw midweek against Everton. With expensive weapons like Paul Pogba and Henrikh Mkhitaryan starting the match on the bench, it was another puzzling and frustrating result for José Mourinho’s squad who now find themselves four points from the top four, perhaps having to hang all their Champions League hopes on winning the Europa League, where they are still alive. They travel this weekend to the Stadium of Light to take on last place Sunderland and fans will be expecting nothing short of all three points.

Crystal Palace vs. Arsenal: Even after a mid-week defeat to Southampton, Crystal Palace have still won four of their last five matches as they try to stave off relegation entering an all-London affair with Arsenal. The Gunner’s top-four hopes are on life support but were aided by an important 3-0 drubbing of West Ham. Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil have regained some of their fleeting form but will need to continue taking care of business against bottom clubs like Palace to keep pressure on Manchester City and Liverpool for a Champions League spot.

La Liga (Spain)

Real Madrid vs. Atlético Madrid: Easily the biggest fixture in Spain this weekend is Saturday’s El Derbi Madrileño, or Madrid derby. Real Madrid welcome neighbors and rivals Atlético Madrid to the Santiago Bernabéu Stadium in the latest edition of the heated series. Real won the opener earlier this season back in November. Beyond the rivalry, it is a key match as Real see themselves only two points clear of Barcelona atop the La Liga table, though with a game in hand. Though Spanish newspapers continue to talk almost exclusively about stars Ronaldo and Gareth Bale, it was Álvaro Morata with a hat trick midweek. Real Madrid fans will not much care where the goals come from if they can manage another win on Saturday.

Málaga vs. Barcelona: FC Barcelona are relentlessly chasing league-leaders Real Madrid and sit only two points back after a three-match win streak, but could have their hands full with a desperate Málaga side. Typically a top-half club, Málaga find themselves near the drop zone. Lionel Messi and Neymar have been firing as they eye trophies in La Liga, Copa del Rey and the Champions League, but can’t afford any slip-ups in the league if they want to maintain aspirations of a treble.

Bundesliga (Germany)

Bayern Munich vs. Borussia Dortmund: The marquee Bundesliga fixture has not lost its luster late in the season as dominant Bayern Munich battle with Borussia Dortmund yet again. In rare fashion, Dortmund find themselves in fourth place but could climb to third with a shock win at Allianz Arena. Meanwhile, Munich are coming off just their second defeat of the season in the mid-week to Hoffenheim but still maintain a double-digit lead in the table over RB Leipzig.

March Madness Final Four Fandom Visualized through Sales

Another year of March Madness has held the attention of the sporting world for weeks now. This weekend, as we turn to April, it narrows further and the end of this marathon tournament will come into view. The Final Four are ready to battle this Saturday. South Carolina and Gonzaga will face off first, followed by Oregon and North Carolina. The winners will face one another on Monday, April 3, for the National Championship. For students, alumni, and basketball fans of all stripes, it’s one of the best sports times of the year. Here at Fanatics, we’ve compiled the data and crunched the numbers to get an idea of where loyalty for the remaining four teams lies around the country by measuring which school was the top seller in merchandise sales by state.

Check out a map of our results below:

It comes as no surprise that each school carried their home state. But given that each team is close in proximity to one of the other remaining teams, there are some sharp dividing lines. The possibility of an all-west coast or all-Carolina championship must be tantalizing to fans on either side of the country.

The UNC Tarheels, one of basketball’s legendary programs and led by Hall of Fame coach Roy Williams, is seeking their sixth national championship and their third under Williams. They, unsurprisingly, would seem to have the edge among national fans. They carried 25 total states, including the vast majority of states east of the Mississippi. The 1 seed out of the South region, they are the favorites for many around the country.

One of the surprises of the tournament, the 7 seeded South Carolina Gamecocks took their home state, neighbors Georgia and Florida, as well as Maryland and Rhode Island. They are in their first Final Four in program history. From last week to this week, sales for South Carolina merchandise is up over 600% as fans have bought into the belief that this Cinderella run can end in the ultimate prize under the leadership of coach Frank Martin.

The Gonzaga Bulldogs were the top seller in 11 states, good for second in total states carried. They took their home state of Washington as well as the big sky states of Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming. Despite being a 1 seed in the tournament and entering the weekend with still only one loss on the season, Gonzaga the biggest jump in merchandise sales from last week to this one with sales up over 800% as Bulldogs fans hope longtime coach Mark Few can lead the team to glory in their first Final Four appearance.

The Oregon Ducks, the 3 seed out of the Midwest region, handily beat their region’s top seeded team, the perennially dangerous Kansas Jayhawks, to advance to their first Final Four since 1939 and second overall. They carried their home state and neighboring giant California, as well as Arizona, Kansas, Oklahoma, Iowa, Arkansas, and, miles and miles away, the states of Maine and Hawaii.

Whoever you’re rooting for, remember that Fanatics has you covered with all of the top Final Four gear you’ll find online.

 

Football Across Europe: March 17-18

Premier League (England)

West Brom vs. Arsenal: Reeling Arsenal desperately need to avoid a complete implosion of their season when they visit West Bromwich Albion in an early Saturday affair. The Gunners have dropped three of four in all competitions after yet another embarrassing exit in the Champions League round of 16, and now sit five points out of the top four. Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil will have to rebound from their recent lows and pick up a critical three points at The Hawthorns against eighth-placed West Brom to get Arsenal back on track or risk a complete demolition and more questions about manager Arsene Wenger’s future.

Stoke City vs. Chelsea: Chelsea head to bet365 Stadium on Saturday afternoon on quite a roll. They maintain a ten point lead in the EPL table late in the season and have advanced to the FA Cup semifinals. They are 3-2-0 in their last five and have not lost since the 4th of January. Stoke is coming off an inspired defensive effort, holding City scoreless at the Etihad in their last outing. They will have their hands full with the leaders, though, as Diego Costa, Eden Hazard, N’Golo Kanté, and company will be looking to keep it rolling.

Middlesbrough vs. Manchester United: As Manchester United excel in other competitions, they remain stuck in sixth place in the league entering a key road trip to Middlesbrough on Sunday. The ultra-competitive top four hasn’t been this close in months as Wayne Rooney, Paul Pogba and crew sit six points back of fourth with two games in hand. Middlesbrough could claw their way out of the relegation zone with a surprise win, and United will need to match their desperation despite missing Zlatan Ibrahimovic due to suspension.

Tottenham vs. Southampton: Tottenham will look to continue their offensive demolition at home against a Southampton side known for its defensive structure. Spurs have outscored their last three opponents a combined 13-2, but still sit 10 points back of league-leading Chelsea and are only six points shy of falling out of the top four altogether. The Saints are stuck in mid-table, but have won two straight in league play and certainly boast a defense capable of keeping the potent Tottenham attack to a low-scoring affair.

Manchester City vs. Liverpool: The marquee bout of the weekend takes place at the Etihad Stadium when Manchester City and Liverpool clash in primetime. The always precarious Reds have some momentum after winning three of four in the league and reigniting their top-four chances. City are a point up on Liverpool with a game in hand, but Kevin de Bruyne and company enter emotionally deflated from a Champions League exit to Monaco on Wednesday. The Citizens’ reeling defense will need to handle the explosive attack of Philippe Coutinho, Sadio Mane and company to avenge a New Year’s eve loss to Liverpool and get back on track.

La Liga (Spain)

Athletic Bilbao vs. Real Madrid: Real Madrid head to Basque country on Saturday for an afternoon kickoff at San Mamés. Though Barcelona is only two points back, Real Madrid have a game in hand and are coming off both a convincing aggregate victory over Napoli in the Champions League and a league win last weekend which saw goals from Cristiano Ronaldo and Sergio Ramos. Bilbao have won their last two league matches and their last four at home and will be looking to pull the upset.

Atlético Madrid vs. Sevilla: Atlético Madrid welcome Sevilla to the Vicente Calderón Stadium on Sunday in a match with a number of story lines. Atléti advanced to the quarterfinals of the Champions League this week while Sevilla were dumped from the competition by Leicester City. Sevilla also sits third in the La Liga table, three points behind Barcelona and five points ahead of Madrid who, in turn, sit only four points ahead of Villareal. It should be a nerve-wracking match for all parties involved, with thoughts of both this and next year’s Champions League on everyone’s mind.

Barcelona vs. Valencia: A few days after making Champions League history, overcoming a 4-0 deficit to PSG to win 6-5 on aggregate to advance to the Champions League quarterfinals, Barcelona stumbled to a 2-1 loss on Sunday, which hampered their chase of Real Madrid atop the La Liga table. They will look to right the ship as they welcome 13th place Valencia to Camp Nou with the last of the weekend’s La Liga kickoffs on Sunday. The world class attack of Lionel Messi, Neymar, and Luis Suárez will seek to put their mark on yet another pivotal match for Barca.

Bundesliga (Germany)

Borussia Mönchengladbach vs. Bayern Munich: After being chased closely for much of the season, Bayern Munich have yet another Bundesliga title all but wrapped up, with a ten point lead over RB Leipzig heading into this weekend. That said, there is always intrigue when the perennial powerhouse visits one of Germany’s other storied and historic clubs, Mönchengladbach. Gladbach lost their last time out in the Bundesliga after winning two straight. They will need to execute flawlessly, as Bayern have ripped off three straight league wins by a combined score of 14-0.