Premier League (England)
Match Week 8 in England kicks off with a bang this weekend with Manchester United visiting their bitter northwest rivals Liverpool. Any match between these two clubs feels like the tensest of derbies already, but José Mourinho and company are also forced to try to put the pressure on their actual Manchester derby rivals City, who join them atop the table with 19 points from a possible 21. Liverpool will be looking to re-assert themselves as genuine contenders after another frustrating draw in their last match before last week’s international break. We take a closer look at that match and others around Europe this weekend that caught our eye:
Liverpool vs. Manchester United: Liverpool may have felt they were back on track after a 3-2 win over Leicester away from home in late September, but a pair of 1-1 draws — one in the Champions League and one away to Newcastle two weeks ago in the league — have raised old frustrations. Manager Jürgen Klopp will hope his players have no shortage of motivation, however, with bitter rivals Manchester United coming to town for the first kickoff on Saturday. If Liverpool are to prevail, they will have to do it without the use of Sadio Mané, who picked up an injury over the break. The Red Devils are not without injuries of their own, as both Marouane Fellaini and Paul Pogba will be forced to miss the match, but the Reds’ suspect defense will still have their hands full with striker Romelu Lukaku, who is surely no stranger to the derby atmosphere at Anfield.
Manchester City vs. Stoke City: League-leading Manchester City can’t afford a slip-up on their return from the international break when Stoke City visit Etihad Stadium for a Saturday afternoon battle. Before the break, City notched their biggest three points of the season in a gutsy road win at Chelsea, ensuring they kept pace with United’s 19 points. However, Stoke City surprised the Etihad in last year’s trip to Manchester when they pulled out a surprise draw. While Pep Guardiola’s crew look to be a different monster this season, with Raheem Sterling and Kevin de Bruyne in spectacular form, they’ll need laser focus to avoid a letdown. City could also get a boost with Sergio Agüero potentially available off the bench after missing a few matches with a rib injury.
Crystal Palace vs. Chelsea: Mired in a horrendous slump, Crystal Palace just can’t catch any breaks with West London giants Chelsea traveling across the city for a Saturday showdown. Typically a top half club in the table, Palace have endured one of the most treacherous starts to an EPL season in recent memory. Not only have they failed to secure a point in seven games, but they haven’t even scored a goal while allowing 17. The Blues have spent some of the international break figuring out what went wrong in their recent home loss to City, but they preceded that with a strong win streak. Expect Eden Hazard and company to flex their muscles against a Palace squad who can’t get anything going.
Tottenham vs. Bournemouth: With points from their last five league matches, Tottenham find themselves in a familiar position in the early part of the season: only one defeat on their record, but still looking up at the league leaders. Saturday will present an opportunity to take all three points with Bournemouth visiting Wembley. Only Crystal Palace (with no points) have managed less through seven matches than Bournemouth’s four. The Cherries did manage a draw in their last match, however, and manager Eddie Howe would no doubt be content with another point in a tough test for his squad. Harry Kane, Dele Alli, and company will be looking to ensure that Spurs show they can be ruthless enough to take all three points from relegation zone teams as they’ll need to if they want to truly contend for the title this season.
La Liga (Spain)
Getafe vs. Real Madrid: The time is now for Real Madrid to get going if they want to revitalize their La Liga title defense, and it starts with a road trip to Getafe slated for Saturday. Starting the season 4-2-1 isn’t considered bad for most teams, but it is for Los Blancos, especially when Barcelona have begun a perfect seven for seven. Cristiano Ronaldo is still finding his form after an early season suspension, while the stacked strike force of Gareth Bale, Karim Benzema and Isco surrounding him have yet to truly kick it into gear. A sense of urgency is critical for Madrid against 12th-placed Getafe, who scrapped to a 2-1 defeat to Barca earlier in the season and dismantled Villarreal 4-0 three weeks ago.
Atlético Madrid vs. Barcelona: FC Barcelona emerged from a disastrous summer to surprise in their opening of La Liga play, looking to continue their perfect season with a tough trip to face Atlético Madrid. Lionel Messi has shown he can carry the squad with 11 goals thus far in the season, making him the league’s top scorer by a margin of five. That’s only one less than Atlético Madrid have notched as a team this season. However, Atleti do sit one point up of Real Madrid with 15 points, and could get to within three of league-leading Barca with a surprise win at the Wanda Metropolitano. Messi may not be at his brilliant best with fatigue likely to kick in after he had to carry his Argentina side dramatically into World Cup qualification during the week, but his best may not be needed to achieve three points.
Serie A (Italy)
Roma vs. Napoli: It’s a fun and exciting early part of the season in Italy as Turin giants Juventus have not been their usual perfect. True, a draw just before the international break is their only blemish, but that is enough in the early going to keep them from atop the Serie A table, where high-flying Napoli sit with a perfect 21 points from 21. Napoli have already scored 25 league goals in seven matches and have won their last five matches in all competitions, scoring at least three goals in all of them. Dries Mertens has seven goals, good for third in the league, and will be looking for more. But hosts Roma are flying, too, also winning their last five matches in all competitions, including a 2-0 win over AC Milan the last time out. In front of their supporters, it promises to be a fun one on Saturday night under the lights at the Stadio Olimpico.
Inter Milan vs. AC Milan: It is another Milan Derby on Sunday, with Inter Milan the official “home” team, though they will have no distinct advantage with fellow San Siro residents AC Milan lining up against them. Both editions of this match ended in 2-2 draws last season, and there is excitement this year behind an Inter squad that has 19 points from a possible 21 and is level with Juventus on points in second place in the league. AC Milan have lost their last two league matches, both by 0-2 scorelines, after also starting hot out of the gate. They still have 12 points, good for seventh in the league, and will look to use the energy of another derby della Madonnina to get back on track against their cross-town rivals.