It was a dominant win for Chelsea against Arsenal last time out and the Blues feature again in the big games preview. This weekend will see a pair of title hopefuls, Chelsea and Liverpool, go head-to-head in what promises to be a massive fixture. Elsewhere, Real Madrid need to atone for a dramatic 3-3 draw with Levante last time out whilst their city rivals Atleti face a strong Villarreal side. All this and much more in this weeks’ big games preview!
Borussia Dortmund vs Hoffenheim, Friday @19:30
The weekend of excellent football will get underway with the returning Borussia Dortmund on Friday night, the club formerly managed by Jurgen Klopp now of Liverpool of course. Marco Rose’s side featured in the inaugural big games preview and they went on to smash Frankfurt 5-2 in a highly entertaining affair. Things took quite a dramatic turn though, losing to Freiburg in their second game of the season. Jude Bellingham scoring on his 50th appearance was the only silver lining. In front of the Sky cameras, Dortmund will host a Hoffenheim side who have started well at Signal Iduna Park. They beat Augsburg 4-0 away from home in their opener before then drawing with Union Berlin.
Both sides have shown in the small sample size this season that they can score a lot of goals. Hoffenheim have a pretty settled squad and Sebastian Hoeness remains at the helm. This is quite the contrast to their opponents who have of course brought in a new manager. On top of that, Jadon Sancho has left whilst Donyell Malen has arrived, plus Dane Thomas Delaney looks set to move on too. Hoffenheim boast the stability and familiarity so them getting a result seems perfectly plausible, but Haaland has already shown that if you give him an inch he’ll take a mile.
Derby vs Nottingham Forest, Saturday @12:30
Next then to the Championship where Saturday gets underway with a derby. Talking of Derby and the situation at Pride Park is oh so dire. The results on the fire thus far don’t on their own represent the stress facing Wayne Rooney’s team. The issues off of the field will always seep into what happens on the pitch but in the moment, Nottingham Forest are hardly better off. There is a single side in each of the levels of the EFL yet to get a point: Oldham Athletic in League 2, Shrewsbury Town in League 1 and then Forest in the Championship. Many have cited Chris Hughton’s know-how in this division as a reason as to why they could be in the playoff picture this season but early showings would suggest that this is far from the truth.
Both of these managers are very much under the cosh but for very different reasons. Hughton is struggling on the field although it is early days whereas Rooney is working wonders in the grand scheme of things. Derby’s squad is a composition of inexperienced youngsters, wily veterans and players seeking that bounce-back in their career so to see them take points off of Hull and Boro is somewhat surprising. Forest may be yet to collate any points but having watched them against Coventry, the young talents such as Alex Mighten and Brennan Johnson in particular have me still believing in this team. The return of fans combined with the problems faced by the pair should make for a fiery affair!
Liverpool vs Chelsea, Saturday @17:30
Taking the step up in England to the Premier League and the quality on show in the top four means that every game between those sides is even more crucial than usual. It is Liverpool vs Chelsea this weekend, the battle of two German coaches who have both led their current teams to Champions League glory. Even without a striker, Man City to me are still the team to beat but if anyone was to do it, Chelsea and Liverpool are surely the frontrunners. Neither side has conceded in the opening two games but the defining factor is that whilst Burnley were up to get the Reds hot under the collar at times, Palace and Arsenal failed to really threaten Mendy’s goal.
Liverpool vs Chelsea is being billed by some as Van Dijk vs Lukaku, the former now back from injury and of course the latter is back in the Premier League. The Belgian powerhouse scored on his second debut in this league pretty early against a poor Arsenal and was genuinely far too much for Pablo Mari. A battle that is more appropriate from a season-long perspective is Lukaku versus Salah though. The Liverpool winger along with Lukaku is a favourite for the Golden Boot this term and it seems likely that they’ll both score a ton of goals. Who will come out on top in this game though? Salah vs Lukaku! Liverpool vs Chelsea!
Real Betis vs Real Madrid, Saturday @21:00
Barcelona and Real Madrid endured similar openings to this La Liga season. They got started with a comfortable win before drawing dramatically last time out. Dramatic doesn’t even cut it regarding Los Blancos and their visit to the Cuitat de Valencia. Carlo Ancelotti’s side went ahead through Gareth Bale after five minutes but later in the game, found themselves 2-1 and then 3-2 down. Vinicius’ second of the game and Real’s third was something oh so special, and then Levante goalkeeper Aitor Fernandez was sent off for a handball outside of the box. Next in store for Benzema and co is Real Betis who are managed by familiar face Manuel Pellegrini.
Pellegrini broke records with Malaga in La Liga so he knows the league very well, but the Bernabeu wasn’t a place where he thrived exactly. Betis drew 1-1 against both Mallorca and Cadiz to date and what seems to be a pretty settled squad could cause some waves this term. Juanmi has scored both of their goals thus far meaning that Frenchman Nabil Fekir and striker Borja Iglesias are yet to get off of the mark, not that this is something to be worried about though. It may be a misconception but I feel like Betis have always been one of the teams in La Liga capable of dizzy heights against the big three during my time watching the league and it wouldn’t surprise me at all if Pellegrini orchestrated something of a similar nature on Saturday night.
Atletico Madrid vs Villarreal, Sunday @21:00
Fast-forwarding twenty four hours to Sunday night and whilst there are some great games up and down La Liga, including Real Sociedad vs Levante, we remain with one of the big three. Only two teams have won both of their league games to date, one of which is Julen Lopetegui’s Sevilla and the other is Atleti. It was a superb 20/21 season where, of course, Los Rojiblancos lifted their second La Liga title under the great Diego Simeone. A rarity of this season in comparison to others is that many are touting Atleti as favourites to finish atop of the three given the woes of both Barcelona and Real. It will be Europa League holders Villarreal visiting the Wanda Metropolitano so a tough, early test for Atleti and their title credentials.
The large majority of La Liga sides have splashed the cash on new signings but the pair under the current spotlight fit into the minority. Atleti welcomed Argentinian Rodrigo De Paul into their midfield from Udinese, a step-up for him which has been a long time coming. On the other hand, Unai Emery added attacking depth in the form of Boulaye Dia from Ligue 1 side Reims. It is the latest move that excites me most though as Arnaut Danjuma has arrived for £20 million. Danjuma delivered week-after-week for Bournemouth in the Championship last season and although he found the back of the net in both legs of the playoffs, the Cherries came up short. It remains to be seen how instantly the Dutchman will enter the fray under Emery but he is such an enjoyable player to watch and Villarreal on the whole are a true, force to be reckoned with!
Portland Timbers vs Seattle Sounders, Monday @03:30
Finally then to MLS and there is a headline fixture that sees out Rivalry Week. Seattle rallied late on against Columbus last time out to continue their recent resurgence form and on this streak, they beat a certain team 6-2. The team in question is of course Portland and Gio Savarese’s team will host the Sounders in another chapter in the Cascadia Cup story. It was quite the rarity to see a lack of Timbers representation at the All-Star game vs Liga MX the other day whilst Seattle dominated the field. Six of Bob Bradley’s starter were Sounders; Nouhou, Joao Paulo, current top-scorer Raul Ruidiaz, Yeimar and the Roldan brothers with Cristian as the captain.
It is heavily trodden ground but Seattle began this season on fire, they were on record-breaking form and it seemed Brian Schmetzer’s men were untouchable. Bruce Arena and his New England Revolution took on some excellent performances of their own though and as it went hand-in-hand with a Sounders drop off, the Revs are now the team to beat. Seattle are still a superb team whereas it has been a troublesome year so far at Providence Park. Injuries to the likes of Diego Valeri, Sebastian Blanco and Steve Clark last season as well as this one has Savarese under pressure and as it stands, they sit below the playoff line. Granted if they win their game-in-hand on San Jose they would replace them in the playoff picture but the Timbers are usually a major force in MLS, from unsuccessful finalists in 2018 MLS Cup to mid-table mediocrity. That 6-2 still looms large for the team for Oregon and so what better way of striking sweet, sweet revenge in front of their home fans.
If you enjoyed reading about the likes of Liverpool and Atletico Madrid ahead of their games this weekend, click here to read my latest article about the new arrivals in the WSL!