Over the last week European football has taken centre stage with the German Bundesliga and the Spanish La Liga joining the other major leagues in beginning the 2014/15 season. We saw the fastest goal in Bundesliga history with Bayer Leverkusen’s Karim Bellarabi scoring after just 10 seconds! Atletico Madrid got one back on arch rival Real in the Spanish Super Cup winning 2 – 1 over two gritty legs and Arsenal secure their 17th season of Champions League football after beating Besiktas.
This week heralds the start of the Italian Serie A while the other big leagues across Europe rumble on. We have the best of the rest as well as a bit of betting action for those old enough. I would just like to mention that the Champions’ League group stage draw is at 1am on Friday morning for those keen to watch that on SBS 1. Let’s get stuck into this weeks From the Stands European Weekly.
Italian Serie A
The Italian top flight kicks off this weekend with Juventus favourites to win their fourth successive Scudetto. AS Roma will be their main rival after the capital enjoyed a resurgent season last time around that saw them reaffirm the place in the Italian elite. Both Milan clubs are long odds to take out the 19th title with many feeling they lack the quality to push the likes of Juventus, Roma and even Napoli.
The opening weekend kicks off at 2am on Sunday with Chievo hosting the Italian champions in a match that should see the Italian giants claim three points and a solid start to the season. Roma vs. Fiorentina follows at 4:45am with the Francesco Totti led club holding the favourites tag over their Florence rivals.
The rest of the games are on Monday morning at 2am with AC Milan hosting Lazio. These two clubs finished eighth and ninth and their fans will be expecting more from them this campaign. At 4:45am Udinese host Empoli with Italian veteran Antonio Di Natale’s first Serie A game since he came out of his “retirement. Torino who upstaged many last season host Inter Milan whilst Napoli travel to Genoa on the back of their 3-1 loss to Athletic Bilbao that saw them knocked out of the Champions League.
English Premier League
The third match-day of the Premier League season throws up some intriguing ties. The action starts at 9:45pm on Saturday with Burnley hosting Manchester United at the historic Turf Moor. United have had a terrible start to the season with one point out of six as well as a humiliating four-nil loss to MK Dons in the League Cup. Burnley will go in as underdogs but if they are to pull off a result then the pressure on Louis Van Gaal will continue to rise. New signings Marcos Rojo and Angel Di Maria could make their debuts.
There are five games proceeding at midnight with champions Manchester City playing Stoke City at the Etihad. Manchester City will be favourites for this match after an impressive 3-1 win over Liverpool on Tuesday. Mile Jedinak’s Crystal Palace has reappointed former manager Neil Warnock and his first test will be away to Newcastle. West Bromwich Albion travel to Welsh club Swansea on the back of their Penalty shoot out win over Oxford United where Aussie left back Jason Davidson played a full 120 minutes before capping of a solid starting debut by converting the winning penalty.
The 2:30am match is Everton vs. Chelsea. The Toffees have managed two draws to start their season and they would take another against a Chelsea side that has been impressive in their opening two matches albeit against promoted opposition. Cameroinian icon Samuel Eto’o who was with Chelsea last campaign could feature after signing with Everton on a free and record signing Romelu Lukaku is likely to be up for a huge game against his former club.
Two of the three games on Sunday night start at 10:30pm with the pick being Tottenham vs. Liverpool. Spurs are the early pace setters after a last minute win over West Ham and an emphatic 4-0 win over London rivals Queens Park Rangers. Liverpool has had an acceptable start but were not polished enough to withhold a powerful Manchester City. The final game is at 1am with Leicester City hosting Arsenal after the Gunners secured their 17th season of Champions League football on Thursday morning.
Tottenham vs. Liverpool is the game of the week.
Spanish La Liga
The second match-day starts with Getafe vs. Almeria at 4am on Saturday morning before Malaga host Valencia at 6am.
On Sunday morning at 5am Atletico Madrid will be looking for their first win against last season’s Segunda Division winners Eibar who caused the shock of the opening weekend when they beat Real Sociedad one- nil. Atletico were poor in their nil all draw with Rayo Vallecano and lacked the attacking penetration to threat a defence that was organised. At 7am, Espanyol host Europa League champions Sevilla. Both sides will be after their first three points after both were involved in stalemates in the opening weekend.
The action recommences on Monday morning at 3am with Villarreal hosting Barcelona at El Madrigal. Villarreal were too good for Levente in the opening weekend with former La Castilla prodigy Denis Cheryshev particularly impressive. Barcelona was too classy for Elche with Lionel Messi seemingly back to the peak of his powers with a brace.
At 5am, Real Madrid travels to Real Sociedad. Sociedad suffered defeat to Eibar in the opening weekend which will give them extra incentive going into this clash with the Madrid giants. Real were clinical in their opening match with a 2 nil win over Cordoba.
The other match at 5am is Deportivo at home to Rayo Vallecano before the matchday is wrapped up with Elche vs. Granada at 7am.
The sole game on Saturday at 4:30am is FC Augsburg taking on Borussia Dortmund. Both sides lost two-nil in their opening matches but it is expected that Dortmund will have too much for last season’s Bundesliga overachievers. Dortmund lost to an efficient Bayer Leverkusen who put their first goal into Australian goalkeeper Mitchell Langerak net in less than 10 seconds. Langerak is expected to lose his starting position with the return to fitness of club vice captain Roman Weidenfeller.
Five games start at Saturday night at 11:30 headlined by Werder Bremen vs. Hoffenheim at the Weserstadion. Some of the other matches include VfB Stuttgart at home to FC Koeln and Bayer Leverkusen vs. Hertha Berlin.
The game of the round in the Bundesliga this week comes on Sunday morning at 2:30 when champions Bayern Munich travel to Schalke. Bayern were a little jagged in their opening match who finished 2-1 in their favour over Wolfsburg while Schalke on the other hand suffered a 2-1 defeat to Hannover. Schalke will require a strong performance to prove the league isn’t a one horse race.
At 11:30 Sunday night Mainz host Hannover before the round finishes with Borussia Monchengladbach away to Freiburg.
French Ligue 1
Already into the fourth matchday of the French season and title favourite Paris Saint Germain have not had the best starts with 2 draws and 1 win over Bastia. The matchday starts on Saturday morning at 4:30 with 10th place Marseille taking on 11th place Nice with both sides have a win, a loss and a draw. Marseille will be relying on the continued good form of striker Andre-Pierre Gignac who has three goals in three to help push them towards the top of Ligue 1.
At 1am on Sunday Monaco vs. Lille in the principality with the Monaco finally managing the secure three points against Nantes on Monday morning. A win here will put them back on track and they can be grateful for PSG’s slow start. Lille are one of the form teams in Ligue 1 however they will come into this clash on the back of a 2-0 away defeat to Porto that knocked them out of the Champions League.
The only team with a perfect start is Bordeaux who take on Bastia on Sunday night at 10pm. Bordeaux have been impressive so far with wins over 2011-12 champions Montpellier and title challengers Monaco. They will be hoping to secure another win over Bastia who to their credit secured 4 points from their games against Marseille and Toulouse.
On Monday morning Metz host Lyon at 1 before the clash of the round between PSG and Saint Etienne at the Parc de Princes. PSG have been slow starters with their only win being at home to Bastia, they have had two draws against teams now sitting in 19th and 20th. PSG will be looking to make a statement against Saint Etienne who at seven from nine points after a solid start that sees them in 2nd.
Best of the Rest
- Sheffield Wednesday vs. Nottingham Forest on Saturday at 9:15pm in the English Championship
- Glasgow Rangers vs. Queen of the South on Sunday at 12am in the Scottish Championship
- PSV Eindhoven vs. Vitesse Arnhem on Sunday at 8:30pm in the Dutch Eredivisie
- Club Brugge vs. Anderlecht on Sunday at 10:30pm in the Belgian Pro League
- Benfica vs. Sporting Lisbon on Monday at 4am in the Portuguese Primeira Liga
By this time next week, all the top leagues in Europe will be in full swing and that is a fantastic thing for us football fanatics. It is great to have Serie A up and running and as you can tell, I am a fan of the golden oldies knocking it around in the Italian top flight. Make sure you get yourself a hot cuppa to accompany through this action packed week of football.
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