Despite a shock defeat for La Liga giants Barcelona, a (now expected, given their terrible start to the season) defeat for Chelsea and another high-score mauling from the unstoppable Manchester City, European football has certainly save the best till last this weekend.
Sunday sees a number of high-profile rivals meet throughout the continent, as they compete to secure the bragging rights for the next few months, in what is likely to be an unmissable day of action.
Everton vs Liverpool
Super Sunday kicks off with the famed Merseyside derby, as Brendan Rodgers looks to improve on Liverpool’s slow start to the season. Everton have had the better start, having picked up 12 points in their first seven games, but Rodgers will be quietly confident, given that the club have yet to lose against their city rivals under his leadership.
Christian Benteke is unlikely to feature for the Reds as he continues to recover from a hamstring injury sustained during the 1-1 draw against Norwich last month. Although, Liverpool fans will be buoyed by the return of Daniel Sturridge, who fired the club to victory over Aston Villa last weekend.
Pressure is mounting on Rodgers, and a defeat against the club’s fiercest rivals could all but settle his future. If Everton front-man Romelu Lukaku picks up where he left off against West Brom earlier this week, defeat for Rodgers’ side is a real possibility.
Arsenal vs Manchester United
Arsene Wenger’s side will be keen to return to action after a woeful midweek defeat to Olympiacos in the Champions League. The Arsenal boss was adamant in his pre-match press conference that the defeat won’t affect their performance on Sunday, and believes they can add to their back-to-back Premier League victories.
“It was disappointing to lose, but overall every competition is different, you have to go in a different competition in a different state of mind and we have to be inspired by what we did at Leicester.” stated Wenger.
United boss Louis van Gaal, on the other hand, sounded much more confident of his sides ability to snatch all three points.
“I think you have to believe always in this [ability to win the title].
“So I believe in that, but the most important thing is not only that I believe, but that the players are believing in that. And when we win at Arsenal, then the belief shall raise a lot, I believe.”
With three goals in three Premier League appearances, Van Gaal will be praying that Anthony Martial continues to excel in England, and Arsenal’s failed summer pursuit of the young Frenchman could well come back to bite them on the backside.
Bayern Munich vs Borussia Dortmund
After Dortmund’s terrible season last time out, neutrals will be happy to see that the Bundesliga club have now returned to their winning ways. Bayern claimed two easy wins over their woeful rivals last season, but Dortmund should put up more of a fight this weekend.
With the clubs occupying first and second spot in the table, with both sides yet to have tasted defeat, both will be keen to sustain their early title charges. For Bayern, victory would put them (at the very least) five point clear at the top, while a Dortmund win would see them move just one point behind Pep Guardiola’s side.
With Dortmund defector Robert Lewandowski firing left, right and centre, his former club face a real challenge to bring an end to his streak. It may sound ridiculous, but Bayern fans will be happy to know that Arjen Robben and Franck Ribéry are unlikely to return from injury for another few weeks, meaning Douglas Costa and Kingsley Coman, the two men who have helped Lewandowski to score 10 goals in three games, will continue on the wings.
Atlético Madrid vs Real Madrid
With Barcelona dropping points against Sevilla on Saturday, both Real Madrid and Atlético Madrid have a real opportunity to capitalise on their title rival’s slip-up, and victory would see either side move up to third place in the La Liga table. Despite failing to win a Madrid derby in La Liga since April 2013, Real Madrid will unsurprisingly go into the game as favourites.
Rafa Benitez’s side will be buoyed by the return of club captain Sergio Ramos, who has missed the last four games with a shoulder injury, as well as the world’s most expensive player, Gareth Bale, who returns from a calf injury. The Real manager believes that they will make an impact, whether or not they are match fit.
“They have been cleared to play. Match-fitness is another thing and if they start or not we will decide. Even at less than 100% they are two very useful players for us.” Benitez stated.
Despite Bale’s return, all eyes will be on now-movie star Cristiano Ronaldo, who is just one goal away from becoming the club’s all-time record goalscorer.
Paris Saint-Germain vs Marseille
Ligue 1 is often overlooked, but a clash between PSG and Marseille is arguably the biggest affair that French football has to offer. Laurent Blanc’s side will most likely secure another convincing win, extending their lead at the top of the table, given that Marseille have failed to secure a victory over their opposition in their last nine meetings.
Despite the gulf in class, PSG’s Blaise Matuidi summed up just how much a derby victory will mean to the club’s fans.
“When you sign for PSG, people always talk to you about Le Classique. It’s a special match. We will be there, ready, like we always have been in recent seasons.”
With Marseille sitting dangerously close to the relegation zone in 16th place, they will be desperate to start picking up points as the season moves out of its opening phase. Although, to do that they will have to keep out lethal duo Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Edinson Cavani, who already have eight goals in eight games between them.