Posted on August 23, 2013
La Liga, the English Premier League and the German Bundesliga are already in full swing, and this weekend European soccer fans welcome back Serie A. With a stunning slate of matches on tap for Saturday and Sunday, here’s our list of five matches not to be missed:
Saturday, August 24
Old Tottenham Hotspur foe Martin Jol rears his head once more against the Gunners who desperately need three points, even in this early season contest. Arsene Wenger’s men will look to build off of their dominant 3-0 victory at Fenerbache in midweek UEFA Champions League play-off competition and silence the critics, out in full force after a shocking home loss to Aston Villa to open the season after a frustrating, fruitless summer in the transfer market.
Fulham hosts its first EPL match at the historic, quaint Craven Cottage since American Shahid Khan, who also owns the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars, bought the club and former English international striker Darren Bent and midfielder Scott Parker signed on. With a strangely placed statue of Michael Jackson still standing outside the grounds, this one promises to be a thriller.
Juventus begins its second-straight title defense in Genoa with a new set of deadly strikers eager to make a good first impression on Serie A. Carlos Tevez and Fernando Llorente were studs in the EPL and La Liga, respectively and join a team headlined by Andrea Pirlo, Arturo Vidal and Gianluigi Buffon. The Old Lady comes into this contest on the heels of its 4-0 rout of Lazio in the Supercoppa last weekend, its first of what could be several titles this season.
Sampdoria, meanwhile, begins life without Mauricio Icardi, now with AC Milan, and Andrea Poli, an Inter Milan player, and must figure out where the goals will come this season in order to avoid a relegation scrap.
Sunday, August 25
11 a.m. ET, Tottenham Hotspur v Swansea City, White Hart Lane
By the time you read this, Gareth Bale might already be a Real Madrid player. Either way, he won’t feature for a Spurs side that got off to a winning start last weekend in a London derby at Crystal Palace. New signings Roberto Soldado, Paulinho, Nacer Chadli and Etienne Capoue all featured in that match and will hope to introduce themselves favorably to the home supporters.
Swansea is aiming to recover from a loss in its home opener against Manchester United, where the reigning EPL champions showed their class. Record signing Wilfried Bony, a dominant striker last season in the Dutch Eredivisie, makes his competitive debut in front of the Swans supporters.
Gone are Serie A leading scorer Edinson Cavani and exemplary tactician and motivating manager Walter Mazzarri, but there’s reason for excitement in Napoli. Rafa Benetiz was hired after leading Chelsea to UEFA Europa League glory, and he’s brought in a talented trio of Real Madrid men—Gonzalo Higuain, Raul Albiol, Jose Maria Callejon—and his former Liverpool goalkeeper Pepe Reina to mount a challenge for the Scudetto. All the new faces make this a team ripe with intrigue.
Bologna captain Alessandro Diamanti, an Italian international remembered for his winning penalty kick that eliminated England from UEFA Euro 2012, will seek to team with new striker Rolando Bianchi and spoil the Napoli welcome party.
3 p.m. ET, Malaga V Barcelona, Estadio La Rosaleda
Though Lionel Messi’s status for the match is still uncertain after picking up a thigh bruise in Wednesday’s Spanish Super Copa contest, there’s still plenty of intrigue and talent to spare in this match. Neymar, the immensely talented face of Brazilian soccer, could be in line for his first competitive start after coming on to head home the equalizer in the midweek.
Malaga manager Bern Schuster, a former Barca player who’s no stranger to the modern team’s tiki-taka style from his days leading Real Madrid from 2007-2008, will hope to take advantage of Messi’s absence and spring an upset.
Enjoy the action.