This weekend in European soccer: Previews, predictions for 5 must-see games

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Updated: August 27, 2021

Every week, Sportsplay will pick out the standout matches to watch across Europe. This weekend’s slate features two huge Premier League skirmishes and a high-pressure game for Niko Kovac.

Premier League

Manchester City vs. Arsenal

David Price / Arsenal FC / Getty

When: Saturday, Aug. 28 (7:30 a.m. ET)
Where to watch: Peacock (U.S.), DAZN (Canada)

Mikel Arteta found relief from Arsenal‘s Premier League struggles in the League Cup with Wednesday’s 6-0 evisceration of West Bromwich Albion. However, the Spanish tactician named a strong XI for the fixture, while West Brom boss Valerien Ismael completely changed the team that beat Blackburn Rovers in the Championship four days earlier. Six of Valerien’s starters were making their debuts.

In short, don’t read too much into the Gunners’ midweek victory.

A more accurate (and perhaps more sobering) gauge of where Arsenal are at will come on Saturday. Manchester City host Pep Guardiola’s old assistant Arteta at the Etihad Stadium, emboldened by last week’s 5-0 defeat of Norwich City and 10 wins from their last 11 meetings with Arsenal in all competitions.

Two losses and no goals already represent Arsenal’s worst start to a league season in club history. It could get even worse in east Manchester.

Prediction: Arsenal battle hard but fall to another league defeat

Liverpool vs. Chelsea

Visionhaus / Getty Images Sport / Getty

When: Saturday, Aug. 28 (12:30 p.m. ET)
Where to watch: NBC (U.S.), DAZN (Canada)

Thomas Tuchel can do no wrong. The Chelsea squad took to his tactical instructions quickly after his January arrival, and the Blues are now looking to build on last season’s Champions League success. This summer’s signing of Romelu Lukaku will certainly help with that, and other big names will follow.

But what about Liverpool? Their excellence over the 2018-19 and 2019-20 campaigns seems to have been forgotten following last term’s disappointing title defense, and that’s unfair. Virgil van Dijk is fit again and promises to forge one of Europe’s strongest defensive partnerships with new arrival Ibrahima Konate, while other players in Jurgen Klopp’s ranks – namely Thiago Alcantara, Diogo Jota, and Fabinho – improve the first team significantly when they’re out of the treatment room.

Trent Alexander-Arnold also appears to be back to his best, much to the dismay of Liverpool’s rivals.

Saturday’s fixture could prove to be an early sign that a lot of people were foolish to write off Liverpool as one of this season’s strongest Premier League title contenders.

Prediction: Eventful draw

La Liga

Atletico Madrid vs. Villarreal

TIZIANA FABI / AFP / Getty

When: Sunday, Aug. 29 (4:00 p.m. ET)
Where to watch: Sportsplay+ (U.S.), streaming with TSN (Canada)

Atletico Madrid may have picked up one of the signings of the summer with versatile attacker Matheus Cunha.

At just 22 and with a price tag of €30 million, it’s a mystery why more clubs weren’t competing for the Brazilian’s signature. He has improved immeasurably since he moved to Hertha Berlin from RB Leipzig in search of first-team football in January 2020, using his skill and trickery to bamboozle defenders and his tactical intelligence to drop between the lines, link play, and pull opponents out of position.

He moves to the Spanish capital after helping his country win gold at the Tokyo Olympics, and Atleti fans will be desperate to see him at the earliest opportunity – perhaps as soon as Sunday.

For Villarreal, a trip to the reigning Spanish champions hasn’t come at a very convenient time. The Yellow Submarine have drawn their first two matches of the season 0-0 so may need to look elsewhere for inspiration – perhaps from ultra-confident, free-scoring winger Arnaut Danjuma who recently arrived from Bournemouth – to unlock Diego Simeone’s stubborn backline.

Prediction: Atletico Madrid carve out a classic 1-0 victory

Bundesliga

Wolfsburg vs. RB Leipzig

DeFodi Images / DeFodi Images / Getty

When: Sunday, Aug. 29 (11:30 a.m. ET)
Where to watch: Sportsplay+ (U.S.), Sportsnet World (Canada)

Mark van Bommel may feel embarrassed for getting Wolfsburg kicked out of the DFB-Pokal after he accidentally made six substitutes against fourth-tier opposition, but he should otherwise be optimistic about a promising season in Lower Saxony.

The former Dutch international kept hold of the players who thrived under predecessor Oliver Glasner, with Wout Weghorst still on the books after last term’s 20-goal haul and Maximilian Philipp turning his loan from Dynamo Moscow into a permanent transfer. Lukas Nmecha, who scored a late winner off the bench against Hertha Berlin last weekend, could also prove to be a wise signing after the 22-year-old notched 14 goals in the past Belgian top-flight term.

Wolfsburg also landed in a Champions League group with Lille, Sevilla, and Red Bull Salzburg. They have a realistic chance of reaching the knockout rounds.

As for this weekend, Wolfsburg have drawn their last four league scuffles with Leipzig. However, the visitors lost their two first-choice center-backs during the offseason, so Wolfsburg should fancy their chances of victory at the Volkswagen Arena.

Prediction: Wolfsburg get a narrow win

Ligue 1

Troyes vs. Monaco

Jonathan Moscrop / Getty Images Sport / Getty

When: Sunday, Aug. 29 (11:30 a.m. ET)
Where to watch: beIN SPORTS (U.S.), Fubo TV or beIN SPORTS (Canada)

The controversy of the Nice-Marseille brawl has dominated the headlines in France, and though no one would approve of those ugly scenes, Niko Kovac will appreciate having the spotlight off him for a few days.

It’s been a rough start to the season for AS Monaco. The principality club has just one point from its opening three Ligue 1 matches and was denied a place in the Champions League group stage by Shakhtar Donetsk.

Some rather ineffectual performances from forward Myron Boadu, who cost around €17 million to sign from AZ Alkmaar this summer, is a key area of concern, but it’s still early days.

“We have dominated our games and at the end, we haven’t got the points we should have had. Right now, it’s not positive, but I’m happy with our performances. We’re creating chances, it’s only a question of time,” Kovac said last week before his side lost 2-0 at home to Lens.

Troyes, meanwhile, could hand a debut to Adil Rami. The World Cup winner, 35, joined on a free transfer this week following the termination of his contract at Boavista.

Prediction: Monaco finally get a win on the board … just

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