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

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Updated: September 10, 2021

Every week, Sportsplay will pick standout matches to watch across Europe. This weekend’s slate features Cristiano Ronaldo’s likely debut and a potential bonanza in the Bundesliga.

Premier League

Manchester United vs. Newcastle United

Martin Rickett – PA Images / PA Images / Getty

When: Saturday, Sept. 11 (10 a.m. ET)
Where to watch: USA Network (U.S.), DAZN (Canada)

Saturday’s match at Old Trafford won’t be broadcast in England, leaving anyone without a ticket unable to watch Cristiano Ronaldo make his second debut as a Manchester United player.

Viewers in North America face no such conundrum.

Fans waited two weeks for Ronaldo to turn up again in his former colors. United could be playing anyone and the match would generate the same amount of interest. Newcastle United are simply invited guests on a day that should offer at least a cameo appearance from Ronaldo. The 36-year-old arrived at United’s training base on Tuesday, cutting short his time with the Portuguese national team to reorient himself with his former stomping ground.

We’ll also get an early indication of where exactly manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will field his ex-teammate. Solskjaer said he sees Ronaldo as “more of a center-forward at the moment.” After all, it’s goals United want.

Prediction: Ronaldo scores off the bench in an easy win

Arsenal vs. Norwich City

Stuart MacFarlane / Arsenal FC / Getty

When: Saturday, Sept. 11 (10 a.m. ET)
Where to watch: Peacock (U.S.), DAZN (Canada)

Arsenal can’t afford to get this wrong. Without a single goal scored or point secured, the Gunners are off to their worst start to a league season in 67 years. Manager Mikel Arteta had every right to call Saturday’s meeting with Norwich City – another club off to a horrendous start – a “must-win” affair. They’re only ahead of Arsenal because they managed to score after three matches.

There aren’t any more excuses to make. Arteta has had a full preseason and time to study his team and make adjustments. If anything, the international break provided the 39-year-old an excellent opportunity to figure out a way to get the most out of £150 million in signings. Even with midfielder Granit Xhaka out with COVID-19, Arteta will likely have the chance to start newcomers Ben White and Takehiro Tomiyasu in defense, and perhaps he can establish a new system for the likes of Martin Odegaard, Bukayo Saka, and Emile Smith Rowe.

Because right now, Arteta isn’t getting good enough performances from his star players. Club captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has only scored twice in his last 11 league appearances, and £72-million signing Nicolas Pepe continues to disappoint on the right wing. If they don’t pick up the pace soon, Arteta may have no choice but to roll with the youngsters the rest of the way.

Prediction: Arsenal come out flying to ease the pressure on Arteta

Bundesliga

NurPhoto / NurPhoto / Getty

RB Leipzig vs. Bayern Munich

When: Saturday, Sept. 11 (12:30 p.m. ET)
Where to watch: Sportsplay+ (U.S.), Sportsnet World (Canada)

An early battle between last season’s Bundesliga winners and the runners-up comes with the potential for an off-the-script bonanza.

A number of Bayern Munich‘s players, including Niklas Sule, Leroy Sane, and Leon Goretzka, have had limited time in training before the marquee fixture. That’s because their flight from Iceland, where they were representing their country, was forced to stop suddenly in Scotland, turning a short trip back home into a 14-hour odyssey.

RB Leipzig are in no better shape, with Andre Silva struggling for form and youngsters Josko Gvardiol, Mohamed Simakan, and Ilaix Moriba all needing time to adjust to a new league.

It could be messy at Red Bull Arena. It could also be a lot of fun.

Bayern boss Julian Nagelsmann will at least have an idea of what to expect from former side Leipzig. Dayot Upamecano and Marcel Sabitzer – who followed Nagelsmann to Bavaria this past summer – will undoubtedly share insider info inside Bayern’s dressing room. But Leipzig have a game-changer of their own. Attacking midfielder Dani Olmo is coming off a productive summer with the Spanish national team – at both Euro 2020 and Tokyo 2020 – and he’s fully rested after sitting out the last round of international fixtures.

Prediction: Leipzig deliver Jesse Marsch’s first big win as manager

Serie A

Napoli vs. Juventus

Francesco Pecoraro / Getty Images Sport / Getty

When: Saturday, Sept. 11 (12 p.m. ET)
Where to watch: Paramount+ (U.S.), fuboTV (Canada)

Napoli will renew hostilities with Juventus the only way they know how: with fans causing an absolute ruckus inside the Stadio Diego Armando Maradona. The southern Italians have beaten their northern rivals in three of the past five meetings, flexing their muscle even without an adoring crowd. But the best thing about Napoli is the fervor that devours the stadium, and with police allowing supporters entry four hours early, you can bet on them creating a killer atmosphere.

A lot has happened since the last time Napoli hosted Juventus in front of fans. That was back in January 2020, when the Partenopei scored a shocking 2-1 victory over Maurizio Sarri’s Juventus, with Gennaro Gattuso still on the bench. Luciano Spalletti now leads Napoli, and he’s got an early chance to win over a notoriously loyal fan base.

Victor Osimhen is also available to play, winning an appeal against a two-match ban for striking a player during a corner kick. The 22-year-old striker finished last season strong, scoring six goals in his final nine Serie A appearances, and entered the campaign as an outside pick to win Italy’s Golden Boot award.

Meanwhile, Juventus head into hostile territory without a win to date. Federico Chiesa and Paulo Dybala are unavailable as well.

Prediction: Osimhen scores twice in a heated affair

AC Milan vs. Lazio

Insidefoto / LightRocket / Getty

When: Sunday, Sept. 12 (12 p.m. ET)
Where to watch: Paramount+ (U.S.), fuboTV (Canada)

This is the most intriguing matchup of the weekend. AC Milan and Lazio are both perfect to begin the term, and they’re each coming off blowout victories.

Both clubs are looking to cement Champions League places this season. For Milan, it’s about continuity, but for Lazio, it’s about proving they belong. The Biancocelesti missed out on a berth after making their first appearance in the competition in 12 years last season. Milan, on the other hand, are back in the Champions League for the first time in seven years.

For so long, these two sides have run side by side, jostling for wins and position in the standings, and contests between them have followed a similar theme. A single goal decided seven of their last nine meetings, including dramatic last-minute winners that delivered crucial points in the Champions League race.

There will almost certainly be goals this time around. Only two of their last 26 encounters finished goalless, and with Zlatan Ibrahimovic in line to make his return from injury at a half-capacity San Siro, Milan will look to build on their strong start.

Prediction: Milan grind out a win despite Lazio’s late comeback attempt

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