Dan Burke·25 August 2023
Dan Burke·25 August 2023
The weekend is here and there’s another slate of mouthwatering spicy football coming our way.
Here’s what to look out for.
It may not be the Madrid derby, but Monday night’s capital clash at Vallecas has the potential for plenty of spice.
Having lost coach Andoni Iraola to Bournemouth over the summer, many expected Rayo to struggle this season. But under the new management of former Girona and Elche boss Francisco, they have made a strong start to the new campaign, with a pair of 2-0 wins putting them just behind Real Madrid in the early form guide.
On Monday night they will face their first big test when they take on an Atlético side who began their season with a 3-1 win over Granada but could only manage a goalless draw at Real Betis last time out.
Diego Simeone’s side finished last season strongly but bowed out of the title race disappointingly early, and they’ll be hoping for better this term. It remains to be seen whether they have shaken the squad up sufficiently in the transfer market to truly challenge Barcelona and Real Madrid.
It’s fair to say Lionel Messi has cracked America.
But if you haven’t been following Messi Mania closely, it might surprise you to learn that he hasn’t actually made his league debut yet. That will come this weekend when they travel to the Big Apple to take on the Red Bulls.
The Herons were in wretched form before Messi arrived and head into this weekend without a win in their last 11 league fixtures, leaving them rooted to the foot of the Eastern Conference.
But with their inspirational Argentine talisman now up and running, they still have an outside chance of making the play-offs. It’s a long shot, but a win at Red Bull Arena this weekend could just set them on their way.
On Saturday, Goodison Park plays host to what could be the earliest relegation six-pointer in Premier League history.
Everton and Wolves have made near-identical starts to the season. Despite both dominating their opening games they both lost 1-0, and last weekend they both shipped four goals in heavy defeats.
Wolves at least have reasons for optimism that things will improve under new manager Gary O’Neil, whereas Everton fans are staring down the barrel of another stressful relegation battle, not to mention this week’s news that significant investors have pulled out of the club, leaving its very future hanging in the balance.
Both sides really need a win this weekend but the Toffees perhaps need it more, especially since they are yet to even score a goal this season.
If manager Sean Dyche can’t fix that glaring problem soon, it won’t be long before questions are being asked about his suitability for the job.
Leverkusen are many experts’ team to watch in the Bundesliga this season, and with good reason.
Xabi Alonso’s side made a winning start to the new season last weekend, overcoming a strong RB Leipzig side in an enthralling 3-2 victory. Die Werkself’s wing-backs – Jeremie Frimpong and Álex Grimaldo – should cause havoc this season, while Granit Xhaka has added midfield steel, new striker Victor Boniface looks like a steal, and German wonderkid Florian Wirtz’s injury troubles are hopefully now behind him.
On Saturday Leverkusen travel to face a Gladbach side coached by their former boss Gerardo Seoane, who was replaced by Alonso after a poor start to the season back in October 2022.
Seone took charge of Gladbach over the summer and if last weekend’s 4-4 draw away at Augsburg is anything to go by, his Foals team should be just as fun and unpredictable as Leverkusen were on his watch.
Whatever you’re doing on Sunday, make sure it revolves around what should be a mega Premier League match-up at St James’ Park.
Newcastle started the season like a team possessed with their stunning 5-1 victory over Aston Villa, but last weekend’s defeat away to Manchester City was a rather more humbling experience. There’s no shame in being outclassed by the champions, though, and nothing wrong with an early season barometer of just how good they are.
The Magpies tend to be a different animal on their home patch, and they will fancy their chances of going toe-to-toe with a Liverpool side who have been good but unconvincing so far this term.
New signing Wataru Endo could make his first start for the club in this one, and manager Jürgen Klopp will be praying the Japanese can quickly bring some much-needed stability to the Reds midfield.
If not, the likes of Sandro Tonali and Joelinton could have a field day, although Newcastle’s defence will no doubt be asked plenty of questions by Liverpool’s frightening forward line too.
This one has the potential to be a Premier League classic.