Club football resumes in Europe and even though it is a little to early to talk about title races, results are starting to have major consequences. As always, there will be controversial decisions, goals and excitement but whatever you do, here are five games you should keep an eye on this weekend.
Fiorentina v Roma
In Italy, teams from two historical and artistic cities will go head to head. Florence and Rome are famous for numerous art and architectural masterpieces but this weekend, Fiorentina and Roma will be trying to get all three points with or without artistic football. Essentially a game between first and second, the game could see Roma go top should they pick up a win or see Fiorentina extend their lead at the top. Having played quick, free-flowing football since the start of the season, Paulo Sousa’s team are looking like the real deal. But given the fall from grace of Juventus, anyone who has watched Serie A for the last few seasons would have thought that in the absence of the Old Lady, Roma would assume leadership of the league. That has not happened yet but at the Artemio Franchi stadium, Rudi Garcia and Roma can put that right.
What to expect: Goals and possibly, Miralem Pjanic running the midfield
Sunderland v Newcastle
This is hardly ever a match that is pleasing on the eyes but the ferocity of the rivalry means that it simply cannot be brushed aside, The Tynewear derby, as it is called, has seen better days in terms of league standing of the two teams involved but this time both Sunderland and Newcastle are in the bottom three. It is not just a fight for pride, it is a fight for survival. Sam Allardyce will be taking on Steve McClaren and if it counts for anything, Big Sam has history on his side. The last three managers of Sunderland have lost their first games in charge but each won their second games- against Newcastle. Be afraid Steve, be very afraid.
What to expect: A red card- or two. Commentators using the words ‘passion and character’ at least a million times.
Galatasaray v Fenerbache
Regardless of their positions on the table or if it is a cup game, Galatasaray v Fenerbache is always a fierce encounter. Take the ’96 season as an example: Fenerbache, in better form, lost a cup final to Galatasaray in their home stadium. Graeme Souness, Gala boss at the time, planted a Galatasaray flag in the middle of the pitch and, right on cue, Fenerbache fans went berserk and rioted. Eventually, Souness moved on but his actions typified how emotions run high during this derby. This weekend, with both teams joint second and only two points behind table toppers, Beskitas, the stakes are high- as if the fans and players needed any more motivation.
What to expect: Passion bordering on riots
Celta Vigo v Real Madrid
Who’d have thought this would be a top of the table clash at the start of the season? Celta Vigo’s brilliant start to the season has seen them stay at par with the big boys in La Liga and having claimed a high profile scalp by thumping Barcelona, they could well be eyeing getting points off a weakened Real Madrid team. Yet to lose a game this season with just two goals conceded, Real Madrid’s defence is in for a big test against Celta Vigo’s free-scoring forwards.
What to expect: Defensive tactics from Rafa Benitez
The Manchester Derby
Times have changed in Manchester. In the 90s and at the start of the new millennium, these games predominantly went one way. These days, following impressive investment from Middle East owners, Manchester City has grown big enough to compete with and beat United to the biggest titles available. City enter the game with a better points haul but United have a cleaner bill of health. As with most derbies, current form will not count for much. It all boils down which team turns up and makes the most of the luck. Wayne Rooney should have a point to prove as, this season, his form has dipped terribly. Despite the decent return of goals, it is clear to see that Rooney is not playing anywhere near the levels he has in the past. Having just turned 30, it could be said that his dip in form is a consequence of age but age has nothing do with not being able to make simple passes and take chances. The Manchester Derby offers as big a chance as any for Rooney to decide a big game.
What to expect: Free-flowing football from City and ‘philosophy’ from United