By JUSTIN FERGUSON
For the past 14 years, Real Madrid have entered derby matches against rivals Atletico Madrid with all of the bragging rights in the Spanish capital.
But this Saturday, the narrative surrounding the Madrid Derby will be a drastic turn from the norm.
Atletico return to the Bernabeu, the site of May’s hard-fought 2-1 extra time Copa del Rey Final victory against Real, with all the momentum in the world. Diego Simeone’s team trails first-place Barcelona on goal differential after a 6-0-0 start to the young La Liga season. Even though prolific scorer Radamel Falcao left Atletico this past summer, the offense has not missed a beat, notching multiple goals in all six of their league matches.
Not only will Real enter Saturday’s match looking for rare revenge on their in-city rivals, they will return to the Bernabeu on the heels of a highly controversial 2-1 win over newly promoted Elche. New manager Carlo Ancelotti has shown his disappointment with his side’s play in recent weeks, and he will hope the home debut of record signing Gareth Bale can push Los Blancos onto victory against red-hot Atletico.
Before these two Spanish powerhouses square off in Madrid, two English powerhouses will tangle in North London. Second-place Tottenham Hotspur have only allowed one goal in nine matches across all competitions, and they will look to continue that dominant defensive streak against a Chelsea offense that is slowly starting to find its form under Jose Mourinho. Spurs, who have not beaten Chelsea since 2010, needed a late Gylfi Sigurdsson goal in May to avoid back-to-back losses to the Blues—will Andre Villas-Boas’s side be able turn the tide in this London showdown?
Here is a closer look at the weekend’s action from the top leagues in Europe:
The last time Manchester United and West Bromwich Albion faced each other, the result was an unbelievable 5-5 draw in Sir Alex Ferguson’s final match in charge. But with just three goals scored in their last four EPL matches, another Red Devil offensive explosion against West Brom would be a shock. Both sides enter Saturday’s match at Old Trafford with offensive woes—before last weekend’s 3-0 win at last-place Sunderland, West Brom had only scored one goal in four league matches.
After a slow start to the 2013-14 season, Swansea City bounced back with a string of good results in both Europa League and EPL play. But they were knocked back down to earth Wednesday when Birmingham City ensured the Swans’ Capital One Cup title defense only lasted one round. It does not get any easier for Michael Laudrup’s squad this weekend as Swansea travel to first-place Arsenal, who are riding an eight-match winning streak across all competitions.
Here are this weekend’s matches in the English Premier League:
Tottenham Hotspur vs. Chelsea
Aston Villa vs. Manchester City
Fulham vs. Cardiff City
Hull City vs. West Ham United
Manchester United vs. West Bromwich Albion
Southampton vs. Crystal Palace
Swansea City vs. Arsenal
Stoke City vs. Norwich City
Sunderland vs. Liverpool
Since their scoreless draw in the second leg of the Spanish Super Cup in late August, Barcelona have scored three or more goals in each of their matches. Before they try to get revenge on Celtic in Champions League play next week, Barcelona will hit the road to face newly promoted Almeria. Before their 2-0 loss to Malaga last weekend, winless Almeria had scored two goals in their previous five matches, so we could see a big scoreline in this match Saturday.
Villarreal kept their unbeaten return to Spain’s top division intact Thursday with a 2-1 victory over previously undefeated Espanyol. Now the Yellow Submarine will set its sights on a road trip to Real Betis, who are in need of a win before a Europa League visit to Croatia’s Rijeka. Betis finished seventh in La Liga last season, but they have suffered from inconsistency in their start to this campaign. This weekend’s hosts are winless in their last three matches, which include a heartbreaking 2-1 loss at Athletic Bilbao last weekend.
Here are this weekend’s matches in La Liga:
Real Valladolid vs. Malaga
Valencia vs. Rayo Vallecano
Almeria vs. Barcelona
Real Sociedad vs. Sevilla
Real Madrid vs. Atletico Madrid
Osasuna vs. Levante
Celta Vigo vs. Elche
Espanyol vs. Getafe
Real Betis vs. Villarreal
Bayern Munich caught up with league-leading Borussia Dortmund in the Bundesliga points race last weekend, and the defending champions return home this weekend to take on sixth-place Wolfsburg. In the two sides’ last meeting, Bayern won a 6-1 match that featured a six-minute Mario Gomez hat trick. Gomez might be at Fiorentina now, but Bayern’s offense is still as fierce as it was last season at the Volkswagen Arena—Pep Guardiola’s side has scored 29 goals in 11 matches across all competitions.
Saturday’s action from Germany features a battle between third place and fourth place. Third-place Bayer Leverkusen rebounded from a 4-2 Champions League loss to Manchester United by defeating Mainz 4-1 last weekend. Before their 4-1 loss to Bayern Munich in German Cup play earlier this week, Hannover kept their good run in the Bundesliga going with a dramatic 2-1 home win over Augsburg.
Here are this weekend’s matches in the Bundesliga:
Augsburg vs. Borussia Monchengladbach
Bayer Leverkusen vs. Hannover 96
Bayern Munich vs. Wolfsburg
Borussia Dortmund vs. Freiburg
Hertha Berlin vs. Mainz
Hoffenheim vs. Schalke 04
Eintracht Frankfurt vs. Hamburg
Werder Bremen vs. Nurnberg
Eintracht Braunschweig vs. Stuttgart
With five straight wins to start their Serie A campaign, including back-to-back shutout wins over Lazio and Sampdoria, first-place AS Roma are simply on fire under new manager Rudi Garcia. Roma will look to keep their unbelievable run going this weekend against Bologna, a side that has had some tough-luck results in recent weeks. Two weeks after giving up a late equalizer at Siena, Bologna blew a two-goal lead in the final five minutes of their match with AC Milan, which ended a 3-3 draw.
After their thrilling comeback victory over Fiorentina, undefeated Inter Milan have a quick turnaround to their next Serie A match. On Sunday, Walter Mazzarri’s squad visits Cagliari, who have drawn their last league matches. Inter have not beaten Cagliari since November 2011, but they will enter the Stadio Sant’Elia in the midst of their best start since their 2009-10 treble campaign.
Here are this weekend’s matches in Serie A:
Genoa vs. Napoli
AC Milan vs. Sampdoria
Torino vs. Juventus
Atalanta vs. Udinese
Cagliari vs. Inter Milan
Catania vs. Chievo Verona
Hellas Verona vs. Livorno
Sassuolo vs. Lazio
AS Roma vs. Bologna
Through their first seven Ligue 1 matches of the season, first-place AS Monaco have scored 13 goals—and they all have been scored by only two players. Emmanuel Riviere and Radamel Falcao kept up their excellent work as Monaco’s entire scoring offense in this week’s 3-0 win against Bastia. The dynamic duo will have their work cut out for them this weekend as Monaco visit Stade de Reims, who have only given up one goal in their last five matches.
Second-place Paris Saint-Germain will also have a tough assignment before they resume Champions League play next week. The Parisians, fresh off a hard-fought 1-0 win at Valenciennes, will host Toulouse on Saturday before next week’s home match against Benfica and road Le Clasique clash with Marseille. Toulouse got off to a slow start in this Ligue 1 campaign, but they will enter the Parc des Princes on a three-match unbeaten run.
Here are this weekend’s matches in Ligue 1:
Lorient vs. Marseille
Paris Saint-Germain vs. Toulouse
Evian Thonon Gaillard vs. Bordeaux
Lyon vs. Lille
Nice vs. Guingamp
Sochaux vs. Valenciennes
Saint Etienne vs. Bastia
Stade Rennes vs. Nantes
Ajaccio vs. Montpellier
Stade de Reims vs. AS Monaco
Which European matches are you looking forward to the most this weekend? Who do you see winning the first Madrid Derby of the season? Think Spurs snap their winless streak against Chelsea? See any potential upsets this weekend?
Share your thoughts below.