By JUSTIN FERGUSON
With a 6-0-0 Serie A record under new manager Rudi Garcia, AS Roma have been one of Europe’s biggest surprises in the first few months of the busy 2013-14 European league campaign.
Roma will put their early-season perfection to the test this Saturday in a highly anticipated home match against fourth-place Inter Milan, another club that is on the rise after a pair of disappointing seasons in Italy’s top domestic league. Inter have only won twice in their last 10 league meetings with the capital club, and their last victory was a wild 5-3 decision in February 2011.
After giving up the fourth-most league goals last season, Roma’s defense has only allowed one goal so far this season, the opening goal in a 3-1 win against Parma less than three weeks ago. The revitalized Roma back line will go up against a balanced Inter Milan attack that has the second-most goals in Serie A. Six different Inter players have scored multiple goals through their first six matches of the season, and the club has a massive +11 goal differential away from the San Siro.
A day after those two Italian powers battle it out in Rome, French powers Paris Saint-Germain and Marseille will meet in another edition of Le Classique. The two bitter rivals sit in second and third place in Ligue 1 behind big-money newcomers AS Monaco, and a win on Sunday would be monumental in the early-season struggle for the top spot. Visiting Marseille will look to snap a five-match winless skid against PSG, who won three straight Classiques last season by a score of 2-0 each time.
Here is a closer look at the weekend’s action from the top leagues in Europe:
After a shocking loss to Aston Villa last weekend and a disappointing midweek performance against Bayern Munich, seventh-place Manchester City will look to get back on track Saturday against the last undefeated club in the English Premier League. Everton jumped to fourth place with Monday’s win against Newcastle United, giving Roberto Martinez’s squad three wins and three draws to start the season. With nine wins in their last 12 matches against Man City, Everton have a great chance to take advantage of the extra rest against the slumping Citizens.
With Tuesday’s home win against Napoli in the Champions League, first-place Arsenal’s winning streak across all competitions now stands at 10 matches. The Gunners’ eighth victory in that streak was a penalty-shootout win over West Bromwich Albion in the Capital One Cup, and, on Sunday, the Baggies have a chance to get their revenge at The Hawthorns. West Brom are coming off a famous 2-1 victory over Manchester United, but they will have their hands full this weekend when one of England’s hottest teams come to town.
Here are this weekend’s matches in the English Premier League:
Manchester City vs. Everton
Cardiff City vs. Newcastle United
Fulham vs. Stoke City
Hull City vs. Aston Villa
Liverpool vs. Crystal Palace
Sunderland vs. Manchester United
Norwich City vs. Chelsea
Southampton vs. Swansea City
Tottenham Hotspur vs. West Ham United
West Bromwich Albion vs. Arsenal
Since their embarrassing 7-0 loss to Barcelona in the season opener, Levante are unbeaten in their last six La Liga matches. This weekend, the ninth-place club faces its toughest test since their trip to Camp Nou, a home match against Real Madrid. Real bounced back from their 1-0 derby loss to Atletico Madrid with a 4-0 Champions League win over FC Copenhagen. Since the end of their 2008-09 campaign, Real have not dropped points in back-to-back La Liga matches, so expect Los Blancos to go all out for the three points at Levante.
Another key battle in La Liga this weekend will be between fifth-place Athletic Bilbao and sixth-place Valencia. After a short rest from Thursday’s Europa League win against Kuban Krasno, Valencia’s three-match league winning streak will be on the line against a Bilbao squad that is unbeaten at the San Mames this season. Both of last season’s matches between these two clubs went down to the wire—will the drama continue with an early shot at a Top 4 spot on the line?
Here are this weekend’s matches in La Liga:
Villarreal vs. Granada
Malaga vs. Osasuna
Elche vs. Espanyol
Rayo Vallecano vs. Real Sociedad
Levante vs. Real Madrid
Barcelona vs. Real Valladolid
Atletico Madrid vs. Celta Vigo
Sevilla vs. Almeria
Getafe vs. Real Betis
Athletic Bilbao vs. Valencia
Fresh off their outstanding performance against Manchester City earlier this week, Bayern Munich continue their hunt for first place in the Bundesliga with an important trip to third-place Bayer Leverkusen. The hosts are also coming off a midweek Champions League win, a dramatic 2-1 victory against Real Sociedad. Leverkusen have won three straight league matches, but they will be put to the ultimate league test against the manager Pep Guardiola and the defending champions.
First-place Borussia Dortmund have outscored opponents 10-0 in their last three matches across all competitions. Their shutout streak will be on the line at seventh-place Borussia Monchengladbach, who are tied for third in the Bundesliga with 17 goals scored so far this season. Max Kruse will be one to watch in this match, as the new Monchengladbach striker has recorded three goals and three assists in the early campaign.
Here are this weekend’s matches in the Bundesliga:
Hannover 96 vs. Hertha Berlin
Borussia Monchengladbach vs. Borussia Dortmund
Mainz vs. Hoffenheim
Schalke 04 vs. Augsburg
Stuttgart vs. Werder Bremen
Wolfsburg vs. Eintracht Braunschweig
Bayer Leverkusen vs. Bayern Munich
Nurnberg vs. Hamburg
Freiburg vs. Eintracht Frankfurt
While Saturday’s top match in Italy is Roma vs. Inter Milan, Sunday will also have a huge Serie A matchup—Juventus and AC Milan. Both clubs would love a statement victory Sunday after disappointing road draws in Champions League play earlier this week. Ninth-place Milan are in the midst of another slow start ahead of their trip to Juventus, who are just two points back from Roma after a string of one-goal victories.
Second-place Napoli return home this weekend after their shutout loss at Arsenal to take on newly promoted Livorno, who are surprisingly in eighth place. Livorno are also coming off a disappointing performance, a 2-1 home defeat to fellow newcomers Hellas Verona. Rafa Benitez’s Napoli are still undefeated in Serie A this season, but they will have to move past their ugly trip to North London in order to keep that mark intact.
Here are this weekend’s matches in Serie A:
Chievo Verona vs. Atalanta
AS Roma vs. Inter Milan
Parma vs. Sassuolo
Bologna vs. Hellas Verona
Catania vs. Genoa
Napoli vs. Livorno
Sampdoria vs. Torino
Udinese vs. Cagliari
Juventus vs. AC Milan
Lazio vs. Fiorentina
Before second-place Paris Saint-Germain and third-place Marseille battle it out Sunday, first-place AS Monaco will try to defend their home turf against Saint Etienne. Monaco start the weekend with the same amount of points as PSG after last week’s draw with Stade de Reims, while Saint Etienne will look to break their three-match winless streak in Ligue 1 play. Saint Etienne have not beaten a team currently in the top half of the Ligue 1 table, posting two losses against so far this season against Top 10 teams.
Here are this weekend’s matches in Ligue 1:
Bastia vs. Lorient
AS Monaco vs. Saint Etienne
Guingamp vs. Stade Rennes
Lille vs. Ajaccio
Nantes vs. Evian Thonon Gaillard
Toulouse vs. Nice
Valenciennes vs. Stade de Reims
Montpellier vs. Lyon
Bordeaux vs. Sochaux
Marseille vs. Paris Saint-Germain
Which European matches are you looking forward to the most this weekend? Think Roma can keep their perfect run going with a victory over Inter Milan? Who do you see coming away with the first Le Classique of the season? See any potential upsets?
Share your thoughts below.