European Soccer Weekend: Spanish, German leagues begin
What to watch in the leading soccer leagues in Europe this weekend:
After playing four times last season — including in the Champions League quarterfinals — Manchester City and Tottenham have a Premier League encounter in the second round on Saturday. Both champion City and Tottenham, which finished fourth in May, made winning starts last weekend.
Like City, Liverpool opened with a 4-1 victory — against Norwich — and next travels to Southampton on Saturday.
Arsenal coach Unai Emery is certain Mesut Ozil and Sead Kolasinac are mentally prepared to feature in Saturday’s game against Burnley. The duo missed beating Newcastle 1-0 on Sunday as the police investigated “further security incidents” after they were targeted by carjackers in north London last month, which led to a confrontation.
After being routed at Manchester United 4-0 and then losing the UEFA Super Cup to Liverpool, Frank Lampard has his first home game as Chelsea manager against Leicester on Sunday.
The round is completed by Manchester United hosting Wolverhampton on Monday.
Two-time defending champion Barcelona opens the league against Athletic Bilbao on Friday, with Antoine Griezmann set for his debut.
The forward joined from rival Atlético Madrid to bolster an attack that already included Lionel Messi and Luis Suárez, and that has led the league in scoring in the last four seasons.
Atlético will be without Griezmann for the first time in five years when Diego Simeone’s side opens against Getafe on Sunday. Runner-up two years running, Atlético will be relying on João Félix, the 19-year-old Portuguese sensation signed from Benfica for more than 120 million euros ($134 million).
Real Madrid, with former Chelsea playmaker Eden Hazard as the new focal point of the team, opens at Celta Vigo on Saturday coming off one of its worst seasons in the last decade. The 33-time Spanish champion was out of title contention several weeks before the end of last season, prompting the return of coach Zinedine Zidane, who won the league in 2017.
The Bundesliga season kicks off on Friday with defending champion Bayern Munich hosting Hertha Berlin looking to ease concerns the squad isn’t strong enough to compete on three fronts.
Sporting director Hasan Salihamidzic has been coming under increasing pressure and the club is likely to make further signings before the transfer window closes on Sept. 2 to stay ahead of Borussia Dortmund, which strengthened significantly in the offseason.
Dortmund opens against Augsburg on Saturday after throwing away a nine-point lead before losing out on the title by a point in May.
The first round sees eight new coaches in the Bundesliga, with Ante Covic (Hertha), David Wagner (Schalke), Marco Rose (Borussia Mönchengladbach), Oliver Glasner (Wolfsburg), Achim Beierlorzer (Cologne), Steffen Baumgart (Paderborn), Alfred Schreuder (Hoffenheim) and Urs Fischer (Union Berlin). Julian Nagelsmann takes charge of Leipzig in the league for the first time after three successful years at Hoffenheim.
Leipzig, which finished third last season, starts on Sunday at Union Berlin, which is making its topflight debut after gaining promotion.
Uncertainty lingers over Neymar’s future at Paris Saint-Germain as the French champions travel to Rennes on Sunday. Pushing for an exit from PSG, the world’s most expensive player missed the opening weekend win against Nimes and has been linked with a move to Barcelona or Real Madrid.
André Villas-Boas takes Marseille to Nantes on Saturday in search of his first points after the former Chelsea coach opened with a loss at Stade Reims.
The second round opens on Friday with Lyon hosting Angers.