Every week, theScore will pick out the standout matches to watch across Europe. This weekend’s slate features a skirmish in England’s capital and the potential Ligue 1 debut of a certain little Argentine.
Tottenham Hotspur vs. Manchester City
When: Sunday, Aug. 15 (11:30 a.m. ET)
Where: Tottenham Hotspur Stadium
The Premier League fixture gremlins mischievously picked the teams involved in England’s most intense transfer saga to meet on the opening weekend. Harry Kane appears unlikely to feature in the game itself, but he could still be in the middle of a two-way battle when executives from both clubs inevitably discuss the deal in the guts of Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.
That subplot shouldn’t dominate what could be an intriguing match, though.
It’ll be interesting to see how Pep Guardiola shapes his attack following the summer exit of Sergio Aguero. With Kevin De Bruyne and Phil Foden out injured, £100-million signing Jack Grealish is in line for his full Manchester City debut. Riyad Mahrez is also expected to maintain last season’s excellent form.
There could be a few surprises from a Tottenham perspective. New boss Nuno Espirito Santo regularly opted for a back-three during his time in charge of Wolverhampton Wanderers, but his decision to use a defensive quartet in the majority of Spurs’ friendlies may indicate an attacking approach from the team this season.
Prediction: Manchester City win
Lille vs. Nice
When: Saturday, Aug. 14 (11:00 a.m. ET)
Where: Stade Pierre-Mauroy
Lille are getting picked apart following their surprise march to the French title. Boubakary Soumare was involved in a big-money transfer to Leicester City, Mike Maignan joined AC Milan, Renato Sanches could be swept away, and if rumors are to be believed, Burak Yilmaz is the subject of serious interest from Nice.
Head coach Christophe Galtier was already tempted to join Nice’s ambitious project on the south coast after masterminding Les Dogues’ Ligue 1 triumph. For Lille to lose their talisman in Yilmaz – scorer of 16 goals last season and instrumental when his side pinched a 97th-minute equalizer at Metz on the opening weekend – to the same destination would add insult to injury.
There are points and a serious amount of pride at stake in Saturday’s clash.
Prediction: High-scoring draw
Paris Saint-Germain vs. Strasbourg
When: Saturday, Aug. 14 (3:00 p.m. ET)
Where: Parc des Princes
We all know the reason to watch this one.
Saturday’s contest in the French capital could signal the Ligue 1 debut of a certain Lionel Messi after his stunning move to Paris Saint-Germain. The turnaround would be quick, as he only completed his first training session Thursday following a hectic 48 hours. But even if it’s just a brief cameo off the bench, the football world will be tuning in to see the Argentine in action.
Messi, who couldn’t participate in the preseason as he was out of contract with Barcelona, essentially went directly from his holiday to Paris and admitted that Saturday’s match could come too soon for him.
“I am going to begin to train and work. I hope I can play as soon as I can. I really want to,” he told reporters Wednesday. “When I feel it, when the staff thinks I am OK, then I will be ready to play.”
Prediction: PSG win (with or without Messi)
Borussia Dortmund vs. Eintracht Frankfurt
When: Saturday, Aug. 14 (12:30 p.m. ET)
It’d be easy to be downbeat at Borussia Dortmund’s title chances this season. Jadon Sancho has gone, the end of new manager Marco Rose’s Monchengladbach reign was undeniably poor, and the club’s coffers were depleted by the coronavirus pandemic.
And, of course, Bayern Munich are a juggernaut.
But Rose’s squad is awash with young, improving players. Erling Haaland’s strike partnership with summer arrival Donyell Malen is showing early promise, and Giovanni Reyna and Jude Bellingham, both 18, are phenomenal talents who are nowhere near their potential.
Dortmund’s opponents, Eintracht Frankfurt, have been among the Bundesliga’s better teams for the past few years, but losing Andre Silva to RB Leipzig in the summer and last Sunday’s DFB-Pokal elimination to third-tier Waldhof Mannheim doesn’t bode well for the new campaign.
Prediction: Dortmund win (and potentially put on a show)
Barcelona vs. Real Sociedad
When: Sunday, Aug. 15 (2:00 p.m. ET)
Where: Camp Nou
The post-Messi era at Barcelona officially begins this weekend as La Liga, now devoid of its brightest star, opens a new campaign. How Barca – and the league, for that matter – plow forward will be fascinating.
The new-look Blaugrana don’t really have time to settle into their new normal, either, as they kick off proceedings against a dangerous Real Sociedad side coming off an impressive fifth-place finish last season. Some 30,000 fans are expected inside the Camp Nou, but given the events of the past week, the atmosphere may not exactly be celebratory.
Maybe all of Barca’s other stars, having been in Messi’s shadow for so long, break free and find another level in his absence. But in the immediate term, the Argentine’s departure will surely have a destabilizing impact. Much of the attacking burden will now fall on the shoulders of Memphis Depay, who, assuming he’s actually registered to play, should become the focal point up front for Ronald Koeman.