5 games to watch: Manchester United, Juventus and more

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - AUGUST 10: Paul Pogba of Man Utd shoots during the Premier League match between Manchester United and Leicester City at Old Trafford on August 10, 2018 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Simon Stacpoole/Offside/Getty Images)
MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - AUGUST 10: Paul Pogba of Man Utd shoots during the Premier League match between Manchester United and Leicester City at Old Trafford on August 10, 2018 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Simon Stacpoole/Offside/Getty Images) /

Here are five of the best matches in Europe that you should watch this weekend.

With the Bundesliga season starting on Friday, this weekend is absolutely stacked with great games. Fans will have a chance to watch a wide variety of great games from different leagues across Europe. The Bundesliga kicks off with two games between top six teams. La Liga might not offer a marquee matchup this weekend but has some competitive fixtures. Serie A has another great weekend with two games between heavyweights. The weekend concludes on Monday with the Premier League offering a top-six matchup for the third straight week.

5. Benfica vs. Sporting — Saturday, Aug. 25, 2:00 p.m. ET (GOL TV)

The Portuguese league is decided every year by the games between Benfica, Sporting, and Porto. Since the league awarded its first championship in 1935, Belenenses, who won in 1946 and Boavista, who won in 2001 are the only teams outside of Benfica, Sporting and Porto to win the Primeira Liga title. Needless to say, Saturday’s Lisbon Derby between Benfica and Sporting will play a large role in determining which team wins the title. Historically, Benfica have the head to head edge in wins over Sporting. However, last season, both games ended in draws.

Pizzi is off to a fantastic start for Benfica, scoring four goals in the first two games. The play of Pizzi has helped make up for the loss of Jonas, who has not played this season because of an injury. Jonas has been one of the best strikers in Portugal since joining Benfica in 2014. Last season, Jonas scored 34 goals.

Bas Dost and Nani have both scored twice for Sporting this season. Since joining the club in 2016, Dost has been incredible scoring 27 goals last year and 34 the year before. The Dutch striker gives the club a target man in the middle who has been on fire since moving to the club. Nani is trying to prove how much he has left. Since leaving Manchester United in 2015, Nani has played in Turkey, Spain, and Italy, not lasting more than one season with any club.

4. Juventus vs. Lazio — Saturday, Aug. 18, 12:00 p.m. ET (ESPN2, ESPN+)

Juventus opened their season with a come from behind 3-2 win against Chievo. Despite scoring only three minutes into the game, it was a disappointing debut from Juventus, who expected to easily get past Chievo. The club is still trying to figure out where to play Cristiano Ronaldo. Juventus looked most dangerous when Mario Manduzkic came on, and Ronaldo was moved to the left-wing. No matter, the formation, Juventus are one of the more interesting teams to watch this season. The Turin club is chasing their eighth straight Serie A title but their aspirations this season are clearly centered on winning Champions League.

The Ronaldo effect was clearly felt by Serie A and Juventus. Last weekend’s game was one of the most watch Serie A games in Italian history. While Juventus needed a late winner, it was not from a lack of trying. Juve significantly upped their shot attempts from a season ago with Ronaldo on the field.

Lazio dropped points to Napoli in their first game of the season..The loss was disappointing as Lazio faded in the second half following the injury of center-back Luiz Felipe. Simone Inzaghi’s side struggled to overcome the loss of one of their defenders. After losing Stefan de Vrij in the summer, the question surrounding Lazio this season is going to be their ability to defend. If Lazio are not able to improve their defensive play, they will likely be unable to break into the top four this season.

There is no question about Lazio’s ability to score goals. Last year, no team scored more goals than the Eagles, who just edged out Juventus and Napoli. Ciro Immobile lead Serie A with 29 goals last season and started the season strong last weekend. Immobile beat three defenders to score his first of what should be many this season.

3. Napoli vs. AC Milan — Saturday, Aug. 18, 12:00 p.m. ET (ESPN+)

Napoli came from behind in their season opener, beating Lazio 2-1. On Saturday, the Little Donkeys face AC Milan in Carlo Ancelotti’s home debut. Saturday’s game will feature two teams with top four aspirations. Milan will be making their season debut on Saturday. The club was scheduled to play Genoa in their season opener. However, that game was postponed following the Genoa bridge collapse that cost 43 people their lives.

It took Napoli a little bit of time to get going against Lazio but when they finally did, they again looked like a team that should finish in the top four. While Ancelotti had used a 4-2-3-1 for most of his career, he has decided to stick with the 4-3-3 formation that brought Napoli success under Maurizio Sarri. After missing most of the past two seasons with torn ACLs, Arkadiusz Milik scored against Lazio. Should the Polish striker stay healthy this season, it will only give Napoli more options.

After a second straight summer of big spending, AC Milan are again expected to compete for a top-four spot. The addition of Gonzalo Higuain gives Milan one of the most prolific goal scorers since he joined the Serie A in 2013. Last season, Milan badly needed a striker capable of consistently scoring. With Suso and Hakan Calhanoglu on the wings and Higuain playing through the middle, Milan have a front three capable of matching any team in Serie A.

2. Borussia Dortmund vs. RB Leipzig — Sunday, Aug. 26, 12:00 p.m. ET (FOX)

The best game of the opening weekend of the Bundesliga season features Borussia Dortmund hosting RB Leipzig. Only two points separated Dortmund and Leipzig last season. However, those two points were the difference between playing in the Champions League and Europe League.

While both clubs qualified for Europe, they failed to meet expectations and decided to change managers in the summer. Dortmund hired Lucien Favre to replace Peter Bosz and Peter Stoger. While Leipzig hired Ralf Rangnick for the second time as manager. Rangnick replaces Ralph Hasenhuttl, who replaced Rangnick two years earlier.

Dortmund spent the summer overhauling their roster. Andriy Yarmolenko, Sokratis, Gonzalo Castro, and Andre Schurrle were all shipped out, with the club believing that all four players were on the decline. Abdou Diallo was signed to replace Sokratis as a starting center-back, while Axel Witsel and Thomas Delaney were bought to solve problems in midfield. The moves helped Dortmund get younger and hopefully helps solves their defensive problems from last season.

Up front, Dortmund are still looking for a dependable struggle to replace Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. Marco Reus and Maximilian Philipp will be given the chance to play through the middle. Christian Pulisic will be a fixture on right-wing, while Jadon Sancho is primed for a breakout season. The 18-year-old Sancho signed with Dortmund last season from Manchester City, believing he had more opportunity to play in Germany. Sancho did not play much over the first half of the season last year but took advantage of the playing time he receive when Dortmund suffered a string of injuries.

Leipzig enter the season, looking to improve on their sixth-place finish from a season ago. However, the club will have to do it without their best player Naby Keita, who was sold to Liverpool. Leipzig did not sign a direct replacement for Keita and will instead rely on internal options to replace their former star. If the club does not find a suitable replacement, opposing teams will have an easier path towards goal and will put more pressure on Willi Orban and Dayot Upamecano. The center-back pairing is one of the best in the Bundesliga, with Upamecano being one of the best young players at only 19-years-old.

While Leipzig have lots to prove defensively, they promise to be an exciting team in the attacking half. Emil Forsberg and Marcel Sabitzer give the club two exciting wingers capable of creating goals for themselves or others. Timo Werner, Jean-Kevin Augustin, and Yussuf Poulsen are three different types of strikers, each capable of scoring goals.

Honorable mention: Bayern Munich vs. Hoffenheim – Friday, Aug. 24, 2:30 p.m. ET (FS1)

The Bundesliga season opens on Friday with Bayern Munich hosting Hoffenheim. Bayern have won six straight league titles but Friday will be their first league game under new manager Nico Kovac. Since Julian Nagelsmann was named Hoffenheim’s manager in February 2016, only Bayern have more points than Hoffenheim.

1. Manchester United vs. Tottenham — Monday, Aug. 27, 3:00 p.m. ET (NBCSN)

The third week of the Premier League seasons concludes on Monday with Manchester United hosting Tottenham at Old Trafford. United have had a frustrating start to the season. Jose Mourinho’s relationship with the board and captain Paul Pogba has clearly been damaged. After losing to Brighton last weekend, the pressure is intensifying on Mourinho. Tottenham on the other hand, have won both games to start the season.

There are two reasons to watch United games if you are not a fan of the club. The potential that the club implodes from within and the potential that they finally figure it out. There is no denying that the United roster is filled with world-class players. However, they have failed to reach the loft expectations of the club that expects a Premier League title every season. Clubs the size of United should never lose to tiny clubs like Brighton.

At this point, it seems more likely that Mourinho will eventually be fire than ever win a Premier League title with the Red Devils. The Portuguese manager spent the summer complaining about his players and lack of signings. Mourinho has dragged several players through the media, most notably Paul Pogba. United legend Paul Scholes took a shot at Pogba earlier this week. Pogba’s agent responded but it just shows the division within the club.

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Tottenham have looked impressive in both of their games, with Harry Kane finally scoring in August. The early season controversy of not signing a single player in the summer transfer window seems to have in the rear view mirror, as Spurs look to close the gap on Manchester City. The biggest adversity that Tottenham have to face over the next few weeks is the loss of Heung-min Son. The South Korean international is representing his country at the Asian games.

Monday’s game is the first real test of the season for Tottenham. If Spurs are able to win on Monday, it would really put Mourinho and United on the hot seat.