5 games to watch: Barcelona and Sevilla clash for first in La Liga

BARCELONA, SPAIN - SEPTEMBER 02: Lionel Andres Messi of FC Barcelona in action during the La Liga 2018-19 match between FC Barcelona and SD Huesca at Camp Nou on 02 September 2018 in Barcelona, Spain. (Photo by Power Sport Images/Getty Images)
BARCELONA, SPAIN - SEPTEMBER 02: Lionel Andres Messi of FC Barcelona in action during the La Liga 2018-19 match between FC Barcelona and SD Huesca at Camp Nou on 02 September 2018 in Barcelona, Spain. (Photo by Power Sport Images/Getty Images) /

Here are five of the best matches in Europe this weekend, including Sevilla’s trip to face Barcelona with first place in La Liga on the line.

Following the international break, the club season resumes with multiple big games from all five of Europe’s biggest leagues. La Liga features a match to determine first in the table, while Serie A offers the Milan derby. In Germany, struggling Bayern Munich look to get their Bundesliga season back on track. In France, Monaco try to kick-start their season under a new manager. While in England, Jose Mourinho faces his former club at Stamford Bridge.

5. Monaco vs. Strasbourg — Sunday, Oct. 20, 2 p.m. ET (BeIN Sports)

Normally a game between Monaco and Strasbourg wouldn’t be very interesting. However, after an awful start to the season, Monaco hired Thierry Henry to replace Leonardo Jardim as manager. Henry began his storied playing career with Monaco in 1994 and spent almost five years before leaving for some of the biggest clubs in Europe, winning multiple titles. Following his retirement, Henry joined the Belgium national team, spending two years as the assistant manager. Monaco will now give Herny his first managerial job.

The task ahead for Henry will be difficult, who has been thrown into the deep end. Monaco are 18th in the Ligue 1 table with only six points in their first nine games. In addition to Sunday’s game against Strasbourg, Henry must prepare his squad for a must-win Champions League game on Wednesday against Club Brugge.

Despite being fired, Jardim left big shoes to fill. In four years with Monaco, Jardim helped the club reach the Champions League semifinal and win their first Ligue 1 in 17 years.

4. Wolfsburg vs. Bayern Munich — Saturday, Oct. 20, 9:30 a.m. ET (FS1)

The pressure is on Niko Kovac at Bayern Munich. In his first season managing the club, Kovac’s side have struggled, picking up only one point in their last three Bundesliga games. While Bayern don’t want to make another midseason manager change, another loss might force the club to make a change and try luring Jupp Heyckes out of retirement again. Part of the reason Kovac has struggled has been his decision to use Thiago as a defensive midfielder. Bayern’s lack of a ball-winning midfielder above the center-backs has allowed opponents to run free in the middle of the pitch.

On Saturday, Wolfsburg host Bayern. They got off to a strong start, picking up seven points in three games, but have struggled over their last four games, losing twice and settling for two draws. Towering Dutch striker Wout Weghorst will lead Wolfsburg attack against a Bayern side that conceded five goals in their last two games.

3. Chelsea vs. Manchester United — Saturday, Oct. 20, 7:30 a.m. ET (NBCSN)

After eight games, Chelsea are tied for first in the Premier League with 20 points, along with Manchester City and Liverpool. On Saturday, Chelsea host Manchester United at Stamford Bridge. United have struggled to start the season, picking up only 13 points in eight games.

The addition of manager Maurizio Sarri and Jorginho from Napoli has worked out incredibly well for Chelsea. The Blues have had very strong play in midfield with Jorginho and N’Golo Kante controlling possession. Under Sarri, Eden Hazard might be having his best Premier League season, scoring seven goals and adding three assists.

The heat on Jose Mourinho’s seat got slightly cooler after United came from behind to beat Newcastle 3-2 in their last match. Alexis Sanchez and Anthony Martial both scored against and will look to build upon their performances. However, the biggest reason United have struggled is their defense. In eight games, they’ve allowed 14 goals. Mourinho will have to figure out which players will form the best back four for United if they’re going to recover and finish in the top four.

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2. Inter Milan vs. AC Milan — Sunday, Oct. 21, 2:30 p.m. ET (ESPN+)

There might not be a bigger rivalry in Italy than the Milan derby. In 197 games across all competitions, Inter Milan have won 69 games, five more than AC Milan. The two clubs play their first game this season on Sunday.

There might not be a more interesting early-season fixture than Inter and AC with both clubs are trending upward after slow starts to the season. After picking up only four points in their first four games, Inter have won four straight and sit third in Serie A. AC Milan lost their first game of the season against Napoli but have picked up points in six straight games. Milan are 10th in Serie A with 12 points but have a game in hand on every team they’re trailing.

Inter striker Mauro Icardi and Milan striker Gonzalo Higuain have both caught fire in the games before the international. Both strikers scored twice in their final games before the break and will be the focal points on the attack.

1. Barcelona vs. Sevilla — Saturday, Oct. 20, 2:45 p.m. ET (BeIN Sports)

On Saturday, Barcelona host Sevilla at Camp Nou. The defending La Liga champions enter the game one point behind Sevilla. After eight games, Barcelona are right where they are expected to be, at the top of the table. They’ve struggled in their last four games, however, picking up only three points. Sevilla have been one of the biggest surprises of the season. After picking up only four points in their first four games, they’ve won four straight.

Barcelona have struggled in part to the inconsistent play of Luis Suarez and Gerard Pique. Suarez, who is battling a knee injury, has shown signs of decline this season. Barcelona need Suarez to be a target man in the middle, drawing the attention of defenders to open up more space for Lionel Messi to work his magic. At the back, with Samuel Umtiti has been forced to miss time with suspension and injury, leaving Pique exposed in his absence.

Sevilla went through three managers last season and needed a strong final five games under Joaquin Caparros to finish seventh in La Liga. Caparros replaced Vincenzo Montella, who was fired after going winless in nine straight games. The club hired Pablo Machin, who has helped turn the team around. Sevilla have scored 18 goals this season, second to Barcelona in La Liga. Machin has also helped rehabilitate Andre Silva, who was awful in his first season with AC Milan after a big money move from Porto. Sevilla took a gamble on Silva signing him to a loan deal, but the Portuguese striker has delivered, scoring seven goals and forming a great partnership with Wissam Ben Yedder, who has scored five goals.