It will be a crazy weekend for fans of European football, so forget that fishing trip, cancel your dinner plans, tell your significant other to go shopping and get comfy, because these are the kind of games you don’t miss!
I’ll start with the English Premier League, since it’s widely regarded as the best league in the world. It’s broadcast in 212 countries and territories around the globe, with an estimated viewership of 4.7 billion people per match. Earlier this year, Sky and BT Sports payed no less than $7.8 billion for the TV rights over the next three years. Per year, that comes out to about the same as the NBA. For the two Premier League games that I’m recommending on this week’s “Don’t Miss!”, the broadcasters are paying around $31 million. Those matches are Everton v Liverpool (Liverpool @ Everton for American readers) and Arsenal v Manchester United, both played on Sunday. Everton v Liverpool meetings are called “the friendly derby”, because – despite the long-standing rivalry, the shared history of the clubs (Liverpool was established by ex-Everton players) and the proximity of their stadiums (just across the park from one another) – opposing fans are often seated together. Images from the stands are always those of red shirts mixed with blue ones and friends having a good time together. Everton are currently 5th in the standings and unbeaten in four games, including a win against big boys Chelsea. Although they traditionally have higher expectations than Everton do, Liverpool are having a mediocre run so far, seven weeks into the season. They’ve already lost twice and are one point behind their local rivals, in 9th place. They’re also having a terrible time in continental competitions. Liverpool got just a 1-1 draw out of the home game against Swiss side FC Sion, Thursday, in the Europa League. On to the other (and more important) game this weekend, Arsenal v Manchester United. With three straight wins, Man United are standing at the top of the Premier League table, three points ahead of Arsenal, in 4th. Heading for his 20th year in charge of the club, Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger probably knows more about Man United than the Red Devils’ manager himself, Louis Van Haal. The Dutchman only arrived at Old Trafford last year and had never managed a Premier League club before. The previous meeting between Arsenal and Manchester United ended in a 1-1 draw, in May, at Old Trafford.
Next up is the Spanish Primera Division or La Liga, considered the most spectacular football league around. Also, it’s home to the top two richest football clubs in the world! The highest ranking one, Real Madrid, valued at $3.29 billion, is arguably the most successful club in the history of football, holding the Spanish record for championships won (32) and the one for European titles (10). It won’t be easy for them this Sunday, however. They’re facing their local rivals Atletico Madrid, league champions two years ago and the only team other than Real and Barcelona that has managed to win the title in the past ten years. Incidentally, outside the Big Two, there have been only three other league champions since 1985, so for Atletico to be one of them is quite an achievement. Real Madrid are currently 3rd in the standings, two points behind the surprising leaders, Villarreal, while Atletico sits a further two points behind, in 5th. Real are undefeated this season, while last week Atletico lost to Villarreal, their second defeat in just six games.
The German Bundesliga has gotten a lot of attention in the past few years, thanks, in particular, to the excellence of Bayern Munich, the resilience of VfL Wolfsburg and the resurrection of Borussia Dortmund. Bayern are the current champions, while Borussia finished a disappointing 7th last season. But the Dortmund outfit won the title (and the domestic cup) in 2012 and were runners up the following two years, so their game with Bayern this Sunday, in Munich, is hopefully going to be a tight one. It certainly promises to be. Guided by the genius of Pep Guardiola, the Bavarians have so far won every game this season. That’s seven in a row! Borussia are not far behind, however. They sit 2nd in the league, also undefeated, but four points behind.
Huge game this weekend in the French Ligue 1 as well. Obscenely-rich Paris Saint-Germain have pretty much taken the league by storm since being bought by the Qatari ruling family in 2012, winning the last three championships. However, having been founded just 45 years ago, PSG are still some way off AS Saint Etienne‘s ten championships or Olympique Marseille‘s nine. PSG are now hosting Marseille, which probably still are the French club with the largest fan base, despite having won just one championship in the past 23 years. Hey, Liverpool have won exactly zero championships in the past 25 years and they still have a huge fan-following. Football isn’t always about results. But back to Ligue 1, where, on Sunday undefeated leaders PSG face Marseille. OM sits a lowly 15th, with only two wins in eight games, but derbies tend to bring out the best in players. Assuming you still have some talented players, which are quite scarce in Marseille these days.
Lastly, the Italian Serie A‘s big game this weekend is AC Milan v Napoli, scheduled when else but Sunday. Despite Milan being the only team outside Juventus and Internazionale to have won the championship in the past 14 years and Napoli being a top contender in recent seasons, both currently sit mid-table, equal on points. Napoli are just ahead on goal difference, in 10th, and have only lost once in six games. They are yet to win away this season, however, while Milan have so far won both games played at home.