CSKA Moscow vs. Arsenal Tula (13/09/2014)
Kick Off: 10:30
Competition: Russian Premier League
Venue: Arena Khimki
The early kick off in Russia this game week is current league holders at home to Arsenal Tula. CSKA’s last home game may have been a defeat in the Russian Cup to second division Anzhi, but their last home league match was a 6-0 thrashing of FK Rostov, where Israeli midfielder Bibras Natkho bagged a hat-trick and seems an absolute snip after he was picked up on a free in the summer from Greek side PAOK. Overall CSKA’s early season form has been good, they have 12 points from 6 games and are keeping reasonable pace with leaders Zenit St. Petersburg and Dynamo Moscow (who incidentally play each other this weekend – meaning this is a key game for CSKA knowing at least one of their main title rivals will drop points). Their opponents Arsenal Tula have begun their campaign in a vein of form that can only be described as absolutely abysmal, they sit rock bottom of the Russian League with one point and have only scored a single goal in their opening six games. If CSKA slip up here we may as well find a towel, and promptly throw it in.
Prediction: CSKA Win (4-0)
Bayern Munich vs. Stuttgart (13/09/2014)
Kick Off: 14:30
Venue: Allianz Arena
Bayern Munich’s last game in the Bundesliga saw them navigate past what will be one of their hardest domestic games this season – away to Schalke. They passed the test leaving with a 1-1 draw, but it was tough for the Bavarians as injuries to key midfield players in Bastian Schweinsteiger, Javi Martinez and Thiago Alcantara meant they struggled to implement their quick passing style that Pep Guardiola wants from his teams. This coupled with the fact that Guardiola’s new look formation of 3-4-3 with 3 at the back isn’t quite clicking as yet meant that the game wasn’t as routine as last season where they comfortably ran out winners 0-4. However since then they have controversially added to the squad former Roma centre back Mehdi Benatia who should be the key to their current defensive issues as he was generally regarded as one of the best defenders in the world last season (it was controversial due to the fact that Benatia said he left Roma as the club was struggling financially, however upon hearing this Roma President, James Pallotta, immediately dismissed his claims and furiously branded Benatia a ‘poisonous liar’). Bayern swept through all comers last season in the league last season as well as so far this season, they dispatched Wolfsburg in their opening home game of this season who are a superior side to Stuttgart 2-1 in a scoreline that flattered the visitors. Their opponents Stuttgart haven’t been in the greatest form and have not won any of their last 5 games in all competitions, including a 2-0 home defeat to newly promoted Cologne last time out. Normal service should be resumed for Bayern.
Prediction: Bayern Munich Win (3-1)
Borussia Dortmund vs. Freiburg (13/09/2014)
Kick Off: 14:30
The international break was harsh on Dortmund as they lost arguably their best player and talisman Marco Reus for a month due to a partially torn ankle ligament. This adds to what is already a healthy injury list with first team regulars Mats Hummels, Ilkay Gündogan, Nuri Sahin, Oliver Kirch and Dong-Won Ji having already been ruled out, along with the fact that Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Ciro Immobile are doubtful for the game after picking up knocks means manager Jurgen Klopp could have as few as 15 outfield players to choose from for the game. This could become a serious issue in their upcoming Champions League opener to Premier League Arsenal, but in terms of the weekends league fixture game Dortmund should still have more that enough to claim 3 points against struggling Freiburg. To offset the departure of Robert Lewandowski to Bayern Munich Bayern bought in numbers, with Italian golden boot winner Ciro Immobile and Hertha Berlin striker Adrian Ramos the high profile acquisitions brought in to fill the goals void. Immobile may not feature but Ramos most certainly will and after scoring on his league debut last time out away to Ausburg he looks sets to show for the Dortmund the form that allowed him to score 58 goals in 157 league appearances for Hertha (where he reached double figures in 4 out of 5 seasons). Their opponents Freiberg have not had the greatest of starts to the season having not scored a goal in their opening 2 games as well as being knocked out of the cup courtesy of a 4-0 thrashing at home to the hands of second division side Kaiserslautern. Dortmund have also beaten Freiberg in each of their last 5 meetings in all competitions – games in which Friberg have only managed a single goal. It won’t be the smoothest of games, but Dortmund should run out as winners.
Prediction: Dortmund Win (2-0)
Chelsea vs. Swansea (13/09/2014)
Kick Off: 15:00
Competition: English Premier League
Venue: Stamford Bridge
This weekend sees the English Premier League’s two early season pace setters collide where Chelsea host Swansea. Chelsea are my favourites for the league title for two main reasons: they have a manager who despite what anyone says has won pretty much everything at every club he has ever been, and they have added considerable quality in the areas that they didn’t have enough quality in last season – central midfield and up front. Chelsea’s midfield recruit Cesc Fabregas from Barcelona already knows the league from his time at Arsenal and has slotted in seamlessly, and new striker Diego Costa is a throw-back and looks tailor-made to play up top in the Premier League. These two reasons along with the additions of goalkeeper Thibous Courtois (who has just signed a new five-year contract) as well as the form of Chelsea stalwarts John Terry and Branislav Ivanovic makes Chelsea seem a formidable proposition this season. Their opponents Swansea have had the start to the season that every Swansea fan will have dreamed of, advancement in the cup and a perfect start to the league with 3 wins from 3 (along with a win at Old Trafford). However all good things come to an end and it looks as if Swansea’s perfect start will be what comes to a halt come quarter to 5 on Saturday afternoon. A win for Chelsea.
Prediction: Chelsea Win (2-1)
Blackpool vs. Wolves (13/09/2014)
Kick Off: 15:00
Competition: The Championship
Venue: Bloomfield Road
Times are bleak at the moment at Blackpool, a summer exodus of players mean that they have a squad that is poorly equipped to even make up the numbers let alone gain a consistent run of form, this has been backed up in the numbers where they have not even gained a single point after 5 games, losing every one. This has prompted the Blackpool board to approach Burton manager Gary Rowett about taking over, despite current manager Jose Riga still being under contract at Blackpool – things at Bloomfield Road really are a but of a mess at the moment. This weekend they play host to Wolves, who are a problem the Tangerines don’t need at the moment as they are in a rich vein of form and look set to mount a challenge to gain promotion to the Premier League after promotion from League 1 last season. They have won their last 3 league games against solid promotion rivals in the form of Fulham, Cardiff, and Blackburn with frontman Bakary Sako in particularly good form, scoring 3 goals in the first 5 games. If this goes by the form book it could be a large scoreline in favour of Wolves.
Prediction: Wolves Win (0-4)
Empoli vs. AS Roma (13/09/2014)
Kick Off: 17:00
Competition: Serie A
Venue: Stadio Carlo Castellani
Last seasons runners-up in Serie A Roma have their first away league match of the season away to newly promoted Empoli, and they will be looking to go one better this season and be Juventus’ main challengers for the title. They look in good shape to do so as well, their only high profile departure from their fantastic season previous was centre back Mehdi Benatia, who they have replaced with the high regarded and Premier League linked Kostas Manolas, as well as former England international left-back Ashley Cole. They have also kept hold of prized assets Kevin Strootman and Mattia Destro who in tandem with Roma veterans Danielle De Rossi and club legend Francesco Totti look as if they can propel Roma to a sustained title challenge. Their opponents Empoli are back in the top flight for the first time since 2004, and after their opening day 2-0 defeat at the hands on Udinese they look as if they are going to have to wait a bit longer for their first win as Roma should have too much for them.
Prediction: Roma Win (1-2)
Liverpool vs. Aston Villa (13/09/2014)
Kick Off: 17:30
Competition: English Premier League
Liverpool look as if the departing Luis Suarez hasn’t stunted their attacking threat in the way most people assumed after he departed during the summer. They beat Tottenham resoundingly last match day, running out as eventual 0-3 winners, with attacker Raheem Sterling the star of the show. Liverpool manager Brendan Rogers has confirmed that main striker Daniel Sturridge will be missing for the foreseeable future through injury, leaving the mercurial Mario Batotelli to lead the line for Liverpool. Balotelli performed well on his return to the Premier League last time out, where he partnered with Sturridge in a diamond formation that Liverpool adopt so effectively, he may be expected to lead the line on his own for now (unless Rogers partners him with Rickie Lambert up top), meaning he will have to step up to the plate sometime soon, and I believe this weekend will be that time. Last season in the fixture Liverpool slipped up after only picking up a 2-2 draw against an Aston Villa side trying to stave off relegation and the dynamic is similar this time around albeit Villa have begun the season in decent form. If Liverpool click this will be a comfortable victory against a Villa defence who have yet to come up against top class opposition this season.
Prediction: Liverpool Win (4-1)
Juventus vs. Udinese (13/09/2014)
Kick Off: 19:45
Competition: Serie A
Venue: Juventus Stadium
Juventus began their defence of the Scudetto two weeks ago with a 0-1 win away at Chievo, and it was a result that flattered the hosts. Juventus hit the woodwork on numerous occasions and missed some very presentable chances that would have made the victory much more comfortable. Juve’s transfer window was more about the players they kept as opposed to who they signed, where they did very well to keep hold of much sought after duo of Arturo Vidal and Paul Pogba, due to not only to both being very skilled technically, but also vital components in their 3 at the back system that departing manager Antonio Conte used so effectively in winning 3 straight Italian league titles (and which new manager Massimiliano Allegri appears as if is going to continue using). They have also signed Real Madrid star Alvaro Morata over the summer to add to an already formidable strike force in the form of Fernando Llorente and Carlos Tevez and look as if they are well equipped to defend their title. Their opponents Udinese have been in decent form themselves winning their opening fixture with club legend Antonio Di Natale scoring the 2 goals in a 2-0 victory for Udinese. However Udinese have not beaten Juventus in their last 6 attempts and lost home and away to the Old Lady last season.
Prediction: Juventus Win (3-1)
Manchester United vs. QPR (14/09/2014)
Kick Off: 16:00
Competition: English Premier League
Venue: Old Trafford
What a summer it has been at Old Trafford. First they hired much respected manager Louis van Gaal after a largely successful World Cup with the Netherlands, and then they stormed through the transfer market like a veritable bulldozer and Manchester United chief executive sticking it to the ‘haters’ after each acquisition. They have added attacking midfielder Angel Di Maria to the squad for a club record £59.7 million fee (which is also a British record); as well as defensive trio Daley Blind, Marcus Rojo – who now has a work permit and is free to make his debut, and Luke Shaw. They have also bolstered solidly in central midfield where Ander Herrera looks like he is going to be a good addition to a midfield that has struggled for years and is struggling even more so recently with the injured Michael Carrick remaining that way for the foreseeable future. But all these transfers, including the Di Maria transfer to the degree of statement making, are dwarfed by the arrival of Radamel Falcao, who is truly world class and one of the best players in the world. Falcao is guaranteed goals; he has scored them in abundance everywhere he has been across 3 different league in 3 different countries and in 181 starts he has scored 138 goals, many of which are absolute blockbusters of the highest quality. Much debate has been cast as to how van Gaal will use all this attacking threat in the same team, with captain Wayne Rooney, Robin van Persie, and Juan Mata already stalwarts of the Manchester United team. But that should be a question for another day when there are bigger fish to fry; their opponents QPR have been shaky at the back so far this season, where in their last away game they conceded 4 away to Tottenham. Whoever van Gaal choses to play should be able to grab the goals required for Manchester United to get their first win of the season.
Prediction: Manchester United Win (3-0)
Acca in full
CSKA Moscow vs. Arsenal Tula (Home Win)
Bayern Munich vs. Stuttgart (Home Win)
Borussia Dortmund vs. Freiburg (Home Win)
Chelsea vs. Swansea (Home Win)
Blackpool vs. Wolves (Away Win)
Empoli vs. AS Roma (Away Win)
Liverpool vs. Aston Villa (Home Win)
Juventus vs. Udinese (Home Win)
Manchester United vs. QPR (Home Win)