There’s a lot of soccer to watch this weekend, especially since there will be a lot to watch come Tuesday and Wednesday: the start of the UEFA Champions League, with group stage Matchday 1, meaning 16 matches spread all over the continent.
Hence, we highlight domestic league games this weekend featuring teams that qualified for the Champions League, so that you can get ready for Matchday 1 (and do some scouting for your fantasy team–join the CultFootball league!):
Germany, Borussia Dortmund-Hertha Berlin 9:30amET (GolTV): Dortmund were the surprise stars of the Bundesliga last season, running away with the title. They did sell young Turkish-German midfielder Nuri Şahin to Real Madrid, but hung on to 19yo midfielder Mario Götze, despite interest from Bayern Munich and ManU. See our coverage of Die Schwarzgelben in these two match reports from last season. They’re Champions League opener is an interesting one [Dortmund-Arsenal, Tuesday]
Germany, Bayern Munich-Freiburg 9:30am (ESPN3.com; tape at 3pm on ESPN Deportes): Bayern Munich had a troubled 2010-11 season, as evidenced by famed Dutch manager Louis van Gaal’s sacking in April. Bayern has much the same squad, though strengthened in goal after they bought Schalke keeper Manuel Neuer [Villareal-Bayern, Wednesday]
Three of the four Premier League teams that qualified for the Champions League kick off at 10amET/3pmGMT, with the other right after:
England, Sunderland-Chelsea 10am (ESPN2, ESPN Deportes, ESPN3.com): [Chelsea-Leverkeusen, Tuesday]
England, Arsenal-Swansea City 10am (Fox Soccer): CultFootball’s contributing writer & Arsenal fanatic Rob Kirby will be in attendance at the Emirates! [Dortmund-Arsenal, Tuesday]
England, Manchester City-Wigan 10am (Fox Deportes, foxsoccer.tv; tape at 5 on Fox Soccer): b/c Man City has been lighting it up, and they’ll be trying to keep pace with ManU–in the points and the goal diff’l cols [Man City-Napoli, Wednesday]
England, Bolton-Manchester United 12:30pm (Fox Soccer, Fox Deportes): ManU has been lighting it up even more than City, and prob will against struggling Bolton (still w/o their mf stalwart Stu Holden, who’s still recovering from that nasty knee injury from May). But then they’ve got an interesting away match next week [Benfica-ManU, Wednesday]
The four Spanish Champions League qualifiers are in all action today as well:
Spain, Villarreal-Sevilla noon GolTV: We enjoyed watching Villareal get past OB in the playoff stage a few weeks ago, and we’re looking forward to seeing them in the Group of Death [Villareal-Bayern, Wednesday].
As we wrote ahead of that match, el submarino amarillo has some players to watch:
strikers Giuseppe “Jersey-born” Rossi and Brazilian Nilmar, and midfielders Cani, Borja Valero, Bruno Soriano and team captain Marcos Senna–the latter three of whom have all earned caps with the Spanish national team–no mean feat given the current generation of Spanish midfielders: Xavi, Iniesta, David Silva, Cesc Fabregas, Xabi Alonso, Sergio Busquets.
What we failed to mention is that Villareal did sell a star midfielder over the summer, another player who has earned caps for Spain: Santi Cazorla, who was snapped up the nouveau riche Malaga.
On the other side of the ball, watch for Sevilla’s striker Álvaro Negredo, another Real Madrid castoff who has forged his way with a lesser club (cf Juan Mata), and is now making a case to start for Spain. His nickname: La fiera de Vallecas (the beast of Vallecas). Their heart and soul is still aging Malian midfielder Frédéric Kanouté, who has stuck with them since through their decline; see this Sid Lowe column about their draw with Barcelona last March.
Spain, Real Sociedad-Barcelona noon ESPN Deportes, ESPN3.com: The Catalan club, which claims to be mes que un club, take on the Basque club ahead of their starting their defense of their Champions League title [Barcelona-Milan, Tuesday]
Spain, Real Madrid-Getafe 1:50 p.m. GolTV: Real Madrid has this the lesser known and even less competitive Madrid derby ahead of their trip to Croatia [Dinamo Zagreb-Real Madrid, Wednesday]
Spain, Valencia-Atletico Madrid 4 p.m. ESPN Deportes, ESPN3.com: The Spanish alternative hosts Atletico, then goes to Genk [Genk-Valencia, Tuesday]
The three French qualifiers are also in action this afternoon, though available in the US only via foxsoccer.tv:
France, Saint Etienne-Lille 1pm foxsoccer.tv: They sold Gervinho, but the defending Ligue 1 champs still have Edan Hazard [Lille-CSKA Moscow, Wednesday]
France, Dijon-Lyon 1pm foxsoccer.tv: Lyon has to travel to Amsterdam mid-week… [Ajax-Lyon, Wednesday]
France, Marseille-Rennes 3pm foxsoccer.tv: …while Marseille has to travel to Athens [Olympiacos-Marseille, Tuesday]
Italy, Cesena-Napoli 2:30pm. Fox Soccer, ESPN3.com: Napoli is led up front by Uruguayan striker Edson Cavani, and strengthened their midfield by picking up Gökhan Inler from Udinese, with a dramatic unveiling [Man City-Napoli, Wednesday]
Italy, Palermo-Inter Milan 2:30 p.m. Fox Soccer, Fox Deportes, ESPN3.com: Sunday Night Football in Palermo, then back to the San Siro a few days later [Inter-Trabzonspor, Wednesday]