A look at the weekend’s Three to See brought to you by Just Football, previewing three must-see games of the weekend:
Sampdoria v Juventus (Serie A)
Saturday 24 August 2013 – Kickoff 19:45 BST
Defending champions Juventus kick-off their Serie A campaign against last season’s arch nemesis, Sampdoria. Juventus lost only five league games last season and Sampdoria can lay claim to two of those with an impressive double – home and away victories – over Juventus.
The Bianconeri have strengthened their side well in the transfer window and after a resounding victory over Lazio in the Supercoppa, are everybody’s favourites to secure a third consecutive title.
Juve warmed up for their opening day fixture in the best possible way. A flawless performance in the Supercoppa last weekend resulted in a 4-0 thrashing of Lazio. Antonio Conte’s men have laid down an early marker and sent out a clear message to their Serie A rivals. They will however have to make do without Claudio Marchisio who has been ruled out for a month with an injury picked up in the Supercoppa match. In Paul Pogba, they have a more than adequate midfield replacement though; as the young Frenchman will be pushing hard for a regular starting birth this season.
Conte’s starting eleven pretty much picks itself these days with the only uncertainty being the striking partnership. Mirko Vucinic and Carlos Tevez started against Lazio and are likely to retain their places for the match against Sampdoria.
Sampdoria will look to improve on a disappointing 14th position in the previous campaign. Although quietly confident based on their double over Juventus last season, they will be well aware of Juve’s tough nature. Delio Rossi’s men required a late double from new signing Manolo Gabbadini to progress from their 3rd round Coppa Italia match last weekend. The former Juventus man has been exceptional during preseason and will be hoping to open his league tally against his former employers.
It will be a massive achievement should Sampdoria manage to repeat last season’s exploits over the Bianconeri. An on form Juventus side ready to rewrite the record books this campaign will take some stopping from Delio Rossi’s men.
Nantes v PSG (Ligue 1)
Sunday 25th August 2013 – Kickoff 20:45 BST
Still searching for their first victory, Laurent Blanc’s PSG side head into their third league game of the season under a little pressure. It is early days in the new campaign, but with rivals Monaco cruising to two comfortable victories in two games, PSG do not want to fall even further behind. Newly promoted Nantes who have one victory and one loss this season will set out o further frustrate Blanc’s superstars.
On paper this is a true David versus Goliath clash as PSG look to avoid a giant killing. The defending champions under normal circumstances should be no match for the new boys Nantes. However, Blanc’s side stuttering start to the campaign does not fill anyone’s belly with much confidence.
Two draws in two games against Montpellier and Ajaccio has resulted in PSG desperate for a victory. It is far to early to reach crisis mode as yet for the Paris based outfit but should they not pick up three points from newly promoted Nantes, some serious questions will be asked.
Blanc has a dilemma on his hands with regards to Javier Pastore. The talented Argentinean has failed to shine at PSG and his performances this season have now started to receive criticism for the supporters. Blanc is not short of options however and could hand Ezequiel Lavezzi another start instead. The duo of Edinson Cavani and Zlatan Ibrahimovic started together for the first time last week against Ajaccio and will likely lead the attack once more against Nantes.
Nantes are back in Lique 1 after a four season absence but face a three point deduction after an administrative error in their first game of the season. After fielding an ineligible player they will possibly lose the three points obtained in their opening game victory.
As against Ajaccio, PSG are expected to dominate proceedings against Nantes but will hope for a lot more success in breaking them down. This is simply a must three points for PSG as they look to finally kick-start their season.
Manchester United v Chelsea (English Premier League)
Monday August 26th 2013 – Kickoff 20:00 BST
The ongoing Wayne Rooney saga will add further spice to the Premier League match between two of the title contenders.
Manchester United host Chelsea at Old Trafford and all the build up talk will surround Rooney. Jose Mourinho has been publicly pursuing the England striker and United have been adamant in their “not for sale” response. Will Rooney feature, how will he play and how will he celebrate should he score are questions we may find answers for on Monday.
Rooney indicated at the end of last season that he would like to leave Manchester United (though not publicly – ed) and is not guaranteed a start in David Moyes team. Not only is the striker not match fit but his body language clearly indicates an unhappy man.
United kicked off their campaign with an impressive 4-1 win away to Swansea. Moyes has already complained about his team’s tough start to the season, as after Chelsea they play Liverpool and Manchester City within the next three games. Moyes knows full well that his side will require a positive result against Chelsea or face a really tough three weeks. Rafael de Silva remains sidelined amongst other injuries for United.
Chelsea head into the clash with a 100% record after two victories in two games. Mourinho could alternate his squad slightly after a hard fought midweek victory over Aston Villa and a Super Cup clash against Bayern Munich a few days after the game against United.
Mourinho still seems uncertain who his starting striker will be this season which adds a further element to Rooney’s possible performance. Fernando Torres and Demba Ba have started one game each but it has been Romelu Lukaku off the bench that has looked the most enterprising.
With both Chelsea and Manchester United expected to challenge for the title this season, this match provides a very early indicator for the coming season. United will want to begin a difficult few weeks on a positive note, while Mourinho would like nothing more than to pull one over his rivals at Old Trafford. United face a stern test.