What are you looking forward to this weekend? Whether it’s a classic movie, a live event, or TV show, there are plenty of options for entertainment.
The what to watch this weekend on netflix is a question that is often asked. Netflix has some great movies and TV shows for the weekend.
With the start of the European soccer season’s first international break coming, we have one more full weekend of club matches ahead of us, and it’s a doozy. There aren’t many standout Serie A matches, but there’s a lot to take in with two Premier League matchups — Chelsea-Liverpool and Arsenal-Manchester City — plus RB Leipzig-VfL Wolfsburg, Lionel Messi’s likely Paris Saint-Germain debut, and intriguing matchups for quick starters like Sevilla FC and Brighton.
For the weekend, here’s a massive tasting menu.
Arsenal vs. Man City | Chelsea vs. Liverpool | Sevilla vs. Elche | Leipzig vs. Wolfsburg | Everton vs. West Ham | Real Madrid vs. Betis | PSG vs. Reims | FC Groningen vs. PSV
Arsenal vs. Manchester City (7:30 a.m. ET / 12:30 p.m. BST, Saturday)
So, what exactly does Arsenal excel at right now?
Let’s take a “compliment sandwich” approach to discussing Arsenal’s “two games, zero points” start to the Premier League season. We’ll use two positives to frame a difficult reality.
Positive 1: They’re doing a good job of tilting the pitch! Only five clubs have conceded less possessions in the offensive third (a.k.a. Arsenal’s defensive third) than Arsenal. Granted, opponents aren’t offering Arsenal any opportunities (just 12 possessions have started in the attacking third), but the Gunners are moving the ball out of their danger zone, which is allowing them to complete more possessions in hazardous areas than their opponents.
Arsenal’s difficulties in their first two Premier League games have landed them in 19th place in the rankings, according to Craig Burley.
The harsh reality is that they can’t make a good shot to save their lives. Only one of their 22 shots against Brentford had an xG value greater than 0.10. They did generate two such shots against Chelsea, but only six in total; Chelsea, on the other hand, took 22 shots, five of which had an xG of 0.3 or higher.
Comparing a rebuilding Arsenal to Chelsea, who may be the greatest team in Europe right now, may be unjust. However, against newly promoted Brentford, the Gunners generated fewer quality opportunities, and after two games, they’ve attempted fewer shots (0.17 per possession vs. opponents’ 0.19) and averaged 0.07 xG per shot (lowest in the Premier League) vs. opponents’ 0.16. (second-worst). They spent a lot of money this summer, failed to improve their offense at any, and now find themselves in a position where their strengths are similar to last year’s, but their shortcomings are worse.
Positive 2: Is it possible that we’ll get to see their whole lineup this week? That’s more of a non-negative than a positive, I suppose. Arsenal selected a team that it believes is much closer to what it will field going forward in Wednesday’s Carabao Cup encounter against West Bromwich Albion. After missing matches due to a positive COVID-19 test, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang returned to the lineup, along with midfield re-accession Martin Odegaard (signed from Real Madrid after spending the second half of last season on loan with Arsenal) and goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale (recently signed from Sheffield United). Alexandre Lacazette, who had been out since the start of the season, returned.
The final score was 6-0. Granted, it was against a Championship club fielding a large number of substitutes, but it served as a reminder that Arsenal’s poor start to the season didn’t come from their strongest lineup. It’s incomprehensible that they spent so much money just to have to depend on the elderly Aubameyang and Lacazette once again, but they’ll be better with those two players on the field.
Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta is under pressure. Will they be able to pull off an unexpected victory against Man City this weekend? Arsenal FC/David Price/Getty Images
Will any of this come back to haunt City? Most likely not. They hammered Norwich after a similar defeat to Tottenham Hotspur to open the league season — they controlled possession, tried far more shots, produced higher xG statistics, and lost through a single spectacular counterattack, which happens a few times each season. They, too, haven’t played a full-strength lineup: Kevin De Bruyne, Phil Foden, and John Stones have combined for 11 league minutes thus far due to injuries and rest.
City is an incomplete product, with a possible Harry Kane deal having gone through (and a short period when Cristiano Ronaldo was rumored to be on his way to the Etihad), but it would take a shocking outcome for them not to collect three points on Saturday.
Liverpool vs. Chelsea (Saturday, 12:30 p.m. ET / 5:30 p.m. BST)
Big stars + a sold-out Anfield Equals a must-see.
Granted, it’s a bit early in the season for a match with meaningful league implications, but it’s always a huge thing when two of the past three Champions League champions meet. Chelsea and Liverpool have had similar beginnings, with each club winning two games by a total score of 5-0, three of which came against opponents who are expected to finish towards the bottom of the league (Crystal Palace for Chelsea, Burnley and Norwich City for Liverpool). Both have controlled the ball, snatched many shots, and pushed weaker opponents aside.
Chelsea won the Champions League and then addressed their greatest problem by signing Romelu Lukaku, one of the finest strikers in the world. Liverpool has several unmet requirements, but Jurgen Klopp’s team includes healthy center-backs this season, which is a welcome change, and the possible emergence of 18-year-old winger Harvey Elliott may mean that one of the club’s most pressing needs has been met in-house.
The stakes may not be as high as they might be, but the quality of this match should be, and it’ll be the biggest contest at Anfield in 17 months. That alone is reason enough to keep an eye on things.
Liverpool’s Champions League group, which also contains Atletico Madrid, Porto, and Milan, is examined by Steve Nicol.
(Saturday, 1:30 p.m. ET / 6:30 p.m. BST, ESPN+) Sevilla vs. Elche
So far, Sevilla has been especially “Sevilla.”
Only four clubs have scored at least four goals in LaLiga thus far, while ten have conceded one or less. Only Julen Lopetegui’s Sevilla has completed both. They haven’t won the league since 1946, and they haven’t placed in the top two since 1957, but they came into the season as one of the most obvious benefactors of Real Madrid and Barcelona’s financial woes, and they’ve begun brilliantly.
Los Nervionenses are at ease in low-scoring games, and LaLiga is now the ultimate low-scoring game. Expect no fireworks against an Elche team that has scored and allowed just one goal in two games, but Sevilla is usually entertaining to watch, with lengthy shifts of play, stretched-out defenders, and plenty of quality shots so far this season. They may be doomed to repeat their fourth-place result, but they have a chance to go better this year, particularly if they can carry all nine points into the first international break.
(Sunday, 11:30 a.m. ET / 4:30 p.m. BST, ESPN+) RB Leipzig vs. Wolfsburg
In the Bundesliga, there will be an early heavyweight (or at least cruiserweight) fight.
The only flawless team remaining in the Bundesliga is Mark van Bommel’s Wolfsburg, who drew with Borussia Monchengladbach, RB Leipzig (lost to Mainz), and Borussia Dortmund (lost to Freiburg) last season. Despite having a new manager, they have been following last year’s same recipe: keep the ball out of dangerous areas, avoid any decent chances at goal, rely on Wout Weghorst’s wizardry, and win.
Weghorst scored the game’s only goal (and created two opportunities) in a 1-0 victory against Bochum, and then scored again in a bizarre DFB-Pokal encounter against Preussen Munster, in which the club was penalized for deploying too many replacements by mistake. In a comeback victory against Hertha Berlin, he received some assistance from late goals from Ridle Baku and Lukas Nmecha.
Now comes a far more difficult exam. Jesse Marsch’s RBL were beaten 1-0 by a ferocious Mainz in the season opening, despite some good late opportunities, but they bounced back by thrashing Stuttgart 4-0 last Friday. RBL has looked great since the poor start against Mainz, with January signing Dominik Szoboszlai scoring twice and creating five opportunities in only 94 minutes (and with 11 ball recoveries, no less). This is the main event on Sunday, at least among non-Messi matchups.
Brighton vs. Everton (Saturday, 10:00 a.m. / 3 p.m. BST)
West Ham United at Crystal Palace (Saturday, 10:00 a.m. ET / 3 p.m. BST)
What are the strengths and weaknesses of Brighton and West Ham?
So far, four of Europe’s Big Five leagues have seen at least two matchdays, and we’re down to only nine flawless teams among them. PSG in Ligue 1, Sevilla and Atletico Madrid in LaLiga, Wolfsburg in the Bundesliga, and Chelsea and Liverpool in the Premier League are all expected. While Tottenham needed an upset against City to make it two victories in two attempts, Brighton and West Ham are two more Premier League teams to watch.
Brighton has beaten Burnley and Watford so far, but they aren’t exactly Champions League hopefuls. But, following a season in which they performed better on paper than their point total indicated (fifth in xG differential, 16th in the standings), the fact that they’ve started well isn’t entirely surprising. Everton, led by Rafael Benitez, is the hardest challenge they’ve faced so far, and it’s also a “possession vs. anti-possession” fight.
So far, Brighton has had 59 percent possession and has taken its time moving the ball up the field, with 60 percent of their passes taking place in their own half, the fourth-highest percentage in the league. Everton, on the other hand, has 39 percent possession and averages 3.0 passes per possession, which is the second-lowest in the Premier League (ahead of only Burnley).
West Ham, however, is coming off its finest season in a long time, finishing sixth and qualifying for the Europa League, so beginning with two victories shouldn’t be too surprising, particularly considering they’ve defeated Newcastle and a 10-man Leicester for 50 minutes. They did, however, seem to be in excellent shape.
The Hammers dominated Leicester in the opening 40 minutes, attempted seven shots to the Foxes’ two, 0.58 xG to 0.13, and winning 71 percent of duels. They also treated Newcastle with the respect that a great team deserves. They now have not just the greatest goal differential (tied with Chelsea and Liverpool), but also the best xG differential in the league. After two games, it’s the best you can hope for. With European play on the horizon, it’s a little concerning that West Ham didn’t make any additions to strengthen depth, and we’ll see whether that has an impact on outcomes. However, they are one excellent performance away from being undefeated at the first international break.
Real Madrid made a bid for Kylian Mbappe a year before he becomes a free agency, according to Julien Laurens.
(Saturday, 4:00 p.m. ET / 9:00 p.m. BST, ESPN+) Real Madrid vs. Real Betis
Real Madrid is an easily watchable team.
So far, just 39 total goals have been scored in 20 LaLiga matches, averaging fewer than one goal per club each match. Eleven of the goals have come in two Real Madrid encounters, accounting for 28 percent of the total. Los Blancos won their first match 4-1 against Deportivo Alaves before drawing 3-3 with Levante after blowing an early lead. Vinicius Junior has three goals, Karim Benzema has two goals and two assists, and Real Madrid has offered opponents many high-quality scoring chances in the biggest display of unity the club has shown in years toward LaLiga.
Real Betis will put both sides of this generosity to the test, as Manuel Pellegrini’s team avoids too many excursions into their defensive third while also failing to create high-quality scoring opportunities.
Reims vs. PSG (Sunday, 2:45 p.m. ET / 7:45 p.m. BST)
The UCL draw is discussed by Gab Marcotti and Julien Laurens, as well as the possibility of Messi and Ronaldo renewing their rivalry.
I’m not sure whether there’s any need to watch PSG-Reims.
Is there anything at all?
PSV Eindhoven vs. FC Groningen (Saturday, 2:00 p.m. ET / 7:00 p.m. BST, ESPN+)
The Champions Competition conundrum: rewarding champions vs. making the league more competitive
PSV hasn’t been a real force in European soccer since 1988, when they won the European Cup. They’ve only made it to the Champions League knockout rounds once in the last 14 years, and they haven’t won a group-stage match since 2016. That won’t change this year, since they were demoted to the Europa League after losing to Benfica in the last qualifying round.
PSV’s loss to old friend Benfica (the 1988 runner-up) was particularly disappointing, both because of the circumstances of the tie (they were a man up for the final 58 minutes of Tuesday’s match, and Eran Zahavi hit the crossbar on a golden opportunity in the second half, leaving them a goal down) and because they have been outstanding so far this season. In the first two rounds of Champions League qualification, they beat two Eredivisie opponents by a combined 6-1, thrashed Ajax 4-0 to win the Johan Cruyff Shield, and outscored Galatasaray and Midtjylland by a combined 11-2. They’ve had roughly 30 bad minutes in nine games so far (the first half of the first leg against Benfica), and it’s been enough to keep them out of the Champions League.
Actually, the fact that PSV and Benfica were playing one other at all was a little disheartening.
Aside from the 26 automatic qualifying places, there are two routes for the remaining six berths in the Champions League group stage: the Champions road and the League path. 24 league winners from around Europe competed in three final qualifying rounds for four Champions route places in the group stage. Meanwhile, the League route gave 11 second- or third-place clubs from different leagues a chance to compete for two more group-stage spots.
The reasoning seems obvious; after all, it’s the Winners League, and league champions should be given priority. The clubs in Pot 1 this year (the “top seeds” for each group, more or less) were six league champions and Champions League and Europa League winners from the previous season.
However, in reality, this ensures that the group stage is of lower overall quality. The last two League route pairings were determined using EloFootball.com rankings, with No. 27 Benfica defeating No. 36 PSV and No. 38 Shakhtar Donetsk defeating No. 48 Monaco. Only two of the last eight clubs in the Champions route, Salzburg (No. 25) and Young Boys (No. 50), were rated in the top 50. (No. 34). No. 78 Malmo defeated No. 94 Ludogorets in one match, while No. 238 Sheriff Tiraspol stunned No. 52 Dinamo Zagreb in another.
The fact that Sheriff stunned Dinamo, allowing the Moldovan Divizia Nationala to participate in the Champions League group stage for the first time, made for an intriguing tale (and sent many down an entertaining and conflicting Wikipedia rabbit hole). The Wasps will play Inter Milan, Real Madrid, and Shakhtar Donetsk in what is expected to be a sold-out Sheriff Stadium. However, they will almost certainly finish last in their group. Any point they can get out of their six games will be a huge moral win. PSV and/or Monaco, on the other hand, might have wreaked havoc.
You might argue that Winners League qualifying favors champions, much like the NCAA Tournament in college basketball, which provides automatic invitations to 31 conferences despite the fact that the majority of them have no realistic chance of winning. The NCAA Tournament, on the other hand, provides a lot more at-large bids for the PSVs of the world, as well as single-elimination stakes. A single excellent result for Sheriff, or even a major upset, is unlikely to make a significant difference in anyone’s championship route.
This is clearly a matter of taste, and there is no one-size-fits-all solution (though simply raising the question will get me called an arrogant American again on Twitter). Do we think it’s better if league winners receive special attention so that clubs like Sheriff can shine? Or do we want the Winners League to reward more excellent teams, even if they aren’t league champions, for playing well? Is the concept of “champions” a foolish one to cling onto, given that just two of the past six Champions League winners were domestic champions?
As a PSA, life is much more enjoyable when you’re watching nice soccer teams, therefore you should watch PSV whenever you can, regardless of whatever competition they’re in.
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