10 Key Battles in World Football for Weekend of August 22-25
Another weekend of top-flight football around the globe is rapidly heading toward us, with plenty of important or interesting key fixtures set to take place.
We've scoured Europe's top leagues and plenty in North and South America to find the must-watch battles of the weekend, pinpointing why each one is worthy of viewing and whetting the appetite for another few days of nonstop football action.
Here are the best 10; catch as many as you can!
Bayern Munich vs. Wolfsburg
Bayern Munich are one of the world's biggest clubs, and Pep Guardiola is one of the world's best coaches. Put them together and you have an incredible amount of expectancy—both on results and performances.
Having lost to Borussia Dortmund in the Super Cup, Bayern will have all eyes on them to see if they manage to hit the ground running in domestic league action, with a new system in place and a handful of new signings, too.
Wolfsburg are tipped by many to make a break for the Champions League spots this season, so Friday night's opener will give us an indication of just what to expect from both sides.
Atletico Madrid vs. Real Madrid
There's a trophy at stake in this fixture; it's the Spanish Super Cup second leg.
The first ended in a 1-1 draw, tame for 80 minutes before exploding into life late on at the Santiago Bernabeu. James Rodriguez scored his first Real Madrid goal, and Cristiano Ronaldo suffered a back injury, before Raul Garcia levelled things late on.
It's Madrid, it's a derby, and it's the first minor honours of the season. The Vicente Calderon awaits.
Everton vs. Arsenal
Over in the Premier League in England, Arsenal and Everton were fighting it out tooth and nail for fourth place last season and a Champions League spot, which the Gunners eventually took.
Everton beat Arsenal comfortably and confidently when the two sides met toward the end of the season, though, and perhaps only squad depth and an easier fixture run-in provided the end result tilted in favour of Arsene Wenger's men.
The two meet at Goodison Park on Saturday in an early battle between two of the expected top-six sides for this year.
Borussia Dortmund vs. Bayer Leverkusen
Two of last season's top four on the opening day of the season? Oh, go on then, Bundesliga.
Bayer Leverkusen were second in the German top flight for much of the first half of last season, before a dip in form necessitated a change in manager and an eventual fourth-place finish. Borussia Dortmund took their place as the nearest challengers to winners Bayern, though there was a chasm between the two.
Getting off to a good start will be important for both, but neither are likely to be too worried if they don't take all three points. They're both capable of finishing in the top four anyway; this should simply be a great game to watch.
Sevilla vs. Valencia
These two would-be giants of the Spanish game are expected to put up a much better fight for a top-four finish this season—particularly Valencia, who have looked impressive over the summer.
The two met in the latter stages of the Europa League last term, which Sevilla went on to win, and they clash on the opening day of La Liga this weekend.
With the top three of the league looking set to be the same sides as last season, fourth places carries enormous importance. Games between the sides around that position—these two, Athletic Bilbao, Real Sociedad and Villarreal—could be vital in determining who makes the Champions League, even at this early stage.
Santos Laguna vs. Toluca
Heading away from Europe momentarily, we have a huge game in Mexico's Liga MX in which Santos Laguna play host to Toluca. Both teams have an identical record so far in the Apertura: two wins, two draws and one defeat and place sixth and fifth, respectively.
Head back to last season's Clausura and these were two of the top-four sides, Toluca ending as runners up, before they both went on to reach the semi-finals of the season's knockout stage.
The interesting matchup here is that Santos Laguna have not yet won at home this season, and Toluca have not yet won away. Can either break that streak this weekend?
Dallas vs. Real Salt Lake
Over in MLS, we have a battle from the top of the Western Conference as Dallas play host to Real Salt Lake.
It's third vs. first, but the top end of the division is so tight that Dallas can go joint-top if they take victory, with both teams having played the same number of games.
Dallas are unbeaten in their last nine MLS games, winning five of the last six, while Real Salt Lake have taken four wins from their last five and have only lost once since the end of June, a run of eight games.
Nantes vs. Monaco
Over in Ligue 1, there can be little doubt that new Monaco boss Leonardo Jardim is already a man under scrutiny.
Last season's runners-up have lost both games this season under his leadership, have not really signed anybody worthy of note over the close season and were soundly beaten 4-1 by Bordeaux last time out, having led 1-0 at the break.
Nantes, meanwhile, have taken four points from their two opening games.
Ajax vs. PSV Eindhoven
One of the biggest games of any Eredivisie season takes place on Sunday, with Ajax hosting PSV Eindhoven in the late afternoon kick-off.
Ajax have won the league title three years on the spin under Frank de Boer, while PSV were rather disappointing last term in ending the campaign in fourth place.
Memphis Depay, though, is the in-form player at the start of this Dutch season, and with him, PSV will be hopeful of picking up a positive result, even away from home, to continue their 100 percent start to 2014-15. Both teams have won two from two so far.
Manchester City vs. Liverpool
It's only the second game of the Premier League season, but perhaps the biggest clash in terms of offensive talent and potential takes place at the Etihad Stadium on Monday night.
Last season's Premier League champions Manchester City host runners-up Liverpool, after the two met late on last season (Liverpool home win) and in pre-season (draw, Liverpool on penalties) over in the United States.
Philippe Coutinho, Sergio Aguero, Stevan Jovetic, Raheem Sterling, Yaya Toure, Daniel Sturridge, David Silva...the final-third talent on display could be enormous, and May's league fixture was enthralling.
And according to Ben Smith of BBC Sport, Mario Balotelli might even make an appearance!