10 Players to Watch in World Football for Weekend of September 4-8
Welcome to our regular weekly feature of the players from around the world to watch over the coming weekend—and it's an extended version this weekend to take into account the international break.
We'll focus on players who could represent their national teams both in friendly matches—taking place from Thursday to Sunday—and competitive action, with Euro 2016 qualifiers on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday.
Rather than pick the world's top players we'll select those who either have something to prove, have had a standout start to the new campaign or are watchable for some other relevant reason.
Cesc Fabregas, Spain
Spain's squad has certainly seen some changes since the World Cup failure, with the likes of Xabi Alonso, Xavi, Gerard Pique, Fernando Torres and Juan Mata all excluded for one reason or another, along with two of the three "normal" goalkeepers.
One player who looks ready to step up and take his own regular starting spot at last is Cesc Fabregas, who should be the beneficiary of the space created by the midfield places vacated by the international retirements of Xavi and Xabi Alonso. Slotting him into the centre alongside with Andres Iniesta and Sergio Busquets gives Spain enormous balance, technical ability and creativity going forward.
Throw in his immediately impressive link-up play with team-mate Diego Costa at club level, and that could be Spain's new way forward to success.
Diego Tardelli, Brazil
With five caps and no goals yet to his name, 29-year-old Diego Tardelli looks set to replace Fred as Brazil's starting No. 9 in their friendly against Colombia.
Tardelli has not been in scintillating form of late for his club, Atletico Mineiro, hitting just five goals in 14 games, but he looks set to be given the first chance to stake a claim to be the nation's new striker.
Erick Torres, Mexico
Mexico face Bolivia and Chile in friendlies over the coming days, and with the likes of Javier Hernandez omitted from the latest squad, 21-year-old forward Erick Torres can expect to get some game time, whether as a starter or off the bench.
Uncapped at present but having shown promise Chivas in MLS this term, netting 13 goals so far, "El Cubo" is one of Mexico's top prospects.
He is one of four uncapped players in the current squad and the second-youngest, behind one-cap Rodolfo Pizarro.
Raheem Sterling, England
Teenage attacking midfielder Raheem Sterling has just eight international caps to his name, but he is arguably England's most important player.
One of the few in the national side who can beat a defender with the ball at his feet, Sterling's acceleration and comfortable approach to having the ball is rapidly looking like the only game-changing outlet England have.
He was Man of the Match in England's friendly vs. Norway and will be pivotal to any chance of success they have in the Euro 2016 qualifier against Switzerland.
Alexandre Lacazette, France
France's squad doesn't show too many alterations from the World Cup 23, and with having had a fairly impressive campaign, that's not surprising.
However, they don't have a competitive game just yet, and they will instead play two friendlies against Spain and Serbia, giving manager Didier Deschamps a chance to look at other players who can make a breakthrough, such as forward Alexandre Lacazette.
The Lyon attacker has scored three goals in four Ligue 1 games this season, adding to the 15 he notched last term. With just two caps to his name and no Olivier Giroud in the France squad, this is a chance for him to show he can step up and be a regular squad option.
Marco Reus, Germany
Marco Reus was one of the most in-form players at the back end of 2013-14, but he missed the 2014 FIFA World Cup through injury. In the grand scheme of things, it shouldn't be too difficult for a player of Reus' calibre to get back into a national team—but Germany became world champions in his absence.
The Borussia Dortmund man was handed a start in a much-changed line-up for Germany's friendly defeat against Argentina, with the likes of Julian Draxler, Matthias Ginter and Erik Durm all starting too, but their Euro 2016 qualifier against Scotland will be the acid test.
Should Jogi Low give Reus the nod, he could run riot.
Memphis Depay, Netherlands
Netherlands and PSV forward Memphis Depay has started the new Eredivisie campaign in blistering form, rocking up with five goals and an assist in the first four games.
That alone makes him worth watching in Dutch colours, but with Arjen Robben sidelined though injury, there is a definite starting spot there to be won for Depay.
Netherlands play Italy in a friendly and Czech Republic in a qualifier over the next few days.
James Rodriguez, Colombia
James Rodriguez has had a tough introduction to life in La Liga, mixing some efficient, if not hugely effective, displays for Real Madrid with stretches of the first couple of games seeming to bypass him.
Having shot to more prominence than ever before in the World Cup, he now returns to his Colombia shirt to face Brazil, the side who knocked out James' team at the quarter-final stage.
For his own confidence and form, he'll be hoping to have a big impact on the game and get a more adventurous, exciting 90 minutes in his best position under his belt.
Thorgan Hazard, Belgium
Belgium's latest squad contains a Lukaku and a Hazard—but not the ones you might expect. Defender Jordan Lukaku is in, not striker Romelu, and Eden Hazard has been replaced by Thorgan.
They play just the one friendly, against Australia, with no qualifier this week, so it is a chance for Marc Wilmots to take a closer look at those who have been on the fringes.
Thorgan Hazard already has one cap for his nation but is highly tipped to have a big impact on the international scene over the coming seasons. He is at Borussia Monchengladbach in the Bundesliga this term, on loan from Chelsea.
Ciro Immobile, Italy
We finish up with Italian striker Ciro Immobile, who looks set to be handed a start in the friendly against the Netherlands.
If he performs well, he could be the starting No. 9 for his national team against Norway in their first Euro 2016 qualifier, so there is plenty of expectancy and pressure on his shoulders.
Immobile is yet to score at senior international level, in four appearances, and he has not yet scored in competitive action for Borussia Dortmund, his new club.