6 Biggest Games to Watch This Weekend on Planet Football

Michael Cummings@MikeCummings37World Football Lead WriterAugust 23, 2012

6 Biggest Games to Watch This Weekend on Planet Football

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    So, class, what did we learn from opening weekend?

    Among other developments here on Planet Football, we learned last weekend that Manchester City still love drama, the English Premier is still bonkers and money still can't buy happiness for Paris Saint-Germain.

    This weekend, regular-season matches start in Italy and Germany, while England and Spain continue to bring the excitement. Just imagine the possibilities.

    We're only a couple of days removed from what should be another full-tilt weekend in world football. Read on for our picks for the weekend's biggest matches.

Chelsea vs. Newcastle

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    Details: Saturday, 12:30 p.m. ET, Stamford Bridge, London

    TV: FOX Soccer Channel

    Chelsea top the English Premier League table for two reasons. One, they've played two matches while everyone else has played one, and two, because Eden Hazard, their new, all-conquering, silky-skilled Belgian savior, is everything anyone ever thought he might be.

    The Blues have compiled six points from those two matches, and, as Chelsea supporters are such reasonable, level-headed folks, they will insist this is because their team represents all that is good and right about football today.

    Maybe so, but the rest of us will point to Fernando Torres' offside goal against Reading on Wednesday and caution that it's still too early to declare Chelsea back.

    In fairness, though, we'll also point to this weekend's home match against Newcastle United as a litmus test.

    Beating Wigan and Reading, impressed as we all are, was fine and dandy. Beating Newcastle would be something else entirely. Under Alan Pardew, the Magpies have reinvented themselves as the North East's answer to Arsene Wenger and his late-'90s Francophile revolution.

    That seems appropriate enough, really. William the Conquerer was Norman or French or whatever, and—dang, I'm really geeking out over here.

    Point is, Newcastle's roster has enough francophone talent—Papiss Cisse, Demba Ba, Yohan Cabaye and Hatem Ben Arfa to name a few—for the local stores to justify carrying ascots and Daft Punk records.

    And not only that, but they're pretty good. More than being merely French-y, Newcastle's revolution means they're now regular contenders for the top four.

    Simply put, this is Chelsea's biggest test of the new season so far. Newcastle, who already beat Tottenham, will be pumped and ready to go.

    Rating (out of 5): 4 stars

    Prediction: Chelsea win. Yes, I'm trying to jinx them.

Liverpool vs. Manchester City

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    Details: Sunday, 11 a.m. ET, Anfield, Liverpool, England

    TV: FOX Soccer Channel

    Manchester City survived their own scare against a recently promoted side, coming from behind to beat Southampton, 3-2, on opening weekend.

    Much like with Chelsea, most onlookers were mighty impressed with City's ability to come back from a 2-1 deficit against a team that last year lost to such heavyweights as Leicester City, Cardiff City, Doncaster Rovers and Bristol City. No, really. Well done.

    As if on cue, City made it rain in the gossip pages this week, as stories poured forth about their big-money interest in Chelsea defender David Luiz (£30 million, via Manchester Evening News), and Fiorentina forward Stevan Jovetic (€25 million, via ESPN Soccernet). You know, just because it's fun to watch Señor Tevez squirm

    Liverpool have an entirely different set of issues.

    Brendan Rodgers' pass-happy revolution started with a clunk as the Reds crashed to a 3-0 defeat to West Bromwich Albion on opening day. Viewers of the match know that, far from it being an unlucky defeat, the final scoreline actually flattered Liverpool significantly.

    Meanwhile, Andy Carroll remains a Red and Clint Dempsey can't seem to talk his way out of Fulham. So all in all, Liverpool are off to an awful start, the transfer market won't cooperate and Manchester City are coming to town.

    What could possibly go wrong?

    Rating: 4.5 stars

    Prediction: City win. Is it too early to say Rodgers is on the hot seat?

Juventus vs. Parma

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    Details: Saturday, 2:45 p.m. ET, Juventus Stadium, Turin, Italy

    TV: beIN Sport

    Parma finished eighth in Serie A last year and should be a tough opponent this season no matter whom they're playing. But this match doesn't really have much to do with them.

    This match is all about Juventus.

    The Bianconeri won the Scudetto last season under first-year manager Antonio Conte. This summer, Conte earned a 10-month ban for his role in a match-fixing scandal that involved Siena, his former club (Guardian).

    Oops. And things were looking so good, too.

    After their failed pursuit of Robin van Persie, Juventus still don't have a headline-grabbing name up top. But defender Martin Caceres joined from Sevilla, midfielder/full-back Mauricio Isla from Udinese and forward Sebastian Giovinco from Parma. (OK, so maybe this does have a bit to do with Parma.)

    But without Conte on the touchline this season, how will all the new pieces fit into this squad? For that matter, how will the whole squad react?

    The first clues come Saturday.

    Rating: 3.5 stars

    Prediction: Classic us-against-the-world potential for Juventus. Inspirational win.

Atletico Madrid vs. Athletic Bilbao

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    Details: Monday, 4 p.m. ET, Vicente Calderon, Madrid

    TV: Stream

    This one is simple and straight-forward.

    It's a rematch of last season's UEFA Europa League final. Atletico won that one, 3-0.

    Athletic Bilbao have a couple of contract rebels, Fernando Llorente and Javi Martinez, bringing down the squad. Neither is expected to play.

    Marcelo Bielsa is a mad, mad genius.

    And Radamel Falcao is one bad, bad man.

    Rating: 3.5 stars

    Prediction: Falcao runs riot, like always. Anzhi Makhachkala pile on an addition £5 million to their crazy offer (via talkSPORT). 

Palmeiras vs. Santos

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    Details: Saturday, 5:30 p.m. ET, Paulo Machado de Carvalho, São Paulo, Brazil

    TV: Stream

    This is a Brazilian rivalry, but this season, neither team is lighting up the Brasileirão table.

    Palmeiras are struggling so much, in fact, that Luiz Felipe Scolari has drawn up a new sideline routine. Actually, I can't back that up. But, hey, post-match fights with players along the touchline—always fun!

    Anyway, Santos will counter with Neymar, the 20-year-old mohawked maestro that every club in Europe wants a piece of these days. Haven't seen what all the fuss is about?

    Might as well tune in. You could see this, this or anything in between.

    Rating: 3.5 stars

    Prediction: Neymar punches Big Phil and somehow convinces the referee to award a penalty and converts it for the second-half winner.

Sporting Kansas City vs. New York Red Bulls

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    Details: Sunday, 9 p.m. ET, Livestrong Sporting Park, Kansas City, Kan.

    TV: ESPN2

    Bring on the outrage!

    How could I include an MLS match, you ask? MLS matches can't compare to Europe, you say? (Well, you got me there.) There aren't any good players in MLS, you think? (Wrong.) Can't figure out why the teams have those stupid names? (Yeah, neither can I).

    That's fine. But why not give the Euro snobbery a weekend off? This is a matchup of the two best teams in the Eastern Conference. (Yes, I know, conferences don't go with football, and why is Kansas City in the East anyway?) And since they're jockeying for playoff position, there will be an almost cup-like atmosphere in the stadium.

    Thierry Henry may or may not do anything of note, but this game is still worth your time.

    Rating: 3.5 stars

    Prediction: Sporting 2, Red Bulls 1

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