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Friday, September 14, 2018

European football weekend: What to watch in the main leagues

What to watch in European football this weekend as the leagues resume after the international break.
The Premier League’s fifth round opens with a clash of last season’s top scorers when Mohamed Salah’s Liverpool travels to Harry Kane’s Tottenham. Salah claimed the Golden Boot in May with 32 goals, two more than Kane.
In a slugging start to the season, Salah and Kane only have two each going into Saturday’s game at Wembley Stadium. A perfect start to the season shows Liverpool hasn’t been as reliant on Salah, but Tottenham slumped to its first loss at Watford before the international break on a day when Kane couldn’t find the net.
Watford has made a surprisingly sprightly start to the season. The club’s 100 percent record is on the line on Saturday against a Manchester United side which has collected six points from a possible 12.
Chelsea, which has four wins out of four like Liverpool and Watford, hosts Cardiff on Saturday. Cardiff is one of five teams without a win so far. West Ham hasn’t even collected a point heading into Sunday’s game against Everton.
Cristiano Ronaldo continues his pursuit of his first Serie A goal when Juventus hosts Sassuolo on Sunday. Ronaldo has not found the net in his first three matches in Italy. Although he also didn’t score until his fourth league match with Real Madrid last season, the forward did score in other competitions for the Spanish club during that span.
Ronaldo didn’t play for Portugal during the international break so he could focus on training with Juventus. Sassuolo, which sits second, two points behind Juventus, has been boosted by the arrival of Kevin-Prince Boateng, who has scored two goals in three matches.
The weekend’s most attractive match could be on Sunday when last season’s runner-up Napoli hosts Fiorentina, which has made a perfect start. Besides Juventus, Fiorentina is the only other club with a perfect record, although the Tuscan team has played one fewer match since its opener against Sampdoria was postponed until next week. Fiorentina has scored seven goals and conceded one. Napoli is looking to bounce back from a 3-0 loss at Sampdoria.
Barcelona and Real Madrid will chase a fourth victory in as many matches when they visit clubs in the northern Basque Country on Saturday. Barcelona visits Real Sociedad, which has caused the Catalan club trouble in recent years. Barcelona had to come back from two goals down to win 4-2 last year for its first win at Anoeta Stadium since 2007.
Madrid plays at Athletic Bilbao, which hasn’t played a match since Aug. 28 due to the international break and the postponement of its Round 3 match at Rayo Vallecano because of the poor state of Rayo’s stadium. Atletico Madrid, last year’s runner-up, hosts Eibar on Saturday needing a win to make sure it doesn’t fall further behind the co-leaders. After just one victory, Diego Simeone’s side is five points adrift in 10th place.
Celta Vigo aims to extend its strong start under new coach Antonio Mohamed when it visits Girona on Monday. Celta is third after two wins and a draw.
With Kylian Mbappe suspended for three league games, Paris Saint-Germain coach Thomas Tuchel will need to make adjustments against Saint-Etienne on Friday night at the Parc des Princes, with the team aiming to stay perfect this season. Mbappe was banned for reacting to a late challenge from Teji Savanier by shoving the Nimes midfielder to the ground before the international break.
The most obvious choice for Tuchel would be to give a starting role to Julian Draxler on the left side, with Angel Di Maria repositioned on the right in support of Edinson Cavani. Italy midfielder Marco Verratti, who has not played in more than a month, is expected to return after recovering from a thigh injury, while 25-year-old France `keeper Alphonse Areola seems to have gained an edge over Gianluigi Buffon in their rivalry. Tuchel said Areola is “in pole position to be number one because he is younger.” The 40-year-old Buffon signed for PSG this summer from Juventus.
Among Saturday’s games, second-placed Dijon hosts Angers while Monaco travels to Toulouse and Lyon plays Caen away ahead of its trip to Manchester City in the Champions League.
Four teams, including Schalke and Bayer Leverkusen, are looking for their first points. Schalke, runner-up last season, plays Borussia Moenchengladbach aiming to avoid a third successive loss. Gladbach has a wealth of options in attack with Thorgan Hazard, Patrick Herrmann, Raffael, Ibrahima Traore and new signing Alassane Plea, who marked his debut with a hat trick in the German Cup.
Leverkusen plays earlier Saturday at Bayern Munich, which has made a perfect start to its title defense. Wolfsburg and Hertha Berlin have also won two out of two and meet on Saturday. Eintracht Frankfurt gets the third round underway at Borussia Dortmund on Friday.