In this week’s edition of Kamal’s Top Matches of the Week it’s the definition of “Super Sunday”, as there are huge matches all over Europe including the English Premier League and French Ligue 1 so without further delay here are the Top Matches of the Week:
English Premier League: Arsenal vs. Tottenham Hotspur (Emirates Stadium) – Sunday September 1, 2013
We start our look at the Top Matches of the Week with one of the biggest rivalries in England between two sides in a perennial fight for UEFA Champions League soccer, as the Emirates Stadium plays host to the first North London Derby of the year when Tottenham face off against Arsenal.
With UEFA Champions League qualification all but wrapped up due to a 3-0 first leg lead in Turkey against Fenerbahce it’s almost certain that Arsene Wenger will rest key players for the return leg in preparation for this match while Andre Villas-Boas will be doing the same after its 5-0 first leg triumph over Dynamo Tiblisi in UEFA Europa League. After recovering from opening day humiliation in a 3-1 loss to Aston Villa the Arsenal players responded with a 3-1 victory away to Fulham on the weekend, this was a much needed result after all the bad press surrounding the clubs lack of business in the transfer market and the umpteen targets being linked to the club have fallen through.
All of that said this is the clubs first major test of the season and they’re up against a replenished Tottenham side, much of the talk surrounding the club has been the loss of superstar midfielder Gareth Bale to Real Madrid but this squad looks more than strong enough to cope after the additions of forward Roberto Soldado as well as midfielders Paulinho and Etienne Capoue. The play of the Spanish front man has made a particularly quick impression on the league, his 2 goals in as many matches via the penalty spot in 1-0 victories against Crystal Palace and Swansea City will give a questionable Arsenal backline cause for concern and going toe-to-toe with Arsenal’s main forward threat in Olivier Giroud who himself has 3 goals in 3 matches (in all competitions) is something to watch.
Rivalry matches like this are extremely difficult to call under normal circumstances but are all the more challenging when it’s the beginning of the season and there is such a small sample size to go on, however if I were leaning anywhere it would be the UNDER as although these matches can be high scoring affairs they’re also generally closely played and at this point in the season adjustments are still being made and matches this even are played close to the vest.
Prediction: UNDER 2.5 (+110)
English Premier League: Liverpool vs. Manchester United (Anfield) – Sunday September 1, 2013
The next match on our list is yet another heavyweight clash between two old English rivals of yesteryear, as the defending champions Manchester United travel to Anfield to battle Liverpool.
This is a Liverpool side that is getting quite a bit of admiration for its playing style in its second year under Brendan Rogers, the passing and movement of players such as the Brazilian midfielder Felipe Courtinho, new signing Iago Aspas and the finishing touch from English forward Daniel Sturridge who has scored both of the Reds game winners in 1-0 wins over Stoke City and Aston Villa even with the distraction of its suspended Uruguayan star Luis Suarez hanging over the club it now face the first real test this season in a game that will signal the clubs intent from this point forward.
There has been a slight period of transition for Manchester United under new manager David Moyes but with a dominating 4-1 win over Swansea City and the transfer saga involving Wayne Rooney they seem to be in relatively good shape (at the moment of writing they’ve yet to play Chelsea on Monday), this is mostly due to the stellar play of Robin Van Persie who looks to be picking up where he left off last season.
Yet another close game to call and it’s difficult to factor in how Man United will look coming into this match when they’ve yet to play Chelsea in the Monday kickoff but while my first instincts would be to take the UNDER or Manchester United outright I actually think Liverpool can come away with three points here and make a statement, they aren’t one of the better defensive sides and are up against the most lethal forward in the English game in RVP but the Reds have shown a versatility within its squad, fluidity in playing style, the game is at Anfield and for what it’s worth this is a Man United midfield and central defense that can be exploited by the quick ball movement of Liverpool.
Prediction: Liverpool ML (+150)
French Ligue 1: Olympique Marseille vs. AS Monaco (Stade Velodrome) – Sunday September 1, 2013
The last match we’re looking at this is an early top of the table clash in France, Marseille look to stay perfect this season after wins against Guingamp, Evian and Valenciennes by 3-1, 2-0 and 1-0 score lines respectively when they host the new big spenders in newly promoted AS Monaco at Stade Velodrome, a team that was held scoreless last time out in a 0-0 draw against Toulouse after big wins against Bordeaux and Montpellier to start the campaign.
With the spending power of PSG and Monaco and the talk of a two horse race being the main storylines in France the likes of Marseille can fly somewhat quietly under the radar but although they’ve had to sell key players to cut costs coach Elie Baup has been able to keep key figures as well, mainly that of midfielder Andre Ayew, defender Nicolas N’Kolou while being able to add a quality attacker in Dimitri Payet who has already contributed with 3 goals this season matching that of forward Andre-Pierre Gignac.
It will be interesting to see how they stack up against coach Claudio Ranieri and an AS Monaco side that have pushed all its chips into the middle of the table and are pushing for Champions League soccer from the off, but even with an abundance of stars with the crown jewel being Colombian goal scorer Radamel Falcao many aspects of this club look unsettled and there are rumors that players are already unhappy with the situation.
I’m siding with Marseille in this one, a club like Monaco needs time to settle into a groove and at the moment its relying almost solely on individual class, however the rumblings of discontent so early in the season are worrying and against an in form Marseille at one of the most difficult grounds to visit in France I’m going with the hosts.
Prediction: Marseille ML (+140)
If there is any weekend to break out the old phrase “Super Sunday” this might be it as there are other matches also taking place in Spain that are work checking out.
That’s it for Kamal’s Top Soccer matches of the Week, until next week I hope you can sit back relax and enjoy the games!