Man City vs Chelsea
In a direct confrontation between the two, I would go with Jose Mourinho to better Manuel Pellegrini eight times out of every ten.
But with players of the quality available to either team the dynamics that would decide a game like this could not start and stop with the managers. Mourinho produced a tactical masterclass at the Etihad last season, but it would be disappointing if Pellegrini were to allow a repeat, having been ambushed by an attacking Chelsea where all had expected them to park the bus.
This time out Chelsea’s attack is much sharper and both defences are still leaky. But City’s midfield should be much improved from the one they put out against Arsenal, and for that I see yet another big game ending up all square. Draw
West Ham vs Liverpool
On the narrow Upton Park pitch this game is most likely to be played at frenetic pace and will be very competitive. Liverpool are already discovering that last season and this are two different worlds, with the intricacies of juggling between Europe and home every three days affecting tactics and selection, as well as raising fitness/fatigue concerns.
West Ham on the other hand have recruited well and vastly improved on the team’s technical qualities. I don’t see Liverpool keeping a clean sheet against Enner Valencia, Sakho, Zarate, Downing and co, but the Merseysiders have more match winners on their side. Away win
Aston Villa vs Arsenal
The Villans have started the season impressively and are looking lively across all departments. They have got to lose that unbeaten record at some point however, and this is as good a time as any. The solid Phillip Senderos is not likely to enjoy this outing as much as he did the one at Anfield last weekend, and if Arsene Wenger freshens up with more playing time for midweek benchwarmers Carzola, Oxlade-Chamberlain and Podolski (or even Thomas Rosicky), they will prove too strong.
It is hard to see Arsenal keep a clean sheet here even if the return of Calum Chambers will improve their defence, but on the other end there could be a first goal for Danny Welbeck. Away win
Leicester vs Man United
This is not QPR and neither is it Old Trafford. Leicester are far and away the best of the newly promoted clubs so far, and in front of their home fans are going to shake up this re-gigged Man United in a way that will surprise the new boys, especially Daley Blind in the middle and Marcos Rojo at the back. Led by the Argentine Ulloa and attacking with fearlessness and pace, they should get to and past David De Gea. But as I reckon with Liverpool and Arsenal this weekend, the Gaalacticos should eventually outgun the Foxes, but to be able to do that they will have to control possession and the tempo. Away win
Hamburg vs Bayern
They might still be unbeaten, but Bayern Munich have not had a comfortable start to the season, and one piece of evidence is the relatively paltry five-goal return in three matches for a team with such firepower. And having played a tough Champions League match in midweek, this traditionally big Bundesliga game will further stretch the champions. However, even with all that and the long injury list that plagues them, they should still forge through. Away win
Mainz vs Dortmund
Dortmund do have a lengthy injury list too, and particularly miss Hummels, Reus and Blaszczkowski now that they have grown accustomed to being without the talismanic Gundogan. But they beefed up the squad really well this time round, with Immobile, Ramos and Ginter being joined by Kagawa through the entry door. That squad strength coupled with the momentum they have built from recent wins will carry them through this and many other weekends. Away win & Over
Wolfsburg vs Leverkusen
Table-topping Bayer Leverkusen suffered their first defeat of the season away to Monaco in the Champions League on Tuesday, but should have had enough time to recover by Sunday. It is just that they travel to face another very decent outfit, one with the ability to cause some upheaval. The Bundesliga’s early pacesetters should be good for at least a point all the same. Draw.
AC Milan vs Juventus
Filipo Inzaghi played for both clubs and Massimiliano Allegri has coached both, and now the two come face to face in the Serie A’s biggest clash of the weekend. Milan have the advantages of the San Siro and a week-long rest, and also have confidence drawn from a good start to the season; but Allegri has the better experience, an inside understanding of the current Milan’s weaknesses and overall the better team and better players. Juve’s experience in defence (Chiellini, Bonuci, Caceres, Evra), strength in midfield (Pogba, Marchisio), in the wide areas (Asamoah, Lichensteiner), and firepower upfront (Tevez, Llorente, Morata) make them the odds on favourites here. Away win
Roma vs Cagliari
Like Liverpool in England, a return to Champions League football for Roma is bound to stretch their resources and ensure they don’t enjoy quite the same comforts in the league as last season. But they are equipped with great team cohesion and spirit, and at least on this occasion are lucky that they have been drawn to play both midweek and weekend fixtures at home. There will be harder tests ahead, but this is one they should navigate. Home win
Parlemo vs Inter
The 7-0 drubbing of Sassuolo last weekend is bound to have lifted Inter’s confidence and opened their eyes to the immense potential of the current collection. Walter Mazzari should be able to use that to motivate them into back-to-back wins that have become a rarity for this club. Away win
Atletico Madrid vs Celta Vigo
Things did not quite work out for Atletico in midweek - beaten in Greece - but the La Liga champions return to the comforts of the Vicente Calderon to make amends. It is too early in the season for fatigue to be a major factor for arguably Europe’s fittest outfit, and Celta Vigo are due to be under intense pressure from onset. Home win
Deportivo vs Real Madrid
It has been a stuttering start to La Liga for the European champions, with back-to-back losses to Sociedad and Atletico Madrid putting them at an early disadvantage in what should be a three-way title race. It all came together for them against Basel in midweek however, and the fact that all four star forwards Ronaldo, Bale, Benzema and Rodriguez scored will do their confidence and their egos a world of good, and see them past Depor too. Away win
Levante vs Barcelona
The games are coming thick and fast for Barcelona now, but it is a schedule that suits them perfectly. Messi and Neymar are looking quite sharp, but so are some newcomers around them, especially the exciting young graduate Mounir El Haddadi and the talented import Ivan Rakitic. They too should negotiate this game on the road. Away win
PSG vs Lyon
The champions cannot buy a win at the moment, being held to draws at home and in Europe for a few weeks now. It is not a trend that will go on forever, what with the quality they still possess in their ranks. Lyon are strong enough to be their true challengers for the title this season, and perhaps it is the kind of challenge that Ibrahimovic and company have been waiting for. Home win
Monaco vs Guingamp
They too haven’t had the best of starts domestically and are languishing on the wrong end of the table, but that win over Bayer Leverkusen in Europe in midweek should have given them an injection of much needed confidence.
Never mind the high profile departures, a team with a midfield three of Toulalan, Kondogbia and Moutinho, and a front pairing of Berbatov and Ocampos should still be too good for some local opposition, Guingamp for one. Home win
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