This weekend in European soccer: Previews, predictions for 5 must-see games
Every week, theScore will pick standout matches to watch across Europe. This weekend's slate features two blockbuster Premier League clashes and sheer desperation in Spain.
Chelsea vs. Manchester City
When: Saturday, Sept. 25 (7:30 a.m. ET)
Where to watch: NBCSN (U.S.), DAZN (Canada)
Tuesday's 6-1 League Cup win over Wycombe Wanderers was exactly what Manchester City players and their boss, Pep Guardiola, needed after failing to muster a shot on target a few days earlier against Southampton.
Kevin De Bruyne and Phil Foden both managed 90 minutes for the first time this season, with the latter supplying two assists and unleashing a thunderbolt finish in a superb showing. Riyad Mahrez also scored twice after recently - and surprisingly - losing his place on the right of City's attack to Gabriel Jesus.
But that was third-tier Wycombe. Chelsea arguably pose the biggest challenge in English football right now.
City supporters will be calling for De Bruyne and Foden to start again as they return to match fitness, but Guardiola may exercise caution after his cavalier lineup for May's Champions League final defeat to Chelsea backfired. The assured presence of one or both of Fernandinho and Rodri, and the tenacity of Bernardo Silva, could be crucial for the Stamford Bridge trip.
Additionally, Guardiola will be wary of rushing some injury-hit stars into action when City's Champions League group clash with Paris Saint-Germain kicks off just three days later. Chelsea have an extra day to prepare for their European scuffle with an underperforming Juventus side.
Prediction: Chelsea defend stoutly in an impressive win.
Arsenal vs. Tottenham Hotspur
When: Sunday, Sept. 26 (11:30 a.m. ET)
Where to watch: NBCSN (U.S.), DAZN (Canada)
Nuno Espirito Santo is concerned. He's complained about how the "good feeling" from Tottenham Hotspur's strong start to the season has evaporated and that there's little time on the training ground to put it right. He also suggested Harry Kane's recent anonymity was a symptom of team-wide problems.
Then Spurs beat Wolverhampton Wanderers on penalties in Wednesday's League Cup affair, but only after Nuno's side was vulnerable in the second half once again. Tottenham have conceded 10 goals over their past four outings, with only two of those strikes occurring in the opening period of matches.
So, Arsenal should eye back-to-back victories over their north London foes for the first time since 2014. Mikel Arteta didn't introduce any new academy kids into the fold for the midweek win over AFC Wimbledon, preferring to play first-teamers into form ahead of Sunday's derby. Thomas Partey was given 60 minutes after his recent injury issues and seems ready to start and, therefore, significantly strengthen the Gunners' midfield against Spurs. Bukayo Saka, meanwhile, was interestingly played on the right when he was brought on as a late substitute during Wimbledon's visit.
Prediction: Arsenal come out on top in an ill-tempered affair.
Lazio vs. Roma
When: Sunday, Sept. 26 (12:00 p.m. ET)
Where to watch: CBS Sports Network (U.S.), FuboTV (Canada)
Roma should enter Sunday's Derby della Capitale with far more confidence than eternal rivals Lazio. Jose Mourinho's settled into the job nicely, winning over his players with the same underdog narrative that propelled him to glory in stints at Chelsea and Inter Milan. The only blemish on his record is a wild 3-2 loss to Hellas Verona. Roma quickly put that result behind them with a plucky 1-0 victory at home to Udinese on Thursday.
A number of players - both old and new - are thriving under the supervision of the Portuguese firebrand. Tammy Abraham, who joined the Giallorossi for a reported €40 million, endeared himself to the fans almost immediately, needing just a few starts to show his alertness in front of goal and great work ethic off the ball. Mourinho also handed a second chance to Henrikh Mkhitaryan, who has reasserted himself as a starter after losing the manager's faith during their time together at Manchester United.
Two things bode well for Lazio: They're the home team, and Roma will be without captain Lorenzo Pellegrini, who was suspended after being red-carded in Thursday's win.
But the good news ends there. The Biancocelesti are winless in four matches and lack the zip they normally produce. Manager Maurizio Sarri is returning from a two-match ban for reaming out the referee, and the kind of high-pressing football that made him such an appealing hire is yet to materialize.
Prediction: Roma shut out Lazio to keep pace at the top of the table.
Borussia Monchengladbach vs. Borussia Dortmund
When: Saturday, Sept. 25 (12:30 p.m. ET)
Where to watch: ESPN+ (U.S.), Sportsnet World (Canada)
Head coach Marco Rose shouldn't expect the kindest of receptions upon his return to Borussia Park. Rose's Monchengladbach went into a tailspin after he announced in February that he was joining Borussia Dortmund, losing 10 of their last 16 matches across all competitions.
Of more immediate concern is Gladbach's position in the table. Rose's replacement, Adi Hutter, hasn't quite galvanized the side, which sits in 16th place after winning just one of its five Bundesliga fixtures to date. The opposite is true of Dortmund, who are coming to life under Rose despite a litany of injuries to their defensive corps. Star striker Erling Haaland already has eight goals across all competitions, and midfielder Jude Bellingham has offered his Norwegian teammate support with clever runs into the penalty area.
But Dortmund's defense remains an issue: Only four teams have conceded more than Dortmund's 11 goals in the Bundesliga this season. Center-back Dan-Axel Zagadou is nearing a return from a serious knee injury, but he's unlikely to be available for kickoff on Saturday. BVB will have to find solutions the only way they know how: by outscoring the opposition.
Prediction: Haaland decides a thrilling contest with another multi-goal performance.
Barcelona vs. Levante
When: Sunday, Sept. 26 (10:15 a.m. ET)
Where to watch: ESPN+ (U.S.), TSN3 (Canada)
The reason why this match is included is obvious: schadenfreude. The current state of Barcelona often makes their matches fascinating affairs - and rather enjoyable for anyone who isn't a Barca fan.
Defenders Gerard Pique and Ronald Araujo appeared up front alongside sluggish, gangly forward Luuk de Jong when Barcelona repeatedly punted hopeful balls into the box during Monday's visit from Granada. In Thursday's draw with Cadiz, the referee let play continue when there were two balls on the pitch until Sergio Busquets kicked the spare one at Salvi to scupper a late Cadiz attack.
It's desperate, ugly stuff from a club famed for its beautiful football. Even Memphis Depay, who was one of this term's few positives, now appears worn by the burden of trying to fill Lionel Messi's boots.
A negative result against Levante would be inexcusable, though. The Valencian club is missing several key figures through injury and its more adventurous style of play should - should - play into Barcelona's hands. Levante haven't won a competitive match since April and are positioned 16th before the weekend's slate begins.
Prediction: Barcelona get a much-needed, yet not wholly convincing, win.