European Football: What to look forward to this weekend

Lionel Messi's injury is set to keep him away from Barcelona colours until the end of the international break, however, a sensational return of Neymar from Ligue 1's Paris Saint-Germain appears to be on the cards. This and more on what to look forward to over the weekend from the rest of European football.

Juventus' match against Napoli in Serie A will be the marquee clash of the weekend among the top five leagues.   -  GETTY IMAGES

Madrid's injury woes mount, Barca waits on Neymar

At the start of the summer, it was Real Madrid rubbing its hands at the prospect of wholesale changes while Barcelona could justifiably believe the majority of its business was complete.

Madrid, though, was just getting started as 300 million euros spent appeared to pave the way for the sales of those Zinedine Zidane wanted gone and perhaps more additions too.

Yet as the market enters its final straight, Madrid is the one winding down while Barca turn their early jog into a sprint.

Neither club appears to have benefitted from a haphazard couple of months, given both have dropped points in their opening two matches in La Liga.

Madrid started brightly against Celta Vigo before familiar scoring problems resurfaced at home to Real Valladolid.

New signing Antoine Griezmann (C) scored a brace in Barcelona's first win of the La Liga season over Real Betis.   -  Getty Images

 

Barca lost to Athletic Bilbao on the season’s opening night, although bounced back by hammering Real Betis.

Valverde has not so much looked to the past as the future, throwing Ansu Fati and Carles Perez onto the field against Betis, the former aged 16 and the second youngest player ever to play for Barcelona in La Liga.

His turning to the youngsters suggests he wanted to show both that he is ready and that they are too, perhaps before Barca agree to bring back Neymar for close to 200 million euros.

Injuries have played a part. Eden Hazard would have made his debut by now were it not for a thigh strain picked up on the eve of the season while Perez and Fati enjoyed opportunities in the absence of Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Ousmane Dembele.

PSG forward Neymar is angling for a move away to Barcelona. PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES

 

Madrid's injury list includes Isco, James Rodriguez, Marco Asensio, Rodrygo, Ferland Mendy and Brahim Diaz.

Yet both coaches have seemed keen to make a point, with results now likely to dictate whether friction becomes something more serious.

Messi, out with a calf problem, may not return until after the international break, with Barcelona travelling to newly-promoted Osasuna on Saturday. Real Madrid will hope for a morale-boosting win on Sunday at Villarreal.

Their slips have allowed Atletico Madrid and Sevilla to take an early advantage, each sitting first and second in the table with six points out of six.

Sevilla hosts Celta Vigo on Friday night before Atletico plays at home to Eibar on Sunday.

Sarri awaits all-clear for Napoli clash

Maurizio Sarri could get the all-clear to be present for his first home clash as Juventus coach on Saturday against his former club Napoli, after missing the season-opener with pneumonia.

The eight-time defending champion's first home game of the campaign pits them against last season’s runners-up.

The 60-year-old has reportedly irritated club bosses by continuing to smoke despite his health issues.

Chain-smoking Sarri was photographed holding a packet of cigarettes while posing with fans outside his home earlier this week.

Juventus head coach Maurizio Sarri skipped last weekend's season-opening win at Parma after being diagnosed with pneumonia earlier this month.   -  Getty Images

 

Despite his condition, Sarri has still conducted training sessions, and in recent days has come out on the pitch, according to reports in Italy.

The former Chelsea manager spent three trophyless seasons with Napoli and his decision to join Juventus has been viewed as a betrayal by his former club and supporters.

Sarri’s continued absence could however provide a boost for Carlo Ancelotti’s Napoli, who won its opening game 4-3 against Fiorentina.

Juventus posted an uninspiring 1-0 win over Parma last weekend with Cristiano Ronaldo having a goal controversially ruled offside by VAR. Napoli’s new Mexican signing Hirving Lozano could make his debut.

Antonio Conte’s new-look Inter Milan travels to Cagliari looking to continue its impressive start after 4-0 win over promoted Lecce.

Chilean forward Alexis Sanchez is set to complete his loan move to link up with former Manchester United teammate Romelu Lukaku.

Sardinians Cagliari was shocked in its opening match to promoted Brescia.

Brescia next travels to AC Milan, which crashed to a 1-0 loss at Udinese last time out.

At the Stadio Olimpico, Lazio and Roma go head-to-head in an early-season capital-city derby.

Roma was held 3-3 by Genoa last weekend with Lazio dispatching Sampdoria 3-0.

Red-hot Lewandowski content and firing

Robert Lewandowski has been critical of Bayern Munich's transfer activity in the past but the arrival of six new players which includes the loan signing of Philippe Coutinho from Barcelona has pleased him plenty.

Coutinho made his Bayern debut as a substitute in the 3-0 demolition of Schalke 04 last weekend where Lewandowski scored a hat-trick to add to his brace from the opening weekend.

Lewandowski has sounded out a warning to table leader Borussia Dortmund that the defending champion has a better squad than them.

Lewandowski has scored all of Bayern's five goals in the Bundesliga this season. PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES

 

Dortmund has done a lot, they have a big squad," he told Bild. "But it's not about quantity, it's about quality. And that's for sure - we have the players with the higher quality."

On Coutinho, he said, "We become more unpredictable through him, that makes us more dangerous. He can play as the number ten, outside left, if necessary also on the right. We can play with different systems. We have more options now.

The Brazilian could make his first start for the club at the Allianz Arena when Bayern hosts Mainz, which has lost both its matches so far, on Saturday.

Dortmund itself has started the season in full throttle with big wins over Augsburg and FC Koln. Electric winger Jadon Sancho has scored two and has as many assists while Paco Alcacer has struck thrice.

The Black and Yellow now travels to newly promoted Union Berlin on Saturday as they aim to make it three wins in three before the international break.

RB Leipzig's hundred per cent record will be put to test against Borussia Monchengladbach at Borusssia-Park. A win for Leipzig on Friday will set it up one of the main challenger for the title alongside Dortmund.

PSG keen for end to Neymar saga

Paris Saint-Germain prepares for life without Neymar as the approaching transfer deadline day could put an end to the tiring saga. PSG can not afford to think about the impending transfer this weekend as it sits third in the table, two points behind Rennes and Lyon.

Lyon fell to a 1-0 defeat at Montpellier after a blazing start to the new season. PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES

 

Lyon, which started the season with a bang — scoring nine goals after two matches to become the first team to do so in Ligue 1 history, saw it's bubble burst at Montpellier mid-week. A healthy goal difference sees it stay above the French champion in the table though.

Monaco, which flirted with relegation for most of last season, finds itself in the bottom three at the start of the new season after two losses and one draw. The team has made much-needed signings over the course of the week. Islam Slimani and Adrien Silva have been brought in (on loan) while the club is close to finalising the return of Tiemoue Bakoyoko from Chelsea. Leonardo Jardim will be hoping for an upturn in form soon or he faces the possibility of being sacked by the club for the second time in less than a year.

(With inputs from PTI)

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