A look at what’s happening around European soccer on Saturday:
Liverpool begins its title defense with a home match against promoted Leeds in an opening round of the Premier League that does not include Manchester City and Manchester United, who have been given an extra week off. Leeds – led by Argentine coaching great Marcelo Bielsa – is back in the top division after a 16-year absence and couldn’t have a tougher first outing, with Liverpool unbeaten at Anfield in the last three seasons. City and United are likely to be two of Liverpool’s big title challengers and are getting extra rest because of their involvement in European competition late last season. Chelsea could be another contender after spending around $250 million on new signings and starts its campaign on Monday at Brighton. The season opens on Saturday lunchtime with Arsenal visiting Fulham, another of the promoted teams.
The league begins this weekend without its top teams, which are getting longer breaks to rest up from their recent participation in European competitions. Champion Real Madrid, Barcelona, Atletico Madrid, and Europa League winner Sevilla all have their games of the first and second round postponed. That means Saturday’s opening day will kick off with Celta Vigo at Eibar. It will be followed by Athletic Bilbao at Granada, and a clash between the promoted sides Osasuna and Cadiz.
Coach Patrick Vieira’s strong summer recruitment drive seems to be paying off, and his table-topping Nice side looks for a third straight win when it travels to face Montpellier. Vieira made a shrewd move to bring in 20-year-old striker Amine Gouiri from Lyon. He has formed a promising partnership with Denmark’s Kasper Dolberg, the club’s top scorer last season, and they have two goals each so far. Saturday’s only other game sees ninth-place Saint-Etienne host Strasbourg, which lost its opening two matches and sits in 18th spot.
Bundesliga sides Borussia Monchengladbach, Wolfsburg and Augsburg all face lower-league opposition as the first round of the German Cup finally starts after a coronavirus-induced delay. They’re all supposed to have away games, but the modest clubs they face were unable to host the matches under the conditions needed to enforce hygiene regulations, and so the Bundesliga clubs have home games after all. Union Furstenwalde, from the north-east regional league, is one of 11 German clubs in the fourth and fifth divisions who gave up their cherished home advantage. Instead the team will travel to Wolfsburg’s empty reserve stadium. Oberneuland and Eintracht Celle also gave up home advantage, against Gladbach and Augsburg, respectively, as the virus takes a greater toll on small clubs. Also playing on Saturday, Leipzig visits Nuremberg, 1860 Munich hosts Eintracht Frankfurt, Union Berlin visits Karlsruher SC and Carl Zeiss Jena hosts Werder Bremen. Defending champion Bayern Munich’s game was put back to October to give the side more time to recover after winning the Champions League on Aug. 23.
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