The fifth weekend of action since our new season kicked off will see emotions running high, as we have a legend turning out against his former club, a big derby and plenty of players raring to get back into domestic action following last weekend’s international break. Those international games saw players from across Europe kick off their respective Euro 2016 qualifying campaigns, a big replay from this summer’s World Cup final as Argentina were able to avenge their defeat to Germany in the biggest stage of the summer and Italy seemed to show that their Brazilian outing was an unfortunately timed blip as they saw off the challenge of third-placed Netherlands, who played under the guidance of new head coach Guus Hiddink following Louis van Gaal’s departure for Man Utd.
Looking first at France, who are the only nation playing the fifth round of fixtures having kicked off a week earlier than the Premier League. Bottom club Evian Thonon Gaillard look to add their first points of the season when Marseille arrive at Parc des Sports. To register those points will require a definite improvement in form from their defensive players, with goalkeeper Jesper Hansen having started all four games so far and resting presently on -30 points. Defenders Cédric Mongongu and Cédric Cambon are on -35 each, but have started only one and two games respectively, but should they participate it seems vital to keep their wits about them to counteract the attacking threat posed by the likes of Marseille striker Andre-Pierre Gignac, who has 55 points thanks to three goals from his four games so far.
League leaders Bordeaux, who are one of three unbeatean sides in the league so far and sit top due to three wins and a draw will be hoping that Diego Rolan (65 points) can maintain his solid start to the campaign when they travel to 18th placed Guingamp on Sunday. The hosts have scored only a single goal so far – that came in the 1-0 win at Lens mid-August, so Bordeaux’s defenders will hope they can keep their cool and stifle and attacking threat they are faced with. The host’s most prolific attacking points scorer so far has been striker Ladislas Douniama who has 25 – he scored that single goal, so Bordeaux will be unlikely to settle for anything other than a win in that one. Their fellow unbeaten sides, Paris Saint-Germain and Lille, take on Rennes away and Nantes at home respectively.
Across the channel to the Premier League now, former Man Utd stalwart Rio Ferdinand (15 points) returns to Old Trafford with new club QPR in what Reds boss Louis van Gaal will surely be looking at as an opportunity to claim their first competitive win of his reign in the north west. That is no disrespect to QPR, who looked good last time out against Sunderland, but these are games United traditionally look at as games they should be winning, and with new faces such as Radamel Falcao (40 points) and Daley Blind (0 points so far, no appearances) in the squad there does seem to be an air of freshness around the United team. Fellow new face Angel Di Maria (10 points) had his first taste of Premier League action in the 0-0 draw with Burnley before the break, and will be hoping he is now in a position to stamp some authority and kickstart the former champions’ campaign. New England captain Wayne Rooney (20 points) will also be hoping to celebrate his first game for United since taking the captain’s armband onto the field with the Three Lions, so look at a win for the Red Devils here.
In Germany, champions Bayern Munich do battle with VFB Stuttgart on Saturday afternoon with the home side hoping to keep up their early momentum and stay within touching distance of early season pace-setters Beyer Leverkusen, who are the only side in the league still to possess a 100% record. The campaign in Germany is only two games old though, and so a win here could see Munich climb into any position above them depending on other results. Pep Guardiola will be hoping that midfielder Arjen Robben (30 points) can provide some scoring opportunities for Robert Lewandowski (also 30 points), exposing the defensive frailties hinted at by their guests already. Stuttgart keeper Sven Ulreich is on -10 so far, but has only conceded three goals in the first two games, so that really could be a much worse record, and arguably looks worse on paper than in practice. However, Munich want to dominate the German game and will be going gung-ho to claim maximum points from this outing.
In La Liga, the biggest game of the weekend seems without doubt the big Madrid derby between hosts Real and guests Atletico on Saturday evening, and the visiting champions face their toughest task of the season so far. Neither squad has any players in negative points totals so far, though it could be argued that Atletico’s defence has outperformed Real’s attack so far. Home midfielders Gareth Bale and Toni Kroos – signed from Bayern Munich in the summer – have 30 points each so far, while striker Cristiano Ronaldo has 20. Atletico’s defending players, however, have higher totals – João Miranda De Souza is on 50, while goalkeeper Miguel Moya has 40. Other defenders in the squad, namely Cristian Ansaldi and Diego Godín are on 30 each. That looks clear cut on paper, but a game against Real at the Bernabeu is never going to be an easy trip for any team in the world, nor should it be assumed that points will be won. Hoped for, yes, but assumed – no. This one could go to a draw, or literally either alternative way – it’s tough to call, but perhaps plump for any attacking Real players you have to get things out of first gear.
Finally we move over to Serie A, where the league’s second games of the season mean there remains little to really be said about early season form, with Gianluigi Buffon, goalkeeper for reigning champions Juventus, sitting on 40 points alongside fellow custodians Daniele Padelli (Torino) and Orestis Karnezis of Udinese, among many others. That points total is also shared by Karnezis’ striking team-mate Antonio Di Natale, and indeed Juve take on Udinese in Turin on Saturday evening. Despite the fact Udinese have the top striker in the game based on the first week’s fixtures, Juventus will surely be looking to maintain their title defence following their opening day victory over Chievo, though Udinese scored one more than Juve on opening day in their 2-0 win over Empoli. This, like the Madrid derby, may go to a draw – but the safe money seems to go on a Juventus win, and so any fantasy managers with a Juve attacker in their squad may do well to stick them into their starting 11 ahead of this weekend’s game.