MATCHDAY: Newcastle plays its first game under new ownership
A look at what’s happening in European soccer on Sunday:
Newcastle plays its first game under new ownership when Tottenham travels to St. James’ Park in the Premier League. Newcastle was bought out last week by Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, whose vast resources are likely to turn the northeast club into one of the biggest in the country within a few years. In the short term, Newcastle just needs to get out of the relegation zone, having started the eighth round of games in 19th place and without a win so far. Mid-table Tottenham ended a three-game losing run by winning its last match before the international break. In the other match, Everton hosts West Ham having lost only one of its first seven games under recently hired manager Rafa Benitez.
Barcelona hosts Valencia in the first of a three-game home stint that coach Ronald Koeman calls key to getting back on the winning path. Barcelona has won only once in its last six matches in all competitions and sits ninth in the Liga standings, right behind Valencia. Despite the public support shown by club president Joan Laporta, Koeman is under enormous pressure to turn things around. The Valencia match will be followed this week by a critical Champions League game against Dynamo Kyiv and a clásico with Real Madrid. Koeman says “the president has made it clear that he is behind me, but a coach must win games.” Sevilla visits Celta Vigo aiming to bounce back from its first loss of the season, 1-0 to Granada before the international break. Julen Lopetegui will be without top striker Youssef En-Nesyri and his starting pair of central defenders. En-Nesyri and defender Jules Kounde are injured, while defender Diego Carlos is suspended. Unai Emery’s Villarreal can count on strikers Gerard Moreno and Paco Alcacer after both recovered from injury in time to face Osasuna at home. Elche also visits Rayo Vallecano.
Jose Mourinho and Massimiliano Allegri revive an old rivalry when Mou’s Roma visits Max’s Juventus. The coaching masterminds have feuded ever since Mourinho’s very first season in Italy — when the outspoken Portuguese manager was bothered that Allegri won a coach of the year award with Cagliari even though Mourinho had just claimed his first Serie A title at Inter Milan. It’s shaping up as a pivotal match, too, with Juventus having registered three straight wins before the international break after a horrendous start, and Roma facing a title contender for the first time this season. Also, Napoli hosts Torino looking to extend its perfect start; and Atalanta visits Empoli.
Bayern Munich visits Bayer Leverkusen for a top-of-the-table match in the Bundesliga. Both teams are tied on points with Bayern leading on goal difference after seven rounds. Leverkusen is full of confidence after an encouraging start to the season under new coach Gerardo Seoane, but it has been in this position before. Last season, Leverkusen was unbeaten and top of the league until Bayern’s visit in December. Then it all changed. Bayern never looked back after its injury-time winner as it went on to win the Bundesliga and Leverkusen entered a slump. History suggests a similar outcome again this weekend. Bayern was first heading into the eighth round and Leverkusen has lost the last six times it faced the league leader. Also, Augsburg hosts Arminia Bielefeld for a game between the teams with the least ball possession in the league so far.
It will be an emotional night for Marseille fans as they pay their tributes to hugely popular former president Bernard Tapie, who died this month. The home game against Lorient is the first played at Stade Velodrome since Tapie’s death on Oct. 3. Elsewhere, Lens and Nice continue their push to remain in the top three. Nice striker Amine Gouiri again impressed with France Under-21s during the international break and will look to add to his five goals away to struggling Troyes in a lunchtime kickoff. Lens has a tricky away game at Montpellier, a team which is inconsistent but usually carries a goal threat.
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