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This weekend in European soccer: Previews, predictions for 5 must-see games

Every week, theScore picks the five most exciting matches to watch in Europe and the U.K. This weekend’s slate features a battle of perennial title contenders in England and a meeting of Italy’s two most entertaining sides.

Premier League

Manchester United vs. Everton

Soccrates Images / Getty Images Sport / Getty

When: Saturday, Oct. 1 (7:30 a.m. ET)
Where to watch: NBCSN (U.S.), DAZN (Canada)

As long as Cristiano Ronaldo is healthy, there’s a chance for Manchester United to win. He hasn’t even needed a high volume of shots to score decisive goals. His 22.7% conversion rate since joining the Red Devils is easily above Ronaldo’s career average. But that could also make it unsustainable. He’s overperforming his expected goals average by 1.3 and therefore prone to a correction.

That’s bad news for United as they struggle to click elsewhere. Mostly desperation has come from Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side, and while that provides good drama, it doesn’t seem like the making of a Premier League champion.

Last weekend’s 1-0 loss to Aston Villa was troubling not because it came against an opponent United had dominated for many years, but because Solskjaer’s team lost control of its fate even with 60% possession. Only four of United’s 28 shots actually hit the target.

Luckily, Everton are a bit unsure of themselves too. They lost 3-0 to Villa a week prior, and their three victories thus far have come against teams in the bottom five of the table. Rafa Benitez has yet to find the right balance between defense and attack, a vulnerability United know all too well.

Prediction: A high-scoring draw that does neither side any favors.

Liverpool vs. Manchester City

Visionhaus / Getty Images Sport / Getty

When: Sunday, Oct. 2 (11:30 a.m. ET)
Where to watch: NBCSN (U.S.), DAZN (Canada)

Liverpool and Manchester City are hoping to enter the international break on a high note after a week of ups and downs.

Liverpool canceled out last weekend’s topsy-turvy 3-3 draw at Brentford with an emphatic 5-1 victory over Porto in the Champions League. But the opposite was true for City, whose 2-0 loss to Paris Saint-Germain wiped out all the goodwill from a 1-0 result at Chelsea.

Still, Jurgen Klopp’s side is in first place in the Premier League, with City sitting just a point behind. Sunday’s clash feels like a title-decider, even if it’s too early to significantly impact the final standings.

Liverpool have quietly resurfaced as a legitimate contender on all fronts while overcoming a string of earlier 2021 losses to find their mojo again as an all-action unit. They’re unbeaten since mid-April – a run of 18 matches across all competitions – and Klopp has shown a greater willingness to rotate, giving 25 players 90-plus minutes this season.

If anything, City are the ones facing scrutiny. The frustration in Paris reignited criticism of the club’s transfer policy, and particularly its failure to sign Harry Kane, or any other viable center-forward. Raheem Sterling is still struggling at the domestic level, and even with his winning effort against Chelsea, Gabriel Jesus is fighting for Pep Guardiola’s respect. A lot rests on the creative abilities of Bernardo Silva, Kevin De Bruyne, and Jack Grealish.

Prediction: Liverpool’s counterattack decides this cagey encounter.

La Liga

Atletico Madrid vs. Barcelona

Soccrates Images / Getty Images Sport / Getty

When: Saturday, Oct. 1 (3 p.m. ET)
Where to watch: ESPN+ (U.S.), TSN 5 (Canada)

Ronald Koeman might not get to coach his last match as Barcelona’s manager. The Dutchman will serve the second half of his two-game suspension Saturday for reaming out the referee during last week’s goalless draw against Cadiz. He’s gone from dead man walking to dead man sitting in the bleachers.

A win over Atletico may not even be enough to save Koeman’s job. The 58-year-old has publicly jousted with club president Joan Laporta, suggesting he hasn’t received enough protection or backing from the higher-ups. All of that may be true, but the on-pitch results are still poor. The players seem demoralized, with Gerard Pique saying recently, “We are what they are.” It feels like there’s no way of reversing the rot.

Koeman himself has urged the fans to be more realistic about Barcelona’s chances of winning anything. But it’s not just about victories. Barcelona need an identity on the field, and Koeman has failed to create one with this rag-tag group.

Atletico aren’t feeling much better about themselves. They’re only two points ahead of the Blaugrana thanks to a humiliating 1-0 loss to bottom side Alavez, and Atletico has scored only seven goals in five league matches. Antoine Griezmann has yet to register a shot on target in La Liga, but his superb goal against AC Milan in the Champions League should provide a confidence boost.

Prediction: A boring goalless draw seals Koeman’s fate.

Serie A

Atalanta vs. AC Milan

Insidefoto / LightRocket / Getty

When: Sunday, Oct. 2 (2:45 p.m. ET)
Where to watch: Paramount+ (U.S.), TLN (Canada)

Milan’s high-octane approach makes them one of Europe’s most fascinating teams, and on Sunday they’ll put their credentials on the line against an Atalanta side hoping to recapture the same attacking spirit that made them appointment viewing in recent seasons.

Milan may have lost to Atletico in midweek action, but that was hardly their fault. Dubious refereeing robbed the Rossoneri of its first win in a Champions League match since November 2013. Their performance still stood out, though, with center-back Fikayo Tomori and midfielders Sandro Tonali and Ismael Bennacer showing incredible poise and energy while down a man.

After struggling throughout the 2020-21 campaign, Rafael Leao is also emerging as a protagonist while helping out defensively and scoring goals in big moments. Unlike his first two years in Milan, the 22-year-old has discovered a newfound appetite for tracking back, and he’s far more purposeful when in possession.

Atalanta used to put opponents in similar trouble. Unfortunately, manager Gian Piero Gasperini has so far been unable to get his players to produce the same intensity that propelled the provincial side to three consecutive top-four finishes. Losing dynamic full-back Robin Gosens to a long-term injury certainly doesn’t help.

Prediction: Leao scores the winner in a back-and-forth affair.

Ligue 1

Lille vs. Marseille

DENIS CHARLET / AFP / Getty

When: Sunday, Oct. 2 (11 a.m. ET)
Where to watch: beIN SPORTS (U.S.), fuboTV (Canada)

Arkadiusz Milik’s return from injury comes at the right time. Marseille fired blanks in two of their last three games, getting little to show for their superior possession.

Contrasting the club’s recent performances with Milik’s from last season, the Polish striker scored nine goals in 15 appearances while converting 21% of shots taken. That should offer supporters hope of a quick turnaround.

Especially against Lille, who have yet to keep a clean sheet in Ligue 1 in 2021-22, despite entering the campaign as defending champions. At 37 years old, Jose Fonte is showing his age, putting more pressure on Sven Botman to shore up Lille’s creaky defense.

Lille, however, can still bank on center-forwards Jonathan David and Burak Yilmaz to produce offense. The two start up top in Jocelyn Gourvennec’s 4-4-2 formation and have notched eight goals between them in all competitions.

Prediction: Milik and David score in a 1-1 draw.

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La Liga

Best and worst new kits in European soccer this season

theScore takes a look at this year’s collection of new kits and breaks down the best and worst designs from Europe heading into the 2022-23 campaign.

The best ?

Arsenal (away)

Stuart MacFarlane / Arsenal FC / Getty

While the yellow away tops have been wildly popular in recent seasons, it’s impossible not to love Arsenal’s new black-and-gold uniforms. The classic colorway looks good and is accompanied by the club’s famous cannon logo.

Bayern Munich (away)

S. Mellar / FC Bayern / Getty

After 10 straight Bundesliga titles, it’s only natural that Bayern Munich would incorporate some gold into their kits. Like Arsenal’s color scheme, it’s hard to go wrong with the simplicity and fresh look of white and gold.

Crystal Palace (home)

Sebastian Frej/MB Media / Getty Images Sport / Getty

Altering stripes is usually a good way to ruin a club’s traditional look, but Crystal Palace are on to something with their 2022-23 home kits. Uniform manufacturer Macron brought Palace’s classic look to life with an eye-catching crayon-style design, which is also featured on their away and third kits.

Real Madrid (away)

Helios de la Rubia / Real Madrid / Getty

Real Madrid will be one of the sharpest-looking clubs in the world when they hit the road this season thanks to the crisp away kits developed by Adidas. Shades of purple have been used before at Real, but this top could go down as an all-time classic.

Venezia (home, away, and third)

Venezia’s new gold kit is fitting for a club that came out on top with the best designs last season. It’s the same story in 2022-23, as the Serie B outift is the undisputed winner of the summer fashion show. Venezia’s trilogy of uniforms will undoubtedly make its way to every football-top lover’s wish list.

The worst ?

Tottenham Hotspur (away)

DeFodi Images / DeFodi Images / Getty

It’s as if Nike handed the reigns over to an intern for Tottenham Hotspur’s away kit. Spurs players will march into visiting stadiums wearing a uniform that looks like it was designed using one of the early versions of EA Sports’ FIFA video games.

Chelsea (home)

Trevor Ruszkowski/ISI Photos / Getty Images Sport / Getty

Unlike their transfer policy, there’s been a distinct lack of imagination when it comes to developing a home top at Chelsea in recent years. New signings such as Raheem Sterling and Kalidou Koulibaly will be forced into one of the blandest tops in the Premier League when they make their debuts at Stamford Bridge.

Atletico Madrid (home)

Europa Press Sports / Europa Press / Getty

Incorporating local landmarks or, say, rivers into the design of football tops don’t always work. Case in point: Atletico Madrid’s attempt to pay homage to the Manzanares river, which ran near their old stadium, has resulted in a dizzying eyesore.

Paris Saint-Germain (home)

Koji Watanabe / Getty Images Sport / Getty

Not even the best footballer on the planet can pull this one off. For a team based in one of the fashion capitals of the world, Paris Saint-Germain will parade their star-studded squad out at the Parc des Princes in a top that lacks any kind of imagination or style.

Juventus (home)

James Williamson – AMA / Getty Images Sport / Getty

Two years removed from their unsightly tire-inspired design, Juventus have come up with a new way to tarnish their famous stripes. Seemingly discontent with keeping things simple, the Old Lady’s home kit is made up of tiny triangles that look like a shoddy stereogram.

Newcastle United (third)

The tweet says it all, really.

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La Liga

Fact or fiction? Dissecting some of the summer's biggest transfer rumors

The summer transfer window is in full swing, and the rumors are running wild. Below, we analyze some of the biggest stories circulating at the moment and dissect whether they’re genuine or just the latest in a long line of fabricated reports that become all too common this time of year.

PSG trying to offload Neymar

With the winding Kylian Mbappe saga mercifully resolved – for everyone but Javier Tebas, it seems – attention and speculation have shifted to the other superstar in Paris. No, not Lionel Messi. The other, other one.

Rumors of Paris Saint-Germain trying to ditch Neymar have gained steam, partially thanks to recent comments from Nasser Al-Khelaifi that have been interpreted as a not-so-veiled shot at the Brazilian attacker.

“I can tell you that we expect all of the players to do more than last season – much more,” the club president told Le Parisien, as translated by CBS Sports.

“We must become humble again. You must be disciplined on and off the pitch, and whoever wants to stay in their comfort zone and not fight will be cast aside. We want players proud to represent PSG and ready to fight.”

Oof.

DeFodi Images / DeFodi Images / Getty

PSG are apparently exploring every possible avenue, offering him to Juventus, gauging interest from Manchester United and nouveau-riche Newcastle, and trying to parlay Thiago Silva’s relationship into a deal with Chelsea.

There is, of course, a significant difference between PSG trying to offload their former centerpiece and the flashy footballer actually wanting to leave. In an era increasingly defined by player power, that difference is stark – the choice, ultimately, belongs to Neymar, particularly after he signed a contract extension through 2025 with the Ligue 1 champions.

Neymar’s CV in the French capital is extensive – including four league titles, five domestic cups, and two French Super Cups – but to date, it’s not difficult to frame his record-smashing €222-million move from Barcelona as a failure. The club’s come close, but the primary goal of Al-Khelaifi’s project, winning the Champions League, remains unsatisfied, and Mbappe has clearly surpassed Neymar as the crown jewel.

Verdict: Fact. Do PSG, now under the direction of adviser Luis Campos and soon to have a new manager, want to dispatch an oft-injured 30-year-old and his gargantuan salary? Almost certainly. Can they? That’s another matter.

Cristiano Ronaldo ‘untouchable’

Publicly, Manchester United are saying that Cristiano Ronaldo won’t be going anywhere this summer despite rumblings of discontent within the Portuguese star’s camp. A lack of Champions League football, coupled with the Red Devils’ slow start to the transfer window, has seemingly left the 37-year-old and his infamous agent, Jorge Mendes, looking for an escape route.

What gets leaked, and by whom, is important here. United can convey a sense of stability during a distinctly unstable time at the club by sending out a signal that Ronaldo – their top scorer from last season and one of the few players to escape widespread media criticism – isn’t leaving.

Gareth Fuller – PA Images / PA Images / Getty

But since his return to Old Trafford, Ronaldo’s stylistic fit within the squad has seemed tenuous. Erik ten Hag’s arrival and the uptempo football he’ll want to play seem destined to accentuate that concern.

In the latter stage of his career, Ronaldo’s best suited as a No. 9 who operates primarily inside the penalty area, but he still wants to float across the front line and drift into wide areas and channels, creating imbalances that then hinder United’s ability to press in a structured way when the ball is lost. He’s also not generating shot volume how he once did, and his Expected Goals total was down significantly last campaign from previous years.

The outstanding moments – and there were admittedly several of them last season – are no longer frequent enough to outweigh the drawbacks.

Verdict: Fiction. If the right offer were to arrive and Manchester United identified someone more appropriate for Ten Hag’s system to replace the Portuguese veteran, you better believe they would explore the possibility of making it happen. Nobody is untouchable.

Chelsea signing all the defenders

Pick a defender – any defender – and Chelsea have probably been linked with them this summer. The list is exhaustive, bordering on exhausting.

Matthijs de Ligt, Juventus’ potential captain-in-waiting, appears to be new co-owner Todd Boehly’s priority to solidify a backline that’s lost Antonio Rudiger and Andreas Christensen and could yet see versatile veteran Cesar Azpilicueta depart with them. The Dutchman, still only 22, would command an enormous fee. But Boehly, now overseeing Chelsea’s recruitment strategy in the wake of Marina Granovskaia’s departure, wants to make several big splashes and put his imprint on the club right away.

Boehly’s already on the verge of sprucing up the attack. The defense will follow.

Jonathan Moscrop / Getty Images Sport / Getty

Thomas Tuchel has long admired Jules Kounde, while Napoli colossus Kalidou Koulibaly is also in the mix. The Blues are also said to be monitoring PSG’s pursuit of Milan Skriniar, obviously hoping it comes up short. Josko Gvardiol, Croatia’s future stalwart, isn’t to be discounted either, and Nathan Ake – objectively the least exciting name of an increasingly bloated group – could be an option, too.

Money is no obstacle here. Expect two of the listed players to be unveiled at Stamford Bridge at some point before the window slams shut.

Verdict: Fact. This one makes too much sense. You can’t go into a new campaign with a 37-year-old Silva as your only seasoned central defender, especially when your manager regularly employs systems that utilize three center-backs. If it looks like a duck …

Everyone wants to join Barcelona

Generally, it’s good to be skeptical during the transfer window. It’s also vital to consider where certain information comes from, especially when dealing with the notoriously partisan sources in Spain. It behooves Catalan outlets to portray Barcelona as the most desirable club in the world, even if that is quite clearly no longer the case.

By now, the financial fiasco at the Camp Nou is no secret.

Barcelona are desperately seeking creative solutions to bolster their squad despite operating under €1.3 billion of debt. Selling players is an obvious way to alleviate some of that crushing weight, but that process takes time – especially when dealing with significant transfers like Frenkie de Jong’s proposed move to Manchester United. Clauses, bonuses, and various fees aren’t agreed on overnight, to say nothing of the actual human being in these cases, who needs to sort out all the personal details that come with uprooting your life to another city or country.

So another source of income is required. And fast.

LLUIS GENE / AFP / Getty

Barca president Joan Laporta wants to use “economic levers” to inject €700 million and ease the club’s immediate financial pain. That avenue, which involves selling off significant assets relating to commercial operations and TV revenues, would consequently create more long-term issues.

The most prudent thing would be to accept that a spending spree is unwise right now and rely on the team’s exceptional crop of young players – especially in midfield – to initiate a rebuild.

But this is Barcelona. The mystique must be upheld, which is why Robert Lewandowski, Bernardo Silva, Raphinha, Franck Kessie, and Christensen, among others, have been linked with a transfer this summer.

Verdict: Fiction. Creative accounting can only get you so far. At some point, Barcelona have to accept the reality of their crippling financial situation: The club, one of the sport’s great historical institutions, simply doesn’t wield the same power it once did. There will be some additions this summer, perhaps even one marquee arrival to offset a key sale, but dreams of a massive overhaul with several opulent deals will go unfulfilled.

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La Liga

Gareth Bale 'offered' to Getafe, claims club president

Gareth Bale could prolong his club career in the unlikely confines of the Coliseum Alfonso Perez.

Getafe president Angel Torres claimed the Welsh attacker was offered to the Madrid-based club during Wednesday’s launch of next season’s kits. “Anything is possible,” Torres said of Getafe signing the former Real Madrid star on a free transfer, according to The Guardian’s Sid Lowe.

“People might take it as a joke, but about 45-50 minutes ago, I spoke to his representative, and they have offered him to us,” a smiling Torres told the presenter of the kit launch.

Getafe’s apparent discussions regarding Bale’s transfer come amid Cardiff City’s reported efforts to recruit the 32-year-old. A return to Tottenham Hotspur and a move to Major League Soccer have also been mooted.

Torres didn’t specify whether the representative he spoke with was Bale’s agent Jonathan Barnett or somebody else, but he insisted the presenter of the event didn’t fabricate Getafe’s links.

“I had seen it mentioned last night on TV, the reasons why he wants to stay were looked into, the possibility of him (wanting) to come to Getafe,” he said. “I have to turn it over (in my mind) and speak to the coach (Quique Sanchez Flores), who is away.”

Getafe’s home ground Angel Martinez / Getty Images Sport / Getty

Getafe’s Coliseum Alfonso Perez is a 20-minute drive from Bale’s home, Lowe reports. Bale is also desperate to stay match fit while Wales prepares to compete in its first World Cup since 1958 later this year.

The Azulones attracted an average attendance of under 9,000 while finishing 15th in La Liga last season. They’ve never won a major honor, but they finished atop Group 1 of the Segunda Division B in 1999.

Bale had a difficult relationship with Real Madrid supporters despite collecting five Champions League titles, three La Liga crowns, three Club World Cups, three UEFA Super Cups, and one winner’s medal apiece in the Copa del Rey and Supercopa de Espana over nine years with the club.

Bale confirmed his Real Madrid “dream” was over last Wednesday.

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