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André Gonçalves

Five for Friday: David Luiz is back, same old Schalke and the Derby d’Italia


The much-anticipated Derby d'Italia, David Luiz's comeback and a new era for Espanyol. Those and more are amongst five things worth looking forward to this weekend across Europe.

By André Gonçalves & Manfredi Miyashita

The much-anticipated Derby d’Italia, David Luiz’s comeback and a new era for Espanyol. Those and more are amongst five things worth looking forward to this weekend across Europe.

Liverpool ready to greet David Luiz

LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 08: David Luiz of Chelsea clears the ball to avoid a corner during the UEFA Champions League Quarter Final second leg match between Chelsea and Paris Saint-Germain FC at Stamford Bridge on April 8, 2014 in London, England. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)

It is unusual to see such a big match played on a Friday night but things have changed and the biggest Premier League match this weekend will be also the opening fixture of the weekend. Chelsea started their season in style, giving birth to the the idea that last year’s nightmare was definitely gone, but the recent developments against Swansea showed us that might not be the case. The Chelsea defence (who will be without the injured John Terry) is still far from being perfect and Conte, in a surprising move, brought David Luiz back to Stamford Bridge. Could he really be the answer to Chelsea’s problems?

By contrast, up front, Diego Costa has been the man of the hour, scoring 4 goals in 4 matches. In a similar vein to Chelsea, Liverpool have taken Mrs. Gump’s maxim to heart and served up a mixed offering this season. After beating Arsenal and Leicester, however, there are no doubts Jürgen Klopp’s side are capable of excelling under pressure but they need to keep their concentration. If the Reds manage to do so, we can expect them to succeed at Stamford Bridge. AG

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Brand new Hertha, same old Schalke

Schalke's defender Benedikt Hoewedes reacts during the German first division Bundesliga football match of FC Schalke vs Bayern Munich in Gelsenkirchen, western Germany, on September 9, 2016. / AFP / PATRIK STOLLARZ / RESTRICTIONS: DURING MATCH TIME: DFL RULES TO LIMIT THE ONLINE USAGE TO 15 PICTURES PER MATCH AND FORBID IMAGE SEQUENCES TO SIMULATE VIDEO. == RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE == FOR FURTHER QUERIES PLEASE CONTACT DFL DIRECTLY AT + 49 69 650050 (Photo credit should read PATRIK STOLLARZ/AFP/Getty Images)

Hertha and Schalke have experienced very different starts to the Bundesliga. Schalke invested a lot this past summer, bringing in big names like Coke, Naldo, Breel Embolo or Yevhen Konoplyanka but die Knappen are lying in the bottom of the league after two defeats. Considering Schalke are still looking for their first goal in the league, it is obvious where the problem is, despite an impressive record of 20 shots on goal in two matches.

As usual, their expectations are high but it seems like the ghost of recent frustrating seasons is still haunting the Veltins Arena. By contrast, Hertha are all smiles. For the first time in their history, they have kicked off with back-to-back wins in the Bundesliga and die Alte Dame are joint top of the league. Pál Dárdai reckons Hertha are ready to get a third victory in a row but they will need to fight history on this one: Hertha have only won one of their last 15 matches against Schalke. AG

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Can the Periquitos learn how to fly?

espanyol

A lot has changed since Chen Yansheng took over at Espanyol last January. The Chinese entrepreneur promised serious investment, promoted Ángel Gómez to sporting director duties and brought Quique Sánchez Flores back to Spain. Summer was a particularly busy time for them with new players arriving every week, showing that Yansheng wasn’t bluffing. In theory, this transfer window was probably the best one we have seen in the last couple of decades, with Espanyol signing some interesting names like Diego López, Pablo Piatti, José Antonio Reyes, Jurado or Álvaro Vázquez.

It is fair to say that Flores has a quite balanced squad, but is it good enough to fight for a place in European football? Judging by their first three matches, there is still a lot to improve if they want to make it in the big league. The team showed some typical pre-season symptoms, particularly concerning their defensive duties, which is worrying considering that pre-season was over a month ago. The match against Real Madrid is the perfect moment to turn this boat around, showing that Espanyol are ready to fight for something beyond the usual escape to relegation. However, the last time Espanyol beat Madrid at home was in 2007, so anything but an away win will be a surprise. AG

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The clash of the Argentinians

Juventus' Argentinian forward Gonzalo Higuain (L) celebrates with teammate Argentinian forward Paulo Dybala after scoring a goal during the Italian Serie A football match between Juventus and Sassuolo on September 10, 2016 at the Juventus Stadium in Turin. / AFP / MARCO BERTORELLO (Photo credit should read MARCO BERTORELLO/AFP/Getty Images)

Inter v Juventus is not only one of the biggest matches of the year – for its prestige and history – but also the chance to see Mauro Icardi face mister 90 million euros, Gonzalo Higuaín. With three goals in three games, both strikers have demonstrated to possess a unique killer instinct in front of the goal, which further emphasised their technical and leadership qualities on the pitch. If Inter hold very talented individuals behind Maurito, players such as Perišić, Candreva and Banega, they still do not have the structure and organisation of a team like Juventus.

Il Pipita, for instance, can count on an extremely solid defence and on a highly talented attacking partner in Paulo Dybala, a duo that in Italy, at the moment, seems unstoppable. However, there is no doubt that the bianconeri have outstanding players, but the first three Serie A games and especially the Champions League one against Sevilla have highlighted an apparent lack of chemistry between the veterans and new arrivals. Not a major issue, considering they won their first three games but only a question of time in order to reach the levels desired.

Players like Dani Alves, Pjanić and Higuaín – who have arrived in this Summer’s transfer window – undoubtedly change the outlook of a team and if Inter can take advantage on this aspect, the game promises to be entertaining and open to any result. The Derby d’Italia is the match where De Boer’s men can finally demonstrate to be a team and may reveal what achievements they can reach this season. The quality is all there, but it takes much more than just skill to win leagues. San Siro has already sold more than 70.000 tickets for one of the most anticipated matches of the year. Only two days to go and the battle will be under way. MM

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Feyenoord are back on track

Feyenoords' Dirk Kuyt (C) is congratulated by temmates after scoring the first goal against Roda JC during the Eredivisie match between Feyenoord and Roda JC in Rotterdam on February 21, 2016. / AFP / ANP / STRINGER / Netherlands OUT (Photo credit should read STRINGER/AFP/Getty Images)

Feyenoord finished last season with silverware, after beating Utrecht to lift the KNBV Cup and it looks like they did not lose their mojo in the beginning of Eredivisie. It is probably a bit too early to assume so, but it looks like Giovanni van Bronckhorst is the right man to bring Feyenoord back from the ashes.

The team from Rotterdam are top of the league, after winning every single match so far, leaving PSV and Ajax sitting two and five points behind respectively, after five matches played. Feyenoord will travel to the Philips Stadion on a tight schedule, after a fantastic win against Manchester United in the opening fixture of the Europa League and, at the moment, confidence levels are sky high in Rotterdam. Despite the negative result against Atlético, the two extra days of rest might play a capital role on Sunday’s fixture. PSV are the most serious contender to snatch the Eredivisie title this year and considering that in the last ten matches at the Philips Stadion, the Boeren only lost two to Feyenoord, a home victory should be expected. AG

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