Season Curtain Openers

By Pete Reilly Source:Global Times Published: 2019/8/1 18:13:40

England, France and Germany kick off with Super Cups

Manchester City midfielder David Silva during a friendly match against Yokohama F Marinos in Kanagawa, Japan on July 27. Photo: VCG

It's August and that means one thing for football fans: The return of Europe's top leagues is imminent. It all kicks off this weekend with the traditional curtain raisers for European domestic games, the Super Cup played between the winners of last season's league and the winners of the bigger cup competition.

This weekend sees three of Europe's "Big Five" leagues see their first taste of action. Italy and Spain will be the notable exceptions.

Spanish football has seen the format change from a two-legged affair, with both teams getting a chance to host, to the one-off game that has replaced it from last year. The 2017 Supercopa de España was played between Barcelona and Sevilla in the Stade de Tangier in Tangier, Morocco.

It will be another change to the format for this year's event when it becomes a four-team rather than two-team tournament. Copa del Rey winners Valencia, La Liga champions Barcelona and the two teams that finished behind the Catalans - Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid - will contest the new competition and it will be played in Saudi Arabia early next year.

Likewise, the Supercoppa Italiana has long been held overseas and while it used to be played in August before the start of the Serie A season, even when it was held outside of Italy, that has changed since it switched its location to Saudi Arabia for three years starting this summer.

The 2019 match will be played at some point early next year, following the 2018 version played earlier this year in front of more than 61,000 in Jeddah. Those fans saw Cristiano Ronaldo's strike separate Juventus from Milan and add another trophy to the cabinet. The Turin side will get another chance at the next super cup when they take on Coppa Italia winners Lazio in a game that is not yet scheduled.

While Spanish and Italian fans will have to make do with their leagues kicking off with little fanfare, the rest of Europe's elite will begin with the first silverware of the season.

Man City v Liverpool, Wembley, London

The English season opener is the highest profile such is the popularity of the Premier League around the world. It also features not only the team that won the biggest league in world football but the club that lifted the only trophy that garners even more attention.

Liverpool beat Spurs in the UEFA Champions League final in June to lift the famous trophy for a sixth time, a record for an English club. Liverpool ran the champions to the wire in the Premier League, so nearly ending their 30-year wait for a 19th English domestic crown.

Once again fans at Anfield will hope that this is their year and they can strike an early moral victory in the battle against Pep Guardiola's side, knowing full well that the Manchester side have won the last two titles with points totals of 100 and 98, the two highest in the history of the English top flight.

While Manchester City will take to the Wembley pitch in a retro style shirt to mark the beginning of the club's 125th anniversary season, that is the only new look from either club. 

Neither Guardiola or his counterpart Jurgen Klopp has seen fit to change too much in their squads ahead of the new season and with the players who featured in the Copa America and the African Cup of Nations reporting back late to training, there is a hope among fans that this season will see the breakthrough of youngsters such as Liverpool's Rhian Brewster and Manchester City's Phil Foden, a player who his manager has intimated is the best youth talent he has ever worked with.  

PSG v Rennes - Shenzhen, China

What's most shocking about this game is that Rennes bested PSG in the Coupe de France final thereby preventing the club from another double. There was also disapppointment in Europe for the French giants, losing in controversial circumstances to a struggling Manchester United side at home. To say the season did not go to plan was an understatement and it is someting that Thomas Tuchel is expected to put right this campaign.

The club has invested havily again, bringing in players such as Ander Herrera and Idrissa Gueye from the Premier League, Dortmund's Abdou Diallo and Pablo Darabia of Sevilla. They also still have Neymar, who is suspended in Shenzhen after being sent off in the cup final defeat, and Kylian Mbappe, arguably the hottest property in world football. 

Everyone is backing PSG to win everything in France again and that starts with lifting the first trophy of the season in South China. That is the least that the thousands who have come to see their heroes will demand.

Bayern Munich v Dortmund, Germany

This is the de facto curtain raiser for the German Bundesliga season, such is the regularity that the pair finish the season as the top two. Bayern won another double last season, although a youthful Dortmund side will have been happy with its progress. They have banked on youth again in signing Gio Reyna, son of US internationals Claudio Reyna and Danielle Egan Reyna. 

The last US youth player at Dortmund, Christian Pulisic has just joined Chelsea. England's Jadon Sancho has been kept hold of and the club have also signed Thorgen Hazard to share the attacking burden. 

Mats Hummels has gone back to the club from Bayern to add some steel to their defence.

The champions have done what they do every year, hoovering up the best talent in the Bundesliga, but that has been backed up with big names from overseas. Lucas Hernandez has arrived from Atletico Madrid while his international teammate Lucas Pavard is the pick of the players picked up from fellow German clubs. Even with the sprinkling of signings, the champions remain the favourites for another league and this season opener.

Posted in: SOCCER

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