The month of October has always been an enthralling one for particular reasons. The league season begins to pick up pace, the cup matches come in mid-week and the European nights move in to create a busy schedule for the players.
Here are 5 matches which will be worth your time and sleeping hours. So save the dates.
#5 MANCHESTER UNITED VS JUVENTUS: OCTOBER 24, 2018
I’m coming home, I’m coming home, tell the world I’m coming home
Oh goodness gracious, how good is this one? Ever since the Champions League draw put Juventus and United in the same group, everyone would have one thing one the back of their mind. Ronaldo will return to Old Trafford.
It is an emotional moment, when you return to where you started. It is even tougher when you have to score against your old team. But that is how this is. Not only Cristiano, even Paul Pogba will have the same dilemma of seeing his old team and teammates with a new talisman.
Both Pogba and Cristiano will have to be up for the challenge. It would have been a sigh of relief for Juventus that Cristiano was given only a one match ban. Old Trafford has always been good to its former players and Cristiano will no doubt get a huge reception at the Theatre of Dreams.
Juventus and United haven’t played each other in quite a while but back when they did in the 1990s, it used to be quite a battle. Marcello Lippi and Alex Ferguson tried their level best to outclass one another. Their best meeting by far, should be the semifinals in 1999 when United made a comeback of the topmost level. Following the first leg 1-1 draw at home, the Old Lady went to Trafford.
To the utmost dismay of the United fans, Fillipo Inzhagi scored in the 6th and 10th minute, shutting down all the doors of semifinals for United. But the masters of late goals came back early in the 25th and 34th minute with Keane and Yorke. Andy Cole scored one late in the 75th minute to win it. This Champions League tie will be as good as they come.
#4 FC BARCELONA VS TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR: OCTOBER 4, 2018
How good will this one be, no one knows. But it will be an amazing game of football for sure. The two have faced only twice, ever. Back in 1982, with FC Barcelona winning one and drawing another. That matters little in this case. Mauricio Pochettino is a fairly better manager than Ernesto Valverde. He has preferred stability over silverware and perhaps that is why Spurs are consistent.
Spurs have a plethora of talent in Harry Kane, Cristian Eriksen and Dele Alli. FC Barcelona’s concern will be these three for sure. The high balls that are put in by Eriksen and finished by Kane usually have to be dealt with unlike what Barcelona faces in the league.
These three possess serious pace. That kind of pace is very concerning for Barcelona for two reasons. One, Pique is absolutely slow in backtracking from the high press. Barca will miss Samuel Umtiti’s pace a lot. Barca’s advantage lies in the broad pitch in Camp Nou
On the attacking end, it is the solid defense of Trippier, Vertonghen and Alderweireld against Messi, Suarez and Coutinho. It is all even on this half but not so much on the other end. Barcelona have to trust on Lenglet to deliver his best, otherwise they are doomed.
What makes this battle even more interesting, will be the Camp Nou’s reaction to Tottenham and Mauricio Pochettino. Why? Mauricio Pochettino said last year and I quote.
“Xavi is a liar and a cheat. I’d rather work at my farm in Argentina than at Barcelona”
Not very friendly, is it. The comment towards Xavi was over a comment where he said Dele Alli would suit Manchester City’s style. And Pochettino reacted by calling him a cheat as reported by various news sources. Comparing the Cules’ beloved Barcelona with a farm is not what they would take very kindly to and it was really uncalled for.
And certainly if you want to comment on Leo’s beloved crest and visit him on the pitch at Camp Nou, you be my guest, Mauricio Pochettino.
#3 LIVERPOOL VS MANCHESTER CITY: OCTOBER 7, 2018
Manchester City were absolutely tearing it apart last season. They were head and shoulders above the rest in the league. They had the power of Achilles, after he was dipped in the River Styx. But the funny thing is Achilles had one weakness, his heel.
For Manchester City the heel was replaced with Liverpool. Whenever they went up against Liverpool something took over. They did defeat Liverpool 5-0 last season but in the later half in Europe, Liverpool came out guns blazing and demolished City.
This match will be a potential decider for the league leader. Both City and Liverpool are on level terms right now and both Klopp and Pep might want to win this one badly. Klopp has got the firepower he needs now. Back in the 5-0 loss, Van Dijk wasn’t present and now he is.
With Van Dijk’s presence, it won’t be easy to create, especially when De Bruyne is injured. At the other end, Firmino, Salah and Mane are destroying defences for fun. When they go up against Stones and Laporte, it will be a battle to behold.
Both Klopp and Pep are great tacticians and perhaps an outright winner might not emerge out of it. But it will be worth watching.
#2 CHELSEA VS MANCHESTER UNITED: OCTOBER 20, 2018
What is there to expect here? United have lost all the credibility they had to play in big games. Every game involving Manchester United was supposedly a big game but it might not necessarily be true here. The Red Devils might just be no match for Sarri’s unstoppable Chelsea. But still United is a big club and their current performance is not what they are capable of.
Besides when you make Jose Mourinho your enemy, things don’t pan out well. Jose did prove that to Barcelona with Inter Milan and he can prove it in any case to Chelsea, the media and his players as well. Moreover, Jose is certainly not the person or atleast not the only person who is to blame for the current state of United. Ever since Ferguson left, Jose has the best track record with United. Some managers like Ernesto Valverde are escaping criticism only because he has Lionel Messi at his disposal.
About the match, Jose loves the Bridge. No doubt about it. He has had amazing success with the Blues at the Bridge and he would try and replicate that again. One convincing win is all it takes to get the confidence back.
Maybe Chelsea could be the stepping stone, the headstart that United needs to get their confidence back. Eden Hazard has been on fire lately and he will be a potent threat to United’s weak defence. But if they manage to stop him and Chelsea, they will manage against any attack.
A boxer punches the hardest when his back is against the ropes and the same goes for United. It is really now or never for Jose and Pogba. Expect Paul Pogba to come on all guns blazing for this one.
#1 FC BARCELONA VS REAL MADRID: OCTOBER 28, 2018
The greatest football match that has ever been played. Two top class teams and the fight that divides a nation. How big can stakes be? History has seen some amazing clashes between these two heavyweights. The presence of two of the best players in the world makes it even more amazing. Only this time, Cristiano won’t be a part of El Clasico.
It doesn’t matter at all. Lopetegui’s Real Madrid have shown great football and shown possession is not exclusively Barcelona’s game. Barcelona however have disappointed in their last three games, only winning two points out of those three matches. Their dependence on Lionel Messi is overwhelmingly visible.
To make matters worse, Samuel Umtiti might miss the game and the Inter Milan game mid-week makes it even tougher to adjust. Rotations will be the key but Valverde has rotated without much success lately. Nevertheless, when FC Barcelona and Real Madrid meet, fatigue is the least of issues.
Players will find some energy from wherever during the course of the game. It will be great to see a conflict between Pique and Ramos as it has always been. It adds that extra dimension to the game. We’ll witness a stunning midfield battle between Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic. We will witness Asensio and Alba’s pace at the same time. And more importantly we will see Varane and Ramos, do all they can to stop Lionel Messi from creating.
Messi has been a thorn to Real Madrid in every Clasico they have played. Right from the 19 year old hattrick that stunned Capello, to the hattrick in the 4-3 win and the 92nd minute winner at Santiago Bernabeu, Messi has seen it all, done it all. Every time Real have tried to stop the diminutive man but most of the time it has been in vain.
Sergio Ramos has been a physical bully to whom no Barca player could stand up, with Pique’s exception. But Arturo Vidal’s addition will help Barcelona’s cause a lot in that aspect. Vidal is rock solid, as physical as and perhaps even more physical than Ramos. Both could pop in with a horror tackle but certainly we expect physicality in a positive way, not a negative one.
The last Clasico at the Camp Nou was a stunning affair in a 2-2 draw. The scorers Luis Suarez, Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale and Lionel Messi. Barcelona went into halftime with a man down but took the lead through Lionel Messi. Messi had the chance to wrap it up against Navas but the Costa Rican did great to deny the little man. Gareth Bale popped up with a stunner to level things up.
It would be interesting to see the choice of keeper for Madrid. Courtois might be a better keeper but his performances against Messi have been dismal. Last year in the R16, against Chelsea, Messi drove the ball in between Courtois’ legs, not once but twice. Keylor Navas though has been exceptional against Leo.