Get, set, go for the super derby weekend
Euro 2016 qualifying provided us with plenty of matches, goals and exciting stories from Iceland to Wales, but as international concerns fade away again, club football is back this weekend with a number of huge matches from around the footballing world.
On Saturday, Liverpool travel to Manchester United in one of the classic fixtures of the English football calendar, while in Spain Atletico Madrid host treble winners Barcelona in a traditionally fiery encounter.
And on Sunday there's even more, as the big-spending city rivals Inter and AC Milan face off in Italy, as Argentina will showcase one of the fiercest rivalries in world football when Boca Juniors travel to River Plate for the Superclasico.
ATLETICO MADRID V BARCELONA
Date: 13 September, 2015 (Sunday)
Time: 12:30am (Bangladesh Standard Time)
Much of the talk in Spain this week has focussed on Gerard Pique, as the Barcelona defender was subjected to jeers from La Roja fans, but this weekend the last two winners of La Liga meet in a top of the table clash.
Historically, Barcelona have faced more competition from Atleti’s city rivals Real, but following Diego Simeone’s appointment as manager Los Colchoneros have made themselves a regular feature at the top table of Spanish football.
The most prominent match between the two sides in recent years came in 2014, when the title race came down to a straight shoot-out at Camp Nou on the final day of the 2013-14 season.
Alexis Sanchez had put Barcelona 1-0 up in the first half, but with the league crown heading to Catalunya, Atletico centre-back Diego Godin blasted in a header to make it 1-1 on the day and give Atleti the title.
The two sides meet again on Saturday level on points, having both won their opening two games, with the chance to strike an early blow in the latest editio of the Primera Division title race.
MANCHESTER UNITED V LIVERPOOL
Date: 12 September, 2015 (Saturday)
Time: 10:30pm (Bangladesh Standard Time)
The northwest of England has a tradition of setting the agenda when it comes to Premier League football.
The game provides the best outlet for the competitive rivalry between the two neighbouring cities of Manchester and Liverpool, beginning in 1894 as the early iteration of Liverpool Football Club overcame United, then known as Newton Heath, 2-0.
The enmity has only increased since then, of course, and there may be not better encapsulation of the pleasure derived by getting one over on the other side than Gary Neville’s wild celebrations at Old Trafford in 2006, attracting the vitriol of the Liverpool fans.
More controversially still, the fixture took a shameful twist in the 2011-12 season following Luis Suarez's abuse of Patrice Evra, which resulted in a ban for the Uruguayan, a failed handshake and far too much bickering.
The last match between the clubs, in March, saw Louis van Gaal’s side run out 2-1 winners away at Anfield thanks to a brace from Juan Mata.
The match was also notable as Steven Gerrard’s last taste of the fixture; the Liverpool legend came off the bench at half-time, only to be issued with a red card around 40 seconds later.
History shows that when these two face off it’s usually a fiery affair. Both sides will be desperate for points to help move on from poor results last time out.
Wayne Rooney looks to be out for the home side, with Maraoune Fellaini deputising up front, and with United possibly handing a debut to Antony Martial, the world’s most expensive teenager, the stage is set.
INTER V AC MILAN
Date: 14 September, 2015 (Monday)
Time: 12:45am (Bangladesh Standard Time)
The two Milan clubs have fallen from grace in recent years, as a resurgent Juventus have dominated Serie A.
But, ahead of the 2015-16 season, both Inter and AC Milan have spent extensively to regain their former heights, and Sunday’s match is the first competitive derby between the two new-look squads.
Sinisa Mihajlovic will face old club Inter as the manager of AC Milan, the club he once said he would never work for. Inter fans are unlikely to take kindly to the Serb’s perceived betrayal and could create an uncomfortable atmosphere for the manager, especially if his side slip up.
Inter have traditionally dominated the clash in Serie A, winning 60 clashes to AC Milan’s 50, with 54 draws, and currently sit 3 points ahead of the Rossoneri after two games, aiming for a win to put them clear of their city rivals.
RIVER PLATE V BOCA JUNIORS
Date: 14 September, 2015 (Monday)
Time: 3:15am (Bangladesh Standard Time)
The Argentine Superclasico is a match that regularly captivates the football world and, on Sunday, River Plate and Boca Juniors again go head-to-head for the Buenos Aires bragging rights.
The first meeting between the two came in 1913 and since then Boca have enjoyed the better of the spoils, with 74 wins to River’s 67 in the Primera Division, also they continue to tease the Monumental club following their relegation in 2011.
With the Primera Division title race significantly further ahead than the top leagues in Europe, Boca sit one point behind San Lorenzo at the top of the table, while River trail their city rivals by 8 points.
Boca will be looking to build on the 2-0 win in May to boost their title chances, whilst River would love nothing more than to dent the Xeneize bid to win the title.
There will be plenty of tension, however, given that the last time they met - in the Copa Libertadores - a rogue Boca fan pepper sprayed some River players on their way back onto the pitch, resulting in the club being kicked out of the competition and sparking a national scandal. Oh, and Carlos Tevez is back.