Ten to Watch in October

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Last month’s list worked out pretty well, producing six of nine games (see below) well worth the watching. Here are my suggestions for next month.

1st – Bayer Leverkusen – Borussia Dortmund. Originally scheduled on the last day of September and listed as one to watch in my preview of that month, this game remains as tantalizing now as it did then. Rodger Schmidt’s Leverkusen remain a significant measure of Thomas Tuchel’s and Dortmund’s title pretensions.

2nd – Tottenham Hotspur – Manchester City. The top two teams in the Premier League meet at Wembley (Spurs’ home during remodeling). Even with Harry Kane injured, Spurs will hope to trouble a back line that has yet to match Guardiola’s impressive results going forward. Son Hueng-Min and Raheem Sterling should be two to watch.

10th – Netherlands – France (World Cup Qualifying). With no CONCACAF qualifying this international break, US fans will have to turn to Europe or South America. Trailing Bulgaria in the group, a loss here will make hard work of automatic qualification for either Holland or the Euro runners-up. If you prefer CONMEBOL, Ecuador-Chile (6th) features the two best sides currently fighting to get back into the qualification spots. Or if the scent of desperation isn’t your thing, you could opt for Italy-Spain (6th), an early battle between two clear contestants for automatic qualification.

14th – Nice – Olympique Lyonnais. The traditional Ligue 1 match to watch this month is Le Classique between Paris Saint-Germain and Olympique de Marseille (23rd). But with Unai Emery’s PSG wobbling and Marseille yet to really recover from Marcelo Bielsa’s unexpected departure a season ago, it’s worth checking out some of the current pretenders to the throne. Toulouse-Monaco, earlier in the day, features the current 2nd and 3rd place teams, and Monaco’s performances in Europe suggest they should be taken seriously this year. But top of the table Nice eviscerated Monaco 4-0 less than two weeks ago. Sporting new manager Lucien Favre (formerly of Borussia Mönchengladbach), Mario Balotelli, Younès Belhanda, and defender Dante, their game against Lyon and league top-scorer Alexandre Lacazette should be one to watch.

17th – Liverpool – Manchester United. Jürgen Klopp’s Liverpool have started the season well, and this game against José Mourinho’s United will be a big–and hopefully lively–game. Though they are currently struggling, Mourinho’s side will look to right the ship, especially with another big game away to Chelsea (23rd) waiting in the wings.

19th – Barcelona – Manchester City (Champions League). Undoubtedly the game of the month. Pep Guardiola returns to take on his former side in a battle for tiki-taka supremacy and for position in the unquestionable Champions League Group of Death this season. This is a good day to call in sick.

22nd – Bayern Munich – Borussia Mönchengladbach. One of the great traditional games in the Bundesliga calendar, and one that continues to delight. André Schubert’s Mönchengladbach had an excellent record against Bayern last season, but this will be the first time he has faced Carlo Ancelotti in charge. Gladbach have yet to fully impress, but they remain a dangerous side, probably Bayern’s toughest game of the month.

AC Milan – Juventus. Max Allegri’s Juve remain the easy pick in Serie A, and Vincenzo Montella seems to be turning Milan around. This will be the first meeting between the two teams since last season’s Coppa Italia final. If you have something against the Old Lady, Roma-Inter (2nd) or Napoli-Roma (15th) are probably your best Serie A bets. Roma and especially Inter have been struggling, though (notwithstanding Inter’s remarkable win against Juve), so don’t get your hopes up.

23rd – Real Madrid – Athletic Bilbao. Despite two ties already this season, Zinédine Zidane’s Real currently sit atop the table. Athletic Bilbao started the season with four losses, but have bounced back with four straight wins, including a 3-1 victory over Sevilla last weekend. This should be the best of a relatively quiet month for La Liga, but if it doesn’t tickle your fancy, you can always tune in for Sevilla-Atlético Madrid earlier in the day.

30th – MLS Conference Semifinals (teams TBD). As in many US sports, MLS is really about the play-offs. With four critical play-off games scheduled before Halloween, you know that at least one of them should be worth tuning in for. If you’re looking for something to whet your MLS appetite in the meantime, check out surprise front-runner FC Dallas.  They play the LA Galaxy at home on the 1st, and away on the 23rd. With the Galaxy trailing Dallas by 5 points, and the Colorado Rapids also 5 back with two games in hand, there’s a lot to play for.

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