Hard as it is to believe, the European season kicks off tomorrow with the first of the pre-season “Super” Cups. So whether you’re ready or not, football is coming for you. Here’s a quick look at some of the most promising matches in August, with one July match thrown in. At the bottom, I’ve included all the season openers and super cup games that didn’t make the list, in case my list isn’t enough for you.
NOTE: Network designations indicate the rights holder, not specific channels (so “ESPN” might be shown on ESPN2, ESPN3 etc.)
July 29th AC Monaco – Paris Saint-Germain (Trophée des Champions) 3:00 PM EDT, Bein Sports. Summer may not really be over, but Ligue 1 doesn’t care. This pre-season cup game will be the first chance to see how Monaco, easily the most exciting team in Europe last season, can cope with losing half of their starting squad to higher bidders. Don’t count Leonardo Jardim’s side out, as he has consistently dealt with rebuilding and has already added Youri Tielemans, an exciting signing from Anderlecht. PSG, on the other hand, will look to get back on the good foot after losing the league for the first time in 5 seasons. Unai Emery kept his job as manager and brought in Dani Alves, but will need results in early games like this one to restore confidence.
August 5th Borussia Dortund – Bayern Munich (DFL Supercup) 2:30 PM EDT, Fox Sports. With the departure of Thomas Tuchel at the end of a largely successful season at Dortmund, Dutch newcomer Peter Bosz will be thrown into the deep end against Carlo Ancelotti’s Bayern Munich in this pre-season cup game. The most notable additions for both sides are in the middle of the park, Mahmoud Dahoud for Dortmund and James Rodríguez for Bayern. If for some reason this one doesn’t tickle your fancy, you could also catch Mario Balotelli and OGC Nice at AS Saint-Étienne, a 2:00 PM EDT start on Bein Sports.
6th Chelsea – Arsenal (Community Shield) 9:00 AM EDT, Fox Sports. Last season, Arsenal’s early 3-0 victory over Chelsea led Antonio Conte to switch to the 3-4-3 with which his side dominated the league. Then Arsenal pipped Chelsea’s double ambitions with an FA Cup victory (their 3rd FA Cup in four seasons). Can Wenger do it again?
6th Women’s Euro 2017 Final 11:00 AM EDT, ESPN. With quarterfinals this weekend and semis on August 3rd, the Women’s Euro will close out the summer tournament season one weekend before the Premier League kicks into action. Oddsmakers are betting on a final between Germany, winners of last summer’s Olympic tournament, and either England or France (facing one another in the quarterfinals this Sunday). The other remaining sides are Austria, Denmark, hosts Netherlands, Spain, and Sweden (Germany’s likely semifinal opponent).
8th Real Madrid – Manchester United (UEFA Super Cup) 2:45 EDT, Fox Sports. I will confess, this was the last game added to the list. It’s hard to believe that little Manchester United, even with the addition Romelu Lukaku, can do much against a Real Madrid side that, for the first time since Zinédine Zidane took charge, really do feel like the best team in Europe. But if there is one coach suited to overturning Real’s apple-cart, it is José Mourinho. Bottom line: what else are you going to do on a Tuesday afternoon?
12th Barcelona – Real Madrid (Supercopa de España) TBD, ESPN. What better way to start the season than with a Clásico? Well, how about with three of them. This game is the first of a home and away tie that finishes up the following Tuesday (the 15th, time TBD). But there’s also “El Clásico Miami” tomorrow night (7:30 PM EDT), a part of the “International Champions Cup” pre-season money-spinner. That game won’t matter, of course, but the two Supercopa legs most certainly will. By then, both teams could conceivably be sporting new looks. Real Madrid has put in an enormous offer for Monaco’s Kylian Mbappé, which could mean that either Karim Benzema or (more significantly) Gareth Bale might be moving on. On Barcelona’s side, Neymar is rumored to be heading to Paris Saint-Germain against the wishes of his current club. Whatever line-ups take the field, Madrid will have to negotiate the fact that they will be playing 3 competitive games in eight days. Hopefully, this opening game will set up an equally tasty second leg on the 15th.
20th Tottenham Hotspur – Chelsea 11:00 AM EDT, NBC Sports. This should prove the real starting point for the Premier League, as the two best teams from last season square off for bragging rights. Tottenham have been quiet thus far in the transfer market, with Kieran Trippier already in place for the departing Kyle Walker. Chelsea have brought in Álvaro Morata to replace Diego Costa, Antonio Rüdiger for additional defensive cover, and added Tiémoué Bakayoko to an already solid midfield. But it was Spurs who looked the more exciting side as last season wound down, and Mauricio Pochettino will be eager to take the initiative in this one.
26th Roma – Internazionale 2:45 PM EDT, Bein Sports. Two big sides, but also two sides with much in flux. Roma pipped Napoli to 2nd place last season under Luciano Spalletti, but Spalletti is now heading up Inter. The only major departure from Spalletti’s new side has been Éver Banega, though star Ivan Perišić may follow; but that side finished 7th. It will be interesting to see what Spalletti can do with this lumbering giant. Back at Roma, former Sassuolo manager Eusebio di Francesco will have to make do without the pace of Mohamed Salah up top (and, of course, without talismanic retiree, Francesco Totti). Roma has a solid squad, and di Francesco will be eager to demonstrate that his experience transforming Serie A first-timers into a solid mid-table club can translate into top-of-the-table success as well.
27th Liverpool – Arsenal 11:00 AM EDT, NBS Sports. Who doesn’t love Jürgen Klopp? Having added Salah from Roma, he will be hoping to hold onto Barcelona transfer target Philippe Coutinho. Wenger has his own concerns with want-away star Alexis Sánchez. These are two of the six teams expecting to finish in the top four, and this will be an early chance for each to make their case. If this one doesn’t float your boat, you might check out Real Madrid – Valencia, which will likely be on Bein Sports later in the afternoon (though the precise date and time of this game aren’t yet scheduled).
31st France – Netherlands (World Cup Qualifying) 2:45 PM EDT, ESPN. With the exception of games in the Women’s Euro (which are really summer holdovers), this will probably be the only genuinely consequential game played this August. France is currently 2nd place in Group A behind Sweden, though only on goal difference. Netherlands sits three points behind them both in 3rd. At least one of these three sides will not be going to Russia, and a second will be facing an elimination play-off game to get there. With all remaining games for these top three sides against group minnows, the Netherlands will effectively be eliminated from contention with a loss. But France, too, would likely see their chances of automatic qualification disappear should the Dutch manage a win or even a tie. This is the one World Cup Qualifier you don’t want to miss.
Other Season Openers/Super Cup Games:
4th AS Monaco – Toulouse (Ligue 1) 2:45 EDT, Bein Sports
11th Arsenal – Leicester City (Premier League) 2:45 EDT, NBC Sports
13th Juventus – Lazio (Supercoppa Italiana) 2:45 EDT, GolTV(?)
18th Bayern Munich – Bayer Leverkusen (Bundesliga) 2:30 EDT, Fox Sports
19th Juventus – Cagliari (Serie A) 12:00 PM EDT, Bein Sports
19th Leganes – Alavéz (La Liga) 2:15 PM EDT, Bein Sports