10 to Watch in September

September arrives in the midst of an international break this year, and I couldn’t resist adding a bonus CONCACAF showdown alongside the best of European football in the coming month.

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1st United States – Costa Rica (World Cup Qualifier) 6:55 PM EDT Bruce Arena’s success during the last international break has put the United States in a much more comfortable position for qualifying, making this game less of a must-win than it might have been. But this is still the last high quality competitive game for the US before Russia, and a win would go a long way to ensuring automatic qualification. The US rounds out this break with a trip to Honduras on the 5th (6:30 PM EDT), while Costa Rica hosts Mexico later that evening (10:05 PM EDT).

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2nd Spain – Italy (World Cup Qualifier) 2:45 PM EDT Especially after France’s 4-0 demolition of the Netherlands yesterday, this showdown between Group G leaders is the must-see European qualifier of the round. Tied on 16 points (Spain has a +4 edge in goal differential), the winner of this game should be able to coast to automatic qualification in an otherwise light-weight group, while the loser will likely be forced into the qualification playoff.

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9th Manchester City – Liverpool 7:30 AM EDT Not a bad restart for the Premier League, with two of the teams tied in 2nd place facing off. Klopp’s Liverpool have been electrifying to watch but far from solid defensively, while Guardiola’s City still have much to prove. A win here will be a feather in someone’s cap.

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Valencia – Atlético Madrid 10:15 AM EDT Valencia seemed to have turned a corner under new manager Marcelino García Toral, as their recent 2-2 tie against Real Madrid demonstrates. Next up is the other team from Madrid, who bounced back from an opening round tie against newly promoted Girona with a pasting of Las Palmas. But if you don’t trust Valencia to bring the heat, you could also catch Atlético’s home match against Sevilla on the weekend of 24th (Date/Time TBD).

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12th Barcelona – Juventus (Champions League) 2:45 PM EDT This is probably the best of the opening round fixtures of the Champions League group stage this season. The other major tie of the day is between Roma and Atlético Madrid. And if you need more Juventus in your life, they will have a busy week later in the month, facing Fiorentina mid-week on the 20th (2:45 PM EDT) and then local rivals Torino on the 23rd (2:45 PM EDT).

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13th Tottenham Hotspur – Borussia Dortmund (Champions League) 2:45 PM EDT Spurs have been delivered a crushing Champions League draw, such that this opening round fixture against the 2nd best team in Germany is probably a must-win game to have a realistic chance of advancing beyond the group. With Real Madrid waiting in the wings, it won’t get any easier for Pochettino’s men.

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17th Chelsea – Arsenal 8:30 AM EDT Both Arsenal and Chelsea had crazy season openers. But where Conte’s side promptly returned to crushing form, Arsenal demonstrated that the three goals conceded to Watford were more telling than the four scored. A big loss here could be the final nail in Wenger’s coffin. Stick around for Wayne Rooney’s return to Old Trafford (Manchester United – Everton, 11:00 AM EDT), and then try to find a place that gets Bein Sports so you can catch Paris Saint-Germain – Olympique Lyonnais (3:00 PM EDT).

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22nd Lille OSC – AC Monaco 2:45 PM EDT Monaco have already proved that they aren’t going anywhere, even if Kylian Mbappé is. Leonardo Jardim’s side may not repeat last year’s feat of being Europe’s most exciting side, but the basic model looks to have survived the transfer market’s strip-mining of their considerable talents. On the other side, mad genius Marcelo Bielsa’s Lille have been utterly unpredictable, but should prove entertaining (at least for a neutral).  If he hasn’t quit by then, this game should be great fun.

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26th Borussia Dortmund – Real Madrid (Champions League) 2:45 PM EDT More fun from the Group of Death. Real Madrid will be coming off a game against Sevilla (Date/Time TBD) at the weekend, but Dortmund will still have their work cut out for them.

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27th Paris Saint-Germain – Bayern Munich (Champions League) 2:45 PM EDT This is what Neymar and Kylian Mbappé have been brought in for. Though both teams should advance, neither will want to lose this early Champions League clash. Simply put, this is the most anticipated game of the month. But if you’re too hipster for that, you can always opt for Atlético Madrid – Chelsea instead.

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30th Chelsea – Manchester City 12:30 AM EDT City open the month hosting Liverpool and close it out at Stamford Bridge. A lot can change in a month (especially at this stage of the season, but Conte’s Chelsea seem like the more serious test. Although a month to bed in new players should help Guardiola’s side, whether they will be ready for the current champions remains to be seen. After this one finishes up, you might want to switch over to Paris Saint-Germain – Girondins de Bordeaux (2:00 PM EDT), just to see how Neymar and Mbappé are doing.

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