Manchester United FC's visit to Newcastle United FC on Saturday is among the highlights of an enticing weekend's action across Europe.
The two sides had contrasting openings to the English season last weekend, with United crushing Bolton Wanderers FC 4-0 while Newcastle escaped from Leeds United AFC with a 2-2 draw thanks to a late Alan Shearer goal. The Newcastle captain will compete for the limelight at St James' Park with United's Dutch forward Ruud van Nistelrooij who was on target against Bolton last week - the ninth successive league game he has scored in.
Newcastle, who won the last of their four league titles way back in 1927, had an unhappy record against United last season - losing 5-3 at Old Trafford and then falling 6-2 at home in April. The latter game effectively ended Newcastle's title challenge and moved United towards their eighth crown in eleven years.
Unsurprisingly, the Tynesiders are anxious for revenge. "The visit of Manchester United is always a big game but obviously there is the small matter of last season's defeat preying on our minds," said Newcastle's England midfield player Kieron Dyer. "
It goes without saying that we are all fired up for this match and there is no doubt that we owe them."
United's new Portuguese signing Cristiano Ronaldo will hope for another chance to shine while Brazilian Kleberson could make his debut in midfield with Nicky Butt doubtful. Meanwhile, Newcastle manager Sir Bobby Robson is hoping defender Jonathan Woodgate and striker Craig Bellamy will be fit. Chelsea FC's array of summer signings will play their first match at Stamford Bridge against Leicester City FC.
It is the 40th anniverary of the start of the Bundesliga in Germany and to mark the occasion, Hamburger SV's home match against FC Bayern München will start at 17.00CET - the exact time the Bundesliga kicked off in 1963. UEFA President Lennart Johansson will be present, together with German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder and German Football Association president Gerhard Mayer-Vorfelder. Bayern's Michael Ballack is doubtful, however, while unsettled striker Giovane Elber is rumoured to be closing in on a move to Monaco.
Leverkusen on a roll
Elsewhere, Bayer 04 Leverkusen will hope to continue their renaissance by notching a fourth win in four games when they visit struggling VfL Bochum 1848. Second-placed BV Borussia Dortmund are without seven regulars for their visit to a 1. FC Köln side who have yet to pick up a point this season.
'Too early to predict'
In France, early pacesetters Lille OSC welcome newly promoted FC Metz. LOSC have won just two Ligue 1 titles in their history, in 1946 and 1954, and coach Claude Puel is aware talk of a third is premature. "If this group keeps working hard and seriously, we'll achieve something interesting but it's too early to predict anything," he said. Elsewhere, champions Olympique Lyonnais play host to Toulouse FC while AS Monaco FC are at Paris Saint-Germain FC.
Spanish Super Cup
Sunday sees the first competitive action of the new season in Spain when champions Real Madrid CF visit cup winners RCD Mallorca in the first leg of the Super Cup at the Son Moix stadium. In the Netherlands, champions PSV Eindhoven face Willem II after drawing their opening game of the season 1-1 at Roda JC last week. Elsewhere across Europe, new domestic seasons begin in Greece and Malta, where champions Sliema Wanderers FC are favourites to retain their title.
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