The International Break seemed to take like forever, and when it did end, it was with the remaining places for the 2018 World Cup being confirmed.
That means we get to return to club football, from now till March next year, and what better way to start than with a weekend which kicks off with a derby.
By lunchtime on Saturday, Arsenal and Tottenham go toe-to-toe for yet another North London derby, the Gunners seeking to bridge a four-point deficit from their visitors, while Spurs aim to close the gap on leaders Manchester City. Different reasons, but the need for capital supremacy is just as great.
After that waits another derby, this time in Italy, as Roma and Lazio will resume Derby Della Capitale hostilities at the Stadio Olimpico. The angst over the nation failing to qualify for the World Cup means even more fieriness shouldn’t be unexpected here.
And capping off Saturday’s derby trifecta is none other than the clash in the, you guessed it, capital, of Spain, as Real Madrid make their first foray into the Wanda Metropolitano to face rivals Atletico Madrid. Both sides are deadlocked on 23 points in the league, and have eyes on catching log leaders Barcelona. Again, expect fireworks.
Elsewhere, Vincenzo Montella still remains under significant pressure at the helm of AC Milan, so the last thing he would have been looking forward to was a visit to Serie A leaders Napoli; but that’s what he has, and Rossoneri make the trip to San Paolo more in hope than expectation.
Barcelona travel to Leganes hoping to maintain their lead atop La Liga, Manchester United aim to get back on track as Newcastle come to Old Trafford while Bayern Munich host Augsburg in the Bundesliga.
Also in the Bundesliga, Dortmund are aiming to arrest their freefall as they visit Stuttgart without their top scorer Pierre Emerick Aubameyang; Juventus travel to Sampdoria in the Serie A, Ligue 1 leaders Paris Saint-Germain host surprise package Nantes, and it’s the clash of the falling in Italy, as Sassuolo – three losses in a row – travel to Benevento, 12 losses in a row.
To quote Frank Underwood, “welcome back”.
Serie A: Sampdoria v Juventus; Roma v Lazio; Napoli v Milan; Benevento v Sassuolo; Inter v Atalanta; Crotone v Genoa; Hellas Verona v Bologna; SPAL v Fiorentina; Torino v Chievo; Udinese v Cagliari
Premier League: Arsenal v Tottenham; Manchester United v Newcastle; Crystal Palace v Everton; Watford v West Ham; Leicester v Manchester City; Brighton v Stoke; West Brom v Chelsea; Bournemouth v Huddersfield; Liverpool v Southampton; Burnley v Swansea
Bundesliga: Stuttgart v Dortmund; Wolfsburg v Freiburg; Mainz v Koln; Leverkusen v RB Leipzig; Schalke v Hamburg; Werder Bremen v Hannover; Hertha BSC v Borussia Monchengladbach; Hoffenheim v Frankfurt; Bayern Munich v Augsburg
La Liga: Girona v Real Sociedad; Atletico Madrid v Real Madrid; Getafe v Alaves; Leganes v Barcelona; Sevilla v Celta Vigo; Malaga v Deportivo; Espanyol v Valencia; Las Palmas v Levante; Athletic Club v Villarreal; Eibar v Betis
Ligue 1: Amiens v Monaco; PSG v Nantes; Strasbourg v Rennes; Toulouse v Metz; Bordeaux v Marseille; Lille v St. Etienne; Guingamp v Angers; Caen v Nice; Lyon v Montpellier; Dijon v Troyes