It'll be the runners up against last season's darlings, and on paper, the upstart latter seemed to have gained personnel ground. Despite having to send back several loan aces, including Bayer's Andre Schurrle, Mainz have beefed up with the acquisitions of defender Zdenek Pospech and attacker Anthony Ujah.
The visitors have lost wing terror Balazs Dzsudzsak, but added V-3 power to the engine with the capture of Dries Mertens, Kevin Strootman and Georginho Wijnaldum. With the Guus Hiddink heyday still looming over Philips Stadion, manager Fred Rutten hope they can help close the talent gap.
As balanced as the Bundesliga is, there are always several tempting match-ups on a weekend card. Day one of the new season is no exception, with interesting angles on offer for every game.
My fascination with a language in which all words must end in a vowel aside, the most interesting spectacle on Serie A opening weekend will be the Udinese v Juventus - the battle of the Bianconeri, if you will.
I'd love to see anyone tell either a Cheese Farmer or a Farmer that they can't regain the Eredivisie crown this season. Of course, the former (AZ) ended up fourth last spring and the latter (PSV Eindhoven) finished bronze, each double digits in points off the title pace.
The transfer window remains open for four more weeks, but two La Liga sides set to meet on opening weekend (August 21st, to be specific) are in to make this summer's list of high rollers.
by Greg Seltzer
#2 - Rumble In The… Dairy Aisle?
Italian giants Juventus, meanwhile, are aiming to get back into the Champions League places after consecutive seventh place finishes. This goal is made trickier by Italy losing one slot to Germany this year, leaving just three.
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Then again, the first order of business has to be figuring out a way past Los Blaugrana. Barcelona have won four of an unbeaten five at Malaga by a combined 13-3 tally.
#1 - The Big Spenders
The main purchase thus far for PSG - now a subsidiary of the Qatari investment group that also has healthy shares of Miramax Films and the London Stock Exchange - actually came from their opening day guests: striker Kevin Gameiro. Not only did they grab the Ligue 1 Golden Boot runner up, Les Parisiens have also added winger Jeremy Menez and the smooth/rough midfield dynamic of Blaise Matuidi and Mohammed Sissoko.
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Aside from snaring the Udinese duo of Simone Pepe and Marco Motta, The Old Lady also has lured the aforementioned Vidal, Stephan Lichtsteiner, Andrea Pirlo, Fabio Quagliarella and Reto Ziegler. Speaking of things done, Juve have also win six of the last eight at Udinese, including a 4-0 rout last year.
Meanwhile, there is also the small matter of Lorient, who have posted two wins, a draw and three shutouts on their last four league visits to Paris. And though they lost three of their best players this summer, midfield pass-master Mathieu Coutadeur and a few other promising reinforcements have arrived.
#5 - Und now vee dahnce.
Champions Barcelona spent a load on Chile sensation Sanchez and have even dropped about €10 million on youth prospects set for the second team. Kickoff day hosts Malaga, meanwhile have doled out nearly €50 million to capture nine experienced players.
With the seasons nearing kick off in France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Spain, we're going to highlight the tastiest opening day match-up set to hit the table in each league.
With the pre-game stories so spread out,Ray Lewis Ravens Jersey, that means practically by default that none of the matches stand out alone,Jeremy Maclin Jersey. Nevertheless, I'm bound by soccer ordinance to pick one and after much deliberation, I proclaim the top Bundesliga icebreaker to be... Sunday's Bayer Leverkusen raid on Mainz.
Now,Aldon Smith Youth Jersey, the Alkmaar crew have prepared for hosting an opening day "Farmers" derby by claiming Jozy Altidore and Dirk Kuyt play-alike Ruud Boymans for the attack. The U.S,Ahmad Bradshaw Giants Jersey,. striker may not quite be ready for game one thanks to a hamstring injury suffered at the Gold Cup, but AZ will come in trying to end a five-game winless slide against PSV.
Champions Ajax have this far held onto most of their crew and added a few exciting pieces, so neither AZ nor PSV will want to start a fight back campaign by surrendering points this weekend.
Leverkusen, who were second in Germany last season in both points and goals on the road, haven't lost in the last three at Stadion am Bruchweg. However, they are still looking to replace the departed Arturo Vidal and U.S. keeper David Yelldell must step up to spell injured #1 Rene Adler for the first two months of the season.
The opening day hosts have, of course, sent a veritable justice league of footballers packing in transfers this summer. Gone among others are headliners Alexis Sanchez, Gokhan Inler and Cristian Zapata. Thus far, the club has not re-invested much of the estimated €45 million in fees collected this summer. The club's second ever Champions league odyssey could be short,Chris Cooley Jersey, as things stand.
While La Liga and Serie A won't serve up their season bows for two and three weeks, respectively,Mason Crosby Jersey, the other three open for 2011/12 business this weekend. Of course, this ranking goes by dish spiciness.
#3 - Da Spiciest-A-Meat-A-Ball-A
They aren't even done yet, as Javier Pastore is close to joining from Palermo and Man United ace Dimitar Berbatov has replaced U.S. star Clint Dempsey as the de rigeur forward link of the moment.
Having finished 11th last season, Malaga are also owned by the investment group of Qatar's ruling Emir that is pumping money into PSG. Among those coming onboard this summer are wingers Joaquin and Santi Cazorla, defender Joris Mathijsen, and midfielder Jeremy Toulalan. Like their Parisian cousins, they may not be done spending yet.
Everybody in France is dying to see what the cash-infused Paris St. Germain looks like. Naturalment, no people are more eager for the show than the local fans, who will get to be on hand for the premiere when Les Rouge-et-Bleu welcome Lorient (a team that's gone through nearly as much summer player turnover) on Saturday.