The Early Sub: Goal Kick, 08/08/2017

Well, with the new season slowly but surely kicking off around Europe. I thought this would be the best time to unveil in a new series for The Early Sub that I hope to put out every Tuesday. It’s called Goal Kick, where I recap the weekend, and tell you what’s ahead for the entire week while also finishing off with a Top 25 Rankings off teams from around the world, formulated by WorldFootballDatabase.com, and by facts and important information found and researched by me. So with that being said here’s the first edition of Goal Kick presented by The Early Sub.

Weekend Recap

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We’re just about stepping out of the friendlies preseason stage of the season. Slowly the meaningless preseason tournaments that take place only in the interest of a large purse, and some time to showcase yourself to another side of the world, is beginning to end. We’re stepping out of those and stepping into each leagues super cups and opening week games. England and Germany held their respective super cup games in the form of the Community Shield and the Super Pokal. Meanwhile Ligue 1 in France has kicked and the Champions League is hosting a gallery of high stakes playoff games.

Probably the most interesting and most highly anticipated match of the past week was mid-week contest between the MLS All Stars and Real Madrid. Some of the biggest names in the history of the sport, still plying their trade in the United States, took on the very best club on Earth right now, Real Madrid. A highly entertaining game featuring the likes of Schweinsteiger, Kaka, David Villa, Sergio Ramos, Isco and Luka Modric produced a 1-1 game at the end of 90 minutes with Los Blancos putting on a class performance. They dominated possession, weaving in and out of the MLS defense, clearly exposing their lack of unity. In the end, Real Madrid won on penalties, putting on a wonderful exhibition of football for the crowd of Soldier Field in Chicago.

The Audi Cup took place once again at the Allianz Arena in Munich this past week. The likes of Bayern, Atletico Madrid, Napoli and Liverpool took part in the preseason competition. It didn’t go quite as expected for Bayern though, dropping both games to Liverpool and Napoli while failing to score a single goal. Atletico Madrid and Liverpool were the ones that stood out in the competition, with Atletico Madrid nipping Napoli 2-1 and Liverpool bruising Bayern 3-0 on Tuesday. And they drew against each other 1-1 on Wednesday, leaving the Audi Cup both unbeaten. Bayern had to shape up after their disappointing Audi Cup showing, as they had to hop on a plane bound for Dortmund for the weekend. Der Klassiker was once again the setting for the German Super Cup as the Bundesliga winners Bayern, took on Pokal winners Dortmund at Signal Iduna Park. A wonderfully back in forth game that looked like it was going to swing Dortmund’s way when Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang pounced on a counter attacking chance in the 71st minute to put Dortmund up 2-1, after first half goals from Pulisic and Lewandowski. But resilient Bayern never gave up, and a tangle in the box with the final product being a Joshua Kimmich little scoop that ricocheted off Keeper, Roman Burki, and fell into the net. Bayern then kept their composure n the ensuing shootout with Sven Ulreich saving Sebastian Rode’s and Marc Bartra’s efforts. Bayern had won yet another Pokal, their 6th in their illustrious history.

Shifting over from Germany and onward to England where the Community Shield was the prize to be held on Sunday as two terrific London teams converged at Wembley. League winners Chelsea took on FA Cup winners Arsenal in an all too familiar London Derby at an all too familiar setting. Chelsea and Arsenal last faced off in the Community Shield in 2015 where Arsenal were able to see off Mourinho’s Blues. This time, Arsene Wenger’s Gunners were able to top an Antonio Conte led Blues, but this time in penalties. Victor Moses starting the scoring at Wembley but Sead Kolasinac equalized late in the 82nd minute for Arsenal. The ensuing Penalty Shootout was disastrous for Conte’s men as Thibaut Courtois, bizarrely stepped up for Chelsea’s 2nd penalty. Of course he absolutely skied it like it was a goal kick and Chelsea only managed to net one of their penalties. Arsenal took home the Community Shield and have started off their 2017/2018 on the right foot. Chelsea meanwhile didn’t look bad, but definitely didn’t look like the well oiled machine it was last season. And Alvaro Morata’s penalty was absolutely horrendous and almost makes you wonder what Chelsea spent over 65 million pounds on. It’s going to be an interesting season in England, and that’s the only certainty.

Ligue 1 had kicked off over the weekend and although Ligue 1 is one of the top 5 leagues in Europe, it didn’t feature any real marquee matchups in it’s opening week (that’s okay, neither is the Premier League). PSG cruised by Amiens, Nice fell to Saint Etienne, and Lyon looked impressive in their 4-0 bashing of Strasbourg. All started after league champions’ Monaco were able to get by Toulouse on Opening Night 3-2. That was the bulk of it though, and week 2 is going to see more of the same. But the big story in France was actually in the Champions League this past week and not in Ligue 1. Although the action in France has been and still is overshadowed by the Neymar transfer to Paris, Nice took on Ajax in a very difficult playoff match in the Champions League. Pitted against each other in the 2nd to last playoff round before the group stages, Nice traveled to Amsterdam and were able to grind out a 2-2 draw. That draw gave Nice the win on away goals and allowed them to progress to the next stage of the Champions League Play-off round, where they may have Wesley Sneijder to assist them.

That’s just about it for the meaningful games, but here are some more interesting friendlies that took place over the week. Spurs stormed past Juventus 2-0 on Saturday at Wembley in Spurs’ final tune-up before the Premier League begins and the final tune-up for Juventus before their SuperCoppa Italia match this weekend against Lazio. Atalanta were able to top Dortmund 1-0 on Tuesday at Signal Iduna Park. Liverpool put on a class performance after the Audi Cup, with an encore performance against Athletic Bilbao where they topped the Basque side 3-1 on Saturday. Inter defeated Villarreal by the same score on Sunday at the San Siro. And finally the Toffees of Everton drew with Sevilla 2-2 on Saturday at Goodison Park.

The Week Ahead

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The 2nd match day of Ligue 1, as well as the opening week of the Premier League is upon us this Saturday. But first was the UEFA Super Cup that took place earlier today in Macedonia. Champions League winners, Real Madrid, topped Europa League winners, Manchester United by the score of 2-1 with goals from Casemiro and Isco. It was a real exclamation point on who the best team on Earth is, and Madrid will have another chance to truly stake that claim over the weekend when they take on Barcelona in El Clasico for the Spanish Super Cup on Sunday. The first of two legs, will be taking place at the Nou Camp in Barcelona followed by the 2nd leg at the Santiago Bernabeu on Wednesday. An enormous slate of games for the European champions to start their season, but like they say, if you want to be the best then you have to beat the best. And Real Madrid have certainly been doing just that. Madrid’s clash with United and their Clasico this weekend were two of the only three heavyweight matchups taking place this weekend.

Unfortunately for the world, the other heavyweight matchup happening around the world this week, is only a friendly. With Sevilla taking on Roma on Friday at the Sanchez Pizjuan for what looks like their final tune ups before the season begins for each side next weekend. Roma in my opinion, go into the season as a top 10 team in the world, but will have to cope quickly with the loss of Mohamed Salah. If they can’t plug up that hole quickly and efficiently, then they may be buried towards the Europa League spots in the table of Serie A. Roma only seemed to have gotten weaker, while the likes of Milan and Juventus have gotten stronger. Sevilla will be looking for another 4th place finish as I can’t help but feel their aspirations for a top 3 finish has faded away with the departures of President of football operations, Monchi, who left for Roma and Manager Jorge Sampoali who left for the Argentina National Team spot. It’ll be a very tempting year for the much more depleted Sevilla who still have the Champions League on their plate this season.

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And finally my top 25 for the world entering the week of August 13th.

  1. Real Madrid
  2. Bayern
  3. Barcelona
  4. Juventus
  5. Atletico Madrid
  6. Chelsea
  7. Napoli
  8. Spurs
  9. Paris
  10. Roma
  11. Monaco
  12. Manchester City
  13. Manchester Utd
  14. Dortmund
  15. Benfica
  16. Arsenal
  17. Liverpool
  18. FC Shakhtar
  19. Hoffenheim
  20. PSV
  21. Villarreal
  22. Ajax
  23. Porto
  24. Celtic
  25. Athletic Bilbao

Just Missed: Atalanta, Sevilla, Dynamo Kiev

Tell me what you think of the top 25 entering the season! Who should be higher? Who should be lower? Who should be in or out, let me know!

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