The National Football League returns to England on Sunday as the Baltimore Ravens face the Jacksonville Jaguars at Wembley Stadium, a now biannual feature as the league is desperate to gain British NFL fans. Meanwhile, soccer leagues across Europe are considering bringing regular-season games to the U.S.
Amid strong interest from clubs in Major League Soccer, it was with a view towards the 2018 World Cup that Andres Guardado decided to join Real Betis and continue pushing himself at the highest level in La Liga. After three starts for the Seville-based club, it’s apparent that the 30-year-old made the right decision. This is obviously his level.
Gareth Bale has done it again. Perhaps best known for his stunning sprint against Barcelona in the 2014 Copa del Rey Final (one that had Usain Bolt saying: “It’s a goal any sprinter in the world would like to score one day. He’s the fastest footballer in the world at the moment.”), Bale has scored another scorching effort for Real Madrid.
There’s an immediate hot take available here that I just can’t commit myself to: the departure of Neymar from Barcelona has had an uplifting effect on 33-year-old midfielder Andres Iniesta, and El Ilusionista is about to enjoy the consummate season because of a mixture of peak footballing intelligence and a proverbial unchaining on the left-hand side of Barca’s midfield.
Timo Werner is rapid. As demonstrated in RB Leipzig’s 2-0 victory over Hamburg on Friday, the German international is a devastating one-man counter attack. Like Wayne Rooney in his pomp, Werner is unabashedly direct.
Up until their quarterfinal defeat to Brazil, no side was more thoroughly entertaining at the 2014 World Cup than Colombia. James Rodriguez was the tournament’s standout performer and plenty of additional firepower was provided by the likes of Juan Cuadrado, Jackson Martinez and Teofilo Gutierrez.
With 19 league assists in 30 matches, no player in Europe’s big five leagues had more than RB Leipzig’s Emil Forsberg last season. The 25-year-old Swedish midfielder was one of the breakthrough players in Europe in 2016-17, firing his club to an unexpected second place finish in the Bundesliga.
For a bit of context, Luis Suarez provided the second most assists in Europe’s big five leagues last season. His total was 13.
The start of major European leagues looms and fans are anxious to see how their teams fare on opening weekend. But how much does the first match even matter? After all, it's a long season and teams have plenty of time to rebound from week one losses. Or do they?
Looking at the statistics, it appears that the first game can set the tone for an entire season. It can either give a burst of confidence or present an omen of troubles ahead.