Spain & Portugal
This week seen the return of domestic league in Turkey, after the dramatic, and roller coaster end to last season. Current title holders Galatasaray, under the stewardship of Fatih Terim for the fourth (yes, fourth!) time will look to defend their crown, and started off well by beating newly promoted Ankaragucu 3-1.
Fenerbahce, for their part a somewhat weaker side on paper at least heading into the season, have a bit of star power at the helm in the form of Dutch midfield superstar Phillip Cocu, his first job outside of Holland having guided PSV to the title last season. Besiktas had a season similar to Rangers in 2005/06, brilliant in Europe (winning their Champions League group) but very poor domestically, finishing 4th. They will be looking to do much better in the league this season. What made the Turkish League so captivating and exciting, especially in the closing weeks last term was the fact it is no longer a three horse.
Trabzonspor and Basaksehir will have a few things to say about the destination of the league trophy. Indeed those two faced each other on the opening day, Basaksehir winning 2-0 with Emmanuel Adebayor scoring a late goal. The biggest result was no doubt Fernabache's 2-1 victory at home to Bursaspor. Besiktas also got off to a winning start, and if the Turkish League can deliver any sort of drama we witnessed at the tail end of last season, it could very well be the one to watch again.
Bradley Johnson is the Hangover's Southern European expert, and he feels like he has won a watch this week:
As the Southern Europe expert, there would be no more fitting place for me to concentrate my input, then on are Greek friends, A.E.K. After relegations and financial problems they secured there first top division league title in 24 years. They hope to build on that by qualifying for the Champions League group stages for the first time since 2002. They face Hungary champions MOL Vido next week, with the first leg away from home. I'm sure all you bears will wish are new found friends the best of luck
Craig Murray discusses a potential Champions League return for a former European giant:
Red Star Belgrade are potentially on the brink of qualifying for the group stages of the Champions League having dumped Spartak Trnava 3-2 on aggregate after an extra time away goal. Should they beat the Salzburg branch of the Red Bull marketing department then the Rajko Mitić Stadium or the Marakana will play host to an elite level European game since that famous night on 29th May 1991 where Red Star would dump Bayern Munich after Klaus Augenthaler scored a spectacular stoppage time own goal to send Red Star to the final which they would famously go to win.
Red Star wouldn’t be allowed to defend their title on home soil due to war the following season with them and fellow Yugoslavian clubs being banned from European competition from May 1992 and it wasn’t until August 1995 that clubs from Yugoslavia ( then consisting of Serbia and Montenegro ) were allowed to return.
Scot van den Akker gives the lowdown on all things from his beloved Benny Fucks...sorry, Benelux:
Mixed start for Gio and Feyenoord…won Super Cup on penalties, then lost first league game 2-0 to lowly and just promoted De Graafschap. Champions PSV won easily at home, as did last year’s great entertainers AZ. Ajax were held at home 1-1 by Heracles despite the big name signings and a 52,000 capacity crowd watching on. Europe has been a very mixed bag: CL qualification proceeding apace with PSV and Ajax having winnable final qualifying round…PSV face BATE Borisov, and Ajax play Slavia Prague.
The Europa League qualifiers were horrendous with early departures for all three clubs two against very unfancied opponents: Feyenord lost to Slovakia’s Trencin, AZ lost to Kazak outfit Kairat. Vitesse were unlucky to face Basle and lost that one….no Dutch presence in EL unless one of the CL teams fails to make it.
Anderlecht and Club Brugge lead the way in the Jupiler Pro League after 3 games….both on maximum points. Standard Liege, tipped by some as dark horses have won just 1 of their 3 games and are mid table. Club Brugge went straight into CL Group stage, and Standard and Anderlecht are in Group Stage of EL…Genk and Gent have Europa League qualifying play offs to look forward to. In Luxumbourg,
Juenesse Esch, Differdange 03 and Union Titus – yes really – lead the way after 2 games with full points. Old chums Progres have played one match and lost it…in Europe Progres were not quite able to get the job done against Ufa, with Russians going on to face the mighty Glasgow Rangers, but Dudelange pulled off a coup by knocking out Polish giants Legia Warsaw, a truly historic result for a football nation who seemingly are on the rise.
Scott McKenzie gets his teeth stuck into one of the biggest leagues in world football, in a country that is somewhat in footballing turmoil:
Well, the World Cup is over & done with along with the inquest into Die Mannschaft early exit which mainly blaming a certain player who poses with politicians but there is good news for German football fans & that is the upcoming return of the Bundesliga next weekend after this weekend’s DFB Pokal ties.
Of course, this is the time where we are all optimistic other than the glory hunting Bayern fans that we hope another team other than Bayern will take the title. Starting with the Bavarian’s themselves the biggest change was in the head coach’s office in the return to the club of Niko Kovac as head coach with his brother Robert also formally of Bayern. Not many major player changes other than the recent departure of Arturo Vidal to Barcelona, so pretty much the same faces. The biggest arrivals have been Léon Goretzka & Alphonso Davies from Vancouver who will join in January.
The first of the contenders is Dortmund where the biggest story once again has been in the coaching department with the arrival of Lucien Favre replacing Peter Stoger reuniting him with his former pupil at Borussia Monchengladbach Marco Reus. Their biggest signing has been in the return from China in the form Belgian international Axel Witsel after a decent World Cup which should provide some steel to the midfield.
This contrasts to their local rivals Schalke where stability seems to be existing with no key management changes this summer with Head Coach Domenico Tedesco signing a contract but with a few signings made with Mark Uth coming from Hoffenheim being the biggest which maybe be sign that it may be a hard season in Nagelsmann's final season as they also lose Serge Gnabry as he returns to Bayern from his loan.
It has been a strange summer in Leipzig again, coaching once again but with a twist as Ralph Hasenhuttl, left then to appoint Julian Nagelsmann but will only join next season so Sporting Director Ralf Rangnick will take charge this season.
Something we may see this season at Hertha is the appearance in the goal of one Jonathan Klinsmann, yes son of the well known diver... & former Bayern head coach Jurgen but the only thing is that he has sided with the US & not Germany which would reverse the trend of US players born in Germany eg. Jermaine Jones.
And finally this week, Adam Stark shares with us a tale of woe in the world of Polish football:
There's a saying in Poland, 'Tonący brzytwy się chwyta ' which translates to 'The Drowning Man catches a cut throat razor' which is roughly the same as the English saying 'clutching at straws'. Which summarises quite well the general disharmony facing Polish football fans at the minute.
As I write this on the eve of the 3rd round qualifiers 2nd leg games, Poland is facing the harsh reality of having zero representation in European cup competition at club level this season. When you factor in the underwhelming showing in the World Cup it has left many polish football fans puzzled as to what is going on with Polish football. The obvious talent, the modest wealth and recent History is on their side. I unfortunately don't have the time today to delve into that particular can of worms. So instead I'll just give you the information that counts. As things stand, there will be zero Polish representatives in the Champions League this season. Slovakian Champions Spartak Trnava saw to that a couple of weeks ago after dumping out Legia Warszawa.
Sticking with Legia for a moment, they now face F91 Dudelange of Luxembourg in the Europa League and currently trail them after slipping to a 2-1 defeat at home (it finished 2-2 in the second leg meaning Legia crashed out of the Europa League as well). Lech Poznań take on Genk at home after losing the game 2-0 away in Belgium (again, the Polish side failed to advance). Jagiellonia Białystok also face Belgian opposition in the form of Gent, and after losing the home leg of the tie by a single goal, they now travel to Belgium needing to score two goals and keep the Belgians at bay in order to progress (they didn't, a hat trick of disappointment!). It seems Polish football is still suffering from a collective World Cup hangover.
James Forrest (@No_Not_That_1)