10 Players to Watch in World Football on Weekend of August 22-25
As another weekend of intense football action gets closer to reality, fans around the globe will be checking the team sheets to see which big players are set to affect the action.
Whether at the beginning of the season in Europe or midway through in South America, big points are at stake and key players will be needed to be at the top of their game.
Here we've taken a look at which 10 players will be the biggest ones to watch for this weekend's action.
Check them out, leave your thoughts on them and, as ever, feel free to suggest your own!
Gareth Bale, Real Madrid
The Spanish Super Cup is set for the second leg on Friday evening, with Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid poised at 1-1 after the first 90 minutes.
Gareth Bale was an early influential performer in the game, using his pace and direct running to good effect in the early stages as Real dominated play, though too frequently he cut inside and cluttered up an already packed centre of the park.
Later on he was marginalised, but he clearly has the ability to trouble Atletico left-back Guilherme Siqueira and would hope to do so more in the second leg than in the second half of the first game.
David Alaba, Bayern Munich
David Alaba made his name as an offensive midfielder before starring for Bayern Munich over the past couple of seasons as an attacking left-back.
Now in the pre-season just finished, he has found a new role—a left-sided central defender in Pep Guardiola's new-look 3-4-3 system.
Though starting as a centre-back position, pre-season has already shown us that the wide defenders will still have to step up into midfield positions on and off the ball, and how Alaba copes with that role, as well as his normal defensive duties, could be pivotal to the success of Bayern's new shape. Especially with Javi Martinez absent through injury now.
Diego Costa, Chelsea
Chelsea have themselves a new striker: a striker not only to lead the line and be help them win games and titles, but also one who will always, always be in the focus of the TV cameras for his antics and aggression.
There's no downside to Costa being the snarling, relentless powerhouse that he is—he fits Chelsea's system perfectly, he's got great ability to make chances and take them, and he will bring other attackers into play consistently.
A booking for a "dive" against Burnley on his debut might only serve to underline how watchable he'll be. Leicester City could be in for a tough weekend against the Spaniard.
Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Borussia Dortmund
Borussia Dortmund kick off their season against Bayer Leverkusen, a top-four rival in the Bundesliga.
With several new attacking signings still bedding in and Marco Reus harbouring fitness issues ahead of the new season, all eyes will be on Armenian attacker Henrikh Mkhitaryan to step up and provide a responsible and reliable threat in transition play from the middle and final thirds.
While Jurgen Klopp's remodelled side needs some gelling time, he also needs results quickly to ensure they stay in the title hunt. Mkhitaryan must be key to that in the immediate future.
Memphis Depay, PSV Eindhoven
PSV forward Memphis Depay has started the new Eredivise season in tremendous form—he's hit four goals, claimed one assist and helped his team go top of the table with two wins from two.
He was in our players to watch last week too, and rightly so, but this time around he faces a big challenge as PSV take on reigning champions Ajax.
If Depay can continue his match-winning form then PSV can perhaps start to upset the order of things in Dutch football.
Marcos Rojo, Manchester United
Manchester United's search for a central defender this summer has apparently led them to the capture of former Sporting Lisbon defender Marcos Rojo, a World Cup finalist with Argentina this summer, per BBC Sport.
While Rojo commanded a hefty fee—plus Nani on loan in the other direction, with wages paid for by United, per BBC Sport—he isn't the big-name player or commanding defensive leader that many were expecting.
Nevertheless, he'll have to contribute in a big way to United's three-man defence, and all eyes will be on him to see how he copes. He should make his debut against Sunderland this weekend.
Ganso, Sao Paulo
Remember Ganso? The once-upon-a-time heir to the Brazilian national team is playing in his home country with Sao Paulo and is hugely impressing this term.
He is top of the assists charts in Serie A with seven in his 15 appearances and faces former club Santos in a derby clash this weekend.
Sao Paulo are third, four points off the top, with Santos currently seventh and a further six points back from their opponents. Ganso could be pivotal in turning the game the way of his new club against his old.
Vagner Love, Shandong Luneng
China's Super League sees title hopefuls Beijing Guoan play their game in hand this weekend Shandong Luneng, with the Beijing side needing a win to close the gap on leaders Guangzhou Evergrande, who are seven points clear.
Vagner Love will be looking to shoot down the title-chasers though, with his 11 goals this season making him joint-fourth for top scorer in the CSL.
The Brazilian striker netted a hat-trick against the same opposition earlier in the season in an impressive 3-0 away win for Shandong, the only home defeat Beijing Guoan have suffered this term.
Joao Plata, Real Salt Lake
Our final non-Europe-based player for the weekend, Joao Plata has been tearing it up in MLS for Real Salt Lake, hitting 11 goals in his 17 starts this season.
The 22-year-old Ecuadorian forward is the joint-fifth top scorer at present, and his side, top of the Western Conference at present, face a big game against Dallas at the weekend.
Dallas could overtake Real Salt Lake on goal difference, level on points, with a win at home in the game.
You never know.
Mario Balotelli is currently involved in a potential transfer deal, moving from AC Milan to Liverpool for £16 million according to a report from BBC Sport and other sources.
If he agrees and completes a move to the Reds before noon on Friday, Balotelli would be eligible to make his debut for his new club on Monday night—against former club and current Premier League champions Manchester City.
As if last season's top two in the league wasn't worth watching anyway!
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