Predicting the beautiful game can be a fool’s errand, but fortune favors the bold. Yahoo Soccer has run the stats and analyzed the form books for five of the biggest games this weekend …
Manchester City vs. Tottenham
For the second weekend running, we will be treated to the spectacle of a Premier League “Big Six” side from London coming to Manchester to meet a fellow member of the upper echelon. Last Sunday, Chelsea were vanquished 4-0. This Sunday, Tottenham will be hoping to avoid such a fate when they travel to Manchester City. But that’s easier said than done.
On the opening weekend, Pep Guardiola’s side put five unanswered goals past West Ham. At times, they were sloppy, and new signing Rodri wasn’t moving the ball with the requisite speed for a City defensive midfielder, but they left the London Stadium with a huge win while barely getting out of second gear.
Tottenham, on the other hand, made harder work of their opener. With a squad containing multiple players who reportedly wish to leave — and a manager who makes no secret of his frustration — Spurs trailed newly promoted Aston Villa for much of the game, before salvaging three points in the final 20 minutes. One of the biggest positives for the Lilywhites was Harry Kane’s brace; the Englishman was previously renowned for his complete failure to score in August.
City are the strong favorites with the bookmakers, at around 1/3 in Las Vegas and with bet365, but the reigning champions have mixed recent form against Mauricio Pochettino’s men. At the tail end of the last campaign, City showed impressive fortitude to hang on to a 1-0 early lead against Spurs at the Etihad, which helped them pip Liverpool to the title.
Days earlier, however, they lost all discipline in a wild Champions League second leg that ended 4-3, allowing Tottenham to progress on goal difference.
That European elimination will likely still weigh heavily on Guardiola, who will show no mercy in this encounter. City have won five of their last six meetings with Tottenham, keeping clean sheets in half of those victories. A low-scoring City win seems to be the order of the day.
Prediction: Manchester City 1-0 Tottenham
Best Bet: Under 1.5 total goals (4/1 with bet365). Three of the last four matches between these sides have had a 1-0 scoreline.
Athletic Bilbao vs. Barcelona
La Liga makes its welcome return this Friday, and we kick off with a blockbuster between two of the oldest clubs in the country, who are bastions of their respective local regions: Athletic Club and Barcelona.
While the Blaugrana’s biggest foes are undoubtedly Real Madrid, they have endured a fierce and storied rivalry with Bilbao since the league’s inception in 1929. San Mames Stadium, in its current and former guises, is a notoriously difficult place to visit, and Bilbao have proven to be combative opponents.
Bilbao have actually faced the Blaugrana 10 times on the opening day of the season, the most recent of which was a 1-0 win for the Catalans at San Mames in 2015, courtesy of a Luis Suarez strike. Of those 10 opening day meetings, Bilbao have only won one — and that was back in 1949.
The odds reflect Barca’s dominance in Spanish soccer (they are -150 in Vegas, which is short for an away team), but they have been held to a draw in their last two meetings with Bilbao.
The Basques have only lost one of their last three home matches with Barcelona. This will be no cakewalk for the reigning champions, but they should secure three points.
Prediction: Athletic Club 1-2 Barcelona
Best Bet: Over 2.5 total goals (11/10 at bet365). There have been over 2.5 goals in each side’s last three outings and this fixture has only been scoreless once in the last 27 occasions.
Bayern Munich vs. Hertha Berlin
The Bundesliga also kicks off this weekend, and Union Berlin’s matchup with RB Leipzig looks intriguing. Not only is it a clash between league newbies and potential title rivals, but there are American players in both squads (Lennard Maloney for Union and Tyler Adams at Leipzig).
The festivities kick off on Friday, however, when Bayern Munich play host to Hertha Berlin at the Allianz Arena. The Bavarians are gunning for their eighth consecutive Bundesliga title, and will be keen to get three points on the board early, seeing as they only won the championship by a nail-biting two points last campaign.
On paper, this looks like a straightforward Bayern win: They are dominant, they are unbeaten in 24 home games against Hertha, and the Berliners are a mid-table side, who have flirted with the relegation playoff in recent campaigns.
However, Hertha are something of an Achilles heel for Bayern, as they have taken points from them in four of their last five meetings.
They took three points from the Bavarians last season in Matchweek 7 to inflict Niko Kovac’s first defeat of the campaign. They have held Bayern to a draw in three of their last five meetings.
Hertha will be no pushovers, but a Bayern victory seems inevitable, given their home dominance, their desire to keep ahead of Borussia Dortmund in the title race, and their strengthened squad. World Cup-winning defenders Benjamin Pavard and Lucas Hernandez will fortify the backline, while Ivan Perisic will provide the width.
Prediction: Bayern Munich 2-0 Hertha Berlin
Best Bet: Bayern Munich to win to nil (5/6 with Boylesports). Manuel Neuer has kept clean sheets in nine of his last 10 home meetings with Hertha.
Rennes vs. Paris Saint-Germain
The biggest headline in Ligue 1 this season continues to be a player who may not even play in the league this season: Neymar.
The Brazilian was conspicuous by his absence in last weekend’s opener, a 3-0 victory over Nimes, which was attributed to an injury. Sporting director Leonardo later admitted that his protracted attempt to escape Paris also played a part in his absence.
The world’s most expensive player isn’t expected to feature this weekend, which means he will miss a chance to vindicate his behavior the last time he faced Rennes. That was the Coupe de France final last April, which PSG lost on penalties before Neymar disgraced himself by allegedly punching a fan in the stands.
Rennes upset the Parisians in the cup last season and also took three points from them at the Parc des Princes two seasons ago. There is potential for an upset, but PSG are heavy favorites (at around 1/3 with most bookmakers). They have won eight of their last nine league meetings with Rennes, they beat them in the French Super Cup in Shenzhen earlier this month, and they haven’t lost at Roazhon Park in the league since their Qatari takeover.
They may not have Neymar, but the reigning champions have more than enough firepower to maintain their 100% start.
Prediction: Rennes 1-3 PSG
Best Bet: Over 3.5 goals (11/10 with William Hill). Five of their last seven meetings have featured over 3.5 goals and PSG’s last three league matches have also featured over 3.5 goals.
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