As the Premier League packs a bag for a two-week breather, I’m left to pick up the pieces by finding something to keep you entertained for the next 7 days. Can we keep ourselves occupied enough to justify a chill on Sunday? There are International fixtures wherever you look towards the end of the week but I’ve had to dig deep early doors. Can we see off another International break?
Tuesday 29th August
When we have a week like this, we have to hunt far and wide for football to keep us entertained. It is a week of International football, and the Asian Federation have kindly scheduled a fixture as early as Tuesday to get us off to a great start. UAE host Saudi Arabia and let me tell you, it matters. It really matters. UAE have to win to stand any chance of making the top three, but I’ll be honest – even if they do win they are up against it. Still, Saudi Arabia are hunting a top two spot which means automatic qualification, so it’s all to play for. Bet365 has you covered with a 5.30pm kickoff
There is a full programme of EFL Trophy games, a competition that of course now includes Under 21 sides from Premier League clubs. Thankfully, none of it is televised, so if you want to watch it you’ll have to attend.
Wednesday 30th August
I’m not going to lie, Wednesday is a day to make plans. All I have for you is the J League Cup, which kicks off at 11am. The J League Cup is a complicated affair, where 14 teams are split into two groups of 7. The top team from each group make the quarters, whilst 2nd and 3rd in each group playoff with 2nd and 3rd from the other group, with the two winners going through to the quarters. The other 4 teams are the teams from the J League who have qualified for the AFC Champions League. Japan looks after it’s top teams. Anyway, Vissel Kobe agaisnt Gamba Osaka seems the pick of the bunch, seeing as Vissel won their group.
Thursday 31st August
Transfer Deadline Day! But if you get bored of watching Sky sensationalise nothing, we’ve got actual football to keep you entertained. The reason why we are starved of good action this week is International football, and there’s a whole host of World Cup qualifiers between Thursday and Tuesday. On Thursday, the main event is undoubtedly Holland against France. The Dutch had been written off in most quarters, and the appointment of Dick Advocaat didn’t seen much of a forward thinking move, but if they can pull off a win over France, they’ll go level with the French in second place in Group A. Sweden, somewhat surprisingly, top this group after their dramatic win back in June, but they face a tricky trip to Bulgaria. Group B is a lot less exciting, Switzerland and Portugal are well out in front and both have easy looking home games to extend their advantage. Belgium and Gibraltar also lock horns in Group H, which is still the closest thing to a banker in World football. Sorry, Gibraltar.
Friday 1st September
More international football to enjoy. Annoyed grunt. Hang on though guys, I have good news. England are playing! Whoop de bloody doo. England face the always intense trip to Malta, looking to consolidate their lead at the top of Group F. Mind you, England only beat Malta 2-0 back in October last year so it could be a rough night with 80% possession facing a back 10. Scotland, lest we forget, are also in Group F and are really at the point now where wins are the only option. If they can win in Lithuania they will be right back in the group, especially as Slovakia (2nd) and Slovenia (3rd) clash at the same time. The Brit-fest continues in Group C, with Northern Ireland on the way to San Marino. Germany top this group by 5 points from Michael O’Neill’s men, who in turn are 4 points ahead of Germany’s opponents Czech Republic. You’d expect Northern Ireland to get the win, and that coupled with a Germany win could more or less secure Northern Ireland’s playoff spot.
Saturday 2nd September
Let the fun continue. If you fancy a break from International football – and I imagine you will – Sky are kindly showing Bradford against Bristol Rovers in League One with a 12.30pm kickoff. It might as well be the FA Cup final, it’s a welcome break. There’s almost a full programme of League One, League Two and National League games, before more Internationals in the evening. Wales play host to Austria, and much like Scotland, they are really at the point of needing wins in every game. Top of the table Serbia host Moldova, so you’d expect them to maintain their advantage over Republic of Ireland, who are also in action away to Georgia. Wales need to make up 4 points on Serbia or ROI, but the Welsh fixtures are quite favourable in the run in. It’s intriguingly poised.
There’s also the Game for Grenfell on Sky One from 2pm (3pm kick off) – a game where celebrities and footballers past and present combine to raise funds for the victims of the Grenfell Tower fire. It’s being held at Loftus Road and if you are watching, remember to donate. Players involved include Alan Shearer, Les Ferdinand, Trevor Sinclair, Peter Crouch and David Seaman alongside celebrities such as Olly Murs and James Bay.
Sunday 3rd September
Portsmouth against Rotherham! Live on Sky! I can’t wait. That’s at 2.30pm, which means there’s just a short wait until more International fixtures. It’s the groups who played on Thursday, meaning group A is still the most interesting. Holland again are my pick, up against Bulgaria. We’re nearly there though…
Monday 4th September
England! Against Slovakia. At Wembley. Maybe Harry Kane will score just to prove he isn’t afraid of the giant arch? At least it’ll be September, so that’s one less hoodoo to worry about. If you need alternatives, there’s always Scotland against Malta, or Northern Ireland hosting the Czech Republic in a match that could really secure Northern Ireland’s playoff spot. I can feel the excitement.
It’s going to be a long week. Look after each other, and by the time you wake up next Tuesday it’ll be just a few days until club football returns.