By Tim Stannard
Lionel Messi, Eden Hazard and Neymar set to make league debuts after returns from injury and exile
Most soccer clubs bemoan an international break as an unwanted interruption to their preparations and just another chance for their star playing to get whacked by a sporting ax-man from Armenia – or Portugal as in the case of Real Madrid’s Luka Jovic who has withdrawn from the Serbia squad with an injury suffered in a weekend Euro 2020 qualifier.
However, there were three teams in particular who saw the break as perfectly timed – three teams who were able to use the fortnight to get a whole bunch of players fit again and put some pizzazz into flagging early campaigns.
Real Madrid are set to finally give Eden Hazard a league debut after the Belgian missed the first three matches with injury. That’s fairly handy timing considering Gareth Bale will be sitting out Saturday’s match against Levante with a suspension.
Barcelona who are enjoying a historically bad start to the year will welcome back Leo Messi for his season debut – a humdinger against Valencia – and PSG are going to have a few awkward days to assimilate Neymar back into the locker room. News flash, the Brazilian is still a PSG player and the footballer is going to be needed ASAP with Edinson Cavani and Kylian Mbappe missing ahead of Saturday’s Ligue 1 encounter with Strasbourg.
Three comeback kings returning from injuries and exile to save the day.
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Oh Canada! for Bianca Andreescu in shock US Open win
Although it became a bit of a second story at first due to who she defeated, but a 19-year-old Canadian tennis player was the biggest weekend winner. Bianca Andreescu went into Saturday's women's US Open final expecting to be a straight-sets losing footnote to a famous victory for Serena Williams.
But while the nerve of the US player broke - again - Andreescu stayed cool as a cucumber to win 6-3, 7-5 and inflict a fourth successive major finals defeat on Williams. "I honestly don't think Serena turned up," said the 37-year-old breaking the third-person wall.
happy happy pic.twitter.com/0eZYrS6aJ7— Bianca (@Bandreescu_) September 9, 2019
Even Rafa Nadal had a heck of a wobble as well on Sunday in the men's final, by dropping a two-set lead but eventually prevailing to defeat Daniil Medvedev in a final for the ages. It was Nadal's 19th Grand Slam victory to leave the Spaniard just one behind Roger Federer. "A crazy match," noted Nadal.
Formula 1 driver Charles LeClerc won't have to buy a drink in Italy ever again. Or anything at all in fact. The Frenchman won the Italian Grand Prix in his Ferrari in the car-maker's home track to become the first Ferrari driver to be at the top of the podium at Monza since 2010.
Oakland Raiders open season without Antonio Brown who is set to sign for Patriots
The first round of the new NFL season wraps up today with a double-header of Monday Night Football.
The stand-out clash will be the Oakland Raiders hosting the Denver Broncos and the sauce will surround a player who won't be on the field - Antonio Brown.
The wide-receiver won't be knocking on wood for Raiders coach, Jon Gruden, having had quite the weekend by being released from the California side's roster and signing up with the New England Patriots without playing a single game for the Raiders in a summer that involved frostbite, a troublesome helmet and some fines.
The move is expected to be completed today in a one-year $15 million contract for Brown. "He's misunderstood by a lot of people but he's a good guy," said Gruden.
Meanwhile, the Patriots showed that the deal is more a 'why not?' affair as opposed to a roster-boost seeing as the season-opener on Sunday for the reigning NFL champions was a comfy 33-3 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Brown could make his debut against the Miami Dolphins next Sunday against a team that was hammered 59-10 in Week 1 by the Baltimore Ravens.