HJK Helsinki vs Red Star Belgrade
Serbian side Red Star Belgrade pulled off a strong 2-0 home victory over its Finnish rival last week. That left it firmly in control of this Champions League qualification tie, but it cannot afford to take it easy in the second leg. Sitting back and trying to defend its aggregate lead could prove to be a perilous strategy, as it rarely pays to invite sustained pressure on your defense. Red Star Belgrade is clearly a superior team to Helsinki, and it should be highly motivated to qualify for the Champions League, as that would provide it with a significant financial boost. It really should go for the jugular in this game and its has the quality to triumph.
Club América v Club Tijuana
Saturday, August 3, at Estadio Azteca
Defending Liga MX Apertura champion América has made a strong start to the new campaign. It began its title defense with a thumping 4-2 victory against a highly-rated Monterrey side, and then it battled to a 0-0 draw away at León at the weekend. León has won more games than any other team in Liga MX in 2019, so that is a very creditable result. It has sold key defender Edson Alvarez to Ajax, but it did not seem to miss him much when keeping a clean sheet against an exciting León attack. Tijuana has been distinctly average over the past year: it finished third from bottom in the 2018 Apertura championship; and it then scraped eighth place in the Clausura to reach the playoffs, only to be ripped apart by León in the quarter-finals. It has also made a strong start to the Apertura championship, taking four points from its opening two games, but América represents a significant step up in class on its previous opponents.
Man City v Liverpool
Sunday, August 4, at Wembley
The first game of the English season traditionally sees the Premier League champion take on the FA Cup winner in the Community Shield. However, Man City won both trophies last season, so it will take on Premier League runner-up Liverpool. These teams engaged in a ferocious title battle last term and Man City needed to win its final 14 games of the season in order to finish one point clear of Jurgen Klopp’s men. It looks like developing into another two-horsed race in 2019/20 and it will therefore be fascinating to see how this game unfolds. Man City has looked far better in pre-season. Pep Guardiola’s side has been touring Asia, where it thrashed West Ham, Kitchee and Yokohama. Key players like Kevin De Bruyne, Raheem Sterling and Bernardo Silva have looked sharp, and that bodes well for the start of the campaign. Liverpool has struggled in its friendlies: it lost 3-2 to Borussia Dortmund, lost 2-1 to Sevilla, drew 2-2 with Sporting Lisbon and there suffered a 3-0 defeat at the hands of Napoli. It is without key forwards Sadio Mané, Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah, due to their exploits for international teams this summer, and that could represent a hammer blow to its hopes of winning this game.