It's called an international break, but it's not much of a break, is it? Perhaps the break part is meant for the fans, or maybe they call it a break for this column. I didn't write Corner Picks last week, and you didn't read it, so it was a break for us all.
But it's hard to consider it a break for the players. It seems like even more work than usual. Think about it: playing for your club is like any other job for most players. You live as close to the office as possible, and there's a routine. You wake up, go to work, do the same things you always do given the day of the week, and then go home and begin the process anew.
The international break is different. For many players, instead of getting up and making the quick commute to the office, you're flying to the airport and then flying across continents and oceans to play teams full of other players who have done the same. While doing this, you have to find time to spend with family and friends you don't get to see because you live on the other side of the world. Then you play a few matches, and suddenly, it's time to fly back across those continents and oceans and get back to work. Oh, and now, when you get back to work, many of you have another project on the schedule. Group play in the Champions League, Europa League and Conference League begins this week.
I hope you enjoyed your time off!
All odds via SportsLine consensus.
Inter vs. AC Milan
The Derby della Madonnina is always one of the biggest matches in the world, and it's certainly the biggest match in Europe this weekend. Even if you put everything about the rivalry between these clubs aside, they're the top two teams in Serie A entering the week. Inter have not only won their first three matches, but have yet to allow a goal. Milan ha veallowed two. However, as incredible as Inter have looked in three matches, there's one thing I can't overlook.
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They haven't been tested in any sense. They rolled through two matches against Monza and Cagliari, who will likely be fighting for survival all season. While I respect Fiorentina, Inter's 4-0 win seemed like a lopsided mismatch. At least Milan have gone against teams like Bologna and Roma. Finally, Inter haven't faced anybody with the attacking talent this Milan side has. Christian Pulisic has been incredible for Milan, and Olivier Giroud looks like he's 25 again. The number on Milan is far too big to pass up. The Pick: AC Milan (+240)
Juventus vs. Lazio
Date: Saturday, Sept. 16 | Time: 9 a.m. ET | Watch: CBS Sports Network
There are a lot of outdated stereotypes about Italian soccer that haven't been true for years now, but there's one team trying its damnedest to bring them back. Juventus matches are a slog. Max Allegri's favorite hobby when he goes home after training each day is to put a little paint on the wall and watch it dry. Why he insists on playing such a boring style with this team, I don't know, but he does. Actually, wait, I do know why. It's because it works more often than not.
While Allegri's conservative approach will keep Juventus from winning the league, it will also ensure they finish near the top and fight for a Champions League spot. That's the priority right now, and it should be effective against Lazio this Saturday. Lazio has been firing at will so far this season, and Juventus will do everything they can to make sure none of those shots come from anywhere close. If Juventus find time to take a shot of their own, cool. The Pick: Under 2.5 (-135)
Real Madrid vs. Real Sociedad
Date: Sunday, Sept. 17 | Time: 3 p.m. ET | Watch: ESPN+
It's still too early to reach a conclusion, but La Liga looks a bit more exciting than usual. It's been the lowest-scoring league of Europe's top five the last few years, but things look to be trending in a higher-scoring direction. Both the teams in this matchup are a part of it, though, to be fair, Real Madrid have never had trouble scoring goals. The difference this season is that Madrid look more willing to give them up.
They've allowed only two goals through four matches, but the xG allowed of 3.4 says that's been a bit lucky. Considering Thibault Courtois is out for the year, one must wonder how much longer that "luck" will carry. Sociedad found themselves on the right side of a wild 5-3 win over Granada before the break, and while asking for another eight goals is too much, I believe this team can succeed in attack against Madrid. And I believe Madrid will find some as well. The Pick: Over 2.5 (-115)
It's only three legs this week, but it has a healthy payout of +179.
- Tottenham (-390)
- Napoli (-155)
- Barcelona (-285)