The first round of FIFA World League's Predictor Season 3 has it all: star-studded team line-ups, fierce derbies, underdogs and, of course, a signed FIFA World Cup™ winner's jersey up for the winning.
The big match: PSV - Ajax (Netherlands)
A Dutch classic steals the show this weekend as rivals Ajax and PSV Eindhoven take to the field at the Philips Stadion. The question on most fans lips: will home advantage play as big a part in their derbies as last season? In their two Eredivisie 2008/09 encounters Ajax beat PSV 4-1 in Amsterdam while PSV returned the favour in Eindhoven, with a 6-2 win. In their 100 derbies thus far, PSV have won 42 while Ajax have won 37.
The revenge match: Tottenham Hotspur-Liverpool (England)
The two teams last met almost three months ago, a night on which Liverpool enjoyed a 3-1 win in front of the Anfield faithful. Despite this, Spurs will draw confidence from their outstanding home record against the premier League's 'big four' last season. Spurs were undefeated at White Hart Lane against Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester United in the 2008/2009 season. Liverpool are strong favourites at 62 per cent to win, returning 38 points, but a surprise Spurs' victory would net backers 84 points.
The longshot: Gold Coast United-North Queensland Fury (Australia)
The Hyundai A-Leagues two new franchise teams square off this weekend. All eyes will be on both teams newly appointed captains and star signings. Anfield legend Robbie Fowler leads North Queensland Fury while former PSV Eindhoven player, and Socceroo superstar, Jason Culina captains Gold Coast United. Both players scored in their opening fixtures on 8 August. Gold Coast United beat Brisbane Roar 3-1 while North Queensland Fury lost 3-2 to Sydney FC. North Queensland Fury are heavy underdogs at 15 per cent to win making them an enticing underdog choice; A Fury win would return backers 85 points.
Clash of the champions: Portadown-Glentoran (Northern Ireland)
In Northern Ireland, recently promoted Portadown face current league champions Glentoran, who kicked off their season this past weekend with a convincing 4-0 win against Lisburn Distillery. Portadown had a less uplifting start to their season; they lost 3-1 away to Crusaders. Home advantage makes Portadown slight favourites with a draw being the most statistically likely result.
Freshman challenge: Lens-AJ Auxerre (France)
Freshly promoted Lens suffered a baptism by fire last weekend as Ligue 1 champions Girondins Bordeaux beat them 4-1 at the Stade Chaban Delmas in Bordeaux. Lens will hope for a more positive outing at home to Auxerre, who also lost their first match of their season [1-0 at home to FC Sochaux]. Despite their big loss in Bordeaux, Lens are favourites at home at 48 per cent to win.
Good luck to all predictors in the maiden round. Make sure to get your predictions in before the deadline: 15 August 2009, 00:00 (GMT) and remember to participate in the upcoming matchday of McDonald's FIFA World Cup Predictor.
Round 1 Fixtures (August 15 & 16)
Gold Coast United-North Queensland Fury (Australia)
Portadown-Glentoran (Northern Ireland)
RC Lens-AJ Auxerre (France)
Macara-LDU de Quito (Ecuador)
IFK Goteborg-Helsingborgs IF (Sweden)
Tottenham Hotspur-Liverpool (England)
Corinthians-Atletico MG (Brazil)