Champions chase timely boosts

Barely back from their summer vacations, Europe's footballers are finding the rhythm intense as the new season gets going. After a round of internationals in midweek, the action continues in the French, German and English leagues this weekend, with Spain and Italy waiting in the wings for their big kick-offs a week later.

There were frustrating draws for Lyon, Bayern Munich and Manchester United last time out, so all will be anxious to secure wins as they set out to defend their respective championship titles. previews the pick of the games from across the continent.

France: Favourites take on newcomers
Seven-time champions Lyon welcome a Grenoble side newly promoted to the top tier but surprise leaders as the only team to have won both their matches so far. That will give the visitors hope as they take on Claude Puel's men, who lacked inspiration at Lorient last week and could lack freshness after many of them turned out for their countries in midweek.

With many backing them to compete for honours, Marseille and Bordeaux also come up against promoted sides this weekend. The former will be looking to add to their tally of eight goals from two games at Le Havre, while Bordeaux want to bounce back at home against Nantes after suffering defeat at Paris Saint-Germain last Sunday. Elsewhere, Sochaux will aim to shed their billing as the only club without a single point when they take on PSG, with the capital outfit expected to show off new signing Mateja Kezman.

The question: Having just arrived from Fenerbahce, will Mateja Kezman prove a worthy successor to Pauleta in the PSG forward line?
The big match: Lyon-Grenoble, Saturday, 21.00 CET, Stade de Gerland
The quote: "We know Lyon are a lot stronger and that logically they ought to win. In ten games against them, they've won nine times. So that still gives us a chance." Gregory Wimbee, Grenoble goalkeeper

England: United seeking first win
As the only member of the 'Big Four' to have been held on opening day, Manchester United will look to get going away against Portsmouth, the side handed a heavy 4-0 loss by Chelsea last weekend. For their part, the Blues will want to carry on where they left off in that match when they travel to Wigan, where they have triumphed on each occasion over the last three seasons. Arsenal face their first derby of the new campaign, meanwhile, as they visit Fulham, while Liverpool will look to follow up their success against Sunderland with victory against Middlesbrough at Anfield.

As for the outsiders, the mission for Tottenham will be to get points on the board at home against a Sunderland team bolstered by loan signing Djibril Cisse. With potential to be this season's surprise package, Aston Villa travel to take on top-flight new boys Stoke City.

The question: Will former Tottenham employees Pascal Chimbonda, Steed Malbranque and Teemu Tainio shine against their old club for Sunderland?
The big match: Liverpool-Middlesbrough, Saturday, 15.00 BST, Anfield
The quote: "It's so great! The style the team plays in - attacking, one-touch football that moves forward quickly - suits me perfectly. I'm loving it here!" Samir Nasri, Arsenal midfielder

Germany: Tricky away tests for Schalke and Bayern
Expected to explode out of the blocks at home against Hamburg last week, Jurgen Klinsmann's Bayern failed to impress and had to make do with a solitary point. A second game without a win would be treated as a mini-crisis, and the defending champions are unlikely to have everything their way as they journey to Dortmund for one of the classic rivalries of the Bundesliga calendar. Borussia ought to be full of confidence too after their stylish win at Bayer Leverkusen.

Schalke 04's trip to Werder Bremen is no less intriguing, meanwhile, as both sides look to be genuine candidates for the title. Much of the focus will fall on two strikers in excellent form, with Werder's Markus Rosenberg and Schalke's Kevin Kuranyi having struck two goals apiece in their opening matches. Schalke currently sit atop the standings with Hoffenheim, who entertain Monchengladbach in a fixture that took place in the second tier last term.

The question: Dortmund's encounter with Bayern will also bring two of Germany's most popular coaches face to face. Will Klopp or Klinsmann win in the battle of the two Jurgens?
The big match: Werder-Schalke, Saturday, 15.30 CET, Weserstadion
The quote: "Everyone who was there in April will remember it. We've got a task to complete." Schalke captain Marcelo Bordon on last season's 5-1 loss to Werder

The summer holidays have come to an end in Turkey and champions Galatasaray kick off proceedings against Denizlispor, with many eager for a look at new recruits Fernando Meira and Harry Kewell. Led by former Spain coach Luis Aragones, city rivals Fenerbahce travel to Gaziantepspor, while Besiktas - desperate for their first title since 2003 - will want all three points from their game at Antalyaspor.

In Belgium, the second round of matches pits first against second as Gent aim to build on their 5-0 triumph over Mons at Anderlecht, who saw off Cercle Brugge 3-0 in their opening game. As for champions Standard Liege, they will also be targeting a second consecutive win when they host Westerlo.