Weekend Wanderings: Barcelona identity crisis, Aston Villa needs to start winning, while SPAL eager to show their magic in Serie A

Alasdair Hooper takes a look at some of this weekend’s big talking points in football…

The Premier League returned with a bang last week as champions Chelsea fell to Burnley, Arsenal served up a thriller with Leicester and Manchester United looked the business as they demolished West Ham.

The Championship – now three games old – is also shaping up to be as unpredictable as ever and elsewhere across Europe teams are getting back into the swing of league action.

Here are five things you should keep an eye out for in this weekend’s football action.

Which of Chelsea’s ‘two faces’ are we going to see?

The Blues have had a tough week to the say the least.

Manager Antonio Conte admitted he saw “two faces” of Chelsea as his men suffered a shock defeat to Burnley – but they did claw back some pride by scoring two second-half goals.

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However, the following day Chelsea fans had to watch former rock Nemanja Matic run the show in Manchester United’s midfield and then, later in the week, Diego Costa told the Daily Mail he was being treated “like a criminal”.

Next up for the Premier League winners are Tottenham and Conte goes into the match without suspended duo Gary Cahill and Cesc Fabregas.

I wonder which Chelsea face is going take to the Wembley pitch on Sunday?

Is Steve Bruce in danger already?

Aston Villa have had a difficult start to the season and languish 23rd in the table with just one point.

Granted, we are only three games in but performances have been poor and manager Bruce admitted he was struggling to instill the right character at the club despite being in the job since October.

After back-to-back defeats, to Cardiff and Reading, Villa are in desperate need of a positive result when they host Norwich City on Saturday.

Can Blackburn get going at Bradford?

Pre-season favourites for promotion Blackburn Rovers are yet to show what they are capable of in League One.

Tony Mowbray’s side recruited well in the summer, with the likes of Peter Whittingham and Bradley Dack incoming, but so far it is two defeats from two.

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Rovers are yet to really find themselves – particularly defensively – and face another tough test away to Bradford this Saturday.

Should Blackburn pick up their first points at Valley Parade it could be the kick-start they need to get their promotion bid going.

Battered Barcelona need a response

It may have only been the Spanish Super Cup but Real Madrid’s 5-1 aggregate victory over Barcelona raised concerns about the state of the Catalan club.

With a new manager in Ernesto Valverde and the high-profile departure of Neymar, the man billed as the club’s future talisman, Barcelona are in the middle of an identity crisis.

Never has that been more apparent than with the signing of former Tottenham flop Paulinho this week.

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While Philippe Coutinho and Ousmane Dembele may be close to arriving, the club are desperate to show their fans that they are heading in some sort of positive direction.

An impressive victory over Real Betis on Sunday is crucial.

SPAL complete their magical rise

SPAL – or Società Polisportiva Ars et Labor if you want the full name – have enjoyed a magical rise to Italy’s top tier.

The club, based in Ferrara, last played an Italian top-flight fixture in May 1968 and it has been a tumultuous time since then – particularly in their recent history.

In 2005 SPAL had to be refounded after being declared bankrupt and, a few years later in 2012, a further incarnation was formed following a second bankruptcy.

The club were placed into Serie D for the 2012-13 season and went on an almighty rise – the team have gone from the fourth tier to Serie A in just five years.

SPAL were a newly promoted Serie B side this time last year and they then went on to win the championship.

Serie A waits with anticipation to see how the club will take to top-flight football.

Their first assignment? Lazio at the Stadio Olimpico on Sunday.

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