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  • A pair of new-look Manchester sides, a familiar-looking Real Madrid one and PSG's newest star excelled on the first weekend of major action of the season around Europe.
By Avi Creditor
August 14, 2017

European soccer is, for all intents and purposes, back.

Sure, only Ligue 1 and the Premier League have officially resumed after the summer break, but Super Cups and domestic cups elsewhere have kicked the 2017-18 campaign into high gear, and teams across the continent have hit the ground running. 

The Premier League's opening weekend brought entertainment and goals galore, while its defending champion wobbled out of the gate. Ligue 1's two favorites are off to the starts most expected, while Serie A's six-time defending champion has something to think about after missing out on a first piece of silverware. 

With the first robust weekend of the new campaign in the rear-view mirror, here's a look at the big winners who laid the foundation for the months to come.

MANCHESTERS CITY, UNITED

Year 2 for Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola in Manchester figures to be a more productive one for both legendary managers, and their sides got off to impressive starts to kick off the Premier League season.

Arguably no team was more impressive than Mourinho's United, who put up a four-spot on West Ham, thanks largely to the contributions of two newcomers. Romelu Lukaku scored the first two goals, Nemanja Matic was pivotal in the midfield and Chelsea fans are left wondering what could have been, had Lukaku opted for the Blues and Matic not been sold. It's only one game, but it's an encouraging result to say the least for Mourinho & Co.

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Guardiola's City, meanwhile, ran out a 2-0 winner at Brighton, which in and of itself isn't a surprise at all, but it gave us a glimpse into how Pep's revamped back line may look with all of those new fullback/wingback toys and the frightening level of attacking depth on the bench. Even with Kelechi Iheanacho sold, Guardiola was able to keep Bernardo Silva, Leroy Sane and Raheem Sterling in reserve while Kevin De Bruyne, Sergio Aguero, David Silva and Gabriel Jesus led the push forward. Pep's a manager who loves to tinker for the occasion and keep things fresh within his squad, and after another big summer of spending, he sure seems to have replenished the roster to his liking. Now, everyone just has to stay healthy.

There were plenty of other "winners" in the Premier League, including the fans who were entertained from start to finish on the opening weekend, promoted side Huddersfield Town, Chelsea-slaying Burnley and the roller-coaster experience that is Arsenal, but the Manchester powerhouses made the biggest statement.

ZIDANE'S REAL MADRID

At a certain point, any remaining detractors of Zinedine Zidane and what he's been able to do since taking the reins at Real Madrid are going to be completely without material.

Real went into Camp Nou, took it to Barcelona, scored while down a man, and then scored AGAIN on a sensational Marco Asensio dagger to take a 3-1 edge and full control of the Spanish Supercopa ahead of Wednesday's return leg at the Bernabeu. The silverware count continues to pile up for Zidane, whose side could be fighting for a six-trophy campaign. The UEFA Super Cup is already secure, and the Spanish Super Cup would appear to be on its way. Real will be the overwhelming favorite at the FIFA Club World Cup again, which leaves La Liga, Copa Del Rey and the Champions League fronts where it will be battling.

​It's not all gravy for Real Madrid, of course. Cristiano Ronaldo's five-game ban for a red card and then shoving a referee (after a brilliant go-ahead goal) will keep him out of the second leg and the first four games of La Liga. The positive spin there, though, is that's potentially 450 fewer minutes on his legs that could come in handy at the end of the season.

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NEYMAR

O.K., let's not pretend that Guingamp's defenders were Maldini, Materazzi or, heck, even Mascherano. The defending display in PSG's Ligue 1 match Sunday was pathetic, and most Ligue 1 defensive displays that PSG finds itself trying to break down won't be all that different. That said, the onus was on Neymar to make an immediate impact after his record-shattering move from Barcelona, and he delivered with a first-class assist to Edinson Cavani and a heads-up goal to cap a successful introduction to the French league.

Neymar will be judged on his ability to carry PSG in the Champions League, but if Sunday is any indication, he's going to be putting up some gaudy stats in domestic play along the way.

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WAYNE ROONEY

You can go home again, it seems. Rooney's 199th Premier League goal was a big win, giving Everton a 1-0 win over Stoke City in his Premier League return with his boyhood club. Wearing Toffee blue may well rejuvenate Rooney, and it will definitely remove him from the brutal news cycle he was subjected to at Manchester United, where his place and future were both perpetually in doubt. 

RADAMEL FALCAO

All the focus on Monaco is who has left from last season's title squad and Champions League semifinals and who may still be leaving, but one fixture who is remaining is Falcao, and he absolutely brought it with his hat trick against Dijon. The pick of the bunch was his 20-yard curler from outside the box, which padded the lead at 3-0 and sent Monaco on its way to another three-point haul. Most figure it to be PSG's title to lose, and they're probably right, but Falcao can still provide the moments of class necessary to keep Monaco contending in its title defense.

LAZIO

The best Super Cup match of Sunday wasn't in Spain–it was in Italy, where Lazio's extra-time heroics bested Juventus's in a 3-2 thriller. Paulo Dybala's two goals in six minutes, including an equalizer from the spot in the 91st minute, seemed to send the clash to extra time, but Alessandro Murgia's winner two minutes later off an assist from Lukaku's younger brother, Jordan, seized the trophy for the capital club and delivered a rare domestic disappointment to Juve.

​Juventus, regardless of Lazio's statement and AC Milan's makeover, will still be favored to win Serie A for a seventh straight season, though with Dani Alves and Leonardo Bonucci gone it certainly has some work to do to fill those voids and get back to title-winning form.

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