The October FIFA window wraps up with some big games in South American World Cup qualifying and the UEFA Nations League before players head back to their clubs — or in some cases, quarantines before being able to play for their clubs again.
Here’s your viewer’s guide to the top midweek games to watch:
Venezuela vs. Paraguay
Tuesday, 5:50 p.m. (beIN Sports XTRA)
After all the back-and-forth between the Union, Venezuela’s national team and FIFA over releasing José Andrés Martínez, he wasn’t even on the bench for the Vinotinto’s World Cup qualifying opener at Colombia. It was a 3-0 loss, which wasn’t surprising given Colombia’s star power. But there were a few wisecracks about whether Venezuela could have used a better defensive midfielder.
Martínez has one more chance to make his national team debut before he heads back to Philadelphia to start a 10-day quarantine. Paraguay’s squad has some familiar faces in midfield: the New York Red Bulls’ Alejandro “Kaku" Romero Gamarra, Chicago’s Gastón Giménez, and Newcastle United’s Miguel Almirón.
Unlike all the other South American World Cup qualifiers this month, you won’t need to buy this game on pay-per-view. But you’ll still need to do some work to find beIN Sports Extra, a supplement to the network’s TV channels and regular streaming platform. It’s available on Rokus and a few other streaming devices, and by over-the-air TV in Philadelphia on channel 8.4.
Italy vs. Netherlands
Wednesday, 2:45 p.m. (ESPN2)
The Dutch were surprisingly held to a scoreless tie at Bosnia & Herzegovina on Sunday. Or maybe it wasn’t so surprising, since their new coach is Frank De Boer — who was sacked by Atlanta United after derailing the team’s style and flair. His team hasn’t scored in either of his two games in charge so far, despite talents such as Barcelona’s Frenkie de Jong, Manchester United’s Donny van de Beek, and Ajax’s Quincy Promes.
Now De Boer’s team visits the nation that mastered the art of the low-scoring game. But this Italy team can play some good soccer. The squad has some intriguing young midfielders in Inter Milan’s Nicolò Barella and Sassulo’s Manuel Locatelli. Barella scored the only goal when these teams met last month in Amsterdam.
Orlando City vs. New York City FC
Wednesday, 7:30 p.m. (ESPN+)
There will be a lot of scoreboard watching around MLS on Wednesday night, as 24 of the league’s 26 teams leaguewide are scheduled to be in action. Scheduled is a key word, though, since four teams — Orlando, Columbus, Colorado and Minnesota — dealt with COVID-19 cases last week.
On Monday evening, MLS and Colorado state officials postponed the Rapids' next three games, including Wednesday’s scheduled visit to Seattle.
Orlando only had one case, and the team insisted that everyone else in the organization tested negative twice. If the Lions have no further cases and this game is played, you can be sure it will have the Union’s attention.
New York is currently in fifth place in the Eastern Conference, four points behind fourth-place Orlando. A City win would cut the gap to one point, and the East’s top three — Toronto, the Union and Columbus — would have a chance to pull away. But Orlando is definitely the favorite here, as their unbeaten streak is now up to 10 games.
1. FC Düren vs. Bayern Munich
Thursday, 2:45 p.m. (ESPN Deportes, ESPN3)
European club competitions resume with the last game of the German Cup’s first round, and it’s a script-worthy David vs. Goliath matchup. FC Düren is an amateur team in the fifth-tier Mittelrheinliga, one of 12 regional leagues at that level across the country. The town of Düren, population 92,820, is within an hour’s drive of Cologne, Düsseldorf and Mönchengladbach, as well as Germany’s border with the Netherlands and Belgium.
Düren’s home field is so small that it would cost too much to host a TV broadcast, and it’s not safe during the pandemic. So the game has been moved to Bayern’s stadium. That takes some of the romance out of the matchup. But German bus-manufacturing giant MAN helped make up for that by sending a custom-designed charter bus to the club for the six-and-a-half hour drive to Munich.
Club president Wolfgang Spelthahn knows what his team is in for, and is having fun with it. “We definitely want to do better than Schalke 04 or FC Barcelona,” he told the team’s website, referring to Bayern’s 8-0 rout of Schalke on the Bundesliga’s opening day and the 8-2 crushing of Barcelona in the Champions League quarterfinals.
The odds are slim, but they aren’t zero. Some of Bayern’s stars will just be getting back from their national teams, and the club has a Bundesliga game two days after this one. So the lineup will probably be mostly reserves, and they’re likely to include American centerback Chris Richards.