Another action-packed weekend of football across the European leagues gave us many talking points. Here are our picks for winners and losers.
The last ten Champions League titles have gone the way of Spanish sides, including the last five. That notwithstanding, the Premier League has managed to retain its attractiveness around the world thanks to its more competitive nature; it is a general consensus that in England, any team can beat any opponent on their day.
La Liga is still miles away from achieving that kind of competitiveness, but it is well on its way, if results in the last few weeks are anything to go by. Barcelona were held 1-1 by Athletic Bilbao on Saturday, their second draw of a three-match winless streak. Title rivals Real Madrid were held 0-0 at home in the Madrid derby, which means they have won just one of their last four games.
City of Seville
Two of the biggest beneficiaries of this newfound edge in the Spanish top flight are Sevilla and Real Betis. The two teams from the city of Seville are in fine form, with Sevilla third on the standings, a point behind joint-leaders Barça and Real. Betis beat Leganés 1-0 to go fifth yesterday, another point behind. Sevilla won 3-1 at Eibar on Saturday.
Juventus struck a serious blow to Napoli’s chances of challenging them for the Serie A title again this season, as they beat their rivals 3-1 at home to go six points clear after just seven matches. Napoli nearly pushed Juve to the wire last season, and looked the side best equipped to mount the best challenge on the Old Lady’s perennial dominance.
The visitors led 1-0 after ten minutes through a Dries Mertens goal, but their capitulation could very well set Juventus up for another clear run at the Scudetto.
When Carlo Ancelotti took over at Napoli this summer, he had the challenge of at least living up to the success of predecessor Maurizio Sarri. More so, he also has to live up to his own reputation as one of the best managers to hail from Italy in all time. He still has a lot of time to accomplish that, but he has faced a few significant hurdles to start with. The loss to Juventus was already his second in Serie A, while his side could only muster a 0-0 draw against the unfancied Crvena Zvezda on the opening night of the Champions League.
Ancelotti’s former side Bayern Munich have enjoyed a great start to the season, but were stopped in their tracks over the weekend, in a 2-0 loss to Hertha Berlin. Bayern had won every one of their previous matches this season, but the defeat saw Borussia Dortmund overtake them at the top of the Bundesliga standings.
Gerard Piqué was once again well below his usual standards as Barcelona dropped more points this weekend. The 31-year old legend has stuttered this season, but an injury to Samuel Umtiti means that manager Ernesto Valverde will have to persist with him for the foreseeable future.