European Football Talking Points: Red-hot Messi, red-faced Bayern and red Manchester
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer proved his credentials with an important derby victory but Liverpool remain the most important 'reds' in the Premier League
When will Lionel Messi take responsibility for ruining football for us? The little magician has normalized the extra-ordinary (as shown by another hat-trick in the weekend against Mallorca) to such an extent that people are now wondering if Son Heung-min’s goal (which saw the Spurs forward beat seven defenders and run 80 yards to score) is actually world class. What a crazy time to live in, right?
i n s a n e pic.twitter.com/mqw72AXtvr— Aakriti (@Aakriti1) December 8, 2019
Strangely, Son’s goal wasn’t even the most surprising talking point from the weekend in Premier League that saw Manchester turn red again with United getting better of City in the derby. Liverpool continued their march towards the title with Leicester City the only team still interested in the chase.
Bundesliga got a little more interesting in the weekend after Bayern Munich lost to Borussia Monchengladbach to give the title race an extra dimension. Juventus had a weekend to forget as well after they lost to Lazio to hand Inter the advantage in the title race.
Here are five talking points from the top European leagues
The weight of being Pep
Manchester United deserved to win the derby. The Red Devils were sharper, stronger and better planned than their opponents on the night and they will definitely draw confidence from the victory to make a consolidated effort for a top-four position. But it was surprising how the narratives after the match were cornered around Pep Guardiola’s poor management than focusing on the positives from United.
If ever any Cule or Cruyffista rocks up and says Pep inherited a shit squad at Barca show them this vid, straight from his bald mouth:pic.twitter.com/Iz7aOFbkaF— J.Mou (@FutbollHeritage) November 15, 2019
The Spaniard was outfoxed by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer on the night but claims that Guardiola just buys success is far-fetched and completely untrue. Guardiola isn’t the first manager to have had spending power but unlike many, he has the history of taking team to heights never scaled before. He was a pioneer figure behind the Tiki Taka revolution that changed football (and how it is played). While he hasn’t had the same impact post Barcelona, Guardiola continues to be a manager capable of improving a player which perhaps explains why City have had success in luring the world’s best players to Manchester. Football fans can be fickle and behave a like a mob but calling the City manager a ‘bald fraud’ might be pushing banter slightly too far (even for football’s generally low standards).
Juventus’ experiment with Maurizio Sarri was always bound to hit a bump at some point and Lazio’s victory against them could be the start of troubled times in Turin. Sarri had a similar phase with Chelsea after a positive start to the campaign which saw the Blues resign from the title race. In London, his reasons for not succeeding was largely down to the players he had at his disposal – a side with a defensive DNA. At Juventus, he can’t have that excused with a team spear-headed by Cristiano Ronaldo and Paulo Dybala.
The chain-smoking, ex-banker and former Napoli coach (that’s some description) blamed Juan Cuardrado’s red card for Juve’s first loss of the season but secretly he will be worried with Antonio Conte’s Inter Milan in red-hot form. The Sky Blues in Manchester are having a slightly torrid time with rumours that Pep Guardiola might leave at the end of the season. Juventus are known to be a big admirer of the Spaniard so anything short of a Scudetto will be pressure for Sarri.
Bayern falter, Dortmund rise
Bayern losing to Gladbach and Borussia Dortmund winning 5-0 showed Bundesliga is set for grand finish. Only seven points separate league leaders Monchengladbach and seventh-placed Munich side after 14 matches with RB Leipzig and Bayer Leverkusen showing they are also ready to compete for the top spots.
The biggest worry for Bayern will be how their injury-list seems to be growing. They have already lost Niklas Sule and Lucas Hernandez to long term injuries and the list might have Corentin Tolisso and Jerome Boateng in it soon. Both players had to leave the match due to injuries which will be a big blow for coach Han-Dieter Flick.
Being Mario Balotelli
It’s hard to keep the big Italian from the news right? Racist chants, then his own club defending the racists, a controversial take (later proven fake news) on how Cristiano Ronaldo is better than Lionel Messi and turning up on the weekend to salvage a point for his club. The story of Super Mario is symbolic of modern day footballers and their no-holds-barred lifestyles. On his night, Balotelli is brilliant. But those nights have become fewer in the recent years with his off-field antics grabbing the headlines. The talent seems to be there though and one can only hope he will can add consistency to that. Asif Kapadia, we genuinely hope you are making a documentary on this Italian!
There is more to Neymar
This might well be Neymar’s final season at PSG but the Brazilian showed once again why he is regarded amongst the best as he inspired a comeback victory against Montpellier in the weekend. The Selecao captain scored a sublime free-kick and created another goal as PSG rallied to beat 10-man Montpellier 3-1 on Saturday and restored their lead at the top of Ligue 1 to eight points.
There is a feeling in Paris that this will be the season they will see Neymar team up with Mbappe in the forward line with Edison Cavani and Mauro Icardi doing their job efficiently at the top. Whilst that might be true, the season is long and there might be some time left for the duo to come up a surprise before leaving the club. Exit with a bang, maybe?