The weekend did not disappoint football across Europe. Manchester city won another Carabao Cup, this time against Tottenham Hotspur, while Inter Milan came even closer to winning the Serie A title. In the La Liga Barcelona got a boost from Antoine Griezmann in their title race as real Madrid (draw) and Atletico Madrid (Defeat) ceded ground, and Bayern Munich turned against it in a terrible display Mainz to postpone their celebrations to another Bundesliga title.
It’s Monday and Gab Marcotti is reacting to the greatest moments in the world of football from last weekend’s international matches in Europe.
Jump to: Guardiola continues to innovate | Griezmann plays for Barca | Juve top 4 place in danger | Real Madrid are calm | Inter near the Serie A crown | Solskjaer, Man United cruise | Mbappe is passionate about PSG | Liverpool’s bad week is getting worse | Crack Bavaria | Atletico slips again | Werner scores for Chelsea | Haaland, Dortmund is on the rise | Atalanta’s renaissance
Guardiola repeatedly destroys conventional wisdom
Part of me wondered if Pep Guardiola would give some regular first-team players a breather against Tottenham. Sure, it was a cup final, but it was the league cup against Ryan Masons Spurs. (A day that can mean a lot, but not now, not when Mason is 29 and has been in charge for less than a week.)
He also had three league cups at home in his trophy cabinet and on Wednesday Manchester city have a Champions League first leg semi-final against Paris St. Germain. And although he has a couple of Champions League trophies at home, City has never won them and hasn’t won them for a decade. (And as his eagle-eyed critics like to point out, he never won one without one Lionel Messi.)
Instead, there have been three changes from what can plausibly be considered his best XI. One was enforced (John Stones got suspended so came in Aymeric Laporte) one was calculated (Zack Steffen has always played before Ederson in this competition) and you might have been a little sentimental (Fernandinho turns 36 in May, so he has the nod in front of him Rodri). But the setup, without a center forward and really not even a “false nine” – Kevin De Bruyne and Phil Foden alternately played centrally, but from a lower position – is now his first choice.
We can discuss the benefits; What is out of the question is that it explodes one of the centuries-old conventional wisdom myths, that of the “proven goalscorer, the 30-goal man who leads the line”. Or if you don’t have a productive center-forward, the importance of having a “point of reference” upfront was a theory that was particularly popular before Guardiola Spain and Italy. Ilkay Gundogan is City’s top scorer this season in all competitions at age 16 and he is a midfielder. Guardiola’s strikers, Gabriel Jesus and Sergio Aguerohave scored 13 and three goals respectively.
Guardiola isn’t the first manager in history to do without a frontman entirely, but you can add him to his list of achievements. By the way, we’re not talking about a “false nine” – that is, a center-forward who falls deep in the hope of dragging a defender with him or opening up space for others. We are essentially talking about a row of four – on Sunday it was like that Riad Mahrez, De Bruyne, Foden and Raheem Sterling – play high up in the opposing half and prevent them from getting out.
Craig Burley urges Harry Kane to take a step during his prime before other top clubs’ interest wears off.
When it works, it’s breathtaking both in and out of possession. And it was a spell against Tottenham, which struggled to cross the halfway line, especially in the first half. It wasn’t just that they were defending too deeply; It was about being thwarted at every turn. (There’s no point pointing your fingers at Mason, though you’re wondering if maybe a guy like that Tanguy Ndombele Maybe it helped.) City had to wait for a Laporte free kick towards the end (by the way, City center-backs have scored nine goals this season) but they did a lot before that.
For Spurs, this is a missed opportunity and you are amazed again at the wisdom of sending Jose Mourinho ahead of such a crucial game. Getting 0-0 in the final minutes of the game while the Special One prowled on the sideline would have left most neutrals feeling like something else could happen. With Mason – who had only had a few training sessions behind him – not so much. You can only conclude that things must have gotten really bad internally for them to take the step, which was also very expensive, by the way, with a reported payout of more than $ 25 million getting in the way of Mourinho.
Griezmann hits at the right time for Barcelona
Alejandro Moreno changes his La Liga pick again and now chooses Barcelona to take the trophy.
Antoine Griezmann He turned 30 last month and chances are his move to Barcelona will be warned as a warning not to spend nine digits (his buyout clause was € 120m or around $ 145m) on players in their late twenties no matter how talented they may be. (Before Barca fans get excited about it, yes, real Madrid‘s move for Eden Hazard fits into the same category.)
But there is the long term and the here and now, and this is where Griezmann comes in. Against a clumsy opponent like VillarrealGriezmann scored the two goals that drove Barca to a 2-1 win provided they won their game in hand against Granada (not taken for granted), will take them to the top of the league. He’s now scored six goals in his last seven games, which takes some relief from Lionel Messi (who by his standards had a quiet afternoon) and offers a big attack boost in the stretch run.
Together with Frenkie De Jong (who has already turned out to be a natural leader on this team despite having a great chance), he made all the difference for a Barca side that was far from perfect – they suffered more than they should have played against 10 men in the last half an hour – but were good enough to take home the three points.
That’s the thing about talent: even if you pay heavily for it, it doesn’t really go away. And it can pop up at any moment and surprise you.
Juve’s Champions League hopes hang by a thread
Alessandro Del Piero says the pressure on Juventus to reach the top 4 is leading to a lackluster game.
“I didn’t do the job I wanted to do and the job others wanted me to do,” he said. “They try to improve every game, but I am not happy with the progress and I think neither is the club.” The result leaves them in third place, but with Napoli, Lazio and Milan all play on Monday night. Juventus could find themselves in a three-way dogfight for the last two Champions League places behind Inter and Atalanta, with Lazio two points behind and one game in hand.
Without Federico ChiesaJuve trudged into a terrible first half. They improved slightly after the break when Alvaro Morata came on for Paulo Dybala and scored, posed at least a threat behind the defenders. There was none Cristiano Ronaldo Also a card without a prison exit. He’s had a rough day and unusually missed an open header chance when he made his jump completely wrong. When it rains it pours.
Juventus sports director Fabio Paratici was asked about the top 4 placements and Pirlo’s future about the game. “We’re not thinking about the possibility of missing the Champions League. We have full confidence in him. Yes, if we can do it, Pirlo will definitely be back.”
Way to relieve the pressure there Fabio. (To be fair, he also said that “Andrea Agnelli has been consistently transparent about the Super League,” so take what he says with a grain of salt.)
Pirlo’s future shouldn’t depend on the results, although Paratici’s words suggest it will. Instead, it should just depend on their performances and whether or not Juve thinks they are going in the right direction.
Real Madrid held on to the goalless draw Chelsea
Julien Laurens explores how Real Madrid’s 0-0 draw against Real Betis will affect the league title race.
Zinedine Zidane’s smoke and mirror show continued against Betis on Saturday. He was welcome back Dani Carvajal, but Toni Kroos, Sergio Ramos, Ferland Mendy and Vinicius were all absent from his starting XI against an unpredictable side (which, to be fair, was without arguably their most talented player). With Chelsea and the semi-finals of the Champions League on Tuesday, he didn’t take any chances – Nacho played left-back – and even switched to a back three after a wet first half.
It was all without success. Karim Benzema was quiet, Luka Modric Only so many Superman acts are up their sleeve and even the re-emergence of Eden Hazard, though good news, has the needle not moved. The Champions League is more important right now, so be it. There is only so much you can get out of this team right now, even if that means you may step down from the championship. Zidane – and Real Madrid – will be judged in the Big Cup anyway.
Conte finally admits the obvious: Inter are likely to win Serie A
Even with an 11-point lead with five games to go, Antonio Conte only went so far as to say that his team had a “95%” chance of winning Serie A. Hey Antonio, whatever floats your boat. If you want to be superstitious, do it, but the rest of the league knows you will win Scudetto, especially now that this laser-focused “grind-it-out” version of Inter is on the field.
Against strong opponents like Verona it was anything but easy and it took up to 15 minutes Achraf Hakimi (Probably Inter’s most important player is not named Romelu Lukaku in the last part of the season) Matteo Darmian for the only objective of the game.
And yes as I saw it Davide FaraoniThe goal should have been there – the old playground maxim that “you can’t touch the goalkeeper in the six-yard box” is just not a thing – but the hell it would have made no difference.
After 11 years the boys in black and blue are back.
Man United is playing the season … and that’s fine
Manchester United fans come in large numbers to protest Glazer’s possession.
After the dreary goalless draw with Leeds on Sunday Manchester United Boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer pointed out how they created some chances and were disappointed because they wanted to win and “put pressure on Manchester City”.
I’m not blaming Solskjaer for saying this, but if you looked carefully you may have noticed that his nose grew a little longer as he spoke. City are 10 points ahead and have five games left.
Of course, he can’t say what he was really thinking, so I’ll try: “This Marcelo Bielsa is sneaky because he defended deeply against us, which meant my plan to play Daniel James With Marcus Rashford and Mason Greenwood didn’t work because they didn’t have a place to walk into. That messed us up because Bruno Fernandes was calm and Paul Pogba was on the bench and because nobody on this team can do anything, it was always difficult. But guess what? I do not care. We’re second in the table, we’re closer to a dominant city side than to Liverpool and we have a Europa League semi-final against Roma ahead of us. That is more important now. I want some cutlery.“”
Mbappe, PSG peak at the right time
Julien Laurens believes Kylian Mbappe will get hot at the right time before the Champions League semi-finals.
Paris Saint-Germain looked like a team ready to make their way to FC Metz. Despite being in a full title race, Mauricio Pochettino was resting Angel Di Maria. Mauro Icardi, Danilo and Idrissa Gueye. Even Kylian Mbappe seemed to be doing just enough. He opened the classification early and got a second after the Metz equalizer before a Mauro Icardi “Panenka” finished 3-1.
He saw Mbappe’s first time burst through midfield and run away from everyone while surprising Metz goalkeepers Alexandre Oukidja with a first blow from the edge of the box. Mbappe’s self-confidence is sky high right now and as a returnee Marco Verratti said after the game: “We are in the best possible shape to face Manchester City.”
With Mbappe in this form, you tend to believe him.
A bad week is getting worse for Liverpool
Don Hutchison examines Liverpool’s chances of finishing in the top four of the Premier League after a 1-1 draw with Newcastle.
Let’s face it, not all Super League rebels are created equal. The unfortunate project was mainly driven by four clubs: Real Madrid, Juventus, Manchester United and Liverpool. A large number (if not a majority) of those in favor of the first two actually support the idea. United’s majority owners, the Glazer family, are about as popular with their supporters as Man City, but as we all too well know, they don’t care to be liked.
But Liverpool is a different story. John W. Henry and Mike Gordon were praised for “getting” the club and their fans, almost as much as they were applauded for bringing Jürgen Klopp and then the Champions League and Premier League. It felt like treason, so Henry apologized – unlike the other three. That anger is still there, however, as are fan calls to the Fenway Sports Group to sell and leave the club.
Did those frayed nerves cause you to lose two points from all your opponents? Newcastle United? I do not believe that. Liverpool had many chances and should have been promoted by several goals before Joe Willock’s late, late game. late Equalizer. (Oh, and for the record, regarding Callum WilsonThe inadmissible goal, I have no problem with it: if it doesn’t hit his arm, it doesn’t sit for him and he doesn’t score. Even so, I would still like the referees to have discretion and not the black and white changes we’ll get next year. In such situations, goals are only scored when a teammate scores, and not the guy who handled the ball. )
In simpler terms, Liverpool are not what they were last year, despite the opportunities it presents. Not in the front, where the finish is unpredictable, not in the midfield, where Thiago Alcantara has not papered all the cracks, and not in the back, where absences and poor quality weigh heavily.
It just hurts more because of the week they had.
Bayern Munich I’m having a terrible weekend, but it only delays the culmination of the Bundesliga
Jan Aage Fjortoft answers the question of whether there is any cause for concern after Bayern Munich’s 2-1 defeat against Mainz.
If you want a stinker this is the time to do it.
Bayern were terrible against in the first half Mainz. It was the classic game between an extremely motivated team that shot at all cylinders as they rose from the relegation zone and one for whom the end of the season feels like a procession.
Bayern were a mess at the back, especially in the first half (straight) Manuel Neuer was less than outstanding on the first goal, although the damage would have been worst later without his saves) and the returning starters – Robert Lewandowski, Leon Goretzka and Serge Gnabry – showed a lot of ring rust.
Not much changes – apart from one disaster, they’ll win their ninth straight Bundesliga title in the next week or two – but it’s a reminder that even a team like Bayern can’t roll out.
Has the controversy surrounding Hansi Flick – he announced his resignation, much to the annoyance of the club – had any effect? I doubt it, and in fact the club’s statement of reprimanding him felt like turning a molehill into a mountain unnecessarily. If anything, there is clarity and they can turn to their first choice, whether it is the strongly connected Julian Nagelsmann or someone else.
Ale Moreno says Atletico Madrid don’t really think they can win the league and this is leading to an epic breakdown.
We’re so used to Diego Simeone’s Atletico Madrid being pitted by the opposition and still winning that it’s a bit unsettling to see the opposite. Against Sporty BilbaoIn desperate need of a win, Simeone’s side dominated long stretches of the game but eventually surrendered 2-1 to a late, headed goal (something that seemed unthinkable in the game Diego Godin Days).
The defeat leaves them two points ahead of Real Madrid and Barcelona, but of course the latter have a game in their hands. It’s hard to know what to say Athletic had been in freefall; They were there to take away. Given the lead, if Atletico didn’t bring the title home it would be a notable breakdown. But Simeone needs to drive home the simple truth: they still control their destiny. Win all of their games and the title is theirs.
Werner returns to goal when Chelsea wins “Six Pointers”.
OK, so will the pedants point out that they are not really worth six points, but get three points if your direct opponent fails to secure three points? Well, that’s where it comes from, and that’s what Chelsea won against West Ham on Saturday. With the 1-0 win they are three points ahead of fifth place and offer just enough momentum for the Champions League semi-final against Real Madrid on Tuesday.
West Ham defended deeply and well but couldn’t stop Chelsea’s incisive pass that led to it Timo WernerAim. It’s his first goal in more than two months and only his third in five and a half months. Needless to say, whether you lead the line or start wide, you expect more from a striker.
It’s a bit ironic that one of the media tropes thrown around to explain Thomas Tuchel’s arrival was his ability to get the best out of Werner and Kai Havertz. Well, the former has done worse than it did under Frank Lampard, while the latter remains a long-term project (and has also scored fewer goals despite playing more often up front). That doesn’t matter much though, as Chelsea’s march under Tuchel continues: 16 goals conceded in 21 games and no one other than Manchester City has won more points since arriving. There are still some big questions, but the future looks bright.
Haaland scores twice when Dortmund comes back to the table
Jan Aage Fjortoft looks at an incredible performance by Erling Haaland in Borussia Dortmund’s win against Wolfsburg.
That was only three weeks ago Borussia Dortmund lost their head-to-head conflict with Eintracht FrankfurtSeven points behind the Champions League places. Since then, they have won four straight league games – including Saturday’s 2-0 win against Wolfsburg – and while losing to Manchester City at home and away, they have more than held their own on the pitch.
Erling Haaland He scored two goals for a season record of 37. Most encouragingly, Dortmund looked tougher than when faced with adversity Jude Bellingham was dispatched around the clock. It was a big win against third place in the table and an important one, because Wolfsburg is now shaking too. They lost three of their last four games while Eintracht lost two in three. It’s a momentum shift, and at least Edin Terzic needs some credit. He may be a lame duck when Marco Rose arrives, but he knows that if he gets a top four he can win his personal title.
Atalanta is flying high … whether you believe Gasperini or not
Atalanta is no longer a fairy tale, but a well-managed reality. We have praised their style of play over the past few years and the way this team has been put together. But the way they switched from a team that was dependent on Alejandro “Papu” Gomez and Alejandro Josip IlicicFor someone who you feel like anyone can level up and the damage is accurate, this is remarkable and an honor for the club. And they end the season at an all-time high – witnessing Bologna’s 5-0 demolition on Sunday night – with the only regret are the two legs against Real Madrid that they think were there for them.
So Gian Piero Gasperini got a little carried away when he, like most, had his pop in the Super League and said: “I hate the idea of being invited to a competition, I want to get there out of merit … in the Indeed, if I were invited, would I turn it down? “
Probably, but that’s fine. He deserved it. As if he had earned Atalanta’s place in the Champions League.