Usually the Euro Roundup spends Monday mornings looking forward to the Champions League or else just thinking about how terrible the midweek life without football really is.
And so when the Champions League groups stages came to their conclusion last week, and the draw was made on Monday morning, it was a real relief to realise there was so much football on this midweek from all over Europe.
France has its Coupe de la Ligue last 16, and both Italy and Spain are seeing some massive games, and some midweek nights even have two live games! Bonanza!
This week’s Euro Roundup is shopping for edible goodies to see it through a week of intense football watching.
It finally happened. The cliches can come out now. It’s not about the defeat, it’s about how you respond to it. The floodgates will open now. The cream is rising to the top. Money can’t buy you everything. Yes, RB Leipzig have finally lost a top flight game.
In fact, you’d imagine that the next few decades will see this pub quiz question fly around quite a bit: who were the first side ever to beat RB Leipzig in a top flight football match?
The answer: Ingolstadt. Ralph Hasenhuttl’s old team, ironically. Funny old game.
And, as always, when the little old plucky underdog (sort of) falls for the first time, who should be on hand to thump Wolfsburg 5-0? Why, Bayern Munich, of course. Carlo Ancelotti’s side are now top of the Bundesliga on goal difference thanks to two goals from Robert Lewandowski. And a goal, too, for Thomas Muller: breaking his duck after 999 goalless minutes.
— OptaFranz (@OptaFranz) December 10, 2016
Indeed, it was a perfect storm of a weekend for Bayern. Defeats for Leipzig and Hertha Berlin coupled with draws for Dortmund, Cologne, Eintracht Frankfurt and Hoffenheim mean that Bayern and Leipzig are now both six points clear of all the other chasers, and are fighting each other in their own little mini league. After Bayern, the next highest-placed team to record a victory this weekend was eighth placed Bayer Leverkusen, who beat Schalke thanks to a Stefan Kiessling goal.
— OptaFranz (@OptaFranz) December 11, 2016
He loves a Sunday afternoon.
It was a big weekend in Ligue 1 as league leaders Nice took on the behemoth that is Paris Saint-Germain. Two of the top three battling it out for mid-season supremacy was always going to make for a fascinating clash, but it also provided one of the Euro Roundup’s favourite quirks about football: Alassane Plea could make the score 2-0 in the 48th minute, before Edinson Cavani made it 2-1 in the 46th minute. Just think about that one for a moment.
The match lived up to the billing. An incredible 2-0 half time lead for Nice was thanks to that Plea goal right in first half stoppage time, and a sumptuous free kick from Wylan Cyprien. But that lead was wiped out thanks to two goals from Cavani. The fact that Cavani rescued the champions will be the story, but the Uruguayan did still manage to fluff his lines on occasion. That’s just what Cavani does. But scoring seems to be what he does, too.
21 – Edinson Cavani has made on average 21 touches per game, fewer than any other Top 6 scorers from the Top 5 leagues 2016/17. Lethal. pic.twitter.com/iRRUXcMdde
— OptaJean (@OptaJean) December 12, 2016
But that wasn’t the case for another South American striker at the top of the Ligue 1 table this season. Radamel Falcao scored a hat trick to take him up to 10 goals for the season as Monaco thumped Bordeaux 4-0 at the Matmut Atlantique in Bordeaux on Saturday.
Monaco will face Manchester City in the Champions League, which is their reward for topping their group: not an easy draw for City as the Monegasques have scored the most goals in Europe this season. Even Falcao can score….
53 – Monaco have scored 53 goals after 17 Ligue 1 matchdays, the second highest tally ever behind RC Paris in 1959/60 (55). Festival.
— OptaJean (@OptaJean) December 10, 2016
Elsewhere, a win for Lyon over Rennes saw OL overtake the Breton side to move into fourth, whilst wins for St Etienne and Marseille brought both clubs within striking distance of the European places.
The Turin derby always makes for a huge game, and huge games turn on huge moments. So when Gonzalo Higuain’s sixth touch of the ball made it 2-1 to Juventus inside the final 10 minutes, you can count that as a step towards the title in what ended up as a 3-1 win over their city rivals.
6 – Gonzalo Higuaín has now scored 6 goals in his 7 league appearances against Torino. Footprint.
— OptaPaolo (@OptaPaolo) December 11, 2016
But that wasn’t the biggest game of the weekend – not the biggest in stature, not the biggest in terms of the league, and not even the biggest because of its impact on Juventus’s title hopes.
Thanks to victories for Juventus and Napoli, Monday night’s game between second placed Roma and third placed AC Milan has become huge. For the leaders Juventus, their best case scenario – a draw – would leave them six points ahead of both. A win for either side would mean Juve remain four points clear.
Not only is it massive for the title, but it’s huge for the top three, too. Italy only has three Champions League spots at the moment, and Napoli and Lazio are both only a point behind the two playing on Monday night. It is the biggest game of the campaign so far, and potentially the biggest of the entire season.
There was a time only a few weeks ago when the table in Spain was so tight at the top that it looked like there was a possibility of seeing a break in the El Clasico duopoly of the league. And not just in the form of the street-fighting efficiency of Atletico Madrid, either.
We had Sevilla and Villarreal towards the top of the table, both playing fast-paced football, and an Atletico side who were scoring goals this season. And conceding them: Simeone’s side don’t even have the best defensive record in the league so far this season. Weird.
Looking at the results from Spain, it looks like a case of business as usual, with Barcelona, Real Madrid and the other table-toppers all winning. But that doesn’t tell the whole story. Real Madrid needed another late headed goal from their goalscoring, jailbreaking talisman Sergio Ramos to seal a comeback, 3-2 victory over Deportivo La Coruna.
Real have now gone on a club-record 35 games unbeaten.
35 – Real Madrid have recorded their longest unbeaten run in all competitions (W26 D9). Personality. pic.twitter.com/CrlBZUOZ0Q
— OptaJose (@OptaJose) December 10, 2016
5 – Sergio Ramos has scored five goals this season, more than any other La Liga defender (all competitions). Pride. pic.twitter.com/USY359s1oE
— OptaJose (@OptaJose) December 10, 2016
That kept Real six points clear of Barcelona at the top of a table that makes hard reading for the Catalans, who beat Osasuna 3-0. Luis Enrique’s side are back to goalscoring ways, it seems, but spurned numerous glorious chances in a goalless first half, before putting three past the Basque side.
They may be two wins back, but remember Barcelona’s collapse at the end of last season. They still managed to win the league, but they went from being shoo-ins to scraping the victory by a point. The moral of the story is, there’s a long way to go yet!
Elsewhere, Sevilla maintained their third spot, just one point behind Barcelona with a 3-0 win over Celta Vigo, thanks to Vicente Iborra – giving rise to the stat of the weekend:
3 – Vicente Iborra is the first midfielder to have scored a hat-trick as substitute in the 21st century in La Liga. Alfara pic.twitter.com/3LjXb1G6nC
— OptaJose (@OptaJose) December 11, 2016