Euro Roundup: Your weekly Euro fix

As top English clubs rest most of their best players in flagrant disregard for the history and integrity of their old and famous cup competition, perhaps it’s a good thing that most of the cups in Europe have always played second fiddle to their league counterparts.

The other big story this week is the non-story that is the January transfer window. And yet both of these things are, in their own ways, quite positive. At least, they are if you look them in certain ways.

For example, if no one cares about shiny new players, and no one cares about shiny – and possibly now meaningless – old trophies, then perhaps that’s because they’re starting to care more about the actual football taking place on the pitch.

This week’s Euro Roundup is extremely happy to report on those goings-on.

France

We’re starting with France this week, where Paris Saint-Germain and Monaco met in a massive top of the table clash. That clash meant that this week, Nice would play the awkward third wheel in French football’s current ménage à trois.

That third wheel hit three past Guingamp, this week, however. Taking advantage of the fact that Monaco and PSG were out on a date night, and also putting to rest worries that perhaps the title was slipping away from plucky Nice.

It also looked like the title was slipping away from plucky anybody, as PSG took a late lead at the Parc des Princes through an Edinson Cavani penalty in a well-contested game. That lead was wiped out, though, as some bad defending allowed Bernardo Silva to shoot from distance in the 93rd minute, his shot coming through enough bodies to unsight Alphonse Areola in the PSG goal and nestle in the net.

The champions were starting to look like an ominous threat to the title once again – they haven’t been convincing at all this season, but are still only three points back.

But you can’t stop Monaco from scoring, it seems – beware Manchester City. PSG will now have to plug a three-point gap over Monaco by being that little bit more relentless than the Monegasques in the run-in. It’s possible – even probable – but Sunday night showed a fighting spirit present in the resistance to the Parisian overlord.

Elsewhere, Marseille celebrated the – at that point still impending – return of Dimitri Payet to Provence by thrashing Montpellier 5-1 on Friday night. That result brought Rudi Garcia’s side back to within four points of Lyon, who lost to Lille, leaving their hopes of Champions League qualification in tatters. On the bright side, the OL women’s team beat Grenoble 5-0, so that’s something for the Lyonnais faithful to cheer about, I guess:

Meanwhile, Mathieu Valbuena meant that….

Germany

The longest unbeaten run in Europe has come to an end. Ended, indeed, by an unstoppable beast and a huge commercial behemoth of a football club. And no, you better believe it’s not Werder Bremen’s record, after their 2-1 defeat to Bayern Munich.

No, the behemoth now seems to be RB Leipzig, their wings continually flying them very close to the summit of the Bundesliga and keeping the pace with brand Bayern despite a very tricky fixture at home to Hoffenheim. The Hoff proved no hassle, however. (Sorry).

Elsewhere, Borussia Dortmund continue to struggle, leaving us in the slightly odd position of seeing Leipzig in second and Eintracht Frankfurt in third before finding Dortmund in fourth.

Thomas Tuchel’s side could only draw with Mainz this weekend, whilst Frankfurt beat Schalke 1-0 on Friday night, moving The Moody Diva into third place. Frankfurt, known as the Diva for the tempestuous and temperamental nature of the club, where controversy and erratic form is never far off. Perhaps this is the season where they put on a show – and let’s face it, more moody divas is *exactly* what the Champions League needs.

Italy

Italy has been a changed league this year. From having the feel of arguably the least competitive league in Europe we thought we would get a title race. But then, when the team who are supposed to be the challengers lose, we see just how fragile that setup really is.

This week, Roma’s 3-2 defeat to Sampdoria has shown that: Juventus are now four points clear with a game in hand, and if there was a real title race in the first place, it would surely be robust enough to withstand one of the challengers losing one tough away game.

Instead, Juventus’s victory over Sassuolo simply reinforces their dominance, and though they haven’t looked as good this year as in previous years, they still look like the very best team in the league.

Elsewhere, though, and the rest of the top eight certainly is tight. The race for the Champions League and the European spots will be interesting. That doesn’t mean the title race will.

Spain

When one of the El Classico teams lose a game of football, there tends to be an inquest, usually surrounding the referee rather than the beaten side. And this weekend, had Barcelona not managed to nick a late draw away to Real Betis, that probably would have been the case once again.

In fact, it’ll be the case anyway. Just less. Just more measured. Because Barcelona had a perfectly good goal cross the goalline, but without technology, it wasn’t given.

There was no conspiracy against Luis Enrique’s side, no terrible, scandalous decision. Just human error, the kind of which a machine would not make. Referees need help.

The kind of help given to Real Madrid this weekend by Sevilla and Barcelona, who so thoughtfully decided to drop points, leaving Zinedine Zidane’s men four points clear with a game in hand.

Real managed to beat fellow Real side Sociedad 3-0, whilst Barcelona’s cross-town rivals Espanyol did for Sevilla 3-1. When you live by the sword as Sampaoli’s Sevilla do, you do run the risk of conceding a few too.

Is La Liga becoming Real Madrid’s to lose. It would be only a second title in eight years.


 


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