Euro Roundup: Your weekly European fix

The international break is starting to seem like a long time ago. Remember those two barren weeks with nothing to cheer about? Remember those two weeks where Netflix was your best friend? Remember those two weeks when you astounded yourself with your alarming lack of ability to hold a conversation with your mates (yes, they were feeling it too…)?

In a massive weekend for title races everywhere, we forgot about such problems. It was glorious. With traditionally massive games in England and France as well as decisive moments in Italy and Spain, the weather may be taking a turn for the wintery bitter, but football will still warm your cockles. Club football, anyway.

This week’s Euro Roundup is loaded up on Glühwein. After all, this is long and bitter Monday morning after the weekend before. Whatever gets you through the (Mon)day.

Spain

Since Pep Guardiola took over at Barcelona in 2008, Real Madrid have only won one La Liga title. One went to Atletico Madrid. The other six have ended up in Barcelona. In other words, it’s not very often we see the current champions six points behind anyone at the top of the table.

But Since Guardiola took over at Barca, the Catalans haven’t won a league game at Anoeta, the San Sebastian home of Real Sociedad. And this weekend, they were lucky to get a point. Outplayed the entire game, Barcelona have the woodwork and an incorrectly awarded offside to thank for their point. That and Lionel Messi, of course.

They were out-thought and out-possessioned by the Basques as the were restricted to a pass completion rate below 77% and couldn’t even manage a shot on target in the first half for the first time this season. The Anoeta curse continues. In fact, as they won’t have another chance to put that right until next season, that means by the next time they meet in San Sebastian, it will be 10 years since Barcelona last won a league game at the home of La Real.

That day, Lilian Thuram, Ronaldinho and Gianluca Zambrotta started for Barcelona, whilst Eidur Gudjohnsen came off the bench for the Catalans. Current Manchester City keeper Claudio Bravo started for Sociedad along with former City defender Javier Garrido.

Without Dani Alves, Xavi, Pedro and the injured Andres Iniesta, this stat starts to look a little bit worrying for the champions:

Elsewhere, there were victories for Madrids of both Real and Atletico varieties as well as Sevilla, to cap off Barcelona’s miserable weekend, whilst defeat for Villarreal at home to lowly Alaves means that Sociedad move up to fifth place. Barcelona are closer to the Europa League places than they are to Real Madrid at the moment, making next week’s Clasico a bit of a biggie.

Germany

Things can change very quickly in the Bundesliga this season. Just ask Borussia Dortmund. At the end of last weekend, victory over Bayern Munich lifted them to third place. This week, defeat to Eintracht Frankfurt sees Thomas Tuchel’s side drop to seventh.

Sometimes, then, just holding on can be crucial. Bayern Munich did just that this weekend to beat Bayer Leverkusen and remain three points behind RB Leipzig at the top of the table.

It wasn’t pretty, and perhaps not even a fair result, but a win is a win and it keeps them in second. Surely they’ll get better than this?

Leipzig, meanwhile, had no such struggles. A 4-1 victory on Friday night kicked off this round of fixtures and piled the pressure onto the big boys behind them.

At the bottom, the Nord derby between Werder Bremen and Hamburg ended 2-2 – an eventful game with a result that does nothing to help either grand old side. Both teams stay in relegation trouble.

France

Is the fairytale over?

Well, not yet. Of course not. But Nice, eliminated from the Europa League this week, succumbed to a 1-1 draw at home to Bastia this weekend. It’s too early to talk about the end of the fairytale, especially given Nice still top the table by a point, but Monaco and Paris Saint-Germain are now bunching up behind them. You get the feeling they probably need to re-establish that buffer zone.

PSG’s victory over Lyon at the new Parc OL was enough to move them within a point of Nice and round off what was a successful, if not wholly convincing week. A 2-2 draw with Arsenal leaves the Parisians in pole position with one round of Champions League group games to go, whilst they are now within striking distance of the top of the Ligue 1 table, too. Who needs Zlatan Ibrahimovic when you have Edinson Cavani?

Monaco, too, are having a good week – they celebrated Champions League qualification with a very convincing 4-0 victory over Marseille on Saturday evening to leave themselves in a position to capitalise on Nice’s draw. We might have one mega title race in France this season if the top three can all keep their form.

Down at the other end of the table, things aren’t looking good for Lorient. 3-1 up away to Metz, it took under three minutes for substitute Thibaut Vion to make his mark and level the game.

Lorient stay bottom, but things aren’t looking good for the next team up the ladder, either. Lille are second from bottom and sacked their manager Frederic Antonetti after a dismal start to the season. A potential sale of the club and a new manager might save them, but it could take more than one change to bring this team out of trouble….

Italy

The Italian weekend isn’t quite over yet. And, Euro fans, you’re in excellent luck this week: not only are there two conveniently-timed games on Monday night in Serie A (at 6pm and 8pm) but there are also two games on every night this week in either Italy or France – apart from Thursday, which is a strategically placed rest day where you can work on your struggling relationship. Don’t say European football doesn’t care about your wellbeing.

In fact, so much does Serie A care about your wellbeing these days, that now and then it threatens to give us all an actual title race.

Juventus are still four points clear at the top of the table, but wins for Roma and AC Milan mean they were both there to capitalise on the Old Lady’s surprising 3-1 defeat away to Genoa.

In fact, it wasn’t just the defeat that was surprising, it was the fact that Juventus were 3-0 behind with less than 30 minutes gone – the first time that’s happened since 2005. Giovanni Simeone scored for Genoa in the first half, 16 years after his father scored against Juventus for Lazio in a 1-0 victory.

AC Milan’s impressive 4-1 victory on Saturday ensured that they kept the pace, and former Liverpool playmaker Suso is very much enjoying his football at San Siro these days: four goals and three assists in his last three games.