Real Madrid end Barcelona’s record – Europe’s Winners & Losers

This weekend, for the biggest Euro teams – those still in European competition anyway – was a little bit of the calm before the storm.

The Champions League returns this week and English teams are surely starting to feel some movement in their lower bowels – Manchester City’s reward for a couple of decent European performances slotted into a lacklustre 2016 is defeat by Zlatan-fuelled Paris Saint-Germain and Liverpool’s reward for beating Manchester United in the shameful fan behaviour derby is humiliation by Jurgen Klopp’s former charges Borussia Dortmund.

This week’s Euro Round-up is really worried that all of Europe’s best managers will be in England next season….

Germany

Borussia Dortmund are gamely keeping the pace with Bayern Munich at the top of the table this season, but you get the feeling that even winning all their games from here on in just wouldn’t be enough. After a crazy game at home to Werder Bremen this weekend, a late Adrian Ramos goal sealed a 3-2 victory which equalled the three points won by leaders Bayern Munich.

Even when Bayern Munich aren’t at their best, they can always rely on at least one world class player. This weekend it was the returning Franck Ribery who scored an obscene overhead kick – his first goal since December.

Those two are out in front and can, realistically, focus on Europe now – Dortmund won’t catch Bayern, both can focus on winning European competition. But for the teams below them, it’s all to play for. Four points separate third and seventh places, five teams vying for two Champions League spots.

All season long, the Euro Roundup has been marvelling at Hertha Berlin’s form and has been shocked that they still find themselves in third. Well this weekend it all changed – they were thumped 5-0 by fellow Champions League-chasers Borussia Monchengladbach. Is this the beginning of the dream’s end for ‘plucky Hertha’?

Elsewhere, Leverkusen and Mainz did their Champions League hopes a big favour with wins whilst Wolfsburg will have to win the trophy outright this season to qualify for next season – a tough ask against Real Madrid!

Down at the bottom, it’s still very tight. Hannover are all but mathematically doomed, 10 points adrift and now a manager short after sacking theirs this weekend, but the five teams directly above them are separated by just two points.

Winners: Gladbach, whose very big win gave them a very big three points.
Losers: Hertha Berlin, losing a big game is bad, but losing it so heavily is a confidence-killer.

Italy

Is the title race over? Juventus now find themselves six points clear at the top, and after giving everyone a huge head start this season, are once again proving they are the undisputed Italian kings. They won this weekend, Napoli didn’t.

And if Napoli are to come back from their defeat, they’ll need Gonzalo Higuain for the rest of the season. The Argentinian is the first man to score 30+ Serie A goals since Luca Toni in 2005/06, but his red card this weekend – and his subsequent tantrum afterwards – could see him banned for longer than the usual one game for two yellow cards. Can Roma overtake them and take the automatic Champions League spot?

The Giallorossi are now just four points behind Napoli – 10 behind Juve – after yet another win. If only Luciano Spalletti had taken over earlier there may have been a real title race involving Roma, but given their poor form at the end of the year, they’ll take their recent run. Even Stephan El Shaarawy is getting in on the act!

Elsewhere, Fiorentina and Inter have more or less locked up the Europa League spots, barring something shocking, whilst AC Milan’s players will probably need to win most of their games to save Sinisa Mihajlovic’s job.

At the bottom, Palermo’s defeat to Chievo sees them continue to drop like a stone, and it looks like any two from them, Frosinone and Carpi to go down – all three teams are separated by a single point.

Winners: Juventus, who are surely on track for a fifth straight title
Losers: Napoli, whose title challenge looks in tatters, especially if they lose Higuain for a few weeks

France

Zlatan Ibrahimovic may well be on his way to the Premier League next season. That’s bad news for France – well, Paris, the rest of France may be pleased by that news – but great news for England. Football’s favourite megalomaniac netted another hat trick against Nice this weekend, overcoming Nice’s very own talisman Hatem Ben Arfa.

That’s good preparation for PSG’s crunch Champions League quarter final first leg against Manchester City this week – the Parisians have nothing to play for in the league, so it’s all preparation for bigger things from here on in.

Elsewhere, Monaco’s defeat at home to Bordeaux coupled with Lyon’s victory over Lorient leaves the Monegasques only three points clear of Lyon. From being in a sweet position for Champions League qualification, Monaco will now have to look over their shoulders – there are three spots in France, but third place means a playoff, and France hasn’t had three teams in the group stages since 2012/13.

At the bottom, Troyes are now officially doomed, Toulouse are making a good fight of staying up and are now only four points from safety, whilst Reims and Ajaccio are battling each other to stay up. Marseille, meanwhile, are only six points off the drop – they couldn’t go down, could they?

Winners: Lyon, whose victory sees them close the gap to Monaco and target the Champions League in their crosshairs
Losers: Monaco and Nice, whose defeats could very well cost them come the start of next season

Spain

After 39 games unbeaten, Barcelona finally succumbed to defeat – against Real Madrid at the Camp Nou, the team who will take the most glee at ending that run. Indeed, it was Zinedine Zidane’s first Clasico as manager and he is the first Madrid manager to win his debut Clasico since Bernd Schuster in 2007 – Zidane is really starting to get his team believing that this season can still be a successful one:

But this was, the least important Clasico for some time. It looked tense and cagey, but you got the feeling that both teams were saving themselves for bigger things on the horizon: the Champions League quarter finals this week.

Elsewhere, Villarreal are once again looking like clear favourites for the final Champions League spot as Celta, Sevilla and Bilbao all dropped points. Sevilla and Bilbao will both be targeting the Europa League as their way into the Champions League next season.

At the bottom, it’s getting interesting: last-placed Levante face second-bottom Sporting on Monday night. If Levante lose, they’re as good as doomed, but if they win, they’ll be only two points from safety. Rayo and Granada both picked up points to help their causes, whilst The Club Formerly Known As Gary Neville’s Valencia missed out on their dead cat bounce this weekend, and are still shooting towards the bottom. They are now only six points above the relegation zone, but with some awful fixtures still to play – Real Madrid, Barcelona, Sevilla and Villarreal are all still to come for TTFKAGNV.

Winners: Villarreal, whose victory coupled with defeats for their rivals seems to have sewn up fourth place
Losers: Valencia, who are still in some sort of mortal danger

 


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