We begin in Spain, where this week the teams placed first and second picked up another three points. Girona defeated Celta Vigo by a single goal to win 1-0 and return to top spot after Real Madrid’s 2-1 win over Las Palmas the day prior. Athletico Madrid also won as goals from Samuel Lino and Memphis Depay led them to a 2-0 victory. This win takes them above Barcelona in the table after Xavi’s side dropped points to Villareal.
Most would agree that Villareal’s 5-3 win over Barcelona was the game of the weekend in La Liga. It’s hard to say it wasn’t when the first half consisted of Villareal taking a 1-0 lead despite having two goals disallowed, and the second had seven goals and a penalty revoked! Villareal doubled their lead in the second half before Barca scored three goals in eleven minutes to go 3-2 ahead, Gonçalo Guedes then equalised before İlkay Gündoǧan thought he’d won it for his side through a penalty, only for VAR to revoke the spot kick. Alexander Sǿrloth then scored after a calamitous moment at the back from Barcelona to win it for Villareal in the 99th minute, minutes later José Luis Morales made it five to rub salt in the wounds.
Post game, Barcelona boss Xavi announced he will be stepping down at the end of the season. Who will replace Xavi? Who can manage this Barcelona team? Brighton and Hove Albion’s Roberto De Zerbi? Real Sociedad’s Imanol Alguacil? Arsenal’s Mikel Arteta?
This week in Italy there weren’t too many goals flying in, in fact only six teams scored up to two goals, two of those being AC Milan and Bologna who faced each other in a 2-2 draw. Although there certainly could’ve been more as both Olivier Giroud and Theo Hernández missed penalties for the home side, Milan will be even more frustrated by this due to the fact Bologna drew thanks to a 92nd minute penalty from Riccardo Orsolini. This draw will give Bologna confidence as they push for a European spot in the table.
On Saturday Juventus dropped points to Empoli in an unexpected 1-1 draw, this may have partially been down to Arkadiusz Milik’s red card in the first twenty minutes, leaving Juventus with ten men for seventy minutes. Inter Milan took full advantage of the opportunity to go ahead of their Turin rivals with a game in hand, beating Fiorentina, who’ve been a strong side this season, 1-0 courtesy of an early goal from Lautaro Martínez who is Serie A’s top scorer with nineteen goals. It looks like Simone Inzaghi’s Inter side could be on track to win the Scudetto back once more.
Over in Germany it’s beginning to get tight at the top of the table. Bayern Munich faced Augsburg on Saturday and ran out 3-2 winners over the home side despite a double from Striker Ermedin Demirović. Later that evening Bayer Leverkusen drew 0-0 to Borussia Monchengladbach. Despite having twenty eight shots, three quarters of the possession, and an expected goals of 2.99 Xabi Alonso’s side couldn’t find a way past Moritz Nicolas. This result means that Leverkusen are now only two points ahead of Bayern Munich, the two face one another in two weeks time in a now huge fixture for both sides! At the other end of the table there was an important result too, Union Berlin beating Darmstadt by a goal to nil to put a five point gap between Union and Kӧln in the relegation play off place. Darmstadt currently sit in the relegation zone with Mainz 05, both on eleven points.
Although, for me the game of the weekend has to be Stuttgart’s 5-2 win over RB Leipzig. Enzo Millot got the ball rolling after dispatching a penalty in the 25th minute, it was 2-1 come half-time after a first for Deniz Undav and a goal for RB Leipzig courtesy of Benjamin Šeško. Twice it looked like Leipzig may turn it round as they trailed only 2-1 and 3-2, however another two goals from Denis Undav completed his hat-trick and Stuttgart’s victory. RB Leipzig may start to worry, this is their third loss in a row and they are now behind Stuttgart and Borussia Dortmund in the race for Champions League football, with Frankfurt only two points behind them in sixth.
As we reach the midpoint of the season we can usually tell in France if Paris Saint Germain are going to completely run away with the league or not. Recently it has been looking like they may, heading into this weekend they were eight points ahead of Nice in second. Although despite going 2-0 ahead versus third placed Brest they couldn’t finish the job this week as goals from Mahdi Camara and Mathias Pereira Lage, who scored a beauty, meant it finished 2-2. The Parisian players and fans frustration was probably best represented through Bradley Barcola’s last minute outburst of anger which earned him two yellows in two minutes, seeing him leave the field just before the final whistle. Aside from the frustration, I’m sure this draw won’t change much as PSG continue their march towards a twelfth Ligue 1 title.
Elsewhere in Ligue 1 we mainly saw draws over the weekend’s games, six out of the nine games this weekend finished all square. The ones who won were Lens, Nice, and Rennes, all improving their position in the top half of the table, meanwhile Lyon lost for the eleventh time this season, slipping back into the relegation play off place. As we move closer to the end of the season I’m sure Lyon fans will begin to become more and more worried about their team’s survival.