Costa picking up where Falcao left off // European Football Roundup

Bale continues to find form in Madrid while Diego Costa steals the show as La Liga’s standout performer. Elsewhere there were shocks in Serie A, Ligue 1 and Bundesliga…

Finally it seems Gareth Bale is beginning to find his place among Ancelotti’s Madrid side. After impressing last week in scoring twice and assisting twice in the bonkers 7-3 win at home to Sevilla Bale continued his upward curve of form with two assists against the high-pressing Rayo Vallecano in a 2-3 win for Madrid.

Real Madrid was unconvincing on the night and they needed a Ronaldo brace and a goal from Benzema to scrape a win. If Ancelotti is to escape further criticism from the ravenous Spanish press then Madrid must begin to play with more authority. What’s certainly not helping Ancelotti is the form is Diego Simeone’s men who continue to play like arguably the best side in Europe.

Atletico Madrid hosted Atletic Bilbao on Sunday night in which it was business as usual – Diego Costa starring the show while David Villa also bagging a goal which leaves Ateltico right on the heels of the thus far table topping Barcelona. Costa has now scored 13 league goals in 12 matches and is surely going to be on the top of the shopping list for many of Europe’s most wealthy clubs this January. Tito Martino will surely be looking over his shoulder as Atletico finally look to have a squad and mentality to put up a sustained challenge for the title.

Diego Costa celebrates his 13th goal of the season against Bilbao.

Diego Costa celebrates his 13th goal of the season against Bilbao.

It was the Catalonian derby on Friday night as Barca hosted Espanol. Whilst in recent years Espanol have been dubbed ‘the anti Barca’ in terms of style it seems Barcelona may be heading somewhat into that direction. Once again Barca looked short of ideas up and with little intelligent movement. It took a second half strike from in-from Alexis Sanchez to seal the win for Barca to remain at the top of the table who have only dropped two points so far with 11 wins and one draw.

In France PSG seem to have finally broken away from Monaco who lost away to Lille 2-0 who now move into second place. Despite the absence of Ibrahimovic PSG cantered to a 4-0 victory at home to Lorient with the Uruguayan Edison Cavani stealing show the show as he scored twice.

In Germany there was a shock as Sami Hyypia’s Bayer Leverkusen loosened their grip on second place Borussia Dortmund as they shockingly lost away to Eintracht Frankfurt 1-0. The aforementioned Borussia Dortmund hosted Stuttgart on Friday night in a 6-1 mauling. Despite going 1-0 down very early on to a neat header by Karim Haggui, the hosts came roaring right back, scoring twice in quick succession and eventually emerging with a 6-1 victory. Lewandowski looked in scintillating form as he netted a second half hat-trick. It seems the Polish striker, who is set to leave for league leaders Bayern Munich in January will do so in smashing form.

Bundesliga leaders Bayern Munich won again and it doesn’t seem like they’ll stop anytime soon. Despite facing a Hoffenheim side who certainly made them work hard for the victory they came out on top in a 1-2 win. Despite going 1-0 down in the 1st half the Croatian Mario Mandzukic levelled things up soon after and in the 75th minute Thomas Muller scored the winner which saw Bayern equalled yet  another record (you’d assume they’ll set a new one quite soon!)  – something which usually follows a Pep Guardiola side, it seems). Bayern’s win meant they have now played 36 league game without loss – a record which was set 30 years ago by Hamburg’s 82-83 side. Bayern’s last defeat was in October 2012 to Bayer Leverkusen.

Finally we look to Italy where there was joy for Inter, and utter despair for the counterparts AC. Last season Inter were doing exactly what AC are doing now – playing awfully without any style or cohesion. Despite the addition of Kaka it seems Allegri’s men are doing everything in their powers – or lack of, to finally see him given the sack. AC hosted Fiorentina in the San Siro yet looked lacklustre in every department. Fiorentina continue to look at exciting side as they swept AC aside in a 2-0 win.

As mentioned previous Inter have serious turned their fortunes around this year and look on course to challenge for Champions League football as they travelled to Udinese and convincingly won 0-3.

Juventus won again away at Parma 0-1, though it took a late Paul Pogba goal to seal the victory. It seems Juve have lost the spark they had in the previous two seasons in which the secured the Scudetto. The recent change of formation from 352 to 433 indicates Conte is trying to reinvigorate his side, not unlike the changes Pep Guardiola implemented throughout his tenure as Barca boss.

The story to the weekend in Serie A and perhaps Europe is that of Roma who left Turin with a 1-1 draw and the ending of a sensational start to the season. Despite selling three key players in Lamela, Osvaldo and Marquinhos in the summer they began the season in unprecedented form having won all 10 games, scoring 24 and conceding just once. Last night though, as the run came to a frustrating end, Rudi Garcia can be proud of their start of to the season as they sit top of Serie A three points clear of Napoli and Juventus. They’d have taken that if they were handed it in August, that’s for sure…

 Kevin Kelly

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