Forever Young – Serie A’s veteran Javier Zanetti returns from a seven month injury lay-off but it’s Juventus who captured the headlines as they smashed Napoli 3-0 to go within touching distance of leaders A.S. Roma. Meanwhile PSG break away at the top in France and Messi faces another injury but Barca keep on winning.
After three months of soul-searching it seems Antonio Conte’s Juventus side have finally found that spark which saw them winning the previous two Scudetto’s. Facing an impressive Napoli side Juve were locked in second with Rafa Benitez’s men going into Sunday night’s fixture.
Fernando Llorente scored after only two minutes to give the Serie A title holders the lead. The rest of the first half was tight and Napoli were lucky to go in at 1-0 with Pepe Reina making two stunning saves to keep the Gli Azzurri in the game. Two glorious second half goals from Andrea Pirlo (with the best beard in football) and Paul Pogba saw off a Napoli side who would have expected to give the Old Lady a sterner test.
Having started the season in indifferent form, Pirlo’s brilliant free kick was indicative of a Juve side that had rediscovered a swagger they had been sorely missing. Manchester United will have some food for thought to, as Paul Pogba continues to project himself as one of the world’s leading midfield players. His sensational volleyed goal, and not to mention his commanding midfield play, is something David Moyes could certainly do with, considering he dropped £27.5m Marouane Fellaini for centre-back Phil Jones on Sunday.
Other notable results in Italy were Inter’s 2-0 win at home to Livorno as they stay in fourth and look to cement their return to form following last season’s mini-crisis. Their counterparts AC though, continue to seriously disappoint. A 0-0 draw away to Chievo leaves them in tenth place; Surely Allegri cannot last? It also seems A.S. Roma’s draw last week wasn’t a one-off blip. They drew again, 1-1 to Sassuolo conceding a last minute winner. Should they have any serious title intentions then such draws will need to be cut out.
In Germany, the game of the weekend and perhaps the season was in Leverkusen as Sami Hyypia’s Bayer side continue to impress. They hosted Hamburger in a game which ended 5-3. The South-Korean Son Hueng-Min stole the show as he scored a hat trick. The result leaves Leverkusen joint for second in the Bundesliga as Dortmund suffered another poor result following the midweek defeat to Arsenal, losing 2-1 away to Wolfsburg. Jurgen Klopp will certainly be looking to re-motivate his side sooner rather than later. Bayern Munich also won beating FC Augsburg 3-0 to extend their record-breaking unbeaten league run. It seems Pep’s side are quietly becoming an even stronger outfit than last season; a scary thought indeed.
In France, it seems Laurent Blanc’s PSG side are beginning to break away from AS Monaco as they romped to a 3-1 victory at home to OGC Nice. AS Monaco could only pick up a point as it ended 1-1 at home to Evian Thonon Gaillard (a region better known by us for their overpriced, bottled water). AS Monaco remain in third although second placed Lille OSC could only muster a draw away to EA Guingamp (It’s in the game).
In Spain, the headlines are all about Messi, and not for scoring another billion goals or anything like that. Sadly, he’s injured again; it seems he’ll be sidelined for up to eight weeks with a hamstring tear, which he suffered during Barca’s visit to Real Betis. Barca played some of their best football of the season, despite Messi’s absence for most of the game as they won 1-4. Neymar scored, while Pedro put one past Adrian’s far post with some clinical precision. Barca’s lead was increased at the top as second placed Atletico Madrid came unstuck against a high-flying Villarreal side, who despite recent promotion sit in fourth place, looking to get back into the Champions League at the first opportunity available.
Real Madrid obliterated Real Sociedad 5-1 as Ronaldo scored yet another hat-trick. Gareth Bale assisted one in a game which Sociedad couldn’t keep up with a Madrid side looking to finally possess some ruthlessness you usually associate with the European giants.
Elsewhere it seems lowly UD Almeria continue to climb out of the bottom three as they won their third game on the bounce travelling to CA Osasuna and winning 0-1 despite missing their standout player Suso, on loan from Liverpool.