European Football Round-Up // December 10

Bayern score a whopping seven goals away at Bremen in the Bundesliga while it was goals galore again in Serie A as Napoli draw 3-3 at home to Udinese. It was the cup in Spain as Real Madrid came unstuck against the lowly Xatavia, though not to forget mentioning PSG who continue to look formidable in France as they won 5-0 at home to Nantes.


When Pep Guardiola was appointed the manager-to-be in of Bayern Munich for the following season I wrote about how he faced the task of ‘reinventing the wheel’. When I wrote that, Bayern were in the quarter finals of the Champions League, top of the Bundesliga and also still in the German Cup. A little over four months later Guardiola’s task looked a whole lot harder.

Bayern had won the Champions League, won the Bundesliga, and won the German Cup. Not only had they won the treble, but most notably they decimated Pep’s previous club Barcelona which sent shivers down the spines of the millions round the world who had been captivated by Barcelona’s space-age tiki-taka football the past four years.

Such success would be impossible to top, certainly in one season. Not only that, but as Bayern destroyed Barcelona and seemingly their possession based football, many questioned what Guardiola could bring to thing new all-conquering Bayern side. There were questions whether Pep would over-complicate a side who had found a formula which couldn’t be matched. The summer signings of Mario Gotze and Thiago Alcantara insinuated Pep wanted to bring some Catalonian inspired football to Bavaria.

Fifteen games into the 2013/2014 season having played 15 league games Bayern sit on top of the Bundesliga having won 13 games and drawn two, scoring 39 goals and only conceding seven. They’re already ten points clear of last season’s European and domestic runners-up Borussia Dortmund (who have since dropped to third place) and four points clear of high-flying Bayer Leverkusen. Not only that, they top their Champions League group having won every game.  As for the questions regarding the football he would bring to Bayern, well, it has been a fusion of lat season’s dominant counter attacking, and his tiki-taka possession based football we all seen from his Barcelona side. If I could give one example of how Pep’s innate genius has improved this Bayern side, is the curious case of Phillip Lahm.

Lahm, who despite being right-footed has been the best left-back in the world for the past decade has been moved to play in defensive midfield replacing one of Europe’s best players last season in Javi Martinez. Many scoffed at the tactical decision initially, including me. Nevertheless the decision has been inspired, as Lahm has mirrored the performances of Sergio Busquetts for Barcelona. Lahm now sets the tempo for the best side in Europe: the fulcrum of the side. A full-back: genius.  Maybe Guardiola won’t top last season’s trophy haul but he’s going about equalling it the right way, that’s for sure.

I guess all of that was a prelude to the news that on the weekend Bayern travelled to Werder Bremen and won 7-0. There was a double from Robben who at one point looked to be likely to be sold in the summer. Mandzukic was brought back into the side and scored,  there was also an o.g. from Bremen’s Lukimya, a goal for Gotze and even one for centre-back Van Buyten. It has got to the point where the number of goals Bayern score is the benchmark of how well they do, not simply if they win. If Bayern’s dominance is benchmarked by number of goals scored, it’s a little different for Sami Hyypia’s Bayer Leverkusen side who have found themselves within four points of the Bavarian giants as they edge closer to the winter break.

Bayer Leverkusen travelled to Borussia Dortmund on Saturday which frankly Dortmund needed to win should they want to keep any hopes of winning the Bundesliga this season. The game was tight and Bayer won with a solitary first-half goal from attacking midfielder Son. The victory puts Leverkusen on 37 points after 15 games and four points within Bayern who, quite clearly, look Europe’s best side by a distance. Not bad for Hyypia who’s only been managing less than two years.

Elsewhere in Germany there were wins for Wolfsburg who travelled to Freiburg winning 3-0 which leaves them in fifth, behind ‘Gladbach who hosted Schalke and won 2-1 which keeps them on course for European football next season.

In the ever-so boring Serie A this weekend there were two 3-3 draws for Napoli-Udinese and Inter-Parma and another draw for AC who travelled to Livorno in which a Balotelli brace made the game 2-2. Juve as ever looked like a mechanical winning machine as they travelled to Bologna and won 2-0.

Ac’s 2-2 draw leaves them in ninth place and a whopping 22 points behind Serie A leader Juventus who look on-course for a third successive Scudetto. Not bad for a side who only a few seasons previously were relegated to the Serie B for their part played in the Caliopoli scandal. If Galliani and co need answers surely they need to look to Turin where solid management and player acquisition, without an extortionate outlay on funds, has saw them look as formidable and healthy as they have in quite some time.

Napoli’s 3-3 draw with Udinese leaves Rafa’s men in third, now eight points behind Juve. Roma however, got back to winning ways with a Destro inspired victory as they saw off Fiorentina 2-1 which leaves the side from the Capital only three points behind Juve having won 11 and drawn four of their 15 games played this season. Totti’s return to fitness sends signals to Turin that Roma will surely run Juve close for the Scudetto this season.

Inter’s 3-3 draw at home to Parma was another mad-hatter performance which in a roundabout way shows their improvements from last season and their remaining deficiencies. Despite containing a leaky defence, they’re scoring goals and looking more fluid in attack than last year with Guarin at the heart of all things’ positive for Inter. The draw leaves Internazionale in fourth position, four points behind Napoli.

In France the big news came from Lille who finally conceded a goal after an 11 game shutout which saw them overtake Monaco as the best side that won’t get near PSG. Lille travelled to Bordeaux and lost 1-0 which saw them drop to third place behind Monaco. Monaco hosted Ajaccio and won 1-0 which leaves them within two points of leaders PSG who beat Sochaux 5-0 in another romping performance from Blanc’s side.

In Spain this weekend it was the Copa Del Rey and literally nothing interesting happened. Real Madrid could only muster a 0-0 draw with lower league side Xatavia while Barcelona looked as poor as you can in a 4-1 victory over Cartagena (who?). Diego Simeone’s Atletico side won again (surprise surprise) as they beat Saint Andreu (again – who?) 4-0. In one of the few all La Liga clashes Celta hosted Bilbao and won 1-0 which leaves them in good stead for the second leg to be played in the coming weeks.

Kevin Kelly


European Football Round-Up // December 4

Diego Simeone’s Atletico draw level with Barca at the summit of La Liga. There was a cracker at Hoffenheim with there being just the eight goals scored. Not much better in boring Serie A with just seven goals in the Fioentina vs. Hellas Verona game.. In Germany it was business as usual for Pep’s Bayern while PSG continue to dominate Ligue 1 with consummate ease..


The big talking point in Spain this week came from Barcelona following proceedings at the San Memes in which Barca lost 1-0 in a turgid affair. It’s not necessarily the result which is the talking point but what it prompted – the debate around Barcelona’s identity and what Martino has made of it since his arrival in the summer. The fact that a debate regarding philosophy exists proves somewhat that Barca are different in some respects.

Only recently Barca completed a game with less than 50% in La Liga in over four years. The style is fading and with that cules are beginning to question whether Martino was the right choice for manager. All of this comes with the fact he was a game away from statistically having the best start – result wise of course, of any Barcelona manager ever. Odd indeed.

While Barca struggled it was business as usual for Atletico who travelled to Elche and won 0-2. Unsurprisingly Diego Costa scored again which makes it 15 for the season and notably of those 15 goals they’ve been spread out across 12 matches; ruthless efficiency from the Brazilin turned Spaniard.

In Madrid there was the crowning of the ‘Prince of Wales’ as Madrid based newspaper Marca put it following Gareth Bale’s ‘perfect hat trick’ (right foot, left foot and a header). Madrid won 4-0 and is now only three points behind Barca and Atletico.

Real Betis drew 2-2 with Rayo Vallecano in a bottom of the table class which was to be the end of Pepe Mel’s tenure at Betis. It would be unsurprising to see him picked up at a top club in the near future – perhaps Valencia who despite winning 3-0 at home to Osasuna (thanks to a Jonas hat trick) I feel manager Miroslav Djukic’s safety as Valencia coach is a ticking time bomb. Despite the slight upturn in form in recent weeks his popularity remains non existent. Oh and one more thing on La Liga – Sevilla won away, again!

In Germany it was frankly business as usual for the most part; Bayern swept aside Braunschweig 2-0. Once again Gotze played as a false nine in which he provided an assist. Dortmund travelled to Klopp’s old club Mainz and won 1-3. There was a cracker at Hoffenheim as they draw at home 4-4 to Bremen. Sami Hyypia’s Bayer Leverkusen beat Nurnberg at home easily with a 3-0 score line and Gladbach remain on place for European football next season as they won 1-0 at home to Freiburg.

In Italy the story of the weekend was a non-football one, as there was another u-turn in the Galliani soap opera at AC Milan. It seems he won’t be leaving – or resigning, after what seemed like an end to the 27 year marriage at the absolute height of football dominance both in Italy and in Europe. Looking happy to try and turn around his beloved AC Milan’s fortunes he saw them win 1-3 away at Catania. Though sadly, once again there was talk of racist abuse as Mario Balotelli accused Catania’s Nicolas Spolli of racially abusing him. Should he be found guilty a ten game ban will follow following Serie A’s new racism regulations which seem a case of better late than never.

In Serie A there were notable draws for table-topping Juventus who only managed a 1-1 draw at home to Udinese while second place Roma drew their third league game in a row. Napoli however travelled to the Stadio Olimpico and beat Lazio 2-4. The game of the weekend though, if only from an attacking viewpoint, occurred at Fiorentina as they beat newly promoted Hellas Verona 4-3. Boring Italy, as they say.

Finally in France PSG continue to look like champions elect as they beat the once-mighty Lyon 4-0 at home. Lille won 1-0 (again) which makes it 11 clean sheets in a row. Staggering. Monaco needed new-boy James Rodriguez to finally step up to the mark as they were without Falcao – and the Portuguese winger stepped up in fine fashion as he scored in a 0-3 win away at Nice.

Kevin Kelly

European Football Round-Up // November 25

Bayern Munich thrash Borussia Dortmund as inevitably, Mario Gotze comes on to score the opening goal, while Atletico continue to impress in a 7-0 romp. In France, PSG continue to look formidable whilst AC Milan look as bad as ever in a listless draw vs. Genoa.


“It wasn’t me”… Mario Gotze holds his hands-up to the “Yellow Wall”.

The story of the weekend came from the Bundesliga as a depleted Dortmund side lost 0-3 to Bayern Munich. Dortmund, who were missing their entire regular back-four with Subotic, Hummels, Piszczek and Schmelzer all out, Dortmund struggled to impose their trademark style on the game, barring some breaks which lead to half-chances. The game was at deadlock until midway through the second-half when the inevitable occurred – Mario Gotze broke the deadlock. The ex-Dortmund starlet farcically warmed up in the tunnel prior to being subbed on to avoid the fans retributory chants and whistles. After Gotze’s opener, goals from Robben and Muller followed in quick succession to see off any hopes of a late Dortmund fight-back.

The victory leaves Borussia Dortmund trailing in third, seven points behind Bayern Munich. With the winter break fast approaching Jurgen Klopp must be beginning to worry if they have any chance of catching the Bavarian giants. After the game Klopp commented on Pep Guardiola’s contrasting styles throughout the game. During the first-half, Bayern uncharacteristically hit the ball long, usually to Javi Martinez who despite being a holding midfielder was positioned between the lines as a “defensive 10”. “They wanted to play around our counter-pressing, our biggest strength,” the Dortmund manager explained. In the second-half, Guardiola reverted to a more patient approach building from deep: “OK, cool move,” Klopp said, “you can do it like that, first you work us with long balls and then you bring on the 1.70m boys,” Klopp commented.

Other notable results in Germany were Bayer Leverkusen’s 0-1 away win at Hertha Berlin which keeps them within four points of the Bundesliga summit. Borussia Monchengladbach remain in third place after their 0-2 win away at VfB Stuttgart.

Elsewhere, in Spain the result of the weekend came from Madrid’s current best side – Atletico Madrid. Simeone’s men romped to a 7-0 victory at home to one of Madrid’s smaller sides in Getafe CF. Diego Costa’s solitary goal of the night may have been Atletico’s seventh, but was undoubtedly the goal of the night. Despite possessing a burly build, the Brazilian (wait, he’s Spanish now?) performed an outrageously acrobatic bicycle-kick.

Whilst Atletico may have been the most impressive side in Spain this week, the standout performer was most certainly ex-Arsenal striker Carlos Vela who scored four goals in Real Sociedad’s, blistering 4-3 at home to Celta Vigo. Vela, having been handed the match ball after the game may possibly have the quote of the weekend:  “I’ll give it to the dog so he can play with it.’’

On Sunday night there was also the small matter of the Seville derby as Sevilla hosted Real Betis. Sevilla, who hadn’t started the season well, didn’t fail to impress as they smashed Betis 4-0. This was the first time Sevilla had won two consecutive league games for nine months and it was undoubtedly a massive win for the Andalusian side. Afterwards, Sevilla manager Unai Emery cheekily remarked that he was disappointed in his sides lack of hunger to “score the fifth’’.

Less notable results in Spain this weekend were Barcelona and Real Madrid’s somewhat inevitable victories: Barcelona won 4-0 at home to Granada which included penalties from both Iniesta and Fabregas whilst Sanchez scored to continue his rich vein of form with Pedro scoring in stoppage time. For Real Madrid, the result was never in doubt; Ronaldo scored in the third minute and from that moment on lowly UD Almeria were submissive at every opportunity. Gareth Bale scored Madrid’s fourth goal as he continues to settle in Spain. Youngster Morata scored late on with a fine strike.

In Italy, Napoli lost their first home league game of the season to Parma which leaves them in third place behind A.S. Roma who play Cagliari Calcio on Monday night. Juventus however, are now two points clear at the top of the Scudetto as they beat A.S. Livorno Calcio 0-2 away.

AC Milan’s miserable season continued as they drew 1-1 at home to Genoa – who played most of the game with just ten men. Milan’s ultra’s had blocked exits from the stadium in protest of the poor results and indeed, season. More than an hour after the match, Milan players were still unable to leave the San Siro with exits blocked by more than 300 ultras and police, which lead to Kaka and Christian Abbiati meeting fans for a face-to-face discussion. The discussions lasted about five minutes, but it was well into the small hours of the morning before the roads were clear enough for Milan’s players to leave the stadium.

Finally, in France, PSG remain on top as they travelled to Stade De Reims winning 0-3. Lille OSC could muster just the one goal as they beat Toulouse 1-0 and remain four points off the lead in second place – AS Monaco travelled to FC Nantes, winning 0-1 leaving themselves five points off the top of Ligue 1.

Kevin Kelly

European Football Round-up // November 11

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.


Fernando Llorente and Paul Pogba celebrate their 3-0 win over Napoli

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.

Kevin Kelly