Vishal Savalani continues his weekly round-up of Europe's top leagues. He'll be sharing with us every week his views and opinions on Europe's biggest leagues. Drop some comments on the article or the Facebook page and he'll respond to you.
The French League is really interesting this season and I fully expect it to go down to the wire. Last week, Montpellier overtook PSG to go top of the table with a win while PSG came from behind to get a point in Lyon. This weekend, Montpellier were missing their two key players: Giroud (league’s top scorer), and Belhanda (exciting young midfielder). They traveled to Dijon and were lucky to get something from this game. Kakuta, on loan from Chelsea, keeps impressing. He scored for the hosts, only for Montpellier to equalise in the last few minutes.
PSG faced Ajaccio and ended up winning in style. Pastore, Menez, Hoarau and Nene scored for the hosts. Menez’s goal was brilliant. He curled the ball into the net and made it look so easy. It was also good to see “El Flaco” Pastore scoring. Nene is a dangerous player. It’s really hard to understand why he’s not making the Seleccao. Hoarau is scoring important goals (equalisers against Montpellier and Lyon) these days, leaving Kevin Gameiro on the bench. The competition between these two guys can only be beneficial for PSG as one of them is expected to make Blanc’s squad for the Euros.
Lyon are stalling and lost away to relegation side Nancy. It is now their 10th defeat of the season. 3rd spot seems far away now as they are trailing Lille in 3rd by 7 points. Lille could have gone 9 points clear above Lyon had they beaten Auxerre. They were up 2-0 with Hazard scoring once again, but 10 men Auxerre miraculously scored twice to gain a point in the North of France. Saint-Etienne lost at home to Evian. Marseille lost again, this time at home to Toulouse. They have now lost two in a row. The biggest winners of this weekend are definitely Rennes and Toulouse who keep piling up points and are getting closer to European spots. A CL place is now possible.
While PSG and Montpellier are expected to finish 1st and 2nd respectively, it is hard to say who will end up with that 3rd spot. Next week’s key match is Lyon vs Lille, which is a must win for both of these teams. Lyon are still involved in all competitions (Ligue 1, French Cup, League Cup and CL) while Lille were last season’s champions. Marseille are not yet out of the race for third place either.
Barcelona won 3-1 without Messi who was suspended. However, it was not a routine win. Barral canceled Iniesta’s opener to make it 1-1. Decisions were going against Barca throughout the match. To make it worse, Pique was also sent off. Guardiola’s side felt like it was 12 men vs 10 men. However Keita scored a cracker, followed by a goal from Xavi with 2 mins left. Throughout the game, the Blaugranas were singing Guardiola’s name urging him to extend his contract. However, Guardiola hasn’t made a decision. Rumours that he will replace AVB at Chelsea are increasing. Pique might be suspended further for criticizing the referee after the game.
With Barcelona winning, Real Madrid needed to win in order to maintain their 10 point lead against Espanyol who are fighting for 4th spot with Levante. It was a routine win for Real as they won 5-0 with Ronaldo scoring first. Khedira got the second. Higuain then made it 3-0 at the start of the second half after a wonderful play by Kaka. The Brazilian then made it 4-0. Higuain got his second goal with a superb finish. Ronaldo now has 30 goals in La Liga. I still think Barcelona are the better side, but Real have been more consistent this season, specially away from home. One thing they have is SWAG, something Barca don’t have.
Valencia won 1-0 and are expected to finish in 3rd place this season. Fehgouli, a young and talented French-Algerian midfielder scored and is keeping Pablo Hernandez out of the team. The Llorentes won but my boy did not score. Bilbao are still fighting for 4th spot. It will be interesting to see how the perform against United on Thursday.
With Spain favorites to win the Euros, it will be interesting to see which strikers will be selected. Soldado did really well this midweek. But he seems to have lost his scoring touch with Valencia. Apparenly, Valencia are looking to sign Debuchy for Lille, who was excellent against Germany on Wednesday.
AC Milan are superb. They’ve easily been playing the best football this season alongside Real and Barcelona. Zlatan returned in style after his 3 match ban. He scored a hat trick in 15 mins. Robinho provided two of these goals to Zlatan. Thiago Silva then scored the 4th for Milan. While Galiani was happy with the result, he was still complaining to the media. He claimed that Ibra was wrongly banned (for slapping a player) and if he were there against Napoli and Juve, they would be leading Juventus by more points.
With Juve drawing 1-1, Milan now lead by 3 points. However the Bianconeri have a game in hand. Antonio Conte, Juventus’ coach, who claimed last week that he had the best players in the world, is now lowering his expectations, by declaring that his team was programmed for a 6th or 7th spot. 3rd place Udinese were held to a goalless draw, while Lazio beat Roma 2-1 to push for that 3rd spot. It is the first time in many years that they’ve now beaten Roma twice in the league in the same season. Juan appologised to the Giallarossi tifosis, as they are now trailing their rivals by 10 points. Elsewhere, Inter Milan came from 2-0 down to draw 2-2 at home to Catania with Forlan scoring one, and providing an assist to Milito. Ranieiri claimed after the game that his players are fighters and they will keep going.
Dortmund won 2-1 and extended their lead by 7 points. All of their rivals lost: Munich lost 2-0 at Leverkusen with Neueur making a mistake, Schalke lost 2-1 to Fribourg and Gladbach lost 1-0 at Nurenmberg. It’s hard to see any team apart from Dortmund and maybe Bayern (experience) winning the Bundesliga. Note that Dortmund have now won 8 league games in a row, a record for them.
City won 2-0 against Bolton and are still top of the table. Balotelli is expected to be fined for partying on Friday night. United won 3-1 at Spurs with Rooney scoring his 18th of the season and Young bagging 2 goals. The last time United lost to Spurs was in 2001. They are still trailing City by 2 points. David De Gea is gaining in confidence.
Arsenal won 2-1 at Anfield with RVP scoring both goals. As soon as he got the first, he went straight to Sagna and said: “What a cross”. His first goal was a header and his second one was a volley in the dying minutes. Liverpool had the better chances with Dirk Kuyt missing a penalty as well. With Chelsea and Spurs losing, Arsenal are the biggest winners of this weekend as they are now in 4th spot, trailing Spurs by only 4 points (it was 10 until last week).
Chelsea have now gone to 5th following their loss at WBA. AVB finally got sacked and they now trail Arsenal by 3 points. Roberto Di Matteo will take charge until the end of the season. Who will replace him? Guardiola, Benitez, Rijkaard? It will be interesting to see what happens to Jose, Harry, Ranieiri, Guardiola by the end of the season.
Fulham beat Wolves 5-0 with their Russian striker scoring yet again. He’s on fire. He scored five from five shots in his last two games.
Porto beat Benfica away from home 3-2 to lead the table by 3 points. Hulk scored a fantastic goal at 108 km/hr. Click here to see it
Menez's goal for PSG at home to Ajaccio from a supporter's camera. Click here to see it.