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Across the Continent: European football weekend review- 15-17 March


It’s been another busy weekend of European football, so here’s a recap of all the results, stories and talking points from La Liga, Serie A, Bundesliga and Ligue 1.

La Liga

The big game in La Liga this weekend on Sunday night did not disappoint, well unless you’re an Atlético Madrid supporter.

Before kick off, Atleti had been formidable at Cívitas Metropolitano this season, winning 19 of 21 home matches, their sole defeat coming against Athletic Club in the Copa del Rey.

Thus, it was a major surprise when Barcelona cruised to a 3-0 victory, with João Félix breaking the deadlock against his parent club, just as he did at Montjuïc, before Robert Lewandowski and Fermín López were on target in the second half.

This is the first time ever los Colchoneros have been beaten by a three-goal margin at the Metropolitano in any competition, making it their biggest home defeat since another 3-0 reverse at the Vicente Calderón against Real Madrid in November 2016; Cristiano Ronaldo the scorer of a hat-trick that night.

Right now, Diego Simeone’s side are in danger of missing out on the Champions League for the first time since 2012, slipping down to fifth, one point behind Athletic Club with just nine games to go.

Speaking of Athletic, they leapfrogged Atleti by beating Alavés 2-0 at San Mamés, meaning the Lions have won 16 of their first 29 La Liga for only the second time this century.

The other time they achieved this, in 2013/14, they went on to finish fourth, with Ernesto Valverde’s team very determined to bring Champions League football back to Bilbao.

At the top of the table, Real Madrid now boast an eight-point cushion, following their entertaining 4-2 victory at Osasuna on Saturday, in which Vinícius Júnior scored twice at El Sadar.

Barcelona meantime are now their nearest-challengers, after Girona were beaten 1-0 by Getafe at the Coliseum.

In the relegation battle, Celta Vigo sacked Rafa Benítez this week and Claudio Giráldez’s first game in charge of the senior team could hardly have gone any better, masterminding a 2-1 away win over Sevilla.

As a result, O Celtiña are now five clear of danger, while los Nervionenses have simultaneously been dragged back into trouble, just a point better off than the side who defeated them.

Nevertheless, both Cádiz and Granada were defeated this weekend, meaning both appear doomed, but it was a memorable weekend for the division’s basement boys Almería.

In Pepe Mel first match in charge, la Unión beat Las Palmas 1-0, Léo Baptistão the only scorer, thereby claiming Almería’s very first victory of the season, ending a 30-match winless streak.

They will still go down with an ignominiously low points tally, but their wins column no longer contains an embarrassing 0.

Serie A

In Serie A this weekend, Internazionale Milano may be sitting a whopping 14 points clear at the top, it’s only a matter of time until they claim an historic 20 Scudetto, although it doesn’t feel like a time for celebration.

On Wednesday night, I Nerazzurri were dumped out the Champions League by Atlético Madrid on penalties, with Alexis Sánchez, Davy Klaassen and Lautaro Martínez all failing to convert from 12 yards.

Then, on Sunday night, Inter’s ten-match winning streak in Serie A came to an end, taking the lead through Matteo Darmian but conceding late, thereby held to a 1-1 draw by Napoli at Stadio Giuseppe Meazza.

Simone Inzaghi has a tough job on his hands after the international break, making sure his players are focussed with little to play for.

This could also be an issue over at Juventus, given that they’ve won only one of their last eight, held to a goalless draw by Genoa on Sunday lunchtime, seeing Dušan Vlahović sent off towards the end.

La Vecchia Signora had just two shots on target, only mustering fewer in any game this season against Inter, with Massimiliano Allegri’s team now in danger of missing out on the top four all together.

AC Milan’s 3-1 victory at Hellas Verona later in the day leaves them three points clear of Juve, with Stefano Pioli’s side having won five in a row across Serie A and the Europa League.

Their upcoming quarter-final opponents in Europe will be Roma, who’s excellent league form continued, Lorenzo Pellegrini’s goal downing Sassuolo, as Daniele De Rossi seeks to deliver Champions League football.

However, I Giallorossi do not currently occupy fourth spot, with Bologna, the current tenants, refusing to be dislodged, winning six of their last seven, most-recently defeating Empoli on Friday night.

At the bottom, Salernitana, Sassuolo and Frosinone all lost this weekend, which is good news for Empoli, Cagliari, Hellas Verona, Udinese and Genoa, none of whom are feeling particularly safe right now.

Bundesliga

Over in the Bundesliga, another weekend goes by with Bayer Leverkusen still ten points clear at the top, not only in pole position to pick up a first-ever Meisterschale, but dreaming of an unprecedented treble.

On Sunday, Xabi Alonso’s side battled to a 3-2 victory over Freiburg, with Florian Wirtz, Adam Hložek and Patrik Schick all on target in a hard-fought win at Mooswaldstadion.

Die Werkself have therefore won 22 matches in the league already this season, the most they’ve ever managed in a Bundesliga season, and there are of course eight games still to play.

So, even if Bayern Munich win all of their remaining matches, which is far from guaranteed, die Schwarzroten require 15 points from the remaining 24 on offer to be crowned champions for the very first time.

Meanwhile, Leverkusen are through to the DFB-Pokal semis, the only top-tier team left in the tournament, while they’ll also face West Ham in the Europa League quarter-finals, so an exciting April and May lie ahead.

Bayern Munich meantime did swat aside Darmstadt 5-2 on Saturday, but their hopes of a 12th successive Salatschüssel still seem slim, even though Harry Kane has now scored 31 goals, a debut season record.

The England captain picked up an ankle injury at Stadion am Böllenfalltor, making him a doubt for England’s friendlies this week, which is certainly a concern for Thomas Tuchel ahead of their clash with Arsenal.

Away from the title race, all of the five Champions League contenders won this weekend.

Third-placed Stuttgart are aiming to qualify for that competitions after 15 seasons away, looking good to achieve this, having accumulated 22 points from the last 24 available, including hammering Hoffenheim 3-0.

Strikers Deniz Undav and Serhou Guirassy have scored 36 goals between them; the only die Schwaben duo to net more than that in an entire campaign are Jürgen Klinsmann and Karl Allgöwer who bagged 37 in 85/86.

Borussia Dortmund meantime remain fourth, following their 3-1 win over Frankfurt on Sunday, although RB Leipzig are breathing down their necks, just a point below, following Friday’s 5-1 hammering of Köln.

The major news on Monday morning was that Christian Streich had resigned as Freiburg manager, following last Thursday’s Europa League exit against West Ham and then Sunday’s loss to Leverkusen.

Streich had been in charge of Breisgau-Brasilianer since 2011, managing 383 Bundesliga matches.

Only two managers have ever taken charge of more games in the league’s history with a single club, these being Otto Rehhagel (493) and Thomas Schaaf (480, both with Werder Bremen.

Turning our attention to the relegation battle, Köln’s Friday night hammering helped them slip into the bottom two, as a result of Mainz’s crucial 2-0 victory over Bochum.

Darmstadt, who’ve only won two games all season, are essentially gone, with Köln seven points adrift safety and Mainz six below Bochum, meaning die Geißböcke and die Nullfünfer could be battling for the relegationsspiele where, as it stands, HSV would await them.

Lastly, a word on the coaching change at Wolfsburg; Niko Kovač was sacked following die Weißgrünen’s defeat to Augsburg, with Ralph Hasenhüttl back in management for the first time since leaving Southampton in November 2022.

When we return from the international break, there’s the small matter of der Klassiker to come on Easter Saturday, which is one to look forward to.

Ligue 1

In Ligue 1 this weekend, Paris Saint-Germain moved 12 points clear at the top on Sunday night, smashing Montpellier 6-2, courtesy of Kylian Mbappé's hat-trick at Stade de la Mosson.

With 188, Mbappé is now the eight highest-scoring player in Ligue 1 history although, given that he’s possibly only got eight games left in the division, Delio Onnis’ record of 299 that’s stood since 1986 appears safe.

While there is no title race, just below PSG nine teams are fighting over the six remaining European spots, with only nine points separating second and ninth.

As we’ve mentioned on many occasions, Brest have never finished higher than eighth in the top-flight, but will almost certainly change that face, currently second, on course for an historic Champions League qualification.

Eric Roy’s team held fellow top-four chasers Lille to a 1-1 draw on Sunday, meaning they’ve lost just one of their last 15, so an exciting April and May awaits les Pirates.

In-between Brest and Lille are Monaco, who could also only muster a draw this weekend, held by Lorient, courtesy of Tiémoué Bakayoko’s 95th minute equaliser for les Merlus in the Principality.

This 2-2 draw at Stade Louis II was the first Ligue 1 match for 31 years to witness two own goals and two red cards, with both Denis Zakaria and Tosin Aiyegun dismissed towards the end.

Saturday night’s key fixture produced a shock result, with out-of-form Nice smashing Lens, who are formidable at home, 3-1 at Stade Bollaert-Delelis, thereby leapfrogging their hosts in fifth.

Just below, Jean-Louis Gasset’s perfect start to life at Marseille manager came to an end, as OM were defeated 2-0 by Rennes at Roazhon Park, a result that leaves both sides on 39 points.

Olympique Lyonnais overcame Toulouse 3-2 on Friday, that’s now nine wins in 12 for Pierre Sage’s team, with les Gones tenth, not yet giving up on European football, and with a Coupe de France semi-final to come.

At the bottom, Clermont Foot breathed new life into their survival bid by beating Le Havre 2-1, although Pascal Gastien’s team do remain bottom.

Metz and Nantes, both of whom were beaten this weekend, complete the bottom three, although Lorient, Montpellier and Le Havre and are all very catchable.

Ben Gray

Ben Gray

Arsenal fan – follow them over land and sea (and Leicester); sofa Celtic supporter; a bit of a football '"encyclopedia".