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Across the Continent: European football weekend review- 23-25 February


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, Ligue 1 and Eredivisie.

La Liga

Real Madrid moved eight points clear at the top of La Liga on Sunday night, courtesy of a hard-fought 1-0 victory over Sevilla at the Bernabéu, thanks to Luka Modrić's long-range strike ten minutes from time.

Los Blancos are now unbeaten in 11 encounters with Sevilla, winning nine of them, their second-longest streak in the history of this fixture, only eclipsed by a 15 match undefeated streak between 1993 and 2003.

In the present day, Carlo Ancelotti’s team are unbeaten in 20 La Liga fixtures, accumulating 35 points from a possible 39 at home, so pulled clear at the top, ahead of Girona’s Monday night clash with Rayo Vallecano.

Given that Girona are yet to take to the field this weekend, Barcelona leapfrogged them into second on Saturday, smashing Getafe 4-0 at Montjuïc; Raphinha, João Félix, Frenkie de Jong and Fermín López scoring.

Xavi’s team have started to stabilise, following that dip in form a month ago, so are showing much-needed encouraging signs, given that they face Athletic Club, Napoli and Atlético Madrid between now and 17 March.

Speaking of Atleti, their miserable form on the road continued on Saturday, held to a 2-2 draw by bottom of the table and still winless Almería, despite twice leading at Estadio de los Juegos Mediterráneos.

Luka Romero’s brace securing a very rare point for the Almeriensistas to enjoy, becoming the second player to score a brace on their full-debut for the club, after Rodri Ríos more than a decade ago the other.

Diego Simeone’s side have now won only one of their last eight La Liga away games, with los Colchoneros facing a serious fight just to remain in the Champions League spot.

Atleti were rather let off the hook 24 hours later when nearest-challengers Athletic Club were beaten 3-1 at Real Betis, meaning Ernesto Valverde’s team remain fifth, having won just two of their last six.

On the flip side, Betis boss Manuel Pellegrini has never lost a home La Liga game against Athletic, winning 11 of 14, while los Verdiblancos dislodged Real Sociedad from sixth, after they were beaten by Villarreal on Friday.

In a huge relegation six-pointer on Sunday, Cádiz fought back from 2-0 down to hold Celta de Vigo to a 2-2 draw, courtesy of Darwin Machís’ stunning if unorthodox strike in the tenth minute of injured time.

The most remarkable part of this game was the fact that el Submarino Amarillo scored twice, having only netted once across their previous eight games, this a dubious Rubén Alcaraz penalty in a 4-1 defeat.

Last game to mention is a fixture that sadly did not take place.

Granada vs Valencia, as well as Levante’s Segunda División fixture against FC Andorra, were both postponed following a tragic, devastating fire that engulfed two connected apartment blocks in Valencia on Thursday, killing four people and severely injuring 15 more.

Looking ahead to mid-week, the Copa del Rey semi-final second legs take place; following a goalless draw at Son Moix, Real Sociedad will be hoping to make home advantage count against Mallorca on Tuesday.

Then, on Thursday, following a surprise 1-0 win at the Metropolitano, Athletic Club have to be favourites to overcome Atlético at San Mamés, meaning a second Basque derby final in five seasons could be on the cards.

bet365
bet365

Real Sociedad to win and both teams to score NO

Real Sociedad vs Mallorca


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Athletic Club to qualify after 90 minutes and both teams to score

Athletic Club Bilbao vs Atlético Madrid


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At 9/2, a £10 bet would return £55

Copa del Rey acca of the week

Serie A

It’s as you were at the top of Serie A, with Internazionale Milano nine points clear, although that gap could be extended even further later in the week.

On Sunday, I Nerazzurri made it seven league victories in a row, hammering Lecce 4-0 at Stadio Via del mare.

Lautaro Martínez’s brace makes him only the third foreign player to score 100+ Serie A goals for Inter, after István ‘Stefano’ Nyers (133 goals; 1948-1954) and fellow Argentine Mauro Icardi (124 goals; 2013-2019).

Simone Inzaghi’s side welcome Atalanta, more on them shortly, to San Siro on Wednesday night in their game in hand, aiming to move 12 points clear with victory in that one.

The gap was very nearly 11 already because, on Sunday morning, Juventus almost slipped-up again, requiring a 95th minute winner from Daniele Rugani to defeat Frosinone 3-2 in Turin.

A month ago, Massimiliano Allegri’s team were very much in the title race, only to then pick up just two points from four games, hence why dropping even more points against Frosinone would’ve been so ignominious.

In Sunday night’s marquee time-slot, AC Milan and Atalanta drew 1-1, with Rafael Leão breaking the deadlock after just three minutes, only for a Teun Koopmeiners penalty to ensure the points were shared.

This is a decent result away from home for Gian Piero Gasperini’s team, but it actually saw them slip out of the top four, replaced by the remarkable story that is Bologna.

That’s because, on Friday night, Thiago Motta’s team won again, this time beating bottom three dwellers Hellas Verona 2-0, courtesy of goals from Giovanni Fabbian and then Remo Freuler at Stadio Renato Dall’Ara.

I Rossoblù have now won five successive Serie A matches, achieving this for the first time in 57 years, while 13 wins after 26 matches is their best tally at this stage since 2001/02, finishing seventh back then.

Right now, Bologna have their sights set a little higher, currently in a Champions League spot, very much believing they can remain there ahead of next weekend’s crucial visit to Atalanta.

Elsewhere, Napoli were denied victory at Cagliari by a 96th minute equaliser from Zito Luvumbo in Sardinia.

Gli Isolani, who remain second bottom, have earned more points (7) thanks to goals in stoppage time than any other team this season, scoring twice to beat both Frosinone and Sassuolo earlier in the campaign.

Genoa saw off Udinese 2-0 on Saturday, taking their tally to 33 points after 26 fixtures, which represents Il Grifone’s best haul since finishing sixth nine seasons ago.

Lastly, Davide Nicola remains unbeaten as Empoli boss, winning three of his six matches in charge, following a 3-2 victory over Sassuolo, with Simone Bastoni the stoppage time match-winner.

Since Gli Azzurri hired notable escape artiest Nicola, only Inter, Atalanta, Bologna and Roma have a better points-per-game record, hoisting Empoli from 19th up to 13th, five clear of danger.

There are two games coming you way on Monday, with Roma welcoming Torino to the Olimpico before Fiorentina and Lazio, both of the periphery of the European places, meet at the Artemio Franchi.

Then, on Wednesday, Napoli visit Sassuolo in the early game before, as mentioned, the two Nerazzurris go head-to-head, albeit Atalanta will be in white, as la Dea seek to upset run-away leaders Inter.

bet365
bet365

Internazionale Milano to win and over 2.5 goals

Internazionale Milano vs Atalanta


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Both teams to score

Sassuolo vs Napoli


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At 3/1, a £10 bet would return £41.66

Serie A acca of the midweek

Bundesliga

There’s also a big gap between the top two in the Bundesliga although, as in Serie A, it could’ve become even more sizeable.

On Friday night, it wasn’t as straight-forward as many predicted, but Bayer Leverkusen did manage to beat Mainz 2-1, thanks to Granit Xhaka’s early screamer, before Robert Andrich’s second half strike was spilled by goalkeeper Robin Zentner.

Die Schwarzroten are still unbeaten across 33 matches in all competitions this season, a new German top-flight record, so remain eight points clear at the top.

As for Bayern Munich, they ended their three-match losing streak by, just about, beating RB Leipzig 2-1 on Saturday evening, with Harry Kane scoring twice at Allianz Arena, the second a stoppage time winner.

Thomas Tuchel therefore remains in his job, for now, ahead of crucial game against Freiburg on Friday and then Lazio in the Champions League next Tuesday.

Below the title race, none of the teams currently chasing a Champions League place managed to win.

As mentioned, Leipzig were defeated in Munich, Stuttgart were disappointingly held to a 1-1 draw by Köln, while Frankfurt required a 92nd minute Omar Marmoush equaliser to salvage a draw against Wolfsburg.

The big story however came on Sunday, as Borussia Dortmund were beaten 3-2 by Hoffenheim at Westfalenstadion.

Die Kraichgauer climbed up to seventh, claiming their first win since 8 December, with Maximilian Beier’s brace making him just the second player aged 21 or under to score 10+ goals in a top-five Euro league this season.

The other you may have heard of: Jude Bellingham.

Meantime, Borussia Mönchengladbach hammered Bochum 5-2, easing their relegation concerns, while Augsburg sprung a surprise on Sunday night, beating Freiburg 2-1.

Ligue 1

Olympique Lyonnais’ resurgence continued on Friday night as they beat Metz 2-1 at Stade Saint-Symphorien, with goals from Alexandre Lacazette and Saïd Benrahma securing the comeback victory.

Pierre Sage’s side have now won four in a row, and seven of their last nine, so, despite being bottom as recently as December, les Gones are now looking upwards, hoping to challenge for Europe.

Elsewhere, Monaco claimed a vital 3-2 victory over Lens, with Folarin Balogun spectacularly breaking the deadlock, before Takumi Minamino snatched victory right at the death.

Les Monégasques, who also beat Nice in Derby de la Côte d’Azur a fortnight earlier, are now up to third, while the extraordinary Brest occupy second spot.

Stade Brestois have never finished higher than eighth in their 121-year history, but Eric Roy’s side are now unbeaten in 12, winning eight of them, so are on course for Champions League qualification.

Les Pirates actually closed the gap to leaders Paris Saint-Germain to 11 points after, PSG required a 97th minute penalty from Gonçalo Ramos to salvage a draw with Stade Rennais at Parc des Princes.

Jean-Louis Gasset meantime has enjoyed a perfect start to life as Marseille manager, beating Shakhtar Donetsk 3-1 on Thursday, before les Phocéens smashed Montpellier 4-1 on Sunday night.

Looked ahead of the mid-week action, three of the four Coupe de France quarter-finals take place, starting with Lyon vs Strasbourg on Tuesday; les Gones have reached the semis in three of last five seasons.

Wednesday sees third-tier Rouen host Ligue 2′s bottom side Valenciennes, before 2019 cup winners Rennes visit four-tier Le Puy on Thursday, seeking to avoid an historic upset.

The tie of the round, PSG vs Nice, won’t take place until 13 March for some reason.

bet365
bet365

Lyon to win

Olympique Lyonnais vs Strasbourg


bet365

Under 2.5 goals

Rouen vs Valenciennes


bet365

Rennes to win and over 2.5 goals

Le Puy Foot 43 Auvergne vs Stade Rennais


bet365

At 4/1, a £10 bet would return £47.67

Coupe de France acca of the week

Anything else?

More Eredivisie misery for Ajax

Lastly, a quick word on the Eredivisie, where Ajax are not having a very nice time.

John van ‘t Schip’s side had been resurgent from November to January, winning eight of ten matches, before failing to win any of their four league fixture in February, beaten 2-0 at AZ Alkmaar on Sunday.

This has all but ended Ajax’s hopes of a top four finish meaning, at best, they can qualify for the Europa League.

In this season’s Europa Conference League, following a hard-fought win over Bodø/Glimt, they’ve been drawn against Aston Villa and, given how Ajax are playing right now, Unai Emery’s team will win at a canter.

Elsewhere, PSV, who remain ten points clear at the top, hammered PEC Zwolle 7-1 on Saturday, scoring 7+ in an Eredivisie away game for only the ninth time, most-recently doing so at ADO Den Haag in 2018.

Ben Gray

Ben Gray

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