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


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 beyond.

La Liga

We usually start our round-ups with the teams leading the way, although that’s not going to be the case in La Liga this week, following yet more dropped points for the clubs in third and fourth.

On Saturday night, it was another disappointing result for Barcelona, with Xavi’s team held to a 1-1 draw by Valencia at Mestalla, taking the lead through João Félix, only to concede soon after.

It’s certainly been a week to forget for Barça, who were beaten 4-2 at home by Girona six days earlier, before an embarrassing if inconsequential mid-week defeat in the Champions League against Royal Antwerp.

The Blaugrana are now seven points adrift the leaders, with Xavi under mounting pressure ahead of Almería’s visit to Montjuïc on Wednesday.

Just below the champions are Atlético Madrid, who lost a third successive away match for only the third time under Diego Simeone, this time beaten 2-0 by Athletic Club at San Mamés on Saturday afternoon.

After el Cholo’s side won six on the spin in September and October, many were tipping los Colchoneros to make a serious tilt at the title, but Atleti continue to find consistency hard to come by, especially on the road

On Sunday night, it was Real Madrid who reclaimed the summit, smashing Villarreal 4-1 at the Bernabéu, with Jude Bellingham, Rodrygo, Brahim Díaz and Luka Modrić all scoring.

The night though was rather overshadowed by the ACL injury sustained by David Alaba, the third Real player to suffer this in recent months, after Thibaut Courtois and Éder Militão, meaning he’s likely to miss the Euros.

Despite the injury crisis, Carlo Ancelotti’s team have let in only 11 goals after 17 La Liga matches, the club’s best tally since 1971.

On Monday night, Girona will go back into first place, above los Blancos, should Blanquivermells beat Deportivo Alavés at Montilivi, which seems very likely.

Away from the title race, the other major news this weekend was the sacking of Diego Alonso, after his Sevilla team were ignominiously thrashed 3-0 by Getafe at Estadio Ramón Sánchez-Pizjuán.

Alonso was in charge for just 67 days and 14 matches, his only wins coming against sixth-tier Quintanar and fifth-tier Atlético Astorga, both in the Copa del Rey.

Quique Sánchez Flores seems set to become Sevilla’s fifth ‘permanent’ manager in just 14 months, and he takes over a team in a bona fide relegation battle, currently outside the bottom three on goal difference only.

Lastly, a word on one of the teams actually worse then Sevilla, namely Almería, who are still without a victory this season, taking their tally to five points courtesy a goalless draw against Mallorca on Sunday.

As mentioned, Gaizka Garitano’s travel to Barcelona this week; they couldn’t could they?

Serie A

Internazionale Milano are now four points clear at the top of Serie A, and most would expect them to remain there from now until May.

Simone Inzaghi’s side swatted aside Lazio 2-0 at Stadio Olimpico on Sunday night, Lautaro Martínez and Marcus Thuram scoring, meaning I Nerazzurri are now unbeaten in nine, winning three on the spin.

On the flip side, despite reaching the Champions League knockout phase, Maurizio Sarri’s team are now 11th, having lost more Serie A games than they’ve won, as the pressure intensifies on the Lazio boss.

Inter were able to open up a gap at the top after Juventus could only draw 1-1 with Genoa on Friday night, taking the lead through Federico Chiesa’s penalty, before Albert Guðmundsson equalised.

Five points further back are A.C. Milan, who swatted aside Udinese in Sunday’s early kick off, with Stefano Pioli’s team enjoying a third successive home win.

Completing the top four are Bologna, on course for their best season in 56 years, having finished no higher than seventh since 1971.

I Rossoblù's remarkable campaign continued on Sunday, beating Roma 2-0 at Stadio Renato Dall’Ara, a result that saw them leapfrog I Giallorossi into the Champions League spots.

It was a miserable night for José Mourinho’s team, epitomised by Renato Sanches’ bemusement at being substituted off just 18 minutes after he’d been introduced at half time.

The last team to mention are Napoli, who got back to winning ways courtesy of a 2-1 victory over Cagliari, with their two stars Victor Osimhen and Khvicha Kvaratskhelia on target.

This sets-up Saturday night’s Derby del Sole very nicely.

Bundesliga

Another weekend goes by in the Bundesliga with Bayer Leverkusen still sitting pretty at the top, as die Werkself just keep on winning.

On Sunday, Xabi Alonso’s side swatted aside Eintracht Frankfurt 3-0 at BayArena, with Victor Boniface, Jeremie Frimpong and Florian Wirtz all scoring.

Die Schwarzroten are unbeaten 24 matches in a season across all competitions, just the second German club to achieve this, after Hamburg in 1982/83, with HSV winning both the league and European Cup back then.

As Leverkusen go in search of their first-ever meisterschale, there’s the small matter of Bayern Munich continue to lurk in the background.

Thomas Tuchel’s team hammered third-place Stuttgart on Sunday night, Harry Kane bagging a brace and Kim Min-jae powering home a header in-between, meaning they remain four points behind the leaders.

Bayern have now scored in 64 successive Bundesliga home matches, dating back to 9 February 2020, equaling the competition’s record, die Roten themselves set from October 1970 to September 1974.

Elsewhere, RB Leipzig beat Hoffenheim 3-1, taking advantage of Stuttgart’s defeat in Bavaria to move up to third, while Borussia Dortmund could only draw 1-1 with Augsburg.

Edin Terzić's team have won just one of their last seven, leaving die Schwarzgelben five points adrift the guaranteed Champions League spots.

Down the bottom, after finally ending their excruciatingly long wait for a win last weekend, it was back to losing ways for Union Berlin, steamrollered 3-0 by VfL Bochum.

Luckily for die Eisernen, Köln, Mainz and Darmstadt all also lost, so Nenad Bjelica’s side remain above the bottom three for now.

Ligue 1

In Sunday night’s headline Ligue 1 fixture, Paris Saint-Germain looked set to claim a ninth victory in a row when Kylian Mbappé converted a second half penalty at Stade Pierre-Mauroy.

However, it was hosts Lille who had the last laugh, with Jonathan David firing home a stoppage time equaliser for les Dogues, thereby pinching a point.

This tough actually turned out to be a useful draw for Luis Enrique’s team, after second-placed Nice suffered a shock 2-1 defeat in Le Havre on Saturday, meaning the gap at the top now stands at five points.

Meanwhile, Olympique Lyonnais are off the bottom and up into the relegation play-off spot, after les Gones made it back-to-back victories on Friday night.

Pierre Sage’s side caused a big shock by beating Monaco 1-0 in the Principality, with Jeffinho snatching a late victory for Lyon at Stade Louis-II.

OL had won just one of their first 14 matches this season, but now could climb out of the bottom three with victory over Nantes; there’s a full mid-week program to come, with all 18 clubs in action on Wednesday.

The other Olympique, namely Marseille, made it four wins on the spin with victory over Clermont Foot at Stade Vélodrome, in which Michael Amir Murillo and Amine Harit were the scorers.

Les Phocéens had just three wins to their name after 13 outings, but four successive victories has propelled Gennaro Gattuso’s team up to sixth.

Also on 26 points are Lens, who are now unbeaten in 11, following a 2-0 victory over Reims.

Les Sang et Or have won 14 of their 19 Ligue 1 home matches in 2023, losing only two, their best home form in a calendar year since 1985.

Anything else?

Benfica go top of the Primeira Liga

The top four all went head-to-head in Primeira Liga this weekend, with Sporting Clude de Portugal vs FC Porto to come on Monday night at Estádio José Alvalade.

The victors will go top but, for now, it’s champions Benfica who lead the way, after they beat fourth-placed Braga in Sunday night’s big game.

Casper Tengstedt’s goal in the third minute at A Pedreira the difference, but the Portuguese title race promises to be thrilling this season, with the top four currently seperated by just four points.

Ben Gray

Ben Gray

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