Video Replay Time???

I think it is fair to say that there have been an upswing in missed calls lately by the officials and this brings me to the question of the day. Should we have video replay?  I think that the answer is becoming more and more obvious that video replay would be a great help to the officials, and give them some assistance as the game grows in speed and complexity.  The big incident this weekend was Raheem Sterling and the pull in the box.  Raheem was impeded and it should have been a penalty, but the ref did not see it and Raheem did not go down.  I do not want to go into the should he or shouldn’t he have gone down aspect of this incident because the answer seems obvious that he should have since he did not get the penalty kick despite the opportunity to score being taken away from him.  However, if the ref had access to video replay, he could have seen the pull and then awarded the penalty.  The next big question is how do you implement this.  For me it is simple, have an official on the sidelines with access to the feed and if they see something that is missed by the officials then they can communicate with the official on the field and either show something to the him quickly or tell him what he saw.  This is being implemented in Germany next season in four different situations.

1. Irregularities in the case of a goal decision (a foul, handball and offside)

2. In penalty box situations where the referee unjustifiably awarded a penalty or not

3. For offences that should lead or should have led to a red card

4. In cases of mistaken identity over a yellow or red card.

It should be interesting to see how this plays out and I am sure the rest of the world will be watching.

African Cup of Nations Update

Oh my has the African Cup of Nations been interesting.  Gabon, the hosts, are out after drawing three straight games.  Burkina Faso and Cameroon have advanced out of group A.  Senegal and Tunisia advanced from Group B and that means that Algeria is going home early.  Group C shocked the world as the Ivory Coast failed to win a game as DR Congo and Morocco advanced.  Ghana and Egypt have advanced from Group D.  The quarterfinals start on Saturday. 

Cup Games This Week

EFL Cup – The second leg of the semifinals is this week.  Southampton booked their ticket in the finals and they are the first team since 1982 to reach the Cup final without conceding a goal.  Manchester United travels to Hull tomorrow.  United has a 2-0 lead going into the second leg.

Copa del Rey – The second leg of the quarterfinals is this week.  Real Madrid earned a 2-2 draw today at Celta Vigo but they did not advance since they lost the first leg 2-1.  This is a major shock.  Atletico Madrid also booked their ticket in the semifinals with a 2-2 draw at Eibar. Alaves has already advanced thanks to their 2-0 win over Alcorcon.  Barcelona host Sociedad with 1-0 lead. 

Coppa Italia – This week is the quarterfinals in the Coppa Italia.  Napoli advanced to the semifinals this week thanks to their win over Fiorentina.  Juventus defeated Milan today.  The other quarterfinals are next week.

Coupe de la Ligue – PSG are already in the finals thanks to a massive 4-1 win over Bordeaux.  Today either Monaco or Nancy can advance to try and take a trophy away from the Parisians.

 

A Headline From Each League

Premier League … It is OVER! Chelsea will win the title as they are now 8 points clear at the top.

Primera Division … It is a 3 horse race and Atletico are not one of those 3.  The top three all won this weekend and Atletico drew 2-2 with Bilbao meaning they are now 6 points behind Barcelona, 7 behind Sevilla, and 8 behind Real Madrid.

Bundesliga …Hoffenheim are still unbeaten?!?! Yes they are after their 2-0 win over Augsburg this weekend.  They have won 7, drawn 10 and lost 0 so far.

Serie A … The top 3 all won but this is now a two horse race as Roma is a point behind Juventus. 

Ligue 1…The Nice bubble seems to have burst as they have drawn 3 games in a row and are now in 2nd place.

Two Games to Watch This Weekend

Werder Bremen vs. Bayern Munich – Munich look to be set to win the title this year but could have a difficult time against Bremen this weekend.

Paris Saint-Germain vs. AS Monaco – This is top vs. third as PSG looks to move closer to Monaco this weekend.  A win for PSG would give them a lot of hope going forward. 

Chinese $$$$

Is Chinese money going to steal all the best players in the world away from Europe?  Should these players go to China for the money? This seems like the hot topic right now as the January transfer window is open and many players are being speculated with big money moves.  Last year we saw Jackson Martinez (Atletico Madrid), Ramires (Chelsea), Paulinho (Tottenham), Graziano Pelle (Southampton), and Alex Teixeira (Shakhtar) all leave for massive amounts of money.  This year we have already seen Oscar leave Chelsea and Hulk leave Zenit for a lot of money.  Now it seems that every player is linked with a move over to China.  Yaya Toure and Diego Costa are now rumored to leave this January.  This has a lot of people shaking their heads wondering why are these players seemingly at the top of their games are leaving.  The answer is simple, money.  These players are being offered salaries that right now the major European leagues cannot offer these players.  This money is having a big impact on the game.  As fans, we hope that every player that pulls on the shirt is loyal to our club, but we must realize that they are their own brand and have families and friends to worry about just like we do.  We must realize that they are going to go for this kind of money because let’s be honest, so would you.  800,000 Euros a week is a crazy sum of money and means that Carlos Tevez’s kids’ kids’ kids will be financially stable.  The Chinese FA did put some new rules in place this past week that limits the number of foreign players on each team.  This should curb some of the spending this January but might mean that we just see 1 or 2 players leave for big money instead of the mass exits that we are seeing now.  This has been interesting to watch and I am sure we will continue to see more and more names rumored with moves to China.  One day the Chinese League could be one of the most competitive in the world, especially if they continue to recruit players in their primes.

Two Games to Watch This Weekend

Saturday – Manchester City vs. Tottenham in the Premier League.  A win for Tottenham would almost eliminate City from the title race and give Pep a large headache.  A win for City and they are right back in the title race and things could turn around.

Sunday – Athletic Bilbao vs. Atletico Madrid in La Liga.  Two teams that have been struggling this season with both hoping to be closer to the top of the table.  Athletic need to win to stay in the race for the top 4.  Atletico need a win to draw closer to the top 3 and keep their distance from the chasing pack.

What is happening this week…

1.       The second round of the group stage of the African Cup of Nations is this week.  Watch for Algeria to try and get a massive three points.

2.       The Copa del Rey takes place this week as well.  Real Sociedad hosts Barcelona in the headline matchup.  Real Madrid suffered their second straight defeat as they lost 2-1 against Celta Vigo.

3.       The Coppa Italia is in the round of 16 now with the final half of those games taking place.  Roma host Sampdoria tomorrow.

4.       FA Cup replays take place tonight.  Liverpool defeated Plymouth Argyle, Southampton defeated Norwich City, and Newcastle defeated Birmingham.

A Headline from Last Weekend for Each League

Premier League – Manchester City suffer worst defeat of Pep’s career in 4-0 loss to Everton.

Primera Division – Real Madrid see unbeaten run end in final 5 minutes against Sevilla thanks to an own goal from Ramos and beautiful strike from new signing Jovetic.

Serie A – Fiorentina open up title race with massive win over Juventus as the rest of top 4 all won.

Ligue 1 – Monaco is now top thanks to their 4-1 win over Marseille and Nice drawing 0-0 with Metz.

Bundesliga – Still in hibernation but they return this weekend.

United host Liverpool African Cup of Nations

This weekend is a blockbuster in the Premier League as Manchester United hosts Liverpool.  The two most winning clubs in English history meet in Manchester.  This is a big game as both teams have aspirations of being in the top 4 this season, and a win this weekend will go a long way towards this.  Liverpool enter the weekend in 2nd place.  They have struggled lately but should have Coutinho back for this game.  United have won 9 straight in the league but are stuck in 6th place.  Mourinho seems to have found his best team and they are playing some great football right now.  A win this weekend could pull them up out of 6th place.  A win for Liverpool could keep them in the title race if Chelsea slip up in the next couple weeks.  Elsewhere, Chelsea travel to the defending champions Leicester City.  Tottenham hosts West Bromwich Albion in the first game of the weekend.  Swansea City hosts Arsenal this weekend and Manchester City travels to Everton.  Will Chelsea slip up and open the title race, or will Manchester United get into the title race with a massive win over their rivals Liverpool?  I know many people feel that the Manchester Derby has become bigger than the United vs. Liverpool game, but for those of us who appreciate history this is the game of the season in the Premier League.

The big game in Spain also takes place on Sunday as 2nd place Sevilla host 1st place Real Madrid.  Real Madrid have just set the record for longest unbeaten run following their great comeback against Sevilla in the Copa del Rey.  Now they will look to make a statement in the league.  They are 5 points clear of Barcelona and 4 ahead of Sevilla with a game in hand.  Elsewhere, Barcelona will look to get back to winning ways as they host Las Palmas.  Atletico Madrid hosts Real Betis in a winnable game as they look to remain in the Champions League places. 

In France, the Ligue 1 returns this weekend.  The title race is very much on in France and it will be interesting to see how it unfolds.  Nice is on top of the table with only 1 loss this season.  Monaco sits 2 points behind Nice in second place.  PSG are in third place, 5 points behind Nice.  Will we see a new champion this season?  PSG are the first to play this weekend as they travel to Stade Rennais.  Rennes sit in 7th place right now.  On Sunday, Nice plays first as they host 19th place Metz.  In the final game of the weekend, Monaco travel to Marseille in what might be the most interesting game this weekend.  The bottom of the table is quite tight as the bottom 6 teams are separated by 4 points.  This weekend could have some separation at the bottom.

In Serie A this weekend, the leaders Juventus travel to Fiorentina.  They will look to build on their lead at the top.  They have a 4 point lead on Roma and a 8 point lead Napoli.  Roma travel to Udinese this weekend hoping to cut into the lead as they play before Juventus on Sunday.  On the bottom end of the table, Palermo travels to Sassuolo.  If Palermo is able to win then they will gain a vital 3 points that could go a long way towards their survival. 

This weekend also marks the start of the African Cup of Nations.  This should be a very interesting tournament and provide us with an opportunity to watch some players play together that we do not normally see.  Here is a quick look at the groups in the African Cup of Nations.  Over half of the teams in the field have won the tournament in the past. 

Group A – Gabon, Guinea-Bissau, Burkina Faso, and Cameroon

Gabon might be the lowest ranked team in the tournament but they are the hosts and have arguably the most exciting player in the field in Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.  Cameroon are the favorites in this group but after that they might struggle.  Bertrand Traore is a player to watch from Burkina.

Group B – Algeria, Zimbabwe, Tunisia, Senegal

Algeria has a talented team and could be a team that wins the tournament if the results fall their way.  Sadio Mane will hope to bring the first ever title for Senegal this winter.  Tunisia should finish second in the group if they can get a result against Algeria.  Zimbabwe are massive underdogs.

Group C – Ivory Coast, Togo, DR Congo, Morocco

Ivory Coast are the defending Champions from 2015 but they do not have the Toure borthers, Didier Zokora or Didier Drogba.  They should still win this group however.  DR Congo always surprises people so keep an eye on them, especially Bakambu.  Monaco will expect to get out to the group.  Emanuel Adebayor is playing for Togo and they are hoping he is the difference.

Group D – Ghana, Uganda, Mali, Egypt

Ghana will hope that they can finally lift the trophy again as it has been 35 years since they last won the trophy.  Uganda will struggle to advance from the group.  Egypt will be favorites in the group and should get to the quarterfinals.  Mali will be hopeful that they can get enough results to advance from the group.

This should be a fun tournament with some very exciting football.

Welcome Back!!!!

Welcome Back, Welcome Back, Welcome Back. The Holiday period is over, as are many of the winter breaks. The English Premier League played a ton of the break but the rest of the leagues are slowly coming back. In Spain, we had the round of 16 first leg in the Copa del Rey this week and a round of the Primera Division this weekend. In Italy, the Serie A resumes this weekend. In France, the Coupe de France takes place this weekend. The Germans are still off until January 20th.

Premier League Holiday Recap

Chelsea saw their unbeaten run end as Tottenham beat Chelsea 2-0. Chelsea are still top of the table with a 5 point lead over Liverpool. Liverpool had a great holiday period as they defeated Manchester City at home, but dropped what could be two vital points against Sunderland. Tottenham have moved into 3rd place, 2 points behind Liverpool, following their 2-0 defeat of Chelsea. This is in big part due to three straight braces from Dele Alli. Manchester City had a rocky period but remains in the top four and are level on points with Tottenham. Arsenal are a point back and outside of the top 4. Manchester United have won 6 games in a row and are unbeaten in their last 11 games, but they still sit in 6th place, 3 points behind City and Tottenham. At the bottom of the table, Hull decided it was time for a new manager and hired Paul Clement but they sit at the bottom, 3 points from safety. Swansea hired Bob Bradley and then fired him after some poor results. They are now a point from safety. Sunderland have stuck with David Moyes as they sit in 18th place. Sunderland are a point from safety.

Copa del Rey Recap

Real Madrid got the year off to a great start as they defeated Sevilla 3-0 without Bale, Benzema, or Ronaldo. Barcelona struggled as they gave up 2 quick goals in the first half but did come back and get 1 back but lost 2-1 in Bilbao. Celta Vigo shocked Valencia winning 4-1 in Valencia. Real Sociedad defeated Villarreal 3-1. Alcorcon and Cordoba drew 0-0 in Alcorcon. Deportivo La Coruna was able to come back and earn a 2-2 draw after falling behind 2-0 against Deportivo Alaves. Eibar got a nice road win as they defeated Osasuna 3-0. Finally, Atletico Madrid got their year off to a good start with a 2-0 win on the Canary Islands.

La Liga Preview

Real Madrid will look to extend their lead at the top back to 7 as they host second from bottom Granada this Saturday. They currently have a 3 point lead over Barcelona and a game in hand. Real Madrid will look to make it 16 unbeaten in a row. Barcelona have a tough game this weekend as they travel to Villarreal. Villarreal are in the hunt for the top four right now but also suffered a defeat this week in the Copa del Rey. There is another top 5 battle as Real Sociedad hosts Sevilla. We will either see a tightening of the top of the table, or a real gap could start to open up.

Serie A Preview

Juventus looks to have Serie A wrapped up as they have a 4 point lead on Roma after they defeated them towards the end of 2016 and Juve has a game in hand. Napoli are in third, but they are 7 points back and have also played 1 more game than Juventus. This weekend Juventus hosts Bologna. Bologna is in the bottom half of the table and this should be an easy three points for Juve. Roma travels to Genoa this weekend and Napoli hosts Sampdoria. The race for the third Champions League spot could be a good one as Lazio, Milan, and Atalanta are all within 3 points of Napoli. If Napoli slips up in the next couple weeks, then that could be something to watch.

FA Cup Preview

The Third Round of the FA Cup is this weekend. This is when the Premier League teams join the competition and can make their mark. Chelsea takes on Petersborough from the third tier. Liverpool hosts Plymouth Argyle from the 4th tier of English football. This is the weekend where we can see some Giant Killers. Who will it be? We also have some top flight matchups like Manchester City traveling to West Ham, Sunderland hosting Burnley, and Everton hosting Leicester. The defending champions Manchester United host Reading. Will we see a big upset this weekend?

Coupe de France Preview

The Coupe de France is in the round of 32 this weekend. Some interesting matches to check on are: Lorient hosting Nice, Lyon hosting Montpellier, Toulouse hosting Marseille, and PSG hosting Bastia. Can someone else win a trophy in France this year?

Where Do We Stand Now…

While the Premier League continues over the holiday period, the rest of the leagues are approaching their holiday breaks.  Spanish sides will play a round of Copa del Rey fixtures.  Serie A, the Bundesliga, and Ligue 1 will all play midweek fixtures this week.  Here is a quick look at where we stand.  Next week, I will put out my review of 2016 and some big takeaways.

Primera Division, AKA La Liga

The Spanish league has the familiar two at the top of the table.  Real Madrid are on top of the table as they look to win their first league title since 2012 and second since 2008. They are unbeaten this season.  Barcelona are in second place right now, just 3 points behind Real Madrid having played one more game than their rivals.  They have struggled this season, losing twice so far.  They will need Real Madrid to slip up if they are to win their second title in a row.  Atletico Madrid has been the surprise as they are in 6th place.  They have really struggled losing 3 of their last 6 games.  Sevilla have taken advantage of Atletico’s bad form.  They are in third place right now just a point behind Barcelona and 4 points behind Real Madrid.  They look to be a top contender for a Champions League place this season.  Villarreal and Real Sociedad are competing for the fourth spot right now with Atletico Madrid and Athletic Bilbao.  Villarreal and Real Sociedad both have 29 points.  Atletico Madrid is a point behind them and Athletic Bilbao is 3 points behind.

On the other end of the table, Osasuna is in trouble.  They have lost 6 straight games and are winless in 8 games, having won only once this season.  They have 7 points so far and will need a substantial change in play if they are going to survive.  Granada is also in trouble as they have just 9 points.  They have also won just once this season when they shocked Sevilla.  Sporting Gijon is in 18th place right now.  They are three points above Granada and have a chance at survival.  They are level on points with Valencia right now and if they can string some points together then they can survive.  Valencia has gone winless in their last 7 games which puts them just outside the bottom 2.  The gap from Valencia to Deportivo is 4 points and it looks like Deportivo is safe.  Leganes might also be able to survive if they can keep getting some points in the new year.

Bundesliga

The title race is a two horse race and it is not the two that we would have thought.  Bayern Munich is on top of the table heading into the top two clash this weekend when they host RB Leipzig.  RB Leipzig have been the story of the season having just lost their first game two weeks ago.  These two teams are level on 36 points right now and have a substantial lead on the rest of the league.  The gap is currently 7 points.  These two will battle for the winter title as this is the final game for each side this year.  The race for the other two Champions League places is tight.  Right now Frankfurt is in third place with 29 points.  Dortmund is in 4th place with 27 points, but Hoffenheim and Hertha Berlin also have 27 points.  Koln is just 3 points behind them.  The title race will hopefully be a good one but the race for the final two spots will be tight all season.

On the bottom, Darmstadt looks like they are in trouble as they sit 5 points from safety.  They have won just twice all season.  Ingolstadt was the team able to defeat Leipzig, but they still sit in the bottom 2 and they have just 12 points.  They are in a tight race for survival as they are within 3 points of 15th place Bremen.  Hamburger are in the relegation playoff spot right now.  Bremen are close but can survive if they are able to keep their pace.  Monchengladbach and Wolfsburg are having disappointing seasons right now and could get drawn in to the relegation fight in the new year.

Premier League

What a change a year makes.  This time last year Leicester were on top and Chelsea was in 15th place.  This year, Chelsea are on top and Leicester is in 15th place.  Chelsea is 6 points clear at the top and have really found their form in their new 3-4-3 formation.  Liverpool have the most explosive offense, scoring almost 2.5 goals a game.  Their defense has been comical at times.  They sit in second place.  Manchester City have had a disappointing start to the season as they sit in 3rd place 7 points behind the leaders.  Arsenal are in 4th place right now.  They are in the title race but barely and will need to make up some ground over the Christmas period.  Tottenham are 1 point behind Arsenal right now and will hope to get back into the top 4 by the end of the holiday period.  Manchester United have seen their form turn around lately but they will need a great holiday run to get into the top four this season.

On the bottom end of the table, Hull and Swansea are in trouble.  They are both on 12 points and at the bottom of the table.  Sunderland are 2 points above these two and are trending upwards as they have won 3 of their last 6 games.  They are just 1 point behind Crystal Palace and safety.  Burnley and Leicester are three point clear of the relegation zone and will hope to stay safe this season but could fall into the relegation fight.

Serie A

Juventus just had their statement win as they defeated Roma 1-0 this weekend thanks to Gonzalo Higuain.  They are now 7 points clear and 6th straight title.  Roma will now look to hold on to their Champions League spot.  The distance between 2nd and 6th is just 3 points.  Napoli and Lazio are 1 point back of Roma.  AC Milan is 2 points back and Atalanta is 3 points.  This should be a great race for the final two spots in the Champions League.  From 6 to 7 we see a bit of a drop as Inter are 5 points behind Atalanta.

At the bottom of the table Pescara, Palermo, and Crotone are all in the bottom three and all look to be in trouble.  Pescara is on the bottom of the table with 8 points.  Crotone and Palermo are just a point better than them heading into the midweek games this week.  Crotone and Palermo are 5 points from safety and will need to get some points in a hurry if they are to survive.

Ligue 1

This was shaping up to be one of the better title races.  Nice, Monaco, and PSG were all in a tight race but it looks like Nice is pulling away with the title.  Nice are on top of the table right now.  They are 4 points clear at the top now over Monaco.  PSG are 7 points behind Nice.  PSG is winless in their last three games and lost 2 of those games.  Monaco lost their last game and this has given Nice their lead.  It will tighten as we go but Nice are in the driver’s seat right now.  Lyon are in fourth but they are 5 points behind PSG and not really in the title race but could sneak into the Champions League race.

The bottom of the table is very tight as well.  The gap between 20th and 12th is just 5 points.  Lorient are on the bottom of the table with just 15 points.  Nantes are in 19th place just a point above Lorient.  Dijon also has 16 points but has a better goal difference than Nantes so they are in the relegation playoff spot.  Metz and Caen are both on 18 points.  Angers are on 19 points.  Nancy and Lille are on 20 points.  All of these teams are going to be a tight race for survival as the season starts up again in the New Year.

A look back on the Weekend

  1. Can United or Tottenham get a vital 3 points?  Manchester United was able to get a vital three points this weekend with a 1-0 win over Tottenham. This means that they are now in 6th place and just 3 points behind Tottenham. They are now 6 points behind the top four and 13 points behind Chelsea. The title might not be in sight for Manchester United but the top four is still a target right now. Henrik Mkhitaryan scored the only goal of the game for his first premier league goal of the campaign. He is really starting to show his quality but then he had to be subbed off with an ankle injury. His quick return will be very important for United.
  2. Who will prevail in the battle for second in Italy? Roma were able to come away with the three points this weekend to set up a major title battle with Juventus this upcoming weekend. Roma stays within 4 points of Juventus. Meanwhile Milan is not 7 points behind Juventus.  Radja Nainggolan scored the only goal of the game. Mbaye Niang had his penalty saved in the first half that could have given Milan a lead. This was a vital win for Roma and if they can take 3 points next weekend then we might have a potential title race on our hands.
  3. Can Barcelona get a win this weekend? Yes they can. Barcelona was able to defeat Osasuna 3-0 thanks to a goal from Luis Suarez and a brace from Leo Messi. The game was tied 0-0 at halftime but Barcelona were able to eventually over power Osasuna and put the game out of reach.  This win ended their run of 4 straight draws. They are still 6 points behind Real Madrid but they can cut it to 3 if they win next weekend since Real Madrid are done for the year as they play in the Club World Cup.
  4. How long will the unbeaten season last? 13 games is the answer surprisingly.       Leipzig lost this weekend 1-0 to then bottom of the table Ingolstadt. Roger scored the only goal in the 12th minute. In the 94th minute, Mathew Leckie was sent off for arguing but there was not enough time left for Leipzig to come back in the game. This coupled with Bayern’s win means that Leipzig is now second in the table due to goal difference. This loss means that next week is very important for Leipzig as they face Bayern Munich in two weeks.
  5. Can Nice distance themselves from PSG? The game of a weekend was a good one.       Nice took a 2-0 lead into halftime thanks to goals from Cyprien and Plea. Edinson Cavani scored twice in the second half to earn a draw for PSG. This means that Nice stays on top of the table but their lead is only 1 point.  PSG remains four points behind Nice. The title race is still very close but this was a big step for Nice if they are going to hold on to win the title.

 

Premier League…Watford defeated Everton 3-2 this weekend to send them up to 7th in the table. Swansea City earned their 3rd win of the season as they defeated Sunderland 3-0. Chelsea stayed on top of the table thanks to their 9th straight win with a 1-0 win over West Bromwich Albion. Diego Costa scored his 12th goal of the season. Arsenal kept pace thanks to their 3-1 win over Stoke City. Leicester City scored the biggest win of the weekend as they defeated Manchester City 4-2. Liverpool also lost ground on the leaders as they drew 2-2 with West Ham.

Serie A… Crotone got their second win of the season thanks to their 2-1 win over Pescara. Lazio defeated Sampdoria to move into 5th place. Napoli defeated Cagliari 5-0 to move them into 5th place. Atalanta suffered their second defeat in a row as they lost 3-1 to Udinese. Juventus won the Turin Derby as they defeated Torino 3-1 thanks to a Higuain brace. Bologna and Empoli played out a 0-0 draw. Inter defeated Genoa 2-0 thanks to a brace from Brozovic. Nikola Kalinic scored twice to give Fiorentina a 2-1 win.

Bundesliga…Bayern Munich defeated Wolfsburg 5-0 this weekend to go back to the top of the table. Hamburger also got their second win of the season as they defeated Augsburg 1-0. Frankfurt and Hoffenheim played out a 0-0 draw. Freiburg defeated Darmstadt 1-0 to move them into the top half of the table. Dortmund dropped more points this weekend as they drew 1-1 with Koln. Hertha suffered their third defeat of the season as they lost 1-0 to Werder Bremen. Gladbach got a much needed 4th win of the season with a 1-0 win over Mainz. Leverkusen got a last minute winner from Stefan Kiessling to give them a massive mid-table win over Schalke.

La Liga… Sergio Ramos does it again as he helped rescue all three points in the 93rd minute. Real Madrid needed two goals in the final 10 minutes in order to win the game 3-2. This kept them on top of the league and guaranteed they would be there when the New Year starts. Sevilla defeated Celta Vigo 3-0 to stay in 3rd place. Villarreal defated Atletico Madrid 3-0 to move into 4th place. Atletico dropped all the way to 6th place. Malaga and Granada played to a 1-1 draw. Real Sociedad won this weekend 3-2 over Valencia to move into 5th place.

Ligue 1… Marseille defeated Dijon 2-1 to move into the top half of the table. Monaco defeated 4-0 thanks to a hat trick from Falcao. Nantes and Caen was postponed due to fog. Nancy defeated Angers 2-0 to move away from the bottom 3. Bastia also moved out of the bottom 3 with their 2-0 win over Metz. Lorient stayed on the bottom of the table as they lost 3-2 to Toulouse. Lille won their third in a row as they defeated Montpellier 2-1. Lyon won their 2nd in a row and moved into 4th place.

 

Team of the Weekend

Goalkeeper

Alexander Schwolow 8.2 (Freiburg)

Defenders

Sebastian Prodl 8.2 (Watford), Phil Jones 8.2 (Manchester United), Jordi Alba 8.3 (Barcelona) Andreas Christensen 8.6 (Gladbach)

Midfielders

Marek Hamsik 9.3 (Napoli), Joao Mario 8.9 (Inter), Bruno Soriano 8.5 (Villarreal)

Forwards

Lionel Messi 9.7 (Barcelona), Dries Mertens 9.2 (Napoli), Jamie Vardy 9.0 (Leicester)

5 Questions For This Weekend

  1. Can United or Tottenham get a vital 3 points? Both of these teams are in need of a win this weekend if they are to stay in the title race. Tottenham are three points behind City and Liverpool. A win will put them level on points with Liverpool before the Reds face West Ham on Sunday. City plays on Saturday and can distance themselves a little with a win over defending champions Leicester. United, meanwhile, are without a win in their last three games and 9 points behind City and Chelsea. Anything but a win will make it tough to see a way into the title race for United.
  2. Who will prevail in the battle for second in Italy? This could be a huge weekend for Juventus as Roma and AC Milan face each other this weekend and Juventus faces Roma next weekend. Roma and Milan are both level on 32 points and just 4 points behind Juventus. However, they play on Monday so it might be 7 points by the time they kick off. Juventus has the Turin Derby this weekend so that is far from a certainty. Milan head to the Italian capitol in the midst of a 5 game unbeaten run having won their last 2. Roma have won their last 2 games. A win for either team would keep them in the hunt. If Roma were to not win, then they could be in trouble. It should be a good one.
  3. Can Barcelona get a win this weekend? Barcelona have drawn 3 straight games and now sit 6 points behind Real Madrid. They are going to need a long win streak if they have any hope of catching Real. They are unbeaten in their last 7 games in the league. This weekend they travel to Osasuna who has not won in 6 games and lost 4 straight. This is the perfect opportunity to get back to winning ways for Barcelona. Neymar will be out as the injury bug still plagues Barcelona so far. Iniesta is back fit and should start alongside Busquets and Rakitic. This seems achievable for Barcelona but nothing is certain.
  4. How long will the unbeaten season last? Leipzig has won 10 of their first 13 games and drawn the other 3 games. This weekend they face a trip to Ingolstadt. The big test is coming up in three weeks when they face Bayern Munich in the final game before the winter break. This will be a massive game in the title race. Leipzig has to take it one game at a time if they are going to stay in this title race. Leipzig will look to win their 9th straight game as they travel to Ingolstadt. Ingolstadt sits on the bottom of the table as they have struggled having just 1 win all season. This seems straight forward for Leipzig as this has to be a dream season for them and their fans.
  5. Can Nice distance themselves from PSG? Top of the table Nice travel to Paris to face the French giants. This game will be a must watch as Nice look to end PSG’s dominance of the French league. Nice are currently on top of the table with a 4 point lead on PSG and a 3 point lead on Monaco ahead of this weekend. A win for either side will drastically change the title race. If Nice win, they will give themselves a nice lead and a major confidence boost. If PSG are able to win then they will be just a point back and have set Nice back going into the Holiday Break. This has to be the must watch game of the weekend.

Premier League – Chelsea will try to make it 9 straight on Sunday when they host West Brom. Arsenal have a chance to put pressure Chelsea if they can beat Stoke on Saturday. Burnley will look to end their 3 game losing streak as they host Bournemouth.

Serie A – Lazio looks to get back on track with a win over Sampdoria. Atalanta will look to overcome their defeat against Juventus as they host Udinese this weekend. Pescara will look to end their 13 game winless this weekend when they travel to bottom side Crotone.

La Liga – Real Madrid will look to continue their 14 game unbeaten run in the league as they host Deportivo La Coruna. Valencia will look to end their 6 game winless streak as they face Real Sociedad. Sevilla will look to stay in third place with a win against Celta Vigo. The best game of the weekend is on Monday as Villarreal host Atletico Madrid. Atleti might be out of the title race if they are not able to pick up some ground quickly.

Bundesliga – Bayern Munich hosts Wolfsburg this Saturday as they look to put pressure on Leipzig. Hoffenheim maintained their unbeaten season as they drew 0-0 with Frankfurt today. Gladbach will look to end their 8 game winless streak against Mainz this weekend. Darmstadt have lost 5 straight games and will look to end that streak when they travel to Freiburg.

Ligue 1 – Monaco have the chance to temporarily go level with Nice when they travel to Bordeaux on Saturday. The top 3 have really distanced themselves from the rest of the table as PSG is 8 points ahead of Rennes. The race for the fourth spot and a place in the Europa League could get really interesting. 4 teams are within 3 points of each other. Rennes travels to Lyon in hopes of staying there. Guingamp travels to Saint-Etienne.

4 Takeaways From El Clasico

  1. 1-0 is never safe against Real Madrid. El Clasico is always a fascinating game and you can never count a team out, especially Real Madrid. Barcelona were a much better team in the second half and created some very good chances but in the end they did not take them.  Messi and Neymar both did not finish off great chances and this cost them dearly.
  2. Real Madrid have a lead but the race is not over just yet. The lead stays at 6 points, but it might as well be 7 points after the draw. This is a nice healthy lead going into the winter break.  Real Madrid have only 1 more league game left to play in 2016.  Barcelona meanwhile has 2 games left this year.  This means there is a good chance that Barcelona could cut into the lead.  That will put some pressure on Real Madrid, but they are unbeaten so far and no reason to think that will end soon.
  3. Andres Iniesta is key to Barcelona. With Barcelona up 1-0, Andres Iniesta came on for Ivan Rakitic. He instantly changed the game and gave Barcelona a much more fluid feel.  He was the missing link between the defense and the front 3.  After he came on the field, all 3 of MSN had a chance to extend the lead.  If Iniesta is able to stay healthy, he could give Barcelona a chance at cutting into the Real Madrid lead.
  4. Sergio Ramos is clutch. The man has scored in the last minute or extra time in El Clasico, the Super Cup final, and most importantly the Champions League final. He has scored 75 goals and is a defender.  He the leader for Real Madrid and came up huge for Real Madrid with his 91st minute header.  Ramos was the highest rated player on the field and was man of the match.  He came up big in the biggest game of the season and has given Real Madrid and their fans hope of winning another title.

Elsewhere in football…

La Liga… Only 4 teams won this weekend.  Granada started the weekend by shocking Sevilla with a 2-1 win for their first win of the season.  They jumped off the bottom of the table.  Atletico Madrid and Villarreal also missed the chance to gain ground on the top as they both drew with Espanyol and Leganes respectively.  Real Betis and Celta Vigo played out an entertaining 3-3 draw.  Sporting got a vital win as they defeated Osasuna 3-1 and moved level on points with Valencia but are now closer to getting out of the relegation zone. Athletic Club was the only team in the top 15 of the table that won as they defeated Eibar.  Deportivo ended the weekend with a win as they defeated Real Sociedad 5-1.

Premier League… Chelsea made a statement as they defeated Manchester City 3-1.  Chelsea are now 4 points clear of City and Liverpool and 3 points ahead of Arsenal.  Arsenal kept pace with Chelsea as they defeated West Ham 5-1 thanks to an Alexis Sanchez hat trick.  Liverpool took a 3-1 lead against Bournemouth only to see Bournemouth score 3 unanswered goals.  Tottenham scored 5 goals as they defeated Swansea 5-0.  Manchester United had looked set for a win but conceded a late penalty leading to a 1-1 draw.  Sunderland moved up the table as they defeated Leicester 2-1.

Bundesliga… Leipzig have won again.  They have won 8 straight games and stay on top of the table. They defeated Schalke 2-1.  Bayern Munich defeated Mainz 3-1.  Hertha Berlin jumped into 3rd place with a 3-2 win over Wolfsburg.  Borussia Dortmund got a much needed win over Monchengladbach to move them into 6th.  Hamburger earned their first win of the season as they defeated Darmstadt 2-0.  Werder Bremen defeated Ingolstadt 2-1 this weekend to move them further away from the bottom 3.

Ligue 1… The result of the round has to be the 3-0 win for Montpellier over Paris Saint Germain.   This is PSG’s third loss of the season and sees them go 4 points behind the leaders Nice.  Nice stayed on top thanks to their 3-0 win over Toulouse.  Monaco moved into 2nd place as they defeated Bastia 5-0.  Rennes and  Guingamp both won but the gap between them and the top 3 is significant.  The Metz-Lyon game was abandoned after the Lyon goalkeeper Anthony Lopes was hit with a firecracker.  These were some scary scenes.

Serie A… The top 3 all won this weekend in Italy.  Juventus defeated Atalanta 3-1.  Roma won the Derby della Capital 2-0 thanks to Strootman and Nainggolan.  AC Milan went down 1-0 in the 26th minute to Crotone, but they came back and won thanks to a late goal from Lapadula.  This means that Juventus is still 4 points clear of Roma and AC Milan.  Lazio and Atalanta stay in 4th and 5th respectively but are now 8 points back.  Napoli moved level with Lazio and Atalanta thanks to their 3-0 win over Inter.  The bottom 3 stayed the same, but Pescara did earn a point thanks to their 1-1 draw with Cagliari.

Team of the Weekend

Goalkeeper

Pepe Reina 8.2 (Napoli)

Defenders

Marc Muniesa (Stoke), Mats Hummels (Bayern Munich), Samir (Udinese), Dante (Nice)

Midfielders

Christian Eriksen (Tottenham), Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (Arsenal), Pablo Fornals (Malaga)

Forwards

Yannis Salibur (Guingamp), Alexis Sanchez (Arsenal), Harry Kane (Tottenham)

El Clasico

El Clasico is tomorrow.  Do I need to say more?  The most watched game on the planet takes place tomorrow morning and this game could not be bigger in my opinion.  Real Madrid have a chance to almost clinch league title before January.  Barcelona needs to make a statement soon.  Real Madrid come into the game 6 points ahead of Barcelona and feeling pretty good about themselves.  They are on a 13 game unbeaten run that has seen them win in the Calderon against Atletico and now gives them a shot at another massive win in Barcelona.  Barcelona are in the midst of a 6 game unbeaten run right now but have drawn their last two.  This is going to be a massive game.  Barcelona are fully fit heading into this game.  Iniesta is back but likely to be on the bench.  Real Madrid meanwhile are without Bale, Morata, and Kroos but that is nothing new.  Lucas Vazquez and Isco have been fantastic for Madrid this season.  The pressure is on Luis Enrique in a must win game for Barcelona.  All I know is it will be must watch TV.

Elsewhere in La Liga… Sevilla travel to Granada as they look to keep pace with Barcelona.  Granada is in the midst of a 13 game winless streak.  Atletico Madrid host Espanyol in the other Madrid vs. Catalunya matchup.  Real Sociedad will look to go 6 games unbeaten when they face off with Deportivo La Coruna on Monday.  The table should be interesting when all is said and done on Monday.  It might be game over or it might be game on…

Premier League… The Premier League starts with a bang as Manchester City hosts Chelsea.  This is 3 hosting 1 this weekend.  1 point separates these teams and both will have their eyes on the top spot.  A win for Chelsea means that they will stay top and give themselves some breathing room.  City can go top with a win.  I would expect Conte to name an unchanged side as they have won 7 games in a row.  City is unbeaten in 6, but I would expect Pep to make a slight change to his side and probably mirror Chelsea with 3 at the back.  Liverpool do not play until Sunday when they face Bournemouth.  This could be a chance for Liverpool to go top or stay in second place.  They are unbeaten in their last 11 games and sit just 1 point behind Chelsea right now. Bournemouth meanwhile has struggled a bit, losing 3 of their last 4.  Arsenal faces West Ham on Saturday in what will be a massive game for Arsenal.  A win is likely to put them in second or third place but will keep them in the title hunt.  Manchester United end the weekend on Sunday with a massive trip to Everton.  A loss for either team would be devastating to their Champions League hopes.

Serie A… Saturday has a fantastic game in Italy as Juventus host Atalanta.  Atalanta have been the hottest team in the league.  They have won 6 games in a row and are unbeaten in their last 9.  Juventus meanwhile lost their last game out.  Juventus now have just a 4 point lead on Roma and AC Milan and a 5 point lead on Lazio and Atalanta.  This is going to be a tough one for Juve and one that could make the Serie A title race a fascinating one.  The other big game in Italy is the Derby della Capitale.  Lazio and Roma meet off this weekend.  Both of these two teams are in the top four of the table and separated by just 1 point.  Lazio are also on a 9 game unbeaten run but have won just 2 games in a row.  Roma is looking to keep pace with Juventus and win their second game in a row.  Roma has won 4 of the last 6 and Lazio have not won in that 6 game span.  This is another massive clash this weekend.  AC Milan are the only top 5 team to face a team not in the top 5.  They in fact face bottom of the table side Crotone.  If anyone has a must win game this weekend, it must be AC Milan.

 Bundesliga… This weekend has the battle of the Borussias as Dortmund host Monchengladbach.  Both teams are not where they want to be in the table.  Dortmund is 7th in the table and 9 points behind the leaders.  Monchengladbach is in 13th and just 5 points from the relegation zone.  Bayern Munich started the weekend with a 3-1 win over Mainz.  This sends them to the top of the table as they are level on points with Leipzig.  Leipzig will look for their next big scalp as they host Schalke.  A point will send them to the top of the table again as they look to stay unbeaten on the season.  The title race seems down to Munich and Leipzig as they are both right now 6 points clear of Hertha Berlin and Eintracht Frankfurt.  It is time to start cheering for Leipzig so that maybe they can push Munich for the whole season.

Ligue 1… The title race took a turn this week as Monaco drew with Dijon.  Nice defeat Guingamp and PSG defeated Angers.  This means that Nice stays on top of the table with a 1 point lead over PSG but a 3 point lead now on Monaco.  This weekend, Nice faces off with Toulouse.  PSG travels to Montpellier and Monaco hosts Bastia.  All three of them are in the midst of the unbeaten runs.  PSG has won 5 in a row and is 8 games unbeaten.  Monaco are 6 games unbeaten.  Nice is now 3 games unbeaten after their first loss of the season.  This race is going to be very good, but it seems it will all come down to the games that involve 2 of the 3 teams.

5 Takeaways From This Weekend

  1. Real Madrid look far better prepared for El Clasico… Real Madrid looked in control all game this weekend as they defeated Sporting Gijon. Cristiano Ronaldo has been on fire lately as he scored 2 more goals today to bring his total for the season to 10 in the league. Gijon would pull one back and did have a chance to tie but missed a penalty.  Real Madrid is 6 points clear now thanks to a 1-1 draw between Real Sociedad and Barcelona.  Barcelona’s struggles in Anoeta continued as they were the worse of the two teams.  Willian Jose opened the scoring in the second half.  It only took 6 minutes for Messi to equalize but it was not enough.  Sociedad was the better side and Barcelona are now in trouble in regards to the league.  This El Clasico has now become a must win for Barcelona, or otherwise the league might be over before Christmas.
  2. Leipzig are for real. We are more than a quarter of the way through the season and they remain unbeaten. This weekend they defeated Freiburg 4-1.  They are 3 points clear at the top.  By no means does that mean they will win the league, but they are a serious contender to finish in the top four.  Borussia Dortmund are struggling and sit 9 points behind Leipzig.  Monchengladbach and Wolfsburg are in the bottom half of the table.  Schalke are 13 points behind Leipzig.  A spot in the top four looks all but certain for them now if they are able to maintain just a portion of their remarkable form.  A spot in the Bundesliga next year is a certainty.  They are quickly becoming one of the best teams to watch, despite the fact that they might not be everyone’s favorite.
  3. Manchester United are in some trouble. Another draw this weekend means that they are off to their worst start to a season in 26 years. Mourinho was sent to the stands again.  This is the second time in the last 6 games that he has been sent to the stands and he now faces a third FA charge this season.  Mourinho needs to start mending some fences right now.  His team needs to start winning some games quickly or another season without the Champions League looks likely.   They are 8 points behind Arsenal and look a world behind them.  They are struggling to score right now.  United have scored 18 goals in their 13 games.  They currently have the 4th most shots in the league but have the third worst shot conversion.  Only Southampton and West Ham have worse shot conversion rates.  Mourinho has two fewer points than David Moyes had in his first season.  Can Mourinho change his future?
  4. Juventus can slip up. This weekend was not good one for Juventus. Giovanni Simeone, son of Diego Simeone, scored twice in the opening 13 minutes to put Genoa up 2-0.  Alex Sandro added an own goal and the halftime score was 3-0.  In the second half, Miralem Pjanic would pull one closer but it was not enough.  The bigger story line might be the injury to Leonardo Bonucci.  Bonucci is out for 2 months with hamstring injury.  Juventus are now 4 points clear at the top as Roma and Milan both won this weekend to stay level with each other.  The race for the title is still not on, but another slip up and it will be game on.  The pressure could really mount on them as four teams are within 5 points of Juventus.  Roma and Milan are both 4 points back.  Meanwhile Lazio and Atalanta are 5 points back.  These next 2 months without Bonucci will be tough and Juventus’ room for error is quickly disappearing.
  5. The title race is tightening in France. Nice drew this weekend 1-1 with Bastia. Monaco defeated Marseille 4-0 and PSG defeated Lyon 2-1.  This means that the three at the top are separated by just a point.  These three have distanced themselves from the rest of the league.  PSG in third are 8 points above Rennes in fourth.  This is going to be a great finish this season as all three teams will have hopes of winning the title.  PSG will want to defend their title.  Monaco are looking to end their 16 year title drought.  Nice meanwhile are trying to end a 57 year drought.  In the states we saw a 108 year drought end; can we see a 57 year drought end across the pond?

Team of the Weekend

Goalkeeper

Fernando Pacheco (Alaves)

Defenders

Nicolas Pareja (Sevilla), Florentin Pogba (Saint-Etienne), Gareth McAuley (West Brom)

Midfielders

Paul Pogba (Manchester United), Naby Keita (Leipzig), Pablo Piatti (Espanyol), Diego Perotti (Roma)

Forwards

Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid), Alexis Sanchez (Arsenal), Alejandro Gomez (Atalanta)