Is the Bundesliga still competitive? I have been pondering this question for a while now. Bayern Munich seems to have a strangle hold on the league and will easily win the title. The lead at the top of the table is now 11 points. Looking even further down the table, Monchengladbach is 20 points behind the leaders. In fact, Monchengladbach is closer to the relegation zone than they are the top of the league. They sit just 21 points above the bottom club, Stuttgart, and just 18 points above Paderborn in 16th. The race for the title and 2nd place in the league are over, barring a catastrophic collapse for one of those two. With just 10 games to go, the race for third and fourth is alive and well. It looks to be a race for two spots between 4 teams. Monchengladbach and Leverkusen are currently in the spots, but Schalke and Augsburg are hot on their tails. After that there is another drop between 6th and 7th of 5 points. While I do find the games to be intriguing and the action is always entertaining, is there any doubt who will win the league next year? Or going out even further, next year?
The question then remains does this make the league not competitive? Could you not guess the winner of the Serie A next year? I’ll go out on a limb and guess Juventus. La Liga? Real Madrid or Barcelona with Atleti close. Ligue 1? PSG, Marseille, Lyon pick one of the three. Premier League? Chelsea. City could push and United will improve. The point is that even thought Bayern Munich will most likely dominate the top spot, that does not mean that the league is no longer competitive or entertaining. It is, however, fascinating to me that the team in fourth place in the league is closer to the bottom than it is the top. Looking at the other big five leagues and where the highest ranking team is closer to the bottom than the top is interesting. In Serie A, Genoa is in seventh and they are closer to the bottom than the top (not counting Parma due to financial reasons). In France and Spain it is the team in eighth that sits closer to the bottom being Lille and Athletic Bilbao respectively. In England, it is Swansea City sitting in ninth place. The other leagues show more of a mid table team being at that divide. What will it take for the German league to get closer to something like those other leagues? Does it matter that one team dominates? Does Bayern need Dortmund to rise again? Do they need Wolfsburg to becoming a force? Does Bayern need a Real Madrid to them being Barcelona?
Let’s start in Germany, where the lead at the top was extended this weekend thanks to Augsburg. They held on to a 1-0 win over Wolfsburg. That win, coupled with Bayern Munich beating Hannover 3-1, means the lead at the top is now double digits. The distance between those battle for the third and fourth spots was also cut into with Monchengladbach drawing 2-2 at Mainz. Augsburg, Bayer Leverkusen, and Schalke all won. Monchengladbach still sits in third with 41 points but their lead is only 2 over Bayer and just 3 points over Schalke and Augsburg.
In Italy, Roma missed a golden opportunity to cut into the Juventus lead. Juve is still to play today so Roma could have cut the lead to just 6 points, but instead they only cut it to 8 points following a 0-0 draw with Chievo. Napoli then had the chance to get closer to second place, but they also drew 2-2 with Inter Milan. This allows Lazio the opportunity to jump Napoli if they can take all three points today against Fiorentina. If Fiorentina wins, then they will jump Lazio and be just one point behind Napoli. Udinese and Sampdoria were the only two teams to pick up all three points at the weekend.
In France, it was a case of anything you can do, I can do. Marseille opened the weekend with a 6-1 win over Toulouse. This temporally leveled them with PSG, who then went on to win 4-1 over Lens. This sent them to the top of the league. That didn’t last long as Lyon won on Sunday, 5-1 over Montpellier. Monaco and St. Etienne both won to keep pace with the big three. In every game this weekend there was a winner and lots of goals were scored this weekend. 46 to be exact, meaning there was an average of 4.6 goals per game this weekend. Where was the defense?
In England, the FA Cup took center stage. While France was having a goal fest this weekend, England was struggling to find the back of the net. Of the 6 teams that played this weekend, only one team scored. Bradford City and Reading played to a nil-nil draw. Liverpool and Blackburn also played to a nil-nil draw. The only team to score was Aston Villa. Yes you read that correctly, the team that earlier this season went on a historically long goal drought was the only team in the FA Cup to score over the weekend when they beat West Brom 2-0. Manchester United hosts Arsenal today, so here is to hoping there are more goals. There was a EPL game this weekend, and it did have goals when Tottenham beat QPR 2-1. Harry Kane scored both of the goals for Tottenham, giving him a grand total of 16, just one goal behind Aguero and Costa for the lead.
Lastly, Spain gave us a new leader. After 16 rounds at the top, Real Madrid are in second place. This comes after their trip to the New San Mames. Adruiz was the only goal scorer on an absolute peach of a header into the top corner. The score finished 1-0 to Bilbao. This meant that Barcelona could climb into the top spot with a win at home against Rayo Vallencano. It didn’t take them long to take the lead in the match when Luis Suarez scored 5 minutes in. Going into the halftime, the score was still 1-0 in favor of Barcelona. When the final whistle blew and the dust settled, the score was 6-1 Barcelona. Messi scored his record setting 24th hat trick in La Liga. With his hat trick, he also tied Ronaldo at the top of the scorers list. With the Clasico being just two weeks away, it is all setting up nicely for an absolute amazing game. In the battle for third place, Atletico Madrid and Valencia drew 1-1 at the Calderon. Both teams scored off of free kicks. This means that Atleti still have a 1 point lead over Valencia. However, Sevilla closed the gap a little as they won 4-3 over Deportivo .
Champions League Preview
The Champions League returns this week with 4 second legs. On Tuesday, Porto and Basel have it all to play for after a 1-1 draw in Basel. Can Porto take advantage of their vital away goal? Real Madrid should easily qualify when they host Schalke. They take a 2-0 lead into the game and are at home this week. Wednesday should be an fascinating day as both matches have the teams level after one leg. The more interesting match will be PSG vs Chelsea. Chelsea got their away goal in Paris, but then gave up a late equalizer. The match will also mark David Luiz’s return to Chelsea following his big money move away from Chelsea this past summer. Chelsea should be able to hold on, but with Zlatan on the field, you never know. The other match ended in a bit of a shock to me with Bayern being held off the score sheet. Can Shakhtar pull off the upset? An early away goal could really change this game. But who am I kidding, I expect Bayern to win easily and punch their ticket to the Quarterfinals.
Europa league Preview
This Thursday is the first leg of the Round of 16 in the Europa League. The lone English side left in the competition is Everton. They host Dynamo Kyiv this weekend. There are three games that I am looking forward to this week and they are Wolfsburg hosting Internazionale, Villarreal hosting Sevilla, and Fiorentina hosting Roma. Fiorentina will have a busy week as they play today and Thursday, so that could hurt them. Sevilla are the defending champions of the competition and will look to use this a a possible way into the Champions League. Wolfsburg will need to respond to their defeat at the weekend against a struggling Inter side that if finally starting to figure itself out.
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