- “The race is on for us now to amass enough points across the rest of the season to finish first, second or third.” – Massimiliano Allegri, Juventus manager
Don’t look now, but Juve are now just 6 points off the top of the table. I feel like this is something that I write this once every week, but after a big win against title rivals, Fiorentina, this weekend it is getting closer and closer to an all familiar table in Italy. Juventus fell behind in the game following a third-minute penalty from Josip Ilicic. The lead did not last long when Juan Cuadrado leveled the score in the 6th minute. Mandzukic and Dybala then earned Juventus all three points in the final 10 minutes. The race in Italy is really heating up and is going to go down to the wire. Roma, Juventus, Napoli, Fiorentina, and Inter Milan are all in this race and it should be a great to watch.
- “I feel that my work was betrayed” – Jose Mourinho, Chelsea manager
If you were to look at just the results and not the name…16 games played, 4 wins, 3 draws, 9 losses…then you would say that is not a very good season. When you see that they are just 1 point above the relegation zone, then you would know they are in a relegation fight. Once I tell you that it is Chelsea in this position, you might start to doubt that they are in a relegation fight. You would say that they are too big of a club to get relegated. However, they are and they are not too big of a club. Following their 2-1 loss this Monday at Leicester, Chelsea is in disarray. Mourinho then came out after the game and said that “I feel that my work was betrayed.” It is only getting worse for Chelsea and questions will now swirl regarding the length of Mourinho’s tenure.
- “It feels good to score a hat-trick.” – Javier Hernandez, Bayer Leverkusen forward
Borussia Monchengladbach was one of the hottest teams in the world. Not anymore after they suffered a horrible defeat at the hands of Bayer Leverkusen this weekend. Two players scored all the goals as Stefan Kiessling scored in the first half to open the scoring. In the second half, Javier Hernandez scored a thirteen minute hat-trick. During this hat-trick, Kiessling added his second goal. The game was then out of sight and Bayer had made a statement win. It was their seventh win of the campaign and brought them within touching distance of the European places. They are now just two points from a Champions League spot. It was a great result and a great performance from the former Manchester United striker.
- “I don’t know why we went out like that.” – Pepe, Real Madrid defender
Real Madrid lost their third game of the season this weekend when they lost 1-0 to Villarreal. Rafa Benitez sent out a very strong team that should have gone to Villarreal and came away with all three points. However, the plan went out the window when Roberto Soldado scored in the 8th minute. Real Madrid is now 5 points behind leaders, Barcelona and Atletico Madrid. Pepe partnered Sergio Ramos in the back and the defensive pair was strong for most of the game, but the one early error really cost the team. Real Madrid dominated possession and took 20 shots, however; they were not many clear cut chances as they only had one shot on target. Pepe talked about how it was a game of two halves and that the team did not come out as strong as they should have. They paid the price and are now looking up the table.
- “This was a difficult match against opponents who are far superior.” – Hubert Fournier, Lyon manager
PSG never really gave Lyon much of a chance as they jumped out to an early lead behind Ibrahimovic. Serge Aurier doubled the lead in the 17th minute. Jordan Ferri gave Lyon some hope when he pulled Lyon one goal back after Kevin Trapp fumbled the ball. However, PSG showed their quality as they went on to get goals from Cavani, Ibrahimovic, and Moura. PSG overcame their supposed title rivals to give themselves a massive 17 point lead at the top. Angers drew 1-1 at Bordeaux as well, so the lead has increased from 15 for PSG. Lyon manager, Hubert Fournier, remained upbeat by claiming that “Despite the heavy margin of defeat, it is not all negative”. They will need to pick up some points soon, as they have fallen to 6th place. Can they get back into the race for the European places? Can PSG go unbeaten?
- “It’s still too early. All of them will continue to fight for the title.” – Roberto Mancini, Inter Milan manager
This weekend, Inter Milan went 4 points clear on top of the Serie A table with an outstanding performance against Udinese. Mauro Icardi opened the scoring in the 23rd minute. Stevan Jovetic doubled the league leaders lead before halftime. In the second half, Icardi added a second and Brozovic made it 4-0. Inter Milan have the best defense in the league, having conceded just 9 goals in 16 games. Their defense has been the rock of the team and now they are looking to build on this with their offense. Coming into the game, Inter had scored just 18 goals. They were averaging just over a goal a game. If they can keep this offensive prowess up then they may win the Scudetto this season. The title race is heating up, but the gap is now 4 points.
- “It’s a nice feelings …It’s always nice to go in over Christmas and start the New Year as league leaders.” – Philipp Lahm, Bayern Munich defender
Bayern Munich assured themselves of the top spot in the table when the calendar turns over at the end of the month with a 2-0 win over FC Ingolstadt 04. Bayern Munich have been one of the best teams in the world and really strong over the first 16 games of the season. They have only dropped points in two games with a draw with Frankfurt and a loss against Monchengladbach. They are currently 5 points clear of Dortmund, who are also really strong this year. With just one more round before the winter break, Munich are on pace for their fourth league title in a row. They will be able to focus now on some rest and enjoying their winter break before the big push towards a league title and Champions League title. Lahm was very happy after the win. Bayern have won what is called the Herbstmeisterschaft, or winter championship. This is a fairly good predictor as the Herbstmeisterschaft has gone on to win 35 of the 52 Bundesliga campaigns. For Bayern Munich, they have only failed to win the league twice when they are top on Christmas out of the 20 times they have been top.
- “We have asked for consistency and the last two weeks they have provided that and it has brought everyone closer together.” – Steve McClaren, Newcastle United manager
In nationally televised games in England, Newcastle has picked up 14 points. In all of their other games, Newcastle has picked up just 2 points. In their second televised game in England in two weeks, Newcastle picked up 6 out of 6 points over those two games against big teams. Newcastle defeated Liverpool 2-0 last weekend and this weekend they came back to defeat Tottenham 2-1. They have moved themselves from second bottom to above the defending champions, Chelsea. They are now two points clear of the relegation zone and if they can find a way to be on television every week in England, they could win the league potentially. McClaren came out and said that “We have asked for consistency and the last two weeks they have provided that and it has brought everyone closer together”. Is it really consistency or is it nationally televised games?
- “We controlled our opponents and they didn’t have many chances,” – Leonardo Jardim, Monaco manager
Monaco is climbing up the table now and their latest win came at the hands of rivals Saint Etienne. They went on to win the game 1-0 thanks to a Fabinho penalty in the 82nd minute. Jardim came out to say that they were the stronger team, despite only having 50% of possession. They were the more creative team, as they had 4 shots on target compared to 0 for Saint Etienne. Saint Etienne was reduced to 10 men earlier in the first half when Kevin Malcuit saw his second yellow. Etienne is now in 7th place in the table, 5 points behind Monaco. Monaco is now in a Champions League spot having climbed to 3rd place in the table. They are level on points with Angers in second and are only behind on goal differential. A side note on goal differential, Angers is +7, Monaco is +2, but even more interestingly Paris Saint-Germain is +36. Can you tell how much better PSG have been this season?
- “It just goes to show that games aren’t over even when you are up 2-0.” – Luis Enrique, Barcelona manager
Barcelona played their last league game this weekend before the jetting off to the Club World Cup in Japan. Barcelona jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the first half thanks to a great strike from Leo Messi. He curled in a beautiful free kick. Ivan Rakitic added a second goal just on the 62 minute. However, that is when the game took a turn. Deportivo showed the world why they were once know as Super Depo and hit back twice in the last 30 minutes to draw the match level. Both teams would share a point each. Barcelona stayed on top of the table despite Atletico Madrid beating Athletic Bilbao 2-1. The two teams are level on points. Barcelona will not play another game in La Liga until December 30th. They will now try to win the Club World Cup this week.
Picture of the Week
A very very happy Claudio Ranieri after his team went back on top of the league.
Goals of the Week
My Pick – I am going to go with Riyad Mahrez and his beautiful strike to put Leicester on top of the league.
James’ Pick – James is going with Junior Stanislas for his pick and his beautiful corner kick that went straight in the net.
Euro 2016 Draw Recap
All of the group winners, runners-up, and best four third-place teams will advance to the Round of 16.
Group A: France, Romania, Albania, and Switzerland
The hosts will open up the tournament on June 10th against Romania. They should be clear favorites to win the group. Second and third place will come down to Romania and Switzerland. Both of them could qualify if they can get a great result against Albania.
Group B: England, Russia, Wales, and Slovakia
The match of this group is the match between England and Wales on June 16th. Both of the United Kingdom squads should qualify for the next round with Russia also having a chance. Wales will need to win their opening game.
Group C: Germany, Ukraine, Poland, and Northern Ireland
Germany is clear favorites for this group, but who advances with them is really up for grabs. Northern Ireland looks like the minnows of the group but they will be up for the challenge.
Group D: Spain, Czech Republic, Turkey, and Croatia
In one of the two groups of death in my opinion, the defending European Champions are going to need to start off quickly as they host Czech Republic on June 13th. All four of these teams will feel like they can qualify. This will be a really interesting group
Group E: Belgium, Italy, Ireland, and Sweden
This is the other group of death. The number one team in the world, Belgium, has to face Italy, a rejuvenated Ireland, and Zlatan Ibrahimovic. The match of the round is between Belgium and Italy on June 13th.
Group F: Portugal, Iceland, Austria, and Hungary
This group features two young teams that should be really interesting to watch in Iceland and Austria. They are really coming into their own as they both look to make a statement in this group. Portugal will be the favorite in the group, as they will count on Cristiano Ronaldo.
Look for a post in the middle of this week giving you a preview of the Champions League Round of 16 and the Europa League Round of 32.