European football talking points: Jose Mourinho's stormy return to Chelsea, pressure increases on Julen Lopetegui and more

Gameweeks after international breaks are always intriguing because it can often lead to a break in momentum for teams or injuries to players. Surprisingly, the international break didn't seem to affect Europe's top teams with most securing impressive victories. Arsenal are one a great winning run (11 matches in a row after their 3-1 victory against Leicester) while Borussia Dortmund showed their Bundesliga winning aspirations with a comfortable victory. The break seemed to have helped Bayern Munich too, as they halted their winless run with a win over Wolfsburg. There was no such positive news for Real Madrid though as they suffered another loss, this time against Levante.

Here are four points that grabbed the headlines from across the top European leagues.

Jose Mourinho's return to Stamford Bridge was marred by a late touchline fracas while Julen Lopetegui saw the pressure on him increase with another loss. Agencies

Jose Mourinho's return to Stamford Bridge was marred by a late touchline fracas while Julen Lopetegui saw the pressure on him increase with another loss. Agencies

Good, bad and ugly

Jose Mourinho returning to Chelsea's Stamford Bridge was always going to be eventful but it was another returning former hero that made the difference for Manchester United in the 2-2 draw. Juan Mata, often a forgotten figure at Old Trafford, provided the creative spark in midfield for the Red Devils, while Anthony Martial rediscovered his scoring abilities to clinch a valuable point for United. Chelsea were their own worst enemies at times – uncharacteristic defensive calamities and a lack of cohesion up front causing a disruption of the "Sarri-ball".

Unfortunately, the match will be remembered more for what transpired after Ross Barkley came off the bench to score an injury-time equaliser. Blues coach Marco Ianni thought it was perfectly alright to "celebrate" the goal in front of the Manchester United bench, which enraged Mourinho and resulted in an injury-time fracas at the Bridge. Mourinho has reportedly escaped punishment for his part in the drama, but the Chelsea fans certainly didn’t take his involvement lightly, with a whole section chanting "F**k off, Mourinho" at the end of the match.

What Mourinho has successfully managed to do in the process though is divert unwanted attention from his players, while also motivating them to play better. United are certainly playing with more vigour and will be keen on capitalising on this form. Early-season rebel Martial apparently is ready to extend his contract with United while fringe-players like Mata and Ashley Young have found a new life. The Portuguese manager might not have the most pleasant way to go about his business but one can't question his success rates.

Real trouble

The fact that the European champions need help isn't news anymore. The surprise, in fact, has been the delay in the inevitable – sacking of manager Julen Lopetegui. Against Levante, it was a repeat of the same old – silly defensive errors and falling absolutely flat in attack (Marcelo's goal ended a goal drought that lasted more than a club-record eight hours). The problem, unfortunately for Real Madrid, is beyond the loss of Cristiano Ronaldo and Zinedine Zidane. The plan to field a young Spanish line-up isn't working out well for the Real Madrid management with the players struggling to come good. The Real Madrid team is a train with two bogeys going in different directions, with the seasoned players like Sergio Ramos struggling to gel with a young team. The transitioning from a group of established world stars to upcoming, potential talent hasn't gone well at Real and the team is currently caught in no man's land.

Lopetegui might actually be a victim of a culmination of misfortunes and taking over the team in a bad shape, but the biggest attraction in his CV had been his experience working with the Spanish junior teams, which he clearly hasn't managed so far at Madrid. He has failed in the project and with the likes of Antonio Conte and Michael Laudrup being touted as potential successors, time is pretty much up for Lopetegui. He will most likely be given a shot in the season's first El Clasico next weekend but a victory against a Messi-less Barcelona might not be enough to save his career at Real.

Gattuso can't get it right

The manner in which Inter Milan won – an injury-time winner – might suggest a closely-fought Milan derby but the truth was far from it. Inter dominated the match as AC Milan chose to shut down and defend. The problem with the parking-the-bus approach to football is that if it does not come off, it looks an awful waste of time. In the first half, AC Milan had only four touches in Inter's penalty box and such an approach with a team studded with attacking talent including Gonzalo Higuain, suggests a disbelief in his team by manager Gennaro Gattuso.

The performance from AC Milan was toothless, to say the least, and Gattuso will have to come up with another approach soon if Milan are to salvage anything this season. Ignazio Abate was poor throughout the match and one can only wonder why the likes of Diego Laxalt and Samu Castillejo didn't get a place in the starting line-up.

While Gattuso's job might not be on the line as of now, there are already rumours of Antonio Conte (certainly seems to be a busy man)and Zinedine Zidane floating in Italy.

Dortmund can't stop winning

Early-season pace-setters Borussia Dortmund continued their good start to the season by thrashing relegation-side VFB Stuttgart 4-0 in the weekend. The men-in-yellow went into the match high on confidence after a thrilling victory against Augsburg, and it was man-of-the-hour Paco Alcacer who again made the difference. Alcacer has made himself a name as the in-form super-sub in Europe this season and contributed with a dummy in the team's second goal and scoring the third. He was substituted at half-time by coach Lucien Favre which suggests that Alcacer can still improve physically.

Similarly, their other super-sub Jadon Sancho, had an outstanding match after starting only for the second time in the yellow jersey. The teenager scored Dortmund's first goal of the match and has contributed to eight goals for the German team since his move from Manchester City in the summer.

Another interesting development at Dortmund has been coach Favre's team formation this season. Dortmund are playing a 4-2-4 in a lot of matches, with summer signing Alex Witsel and Thomas Delaney forming a resolute midfield partnership, while captain Marco Reus has played the role of a secondary striker or an inside-forward. The success of the formation has largely been down to the central midfield pairing though and it would be interesting to see if Favre will continue with the formation when his central midfielders aren't available due to suspension or injury.


Updated Date: Oct 23, 2018 19:16 PM

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