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European football talking points: Juventus, PSG clinch titles but UCL failure looms large; Manchester City-Liverpool tussle goes on

Juventus and Paris Saint-Germain clinched the Serie A and Ligue 1 titles respectively in the Gameweek to bring both sets of fans a sense of joy after disappointing exits from the Champions League – arguably their target ahead of the season. The battle at the top in the Bundesliga and the Premier League aren't anything like the French and the Italian leagues though with both destined to go on till the final day of the season. Manchester City overcame a tough challenge in the form of Tottenham Hotspur to win 1-0 and stay on course for successive league titles but chasers Liverpool ensured they stayed in touching distance from the leaders with an important win against a very organised Cardiff City.

Meanwhile, in Germany, Bayern Munich maintained their one-point lead over Borussia Dortmund at the top of the table with a narrow 1-0 victory against Werder Bremen. Dortmund looked back to their best in the weekend though after an impressive 4-0 victory against Freiburg.

Here are five talking points from the top European football leagues

The rise and rise of Bernardo Silva

The match between against Tottenham will be remembered as a critical win in the title race if Manchester City go on on to win the league but what stood out, in what was otherwise a lethargic display of football by two sides who were exhausted after their midweek Champions League meeting, was the rising importance of Portuguese midfielder Bernardo Silva. The former Monaco midfielder has had an excellent season for the Sky Blues and has certainly been promoted from being deputy to the likes of Kevin de Bruyne to (almost) a guaranteed started. It has taken Silva time to find his feet in a physically challenging football league but the creative midfielder has finally carved out space for himself in a team filled with attack-minded footballers.

The new Silva refuses to be shaken off, as Danny Rose found out throughout the match, and has now become a complete midfielder who helps out his team in defence too. The midfielder has doubled his recoveries from last season (139/73), improved on his number of tackles (38/27) with a better success rate and doubled his interceptions too (22/10) all while being the chief orchestrator in attack for the champions. The versatility of the midfielder and his work ethic is currently keeping last season's star Leroy Sane and big summer signing Riyad Mahrez in the bench. The PFA has recognized his valuable contributions in City's campaign and has shortlisted him in the competition for the Player of the Year award.

A comedy of errors

Tottenham's loss was supposed to have opened a window opportunity for other teams in the battle for third and fourth places in the Premier League but fortunately for Spurs, no one seems keen on milking the chance presented to them. Ole's wheel certainly looked jammed in the weekend as his side suffered a demoralizing 4-0 defeat at the hands of Everton (who are on a decent run of form themselves after being woeful for most parts of the season).

The season isn't over and the Red Devils can still mathematically clinch a Champions League spot but worryingly for the management, the players have gone back to being a bunch of gifted players with zero motivation on the field – an attitude that got the likes of Louis van Gaal and Jose Mourinho sacked. Who will they blame now? The players? The managers who have come and gone? Ed Woodward and the rest of the decision makers? One thing is for certain though, United need to start a rebuilding program and if that means selling away star players with bad attitudes then they should do it without a shadow of a doubt.

The loss against Everton didn't cost much to United in terms of league position though with rivals Arsenal also failing to overcome a well-oiled Crystal Palace side. There is only a three-point gap between third-placed Spurs and sixth-placed Manchester United with four games till the end of the league.

The Juventus paradox

You would think an unprecedented, never-achieved-before, eighth consecutive Serie A title would have Juventus players and the board over the moon. But reports emerging from Italy suggest that's hardly the case in Turin after yet another underwhelming Champions League campaign that saw them lose to Ajax in the midweek.

The signing of Cristiano Ronaldo in the summer was a clear show of intent from the Turin side that their goal was the Champions League. They could have won another Scudetto without the Portuguese superstar – Ronaldo was supposed to be the missing link between the club and the elusive chalice. In fact, as some might argue, had Ronaldo not been in the team, the likes of Moise Kean and Paulo Dybala, both widely touted as the future of the football club, probably would have gotten more game time.

The Roman fightback

A lot of people (including the author) had thought that appointing Claudio Ranieri as the head coach was a step backward for Roma after two seasons of progress under the tutelage of Eusebio Di Francesco. The initial results increased the skepticism but Roma have pulled their way back with a string of good results and are now challenging for the fourth and final place for the next year's Champions League. Roma earned a hard-fought 1-1 draw against Inter Milan in the weekend and are just one point behind AC Milan in the league table.

Ranieri has managed to revive part of the character and passion in some of the players since his appointment but the Rome side are still far away from being perfect. The Giallorossi’s inconsistency has largely been due to a leaky defence. They have conceded 46 goals in the season, twice the amount of goals that champions Juventus have let in, and have the worst defensive record in the top half of the table. The defensive line of Federico Fazio, Aleksandar Kolarov, and Alessandro Florenzi, all players above 30, need a better back up, while the midfield is also going through a period a transition. Luckily for them, AC Milan are going through a mixed patch themselves and only managed a draw 1-1 against Parma in the weekend.

If Roma make it to a Champions League spot at the end of the season, it should be definitely regarded as manager Ranieri's second biggest achievement as a manager. We all know what no.1 is!

Barcelona one step closer

Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez, and Ousmane Dembele started in a front-three for Barcelona as they beat Real Sociedad 2-1 in front of Game of Thrones' Jaime Lannister and Euron Greyjoy at the Nou Camp in the weekend.

The victory helped the Catalunya side inch closer to the LaLiga title but Atletico Madrid ensured there were no early parties in Barcelona with a clinical 1-0 victory against Eibar. The leaders still remain nine points ahead of Atletico with five games to spare. The biggest surprise of the weekend, however, came via Karim Benzema who scored a hat-trick in Real Madrid's 3-0 victory against Athletic Bilbao. The Frenchman, who couldn't score for most parts of the season, has finally found his mojo back again after the arrival of Zinedine Zidane as the manager.

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Updated Date: Apr 22, 2019 13:06:16 IST