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European football talking points: Liverpool's record season could go in vain; Barcelona, Lionel Messi taste LaLiga success

Football, regardless of the distractions provided by the worldwide releases of Avengers Endgame and Game Of Thrones The Long Night, was still the biggest source of entertainment in the weekend for the sports-loving public with Lionel Messi guiding Barcelona to yet another LaLiga title while his long-time nemesis Cristiano Ronaldo struck his 600th club goal in Juventus’ 1-1 draw against Inter Milan in the Serie A.

Sergio Aguero ensured Liverpool’s record-overhauling 91 points from 36 matches might still go in vain at the end of the season after helping Manchester City win against Burnley and maintain the lead at the top of the Premier League.

Here are four talking points from top European leagues in a weekend that saw Real Madrid remind Zinedine Zidane the massive challenge he has in his hands after a worryingly poor defeat against lowly Rayo Vallecano.

 European football talking points: Liverpools record season could go in vain; Barcelona, Lionel Messi taste LaLiga success

Liverpool celebrate their winning goal against Tottenham. AFP

A tragedy of our times?

Some incredible football sides do not, unfortunately, go on to win titles and cups. The Hungarian side in the 1954 World Cup led by the legendary Ferenc Puskas, Tele Santana-coached 1982 World Cup’s Brazil side and the Dutch side that almost won the 1988 Euro are some sides that come to the mind. But the above-mentioned teams all lost in knock-out tournaments – a league was specifically designed to cancel out the chances of an occasional bad match doing injustice to a good side. Yet Liverpool are caught in a situation where even a record-setting points tally for the team might still not be enough to win them the title.

The Reds are a near-perfect side. An incredible front-three of Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah, a midfield run by the likes of Fabinho, Georginio Wijnaldum and Jordan Henderson, and a defence walled by PFA Player of the Year Virgil Van Dijk should be enough to win most leagues in the world. Unfortunately for the Reds, Manchester City have built an equally strong army, with incredible depth in all positions, to challenge them for the title. Judging by the form shown by both sides, it is unlikely they will lose any more points till the end of the season which would see City finish on 98 points and Liverpool on 97. We are witnessing the greatest title battle in the history of our generation, ladies and gentlemen!

The De Gea problem

While on one side Premier League top two are breaking all records in the battle for the title, the four teams below them – Tottenham Hotspur, Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester United – are playing a game of musical chair for the remaining two spots for Champions League qualification. Spurs blew up their chance to consolidate their third place in the league position after losing to London rivals West Ham United in the weekend, while Arsenal was beaten 3-0 by Leicester City.

For a brief period in their match against Chelsea, United had looked like the side who would benefit the most from the results of the weekend after former Chelsea star and surprise started in the United front-three, Juan Mata, gave the Reds an early lead. But then came a David De Gea blunder – the Spanish first-choice goalkeeper could only parry a speculative effort from Antonio Rudiger into the path of Marco Alonso who slotted it in to equalise.

De Gea is clearly a keeper whose form has deserted him and unluckily for United, it could not have come at a worse time. The Spaniard’s woeful month, which started with Lionel Messi making a mockery of him at the Nou Camp in the Champions League, has even led to speculations that the keeper might be one his way out of Old Trafford.

The keeper has single-handedly saved United so many times in the last few seasons to deserve his place as the number one choice. But Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has Sergio Romero, an experienced Argentine keeper in his ranks, and it might do De Gea a world of good to take a break from the constant pressure and reflect on his game.

Barcelona are the champions, again

Oh, Lionel Messi! The genius was the goal scorer once again as Barcelona edged past Levante to secure their eighth LaLiga title in 11 years. The Argentine forward has a whopping 34 goals this season and is arguably (and unbelievably) improving each season.

The key to Messi’s phenomenal season has been the free role he has been given in the team by coach Ernesto Valverde. Messi is no longer confined to the right-wing or a central role – he is everywhere. He’s mature and fully realised in all senses, which has brought the best out of him on the pitch. It is the characteristic of great players to adapt their position on the field according to their changing bodies and Messi is doing the same at the right time. The Argentine is the first Barcelona player to win ten LaLiga titles and if the upward trajectory continues, there will surely be more to come.

The great German drama continues

A shocking 4-2 loss for Borussia Dortmund to Schalke in the Ruhr Derby on Saturday was supposedly the end of the battle for the Bundesliga title but that was until league leaders Bayern Munich choked on their chances and drew against Nurnberg. The result means Bayern have a two-point lead on top of the table but judging by the form there is no clear favourite in the race till the end of the season.

The race for the fourth spot in the league is equally interesting with both Eintracht and Borussia Monchengladbach struggling in the weekend. The former only managed a goalless draw against a 10-man Hertha while Gladbach lost to Stuttgart to continue the woeful form that saw them drop from second place in the league to fifth.

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Updated Date: Apr 29, 2019 15:46:00 IST