Nobody would have fancied a Bayern Munich title charge while going into the winter break but that’s the beauty of football for you. The unpredictable Bundesliga title race took a fresh turn as the Munich side closed the gap to league leaders Borussia Dortmund to three points after a 3-2 away win at Augsburg.
It wasn’t all smooth sailing for former league champions across Europe though. Real Madrid succumbed to a 2-1 defeat at the hands of Girona while Chelsea and under-pressure manager Maurizio Sarri lost their chance to make amends for 6-0 thrashing at the hands of Manchester City, by losing 2-0 in a fifth-round FA Cup tie against a depleted Manchester United side.
Here are four talking points from the top football leagues across Europe
Marcelo gains weight, Real Madrid lose ground
Real Madrid’s emergence as the front-runners in the chase to catch runaway LaLiga leaders Barcelona his a speed-breaker as the Madrid side lost to Girona in the weekend. Sergio Ramos managed to get himself another red card to add to his ever-growing numbers (20th in LaLiga) but it was perhaps the performance of the ever-reliable Marcelo that must have shocked the Los Blancos faithful. The Brazilian left-back was below par once again and fans will be questioning manager Santiago Solari’s decision to play him instead of 22-year-old full-back Sergio Reguilon, who has emerged as first choice left-back in recent times.
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¿Por qué Marcelo sigue siendo titular? Mira que lo amo pero joder hay que ser realistas... Espero que vuelva a Su mejor nivel lo antes posible!! ¡VAMOOOSS @marcelotwelve! --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Real Madrid vs Girona @Laliga #LaLigaSantander #RmCity #RmCF #RmLaLiga #RmFans #HalaMadrid #Solari #RealMadrid #Girona #RealMadridGirona #HalaMadrid #Solari
Madrid have only won one of their last nine matches in which the Brazilian international has featured in, while they have won all their last nine with Reguilon. Marcelo was also reportedly dropped for a match in January for being overweight. While other stalwarts in the team have stepped up their game in the recent outings, Marcelo’s performances have dipped.
Real’s defeat saw their city rivals Atletico Madrid jumping to the second place again after a narrow victory against Rayo Vallecano. Antoine Griezmann scored the winner for Atletico but their signing Alvaro Morata failed to impress yet again. With Diego Costa regaining match fitness Morata might struggle to make the starting XI if his form continues.
Barcelona extended their lead to seven points on top of the table with a 1-0 win against Valladolid.
Choke is on for Dortmund?
A bad run of form post-winter break has seen Bundesliga leaders Borussia Dortmund’s gap at the top being cut down by the chasing pack. Dortmund could only manage a goalless draw against Nurnberg – their third straight draw in the Bundesliga – despite having 17 efforts on goal. They have dearly missed the services of captain Marco Reus who missed his fourth straight match with a muscle injury. The results have presented an opportunity for Bayern to climb back into the title race despite a poor start to the season.
Dortmund had a nine-point lead over Bayern Munich at the close of November, but the teams are only separated by three points after 22 matches. Bayern weren’t convincing in their victory against Augsburg, conceding two in under 25 minutes, but the eventual victory and results elsewhere will surely increase their hunger to regain the top spot in the league.
A draw for third-placed Borussia Monchengladbach saw RB Leipzig close the gap to just two points while fifth-placed Bayer Leverkusen also maintained their good run of form with a 2-0 win against Fortuna.
Dybala delight for Juventus
There is no stopping Cristiano Ronaldo. The Portuguese superstar was once again in the thick of things for Juventus as they won 3-0 against Frosinone on Saturday. But it was Argentine forward Paulo Dybala who grabbed the limelight with a sixth-minute wonder-strike to put the Old Lady of Turin ahead in the match. Dybala has struggled to create goals in recent outings leading to rumours that he is set for a shift to the La Liga or the Premier League in the summer. This was his first goal for Juventus since the first week of November.
Italian Federico Bernardeschi’s versatility has been one of the reason behind Dybala’s lack of game time for Juventus and manager Massimiliano Allegri will have a tough decision to take now with a Champions League outing against Atletico Madrid next in the agenda for Juventus.
We generally don’t talk about cup results in our European Leagues review but we weren’t sure if we would get another opportunity to talk about Chelsea’s Sarri again with the news of his imminent sacking clouding Tuesday morning headlines after another hapless performance, this time against Manchester United.
The much-anticipated Sarri-ball turned into a self-wrecking-ball as the season progressed and Chelsea truly look a side that can’t recover. The problems for Sarri were mostly self-conflicted though. His refusal to tinker with the side played into the hands of all the opposition managers while his refusal to work on a plan B didn’t help his cause either. To come to a team like Chelsea, which has thrived on a defensive, counter-attacking culture for most of the last two-decades and expecting the side to quickly change their DNA into an attacking one was lazy from the Italian. Chelsea aren’t Napoli and that’s the biggest lesson for Sarri here. We wish him good luck in his future endeavours.
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Updated Date: Feb 19, 2019 14:32:18 IST