European football talking points: Real Madrid rule derby day, Maurizio Sarri's reluctance to tweak Chelsea's system and more

It was a Gameweek of milestones as the 100th goal for Gareth Bale ensured an easy Madrid derby victory for Real Madrid while Argentine Sergio Aguero scored yet another hat-trick to equal the highest number in Premier League (11, shared with Alan Shearer).  Manchester City's win meant they went back to the top of the table by virtue of goal difference having a played game more than Liverpool. Unfortunately for Chelsea, conceding Aguero’s three and another three meant a rewriting a fortnight old record – their worst defeat in the Premier League history.

The weekend fixtures weren’t smooth sailing for a lot of top teams across Europe, with Bundesliga leaders Borussia Dortmund held to a 3-3 draw by Hoffenheim while title challengers Borussia Monchengladbach suffered a 3-0 defeat to Hertha at home.

Ligue 1 leaders PSG managed to see their way past Bordeaux but the victory came at a cost with Edison Cavani suffering a thigh injury while scoring the only goal of the match. Coach Tomas Tuchel will not have the services of the already injured Neymar, Cavani, and yet-to-be-fit Marco Verratti for their upcoming Champions League match.

Their opponents in the European tournament, Manchester United, faced no such difficulties though, as they beat relegation-threatened Fulham through an inspired performance from Anthony Martial.

Here are three talking points from a weekend of that saw many football fans rename Chelsea’s ‘Sarriball’ into ‘Sorryball’.

Real winners of the Derby

We have new challengers for the LaLiga title! Real Madrid (yes, that's right) have now climbed to second in the table after beating city rivals Atletico in the Madrid Derby. This was Real Madrid’s fifth league win on the trot – their best run this season – and overtook Atletico for the second spot to trail leaders Barcelona by six points.

In a match was marred with controversial refereeing decisions it was Real Madrid who took the lead through a sensational overhead kick by Casemiro. Atletico pulled one back through Antoine Griezmann almost immediately but Real grew in dominance and scored two goals in either side of the half-time to secure the match for the visitors.

The biggest positive for Real in a season of ups and downs have been the rise in prominence of Brazilian winger Vinicius. The Brazilian turned in another blinder of a performance against Atletico in the weekend and deservedly took home the player of the match award.

His scorching runs down the left flank created a lot of problems for the Atleti defence and his forays into the box created numerous chances for the visiting side in the first half including a 41st-minute penalty which Sergio Ramos converted. The 18-year-old has been the star performer in Real Madrid’s post-Julen Lopetegui resurgence and will be the key for the Los Blancos if they are to challenge Barcelona for the title.

Barcelona, who started the match with Lionel Messi despite injury concerns, were held to a goalless draw by Athletic Bilbao in the weekend.

Sorryball

Chelsea's humiliating defeat to Manchester City wasn’t an actual surprise, even though Liverpool fans would have been hoping for a favour from the Blues. Chelsea have become predictable (apart from being toothless) under coach Maurizio Sarri so much so that even substitutions (such as Mateo Kovacic for Ross Barkley and vice versa) are known to opposition managers prior to the kick-off. The bewildering part is Sarri’s unwillingness to change. He is refusing to move from a system that is clearly not working for the team and reduces their star player N’Golo Kante into a purposeless midfield runner.

While individual mistakes added to the insult, Sarri will have to take the blame for playing a system that doesn’t suit the players he has at disposal. Unfortunately for the Italian, the Blues aren’t a financial powerhouse like they used to be in the first decade of the 21st century. So expecting a complete overhaul of the squad to suit a specific style of football isn't practical. It is a case of adapt or perish at Chelsea now. Antonio Conte actually did exactly that and yet got kicked out.

And if Sarri thinks the current crop of players lack motivation, then why play them? Ruben Loftus-Cheek adds a dimension none of his other midfielders seem to have – the ability to score goals. Andreas Christensen is a young defender capable of playing with the ball at his feet. So is Ethan Ampadu. And if Bayern Munich wanted Callum Hudson Odoi so much, there must be something special about the England winger? Sarri’s stubbornness, in changing his style of football or personnel, will cost Chelsea dear this season and with the kind of Manchester United are in, it will be difficult for the Blues to regain their fourth spot. Time for Roman Abramovich to dial Guus Hiddink’s number?

Ronaldo scores to ease pressure on Allegri

It was business as usual for Serie A leaders Juventus in the weekend as they sailed past Sassuolo to ease the mounting pressure on coach Massimiliano Allegri. The 3-0 victory came after a series of matches that saw Juventus struggle uncharacteristically, including a 3-0 loss against Atlanta in the Coppa Italia quarter-final.

Cristiano Ronaldo made it 20 goals in the season for Juventus (18 in Serie A) and continued his good run of form. The Portuguese superstar has now scored at least 20 times in all competitions in each of the last 13 season representing Manchester United, Real Madrid and now Juventus.

Second-placed Napoli could only manage a draw against Fiorentina which meant Juve now have an 11-point lead on top of the table. Inter Milan managed to score their first goal of 2019 as they beat Parma 1-0 to stay third in the league.

Krzysztof Piatek continued his goal-scoring spree for new club AC Milan as they secured an easy 3-0 victory against Cagliari. The win also ensured they stayed a point ahead of Atlanta in the battle for the fourth spot in the league.

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Updated Date: Feb 11, 2019 12:28:36 IST

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