FOUR THINGS WE LEARNED: Solid Manchester City, Brittle Bayern Munich and Missing Lionel Messi
LONDON: It was another eventful weekend across all the big European leagues, here is what we learned from all the results.
When you think of Manchester City, images of free-flowing, incisive, entertaining football — the very thing that we love the beautiful game for — doubtless pop into your head. That is what defined their record-breaking march to the Premier League title last season and has once again been in evidence this campaign. There is, however, another element that has been added to that seductive style: Dogged defense. Yes, Pep Guardiola’s side has now gone five league matches without conceding a goal. Admittedly Saturday’s clean sheet was secured against Burnley, but the one before was against title-chasing Liverpool. This is something that pleased the City boss, who said: “We are not giving away any goals, we are not even giving away chances … we have been solid.” The sight of City adding defensive solidity to their attacking flair will scare all of their rivals.
LOPETEGUI’S DODGY DECISION
We all make bad decisions, ones that almost as soon as they are made we regret. But some decisions prove to be worse than others, ones so bad that you wonder how they were made in the first place. We are obviously talking about Julen Lopetegui’s decision to quit as Spanish national boss to sit in the Real Madrid hot seat. The Madrid giants lost their fourth in five at the weekend and if he is still in the job by the time you are reading this then it will be a shock. It was not his call to leave the Spain side the day before the World Cup, but from the moment Lopetegui was given his marching orders in Russia things have gone from bad to worse for the 52-year-old. His exit paved the way for a disastrous tournament for the national team when they had the players to go far, if not possibly win the whole thing. Since that moment his reputation has not recovered — from hero to zero in four short months.
One of the perennial questions of the past 10 years has been “how would Barcelona fare without Lionel Messi?” Well, for a short time at least, we can now find out after the Catalan club’s talisman suffered a fractured bone in his right arm during the side’s 4-2 win over title rivals Sevilla. Three weeks on the sidelines will see Messi miss six matches. The first a Champions League tie against Inter Milan, the second the all-important El Clasico against arch-rivals Real Madrid. The time for Luis Suarez, Philippe Coutinho and Co. to step up is now.
BRITTLE BAYERN MUNICH
The Bavarian giants may have won Saturday’s clash against Wolfsburg, but there remain clouds hanging over FC Hollywood. The side lived up to its moniker last week thanks to some bizarre comments from two men not known for being shy about letting people know exactly what they think. After a four-game winless streak, club president, Uli Hoeness, and CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, both former players, accused the media of “outrageous, disrespectful and polemical” reporting and warned them of possible legal action. Nothing like a bit of measured talk after a few bad results …