Barcelona were the only team to beat Real Madrid in their last ten games, but that was before Barcelona’s recent dip. Will they recover? Meanwhile Man United continued their weak form by losing to Liverpool and Messi continues to under-perform with PSG.
Real Madrid holds Barca to a scoreless draw at the Santiago Bernabeu as Cristiano Ronaldo and co prove their class. United fall short against Liverpool as they struggle with pace, while Messi and PSG fail to beat Lyon despite Neymar’s hat-trick.
The “Messi transfer” is a story that has been covered in the news recently. Messi was being heavily linked with a move to PSG, but it looks like he will not be joining them after all.
The soccer world was focused on a “Super Sunday,” which saw Barcelona host Real Madrid (and lose) before Manchester United hosted Liverpool (and lose), as well as grudge matches between Inter Milan and Juventus and Marseille vs. PSG. The whole weekend, though, was filled with drama and talking points for Bayern Munich, Manchester City, Chelsea, Jose Mourinho’s Roma, and many more teams. (Oh, and did I mention that Mohamed Salah is maybe the greatest player in the world right now?)
– LaLiga, Bundesliga, MLS, FA Cup, and more on ESPN+ – Watch ESPN FC every day on ESPN+ (U.S. only) – If you don’t have ESPN, you’re out of luck. Get immediate access
Gab Marcotti responds to the greatest happenings in the world of football on Monday.
Jump to: Man United woes | Juventus draw Inter | PSG held | Bellingham boosts Dortmund | Bayern rolling | Chelsea score seven | Ibra dazzles | Fabulous Foden | Mourinho drama | Sterile Spurs | Suarez stops Sociedad
A Clasico may be won by succumbing to the pomp and environment and swashbuckling your way to victory, exchanging blows like a boxer. You can either dominate and smash the opponent with greater skill and individual talent, or you can dominate and crush the opposition with superior skill and individual talent. You can accomplish it by outcoaching the opponent and making Real Madrid’s skill count when and where it matters, like Carlo Ancelotti did on Sunday. Unlike Ronald Koeman, who sent his Barcelona players out with the goal of dominating the ball but no idea what to do with it.
One of the most astonishing aspects of Real Madrid’s 2-1 victory is that they didn’t cross the halfway line until the 12th minute. It could have been a concern in other circumstances, but when you can keep your opponent camped out in your half for so long without giving them a chance, it’s also a good way to take the sting out of the game and set up the counterattack, especially with Vinicius Jr. down the left side.
You might even say that’s where the game was won.
United under Solskjaer are becoming worse.
OK, let’s get this out of the way before we turn our attention to Manchester United’s 5-0 humiliation at Old Trafford on Sunday. Liverpool are playing very well this now. Mohamed Salah, who scored a hat-trick, and Roberto Firmino, perhaps, are playing their finest football of their careers. The fullback combo is still one of Europe’s finest (if not the greatest), the back four is rock strong, and Alisson is as good as they come between the sticks.
The response of Liverpool’s midfield, on the other hand, has impressed me the most. They did not replace Georginio Wijnaldum with a top-tier player during the summer. Thiago Alcantara and Fabinho, who would have been obvious starts in a Liverpool Best XI, were ruled out. Harvey Elliott, who was 18 at the time but had been a regular early in the season before suffering a season-ending injury, was in the same boat.
Klopp started Naby Keita (who has been hit or miss since joining Liverpool, and was obviously “miss” defensively against Atletico Madrid in midweek) and James Milner, who will be 36 in January (and had to come off after 25 minutes). They still had the upper hand. That’s not simply United’s poor performance on the day; it’s a mix of Liverpool’s excellent preparation, coaching, and form.
As Juventus tie Inter, Allegri ventures beyond the box and needs a late penalty.
After a lackluster performance, Juventus snatched a point away from Inter thanks to a late VAR-assisted penalty. The bianconeri’s four consecutive 1-0 victory had some believing that Max Allegri had turned back the clock, returning them to a time when they were tight, important, and sometimes ugly, but deadly and capable of conjuring points out of thin air. Some say it’s ingrained in the club’s mentality and DNA, and it definitely felt that way on Sunday, but I’m very sure Allegri doesn’t agree. He aspires to play more appealing, adventurous football, but he isn’t quite there yet.
Perhaps that’s why he threw a curveball against Inter, putting Matthijs De Ligt, Rodrigo Bentancur, and Federico Chiesa on the bench (Paulo Dybala was also left out, but that’s acceptable considering he’d just played 20 minutes after a month off). The strategy didn’t exactly work out. Dejan Kulusevski and Alvaro Morata provided little danger, Weston McKennie and the midfield were chaotic, and Leo Bonucci made an uncommon mental blunder by putting Edin Dzeko onside for Inter’s goal. When Chiesa and Dybala came on, things improved a little, but not enough to wow.
Allegri’s decisions will get a lot of attention, which is understandable. Chiesa and De Ligt, in my opinion, are Juventus’ present and future, and they should always play when fit. But it’s also about becoming better at what you’ve got. Kulusevski, McKennie, Morata, and the rest of the team aren’t awful players; they’re just not punching above their weight. Allegri is here to make a difference.
In terms of Inter, we’ve all seen how tough Simone Inzaghi’s job has been in light of the club’s financial woes and the exits of Achraf Hakimi and Romelu Lukaku. Fine. We also need to give him time to integrate recruits like Hakan Calhanoglu, Edin Dzeko, Joaquin Correa, and Denzel Dumfries into a system that is extremely different (formation apart) from Antonio Conte’s. That’s also OK. It’s not going to be nice and easy to follow right immediately. That’s something we understand.
It’s less clear why this group feels like a tangle of nerves so frequently. We saw that against Lazio a week ago, and we saw it again with Inzaghi’s wild response following Juventus’ penalty, when he flung a bib on the ground and received a red card. It was always going to be a tough season, and Inter are already where they want to be in several areas — defense, Nicolo Barella in midfield, Dzeko up front. But strained nerves and mental blunders (which Dumfries may also be included within) aren’t going to help.
PSG were held to a 0-0 draw by their rivals Marseille.
Bellingham shines as Dortmund recovers from an injury-plagued season.
As Bayern’s bandwagon continues to grow, Sabitzer shines.
Chelsea’s (again) romp reveals nothing other than Norwich’s awful performance.
In Milan’s triumph, Ibrahimovic scored an assist, an own goal, and a goal.
Milan’s injury issue continues, and the journey to Bologna this weekend was always going to be difficult. Despite this, they were encouraged by Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s comeback from the first minute, and within half an hour, they were two goals and a man up following Adama Soumaoro’s red card. Bologna came back to 2-2 before another red card made it 11 vs. 9 men for Milan with little over half an hour left. You don’t mess it up in contemporary football, and they didn’t, winning 4-2 in the end.
Ibrahimovic, who is now 40 years old, scored the last goal (and the fourth-oldest goal-scorer in the history of Serie A). He also assisted on Rafael Leao’s first goal and was liable for an own goal. It might explain why he posted this: good and terrible, light and dark.
At Brighton, Man City’s next-level Foden leads the line.
Remember how Manchester City was said to be in need of a “known striker” rather than a “typical No. 9”? Well, they have one in Phil Foden, who scored two goals while playing up front in the 4-1 win against Brighton. And, no, it doesn’t matter if he performs the part a bit differently. The game has progressed, and if you don’t have a Robert Lewandowski or Romelu Lukaku, a recycled offensive midfielder would be a good choice. Liverpool, for example, has been playing with one at center-forward since 2015 and has won both the Champions League and the Premier League as a result.
Gabriele Marcotti, a senior writer for ESPN FC, has compiled all of the latest news and reactions.
Or, to put it another way, as Pep Guardiola put it: “Players who play positions and players who play football are two different things. Foden is a football player.”
Aside from Foden, City had this game wrapped up before halftime, leading 3-0. Guardiola praised Brighton’s second-half effort, and although it’s commendable that they persevered, it’s clear that it’s not a problem for City: you can image how things would have turned out if the score had been closer. They’re two points behind the leaders and poised to strike: not a terrible position to be in.
As Roma and Napoli struggle to a draw, Mourinho and Spalletti are sent off.
After a 0-0 draw away at Roma, Napoli lost points in Serie A for the first time this season. It wasn’t a spectacular game, and both teams had chances — Tammy Abraham for the hosts missed a beautiful opportunity, and Napoli hit the crossbar — but it was a fair result in the end. However, it was overshadowed by both managers being sent off, Jose Mourinho (for two yellow cards, no less) and Luciano Spalletti (after the final whistle), which is not something you see every day.
Mourinho claimed his sending off was “nothing extraordinary” and that the referee, David Massa, was “good.” Spalletti subsequently argued there was a mix-up, while Mourinho said his sending off was “nothing special” and that the referee, David Massa, was “excellent.” Was he making a sarcastic remark? Was he apologizing? Who knows what will happen.
The impact from Roma’s 6-1 humiliation away to Bodo Glimt in the Conference League continues, despite the fact that they showed a response (and a clean sheet). Not so much the game as Mourinho’s post-match comments, in which he said that he was playing his second team, which is “much less quality” than Bodo’s first squad.
In Rome, the reaction has been on his putting his players under the bus, the majority of whom are young. And he went even further by leaving five of them out of the team outright for Sunday’s game (Bryan Reynolds, Marash Kumbulla, Amadou Diawara, Gonzalo Villa, and Borja Mayoral).
Obviously, it’s Mourinho’s backside on the line, and he can do anything he wants, but for the sake of clarity, a few things should be considered.
Dan Thomas is joined by Craig Burley, Shaka Hislop, and others to discuss the most recent news and debate the most important topics. ESPN+ has a live stream available (U.S. only).
First, Roma was down 2-1 at halftime in the Bodo Glimt encounter when he introduced three starters. They were trailing 3-1 at the hour mark when he put on two more players (Abraham and Lorenzo Pellegrini). The final score was 6-1. Second, there’s a big difference between publicly chastising your players for bad performance and openly doubting their worth. Third, the majority of these players are young players who, although not superstars, were important members of an injury-plagued Roma squad that reached the Europa League semifinals last season and was in the top four as late as mid-March. Fourth, even if they were a bunch of rejects who you never want to see again, putting them under the bus like this simply makes it more difficult to sell or loan them in January, which you presume Mourinho wants to do.
Last season, Roma suffered losses of more than $200 million. They were Serie A’s top net spenders during the summer, but they won’t become Manchester City overnight (most likely, ever). Mourinho, who is the highest-paid coach in Serie A, was well aware of this when he accepted the job, so why is he acting in this manner? It’s another in a long line of Mou Mysteries.
At West Ham, Tottenham played a game of sterile possession.
Suarez prevents Real Sociedad from expanding their LaLiga advantage.
Real Sociedad probably would have been content with a point against Atletico Madrid at the Wanda on Sunday. They were without three regulars, including Mikel Oyarzabal, perhaps their greatest player, and had just returned from a Europa League away trip on Thursday. They went up 2-0 early in the second half, courtesy to the Scandinavian combination of Alexander Sorloth and Alexander Isak. We’re all familiar with the latter, but the former has had a hit-or-miss career, never fully mastering the tiny man talents in his large frame.
The strange thing was that it was a very un-Atletico performance: they changed away from the defensive three and did a lot of attacking, and goalie Jan Oblak was just terrible on this day. Luis Suarez, on the other hand, pulled one back when he appeared between two defenders to head it in, and then won — and converted — a penalty (a rather generous one, to put it mildly).
The 2-2 tie keeps Atletico in the race, but it also makes La Real unhappy. They had a chance to go three points ahead of Real Madrid (who admittedly have a game in hand). For a team like Real Sociedad, everything needs to go perfectly, or almost so, throughout the season. This wasn’t one of those days.
- barcelona vs liverpool
- manchester united vs liverpool
- liverpool vs man united