The major leagues in Europe served us premium quality action last weekend, as we get set for the latest instalment of the international break, with teams battling to qualify for the 2022 FIFA Men’s World Cup in Qatar.
From England where Liverpool underlined their ambitions to become the first team to land a historic quadruple, to Chelsea still showing their focus remains solely on winning trophies while in Spain, the soccer world witnessed the rebirth of FC Barcelona as they made a statement in the El Grand Clasico by mauling eternal rivals Real Madrid.
We at Apex Football shall look into the action from the major European leagues and serve you our top moments.
THE CLASICO THAT HUMILIATED REAL MADRID AND HERALDED BARCELONA’S REBIRTH:
An irrepressible FC Barcelona ruined Real Madrid’s 120th anniversary celebrations by demolishing their eternal arch-rivals 4-0 in the latest chapter of the El Clasico.
‘Los Blancos’ suffered their first home defeat of the season in humiliating fashion, while Blaugrana boss Xavi Hernandez won a managerial head-to-head against his opposite number Carlo Ancelotti at the second attempt, following January’s extra-time defeat in the Spanish Super Cup semi-finals.
Barcelona’s win was also sweet revenge for a dreadful home loss to Real back in October – a result that majorly hastened Xavi’s appointment. The Catalans enjoyed a superb start to the game, dominating possession and creating the better chances. Goals from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Ronald Araujo and Ferran Torres saw Barca cut the gap to 12 points but more importantly, they have proven to their numerous fans and their rivals that they are back in the mix.
The manner in which Los Blancos lost to Barcelona is very damning. In truth, Madrid should feel lucky that they only conceded four goals in a shambolic and dismal display. Coach Carlo Ancelotti who must shoulder most of the blame because of his tactics and team selection, has now lost four of his previous six meetings with Barcelona.
As for the Catalans, they are now ten away league games unbeaten under Xavi’s command, closing the gap behind Sevilla to just three points with this sensational victory.
ANOTHER LIMP DISPLAY FROM OFF-COLOUR PSG: Fresh off from their ouster in the 2021/2022 UEFA Champions League Round-of-16 stages to Real Madrid, French giants Paris Saint Germain were tipped to continue their charge unchallenged to the domestic title when they travelled to face AS Monaco.
But just like we have become accustomed to uninspiring performances from PSG at different occasions, last weekend was another reminder about why star forward Kylian Mbappe might finally leave the Parisiens this summer when his contract runs out. PSG together with manager Mauricio Pochettino were humbled 3-0 at the Stade Louis II as Ben Yedder and Kevin Volland supplied the goals that earned the Mopnagesque outfit the three points in the big match in Ligue 1.
PSG are still favourites to land the title come the month of May, but it remains to be seen whether Pochettino will lead the team out next season.
INTER MILAN’S TITLE DEFENCE SHAKY AS DREADFUL RUN CONTINUES: Reigning Serie A champions Inter Milan suffered another setback in the defence of their league crown, as they were held to a 1-1 draw by a spirited Fiorentina side at the San Siro Stadium over the weekend.
As a result, the ‘Nerazzurri’ have now won just once in their last seven league games and will need current leaders and city rivals AC Milan to drop points if they are to retain their domestic crown, despite having a game in hand.
It does not get any better for Inter Milan as they play fellow Serie A campaigners Juventus in the Derby d’Italia immediately after the end of the international break. Failure to muster all three points against the Old Lady would see their slim title hopes fade away.
LIVERPOOL’S QUADRUPLE DREAMS REMAINS INTACT AS MANCHESTER CITY HARBOUR TREBLE ASPIRATIONS:
Merseyside outfit Liverpool reached their first FA Cup semi-final under German manager Jürgen Klopp, as they claimed a tense 1-0 victory over Championship side Nottingham Forest at the City Ground.
Portuguese frontman Diogo Jota’s composed finish in the second half sealed the Reds passage into the Last-Four where they will take on league leaders Manchester City at the Wembley Stadium.
The Cityzens under the tutelage of Pep Guardiola underlined their own treble-title ambitions by beating fellow Premier League campaigners Southampton 4-1 at the St. Mary’s Stadium to reach the FA Cup semis. City are currently topping the Premier League standings by a solitary point over closest challengers Liverpool and are also in the quarter-finals of the UEFA Champions League. A treble-winning campaign will see City emulate their neighbours and rivals Manchester United’s victorious side of 1999 as the only English cum British team to have won the Treble (Premier League, FA Cup and the Champions League).
The coming month of April is a crucial period for the Reds in their hunt to complete the quadruple. They will play a total of seven games over a span of 23 days – including the much-anticipated double-header clash against Manchester City (April 10th in the Premier League and April 16th in the FA Cup semi-finals) in what will be the ultimate test of their mental strength and abilities.
PREMIER LEAGUE TOP-FOUR BATTLE INTENSIFIES:
North London neighbours Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspurs set themselves up nicely for what could be a winner-takes-all clash when they meet in the month of April, as they both won their respective encounters.
Arsenal solidified their grip on fourth position with a 1-0 win away at Aston Villa courtesy of a Bukayo Saka strike, while Son Heung-Min was instrumental as Tottenham Hotspurs responded with a 3-1 home victory over visitors and fellow Top-Four contenders West Ham United at the Tottenham Hotspurs Stadium.
The result sees Spurs move into fifth position – just three points shy of North London nemesis Arsenal, but having played a game more. Meanwhile, West Ham have now won only two of their last 10 away league matches, with their dreams of a UEFA Champions League spot now looking unlikely, while Wolverhampton Wanderers hopes are hanging by a thread following a damaging 3-2 home defeat to relegation-threatened Leeds United at the Molineux.
Old Trafford side Manchester United who are also in the mix to reach the Champions League, are in sixth spot having played a game more than Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspurs and CAN NOT afford to drop more points if they wish to play in Europe’s elite club competition.