LONDON: The winter breaks are all over, all players from the Asian Cup have returned to camp and title challenges are being scrutinized with ever more beady eyes. Here we take a look at what we learned from another packed weekend of football action in Europe.
PARIS SAINT-GERMAIN ARE BEATABLE
OK, we admit this is not exactly a big thing to say just after they have been beaten — a 2-1 loss at Lyon — but with the Champions League tie against Manchester United just a week away the timing of the defeat is fairly dire. The moneybags club had not lost in Ligue 1 all season but without their talented, but tiresome, talisman Neymar they not only look beatable in Europe, but now also in France. The Champions League is the one trophy PSG want to win . That they have failed to get past the second round the past two seasons is doubtless the cause of both consternation and embarrassment in the boardroom. Next week they face a resurgent Manchester United who will fancy their chances of getting something against a side that faced Lyon without their best player and a recognized central midfielder. Based on the defeat at the weekend another early European exit is on the cards.
Misery for Mbappe after PSG lose to Lyon. (AFP)
TOO SOON TO WRITE OFF REAL
The Bernabeu boys are still eight points behind arch-rivals Barcelona in the league table but their 3-0 victory over Alaves made it five victories in a row for the capital club. Not only that but after the defeats and soul searching of the first half of the season — one that saw the sacking of Julen Lopetegui and his replacement Santiago Solari take time to get used to life in the dugout — there is a sense that Real have turned a corner. If they beat city rivals Atletico next weekend they would go into second place in the La Liga table just in time for their Champions League clash against Ajax. After their hat-trick of successes of the past three seasons who would rule them out of producing another run at the biggest title in world football if they were to maintain current momentum?
Looking at the past few results Real an on the up once again. (AFP)
NO CATASTROPHE FOR KLOPP JUST YET
After Liverpool’s 1-1 draw with West Ham on Monday social media did what it does best, sharpened the knives and went over the top in reaction to a result that although not great, was far from a disaster. It is way too early to say the Reds are bottling it. Their one-time seven-point lead over Manchester City could be completely eradicated if the Blues beat Everton tonight, but it has only just turned February and there are many twists and turns to go before the end of the season. Klopp and Co. where always likely to suffer a bad run of form and that it has come now rather than in April may ultimately be seen as no bad thing. What will worry the Liverpool boss, however, is the sight of his once imperious attack look anything but dangerous in the draws to the Hammers and Leicester. The once slick passing at pace and with purpose has gone, and added to that the dominant defense has started to look unsure of itself. There is, though, plenty of time return to wining ways and Klopp has more than enough nous to ensure they do.
It went downhill for Liverpool after Mane scored the opener against West Ham. But the tide could turn for the Reds. (AFP)
BAYERN’S BRITTLE DEFENCE
If there is one side Liverpool might fancy playing in a bid to return to their fast-moving, slick attacking ways it could well be Bayern Munich. Who, as luck would have it, is who they are playing in next week’s Champions League. The Bavarian giants’ so-so season continued with a 3-1 defeat at Bayer Leverkusen. Niko Kovac’s side were undone by a series of quick counter attacks of the sort Liverpool excel at. There is little doubt that Bayern will have to sort out their midfield woes — the experiment of playing Joshua Kimmich and Leon Goretzka in the middle of the park was an abject failure — if they are not only to get back to winning ways in the Bundesliga, but also to avoid a lesson at the hands of Liverpool.
Muller cannot bear to look after Bayern's defeat to Bayer Leverkusen. (AFP)