Connor Moore takes a look at everything we learned this week in Europe.
Dortmund haven’t Changed
On Saturday, Koln rolled into Dortmund on a record 18 game run without a win and it appeared it would be another routine win for BVB. But a double from Tunisian midfielder Ellyes Skhiri ensured the Billy-Goats left Signal Iduna Park with all three points. These types of defeats have always been the difference between them and Bayern when it comes to the title. Bayern know how to stay focused and beat the lesser teams of the league, which ultimately gives them the points needed to win the league. In 2020 alone Mainz, Hoffenheim, and now Koln have turned over Dortmund on their own patch. For context, before Leverkusen beat Bayern last November, they had gone 125 domestic home games unbeaten, stretching back to 2007 when Hamburg won there 2-1.
If Dortmund are to end Bayern’s dominance; this season appears to be their best chance. It’s difficult to see Jadon Sancho and Erling Haaland dawning black and yellow past next summer, and to replace those two would be a mammoth task. So far this term they have shown promise. Haaland is scoring, youngsters such as Gio Reyna are shining, and they’ve even tightened up defensively. Last week they showed great character coming back at Hertha Berlin and have gone toe to toe with Bayern twice. But if they don’t put games like this to bed with ease it’s hard to see them ever getting their hands on any of the big prizes come May.
Napoli pay fitting Tribute to Maradona
Diego Armando Maradona is a legend of the game for everyone, but in Naples, he bares more resemblance to God. Considered the best player in their history, he helped them to a famous double in 1986-87, winning both the Serie A and Copa Italia, becoming their record goal-scorer in the process.
The Neapolitans haven’t won a title since, though the current crop came closest, getting a record 91 points under Maurizio Sari in 2017-18. But it still wasn’t enough to dethrone Juventus. They’ve had a couple of turbulent years since then, and under current boss Gennaro Gattuso they’ve been a mixed bag winning the Copa Italia but falling short by some margin in Serie A.
It’s almost fitting in their first Serie A game after his death they put in their best performance of the season by some margin dismantling AS Roma 4-0 in the Derby del Sole. Before the game, the hosts unveiled a new blue and white third kit resembling the Argentine shirt and all the players wore shirts with the number 10 on the back when entering the pitch to pay respects.
Neapolitan native Lorenzo Insigne like the Argentine in stature and style opened the scoring and ran to the touchline to hold up a shirt with Maradona’s name and number on the back. Goals from Fabian Ruiz, Matteo Politano and Napoli’s current record goal-scorer Dries Mertens rounded off the game and put the Partenopei back in the Champions League hunt.
PSG stumble again
Ligue 1 looks like being the most interesting it’s been since Monaco triumphed in 2017. They are back in the hunt, reinvigorated under Nico Kovac, and spearheaded by the ever-reliable Kevin Volland. Lyon have also been impressive, as have Montpellier.
The kings of French football, PSG, may be top, but they are wobbling. Three defeats already this term has already matched their tally from last season, and Saturday’s draw against Bordeaux will have raised huge red flags before their trip to Old Trafford in midweek.
After losing a two-goal lead at Monaco the previous weekend, they once again failed to keep hold of a lead being pegged back. The pressure on Thomas Tuchel is growing more as each game passes by and his side nervous performances will not be helping.
Going forward they are as potent as ever, the quality of Neymar and Mbappe seems to rejuvenate anyone who plays with them. Last season it was Mauro Icardi, this season Moise Kean looks like a potent threat. Defence is where the problems lie.
They let captain Thiago Silva walk in the summer which is looking to be a huge mistake. Thilo Kehrer is out till at least February and Presnel Kimpemb,e who is still only 23, is missing the experience and quality of Silva beside him. New captain Marquinhos is a world-class defender and has missed the last two games so upon his return they might tighten up, but in recent games, he has played just infront of the defence leaving Danilo Pereira to line up alongside Kimpembe.
They will most likely face a familiar foe tomorrow in the shape of their record goal-scorer Edinson Cavani who will test them to their limits before a tricky looking trip to 3rd place Montpellier who will be confident of securing a win.
Hazard’s Madrid Nightmare continues
When Eden Hazard left Chelsea for Real Madrid, he looked like the natural candidate to become Real Madrid’s next poster boy. Despite his diminutive stature, he thrived in the physical Premier League. So surely in Spain, where it’s more technical, he would go to the next level?
It just hasn’t happened for him. Injuries have ravaged his playing time and even when on the field his best performances have probably been for Belgium rather than Madrid. It doesn’t help that as a team Real are going through an identity crisis.
Always priding themselves on buying Galactico’s like Figo, Beckham, Ronaldo (Both Brazilian and Cristiano), teams like PSG and Manchester City who are basically backed by countries have seen Madrid slip down the food chain. They have instead turned to youth signing Rodrygo, Renier, and Vinicius Junior from Brazil for big money. The issue they face is fans want results now and these players aren’t ready to make the huge leap to the upper esculents of football at 19 or 20.
This leaves Madrid still relying on the old guard: Sergio Ramos, Modric, Kroos, and Benzema, who for the most part are declining. This has seen some poor results this season including being dismantled 4-1 away at a poor Valencia side and losing at home to Shakhtar Donetsk, promoted side Cadiz, and this weekend Alaves.
At times they’ve been in their prime, a great victory away at the Camp Nou in El Clasico and winning comfortably in San Siro against Inter. It’s a big couple of weeks for them, they have two crucial Champions League games, including a must-win trip to Kiev tonight, before games against Sevilla and the Madrid derby against a jubilant Atletico who’s wonder kid is doing the business for them.
Written by Connor Moore (@ConnorMMedia)