Another weekend of European football is in the books and, once again, there is drama everywhere you look. In addition to Arsenal’s big win over Manchester United, the Premier League saw Liverpool and Chelsea play out a dismal draw while Erling Haaland set more records when it comes to his goals.
ESPN correspondents Julien Laurens, James Tyler, Sam Marsden and Luis Miguel Echegaray break down the big stuff you need to know about the weekend.
My Kingdom for a goal: Liverpool, Chelsea draw again
It’s a good thing Chelsea spent all that money to acquire Mykhailo Mudryk because at least the Ukraine international revived one of the dreariest matches we will see all season in the Premier League. Saturday’s stalemate means that it has now been nearly 400 minutes since this fixture has seen a goal … and that’s exactly what this weekend’s game was: stale.
“Arsene Wenger lost his 1000th game 6-0,” said Jurgen Klopp after the historic achievement. “So I’m really happy that didn’t happen.”
Well, Jurgen. At least that would have been entertaining.
Yes, injuries played a factor as both sides are currently without key personnel, but that didn’t excuse the lack of quality. There was still enough experience and pedigree to make it a competitive game, but the cold hard truth — for coaches Graham Potter and Klopp — is that at this moment, their teams are mid-table material and their hopes of European competition for next season are fading away.
“I said before the game we have to be ready for little steps and this is a little step,” Klopp said after the game. “A clean sheet against Chelsea.”
It’s a fair point from the German manager, but is this (a) an optimistic comment that can hopefully rally the troops or (b) does it reflect a harsh reality that Liverpool, quite simply, are not as good as they used to be and might just need vast changes sooner rather than later.
Potter should be the happier of the two as getting anything at Anfield is never an easy task, but continued improvement — and a healthier squad — is a necessity. For now, these two former Premier and Champions League winners — with 29 points and an almost identically dismal record — have a lot more to do if they want to reclaim some past glory. — Echegaray
Kay Murray and Luis Miguel Echegaray praise Mykhailo Mudryk’s performance after he came off the bench to make his Chelsea debut vs. Liverpool.
Juventus get a big result after a horrible week
What a week it has been for Juventus. Between the thrashing by Napoli last weekend, the massive sanctions on Friday, and Sunday’s home draw against Atalanta, it has been awful going, except for their victory in the Coppa Italia on Wednesday against Monza.
Everybody was waiting for the on-pitch reaction from the team against Atalanta, two days after the 15-point deduction, and coach Max Allegri was very good in his news conference to bring all the questions over the punishment to the field.
– Explaining Juventus’ mess: What they did wrong and what it means
The response was good. Juve started the two halves poorly, but they also put Atalanta under pressure, especially in the first half after going a goal down. Their xG was much higher than their opponents’, especially before the break, but overall, the point earned on Sunday is a way of stopping the current nightmare.
Juve are now ninth in the table, 14 points behind Roma currently in fourth place. Allegri doesn’t want his players to have any regrets at the end of the season in terms of where they finish. The manager wanted a reaction and he got it. The club wanted players coming out fighting and they did. In the end, maybe Sunday’s 3-3 draw is worth more than a point. — Laurens
Alejandro Moreno and Shaka Hislop react to Juventus being given a 15-point deduction in the Serie A table.
Bayern will have to work hard if they’re to retain the Bundesliga
Bayern Munich have a five-point gap at the top of the Bundesliga, but their first game back after a long winter break (which included the World Cup) showed that they’re still not the well-oiled machine they’ll need to be in order to achieve their objectives this season.
A trip to RB Leipzig — who are credibly the second-best team in the league these days in terms of individual talent — was a great test after nearly two months off, and a test is exactly what the defending champions got. A well-worked Bayern goal was finished with aplomb by Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting, who tapped in Serge Gnabry‘s brilliant cross from the left, but that was really their most coherent move of the match. For the most part they struggled to find a way through Leipzig, with defenders Josko Gvardiol and Willi Orban more than up to the challenge.
In the end, Bayern held the lead for little more than 15 minutes as Marcel Halstenberg — perhaps the man of the match overall — scrambled in the equalizer after Andre Silva‘s lofted cross was nodded goal-ward by Dominik Szoboszlai. The two sides traded half-chances for the remainder of the second half, ultimately settling for the draw.
I’m sure there’s little in the way of panic inside Bayern HQ after perhaps their most difficult road trip of the entire season, but there was an expectation of an immediate return to peak form after the break and that simply didn’t happen. We might well end up with a title race after all. — Tyler
Alejandro Moreno reacts to Bayern Munich’s 1-1 draw vs. RB Leipizig in Bundesliga’s return to action.
Never write Real Madrid off
“Don’t write us off yet, we will come through this,” Real Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti said earlier this week. And he was right — apart from the fact everyone knows never to write off Real Madrid anyway.
Madrid followed up their stunning Copa del Rey comeback victory over Villarreal midweek by winning 2-0 at San Mames against Athletic Club on Sunday. Karim Benzema — who drew level with Raul on 228 league goals, bettered only by Cristiano Ronaldo — and Toni Kroos scored in each half to keep Madrid within three points of leaders Barcelona.
– Kirkland: Real Madrid avert crisis with win at Bilbao
It was a sweet end to a difficult fortnight. After losing to Villarreal in LaLiga and being beaten by Barca in the Spanish Supercopa final, some questions were asked about Madrid’s post-World Cup form. Those questions accentuated when they found themselves 2-0 down to Villarreal in the Copa del Rey in midweek at half-time. However, they came back to win that game 3-2 to set up a quarterfinal with Atletico Madrid this week and then won away in Bilbao, which is one of the more difficult away games in LaLiga.
As Ancelotti said, never write them off.
Madrid needed to rediscover some form given the schedule facing them in the coming weeks, starting with that Madrid derby in the Copa del Rey on Thursday. They then have league games against high-flying Real Sociedad and Valencia before February trips to Morocco for the Club World Cup and Liverpool in the Champions League. — Marsden
Morata goal enhances beauty of Griezmann’s flick
Alvaro Morata‘s strike for Atletico Madrid this weekend was good, but it was especially good because of the assist from Antoine Griezmann. The France forward sent Morata through with a sumptuous flick that deserved to be finished with a goal. Morata duly applied, cutting back onto his right foot to send the defender sliding out of the picture before burying the ball in the bottom corner.
The goal opened the scoring as Atletico routed Real Valladolid to move back into the top four. Griezmann was also on target on the day while Memphis Depay, a €3 million signing from Barcelona this week, made his debut off the bench. Things are looking up for Atletico … but we’ve said that before this season. — Marsden
Bellingham, Reyna bangers help BVB beyond Augsburg
Borussia Dortmund games are always a roller coaster, whether they’re winning 5-0, losing 3-0 or conceding three times in six minutes to turn a 2-0 lead into a 3-2 defeat. (These are all actual results Dortmund have endured this season.) Sunday’s match against Augsburg brought a variation on that theme as Dortmund had leads of 1-0, 2-1 and 3-2, letting them all slip only for Giovanni Reyna to thunder in a winner for a 4-3 full-time score.
Let’s give credit to two of their goals: first up, Jude Bellingham‘s thunderous opener for the hosts. Just when it looked like Dortmund had squandered a spell of menace around the Augsburg area, Bellingham shuffled into an inch of space and thumped a shot beyond Rafal Gikiewicz.
Then, with things tied 3-3 late in the game, up stepped the U.S. international Reyna for Dortmund’s winner. After a speculative long ball was flicked on by Bellingham, Reyna only needed a moment to control and volley beyond Gikiewicz from a narrow angle.
Two great goals in a game that had seven, and three points for Dortmund. Enjoyable all round. — Tyler
Di Lorenzo’s first for first-class Napoli
If there was a time to score your first goal of the season, Giovanni Di Lorenzo could not have picked a better moment. Just before half-time on Saturday, in the derby away at Salernitana, the Napoli captain finished a great attacking move by smashing the ball under the bar of Memo Ochoa‘s goal to open the scoring.
Di Lorenzo is the 15th different goal scorer in the league this season for Napoli, which is a remarkable figure that speaks to the incredible attacking power of this team.
Until the end, it has been a fight and a disappointing half really for the Serie A leaders, who were without their revelation Khvicha Kvaratskhelia. But Di Lorenzo unlocked the game in emphatic fashion. After starting every single league game this season and being a consistent performer, it was fitting that at some point he’d add something else to the three assists he has had so far this campaign.
With this 2-0 win instigated by Di Lorenzo (Victor Osimhen — who else — scored the second goal), Napoli have now a 12-point gap at the top of the table over AC Milan, who play on Tuesday against Lazio. And if even their right-back is starting to score and be decisive then it must really be their year. — Laurens
Teams in trouble
Everton are on the brink
Liverpool fans might feel like they have it bad these days, but their neighbors across the park are really in it at the moment. Saturday’s 2-0 defeat at West Ham was Everton’s fourth straight (all competitions) since the turn of the new year, and it was another deserved result: Frank Lampard’s side mustered just five shots in 90 minutes and slack defending allowed Jarrod Bowen to score twice in seven minutes late in the first half. It was sadly all too easy for the Hammers, who had taken just one point from their seven league games prior to this weekend and had massive confidence issues of their own.
If there was ever a game where the Toffees could have turned the tide, it was this one and yet it was a hopeless 90 minutes. Again. With reports of board members staying away from games due to “credible threats,” a lot of tension around Lampard’s tenure as manager and a tough run of games ahead — league-leading Arsenal at home, followed by Liverpool away — there doesn’t seem much hope of respite.
With just one win in all competitions since Oct. 22, it’s bleak right now at Goodison Park. — Tyler
Celta Vigo hurtling toward the relegation zone
Celta Vigo end the weekend out of the bottom three, but only on goal difference after defeat at Mallorca on Saturday. Ignoring a 1-0 win against Elche earlier this month — Elche have not won a league game all season — you have to go back to Oct. 2 to find Celta’s last victory in LaLiga.
That win over Elche was their only three-point haul in their past 11 matches, a run that’s included defeats to Real Valladolid, Almeria and now Mallorca.
Not even eight league goals from captain and talisman Iago Aspas have been enough to keep them out of trouble at the bottom. Above Elche and Cadiz, they are now one of three teams tied on 17 points. With Athletic Bilbao, Real Betis, Atletico Madrid and Real Sociedad to come in their next four games, it’s hard to see where a win is coming from for Carlos Carvalhal’s strugglers. — Marsden
Shaka Hislop sings the praises of Erling Haaland, after his 4th hat trick of the season eased Man City past Wolves.
Haaland breaks more records
How do you respond to scoring only one goal in your past four games if you are Erling Haaland? By scoring a hat trick, of course. One in four would have felt like a mini drought for the Norwegian striker. It has not happened many times in his career, though it was never going to last. The Wolves defenders tried their best and kept him quiet for 40 minutes before Haaland the Inevitable took over.
Three goals in the space of 14 minutes either side of half-time, including one penalty, made it 25 goals now in 19 league matches this season. It is an obscene amount, unmatched in the history of the Premier League, and numbers that only the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi would put up (Robert Lewandowski at his best too).
Haaland has now four hat tricks in the Premier League already this season, and in just his 19th career game at this level. He destroyed the record of Ruud Van Nistelrooy, who took 65 (!) matches to net his fourth hat trick in England. Luis Suarez did it in 81, Alan Shearer in 86 and Robbie Fowler in 89. Countless others never scored four hat tricks in their Premier League career.
Only Shearer, by the way, has had more than four hat tricks in a domestic season, back in 1995-96 when he netted five triples. Haaland still has 18 games left to equal or beat him. It is just incredible. The 22-year-old forward has already beaten the past three Golden Boot tallies of 23 (Mo Salah and Heung-Min Son last season, Harry Kane in 2020-21 and Jamie Vardy in 2019-20). Can he catch Salah’s record of 32 from the 2017-2018 season? It is very likely. He is on course for almost 50 league goals this campaign if he continues like this.
And now, two more stats on our weekend’s MVP to show again how irrational his Sunday was and his season is. He scored his hat trick off four shots against Wolves. His 25 goals so far came from 74 shots. Sergio Aguero, who is City’s all-time top goal scorer, took 150 shots to score his first 25 goals for the club. — Laurens