International

5 talking points in European football this weekend

2020-02-24 15:22
Lionel Messi
Lionel Messi (Getty Images)

Paris - Barcelona moved clear at the top of La Liga, while Paris Saint-Germain won despite having Neymar sent off, and the coronavirus wrought havoc with the Serie A fixture card.

AFP Sport looks at some of the main talking points from the weekend across Europe:

Barca with edge ahead of Clasico

Despite political in-fighting and alienating their star player, Barcelona moved top of La Liga to leave Real Madrid playing catch-up again ahead of next weekend's Clasico.

Madrid have been the form team for the last few months, a 21-match unbeaten run seemingly putting them in pole position to become league champions for only the second time in eight years.

Yet a 1-0 defeat at Levante on Saturday, following a draw at home to Celta Vigo, has allowed their rivals back in, with Madrid failing to capitalise on the instability of Barca, who hammered Eibar 5-0.

Given both teams' inconsistencies, the Clasico at the Santiago Bernabeu on Sunday will not prove decisive. But the psychological impact of a defeat could be difficult to recover from.

Is Cavani the man for PSG in Europe?

While Neymar was sent off in Paris Saint-Germain's 4-3 win over Bordeaux, Edinson Cavani underlined his status as a supporters' idol by scoring his 200th PSG goal.

The Uruguayan is the club's record goal-scorer but has been a bit-part player this season, behind Mauro Icardi in the pecking order. He almost left for Atletico Madrid in January.

His goal against Bordeaux was his seventh of the season on just his ninth start, and maybe the 33-year-old should be in the starting line-up for their Champions League last-16 second leg against Borussia Dortmund on March 11.

"It was a difficult time for me, honestly," Cavani said as he reflected on his aborted transfer.

Of the competition with Icardi, he added: "The competition for places is good, and is just part of football."

Lazio maintain pursuit amid coronavirus fears 

A first Serie A title in 20 years remains a real possibility for Lazio after their 3-2 win at Genoa kept them within a point of league leaders Juventus.

Ciro Immobile scored his 27th goal of the season in the win for Lazio, who have won 16 of 20 games in an unbeaten run stretching back to September.

Juventus beat SPAL 2-1 away, but Inter are now six points off top spot in third after their game against Sampdoria was one of four Serie A fixtures postponed because of the coronavirus outbreak in northern Italy.

Juve are due to host Inter next weekend, but that game could now be played behind closed doors as authorities battle to contain the outbreak.

Yes we Can 

Teenage starlet Erling Braut Haaland has grabbed the column inches since arriving at Borussia Dortmund. However, it is another January arrival in midfielder Emre Can who appears to have helped Dortmund address the area which has truly worried them for seasons now: defensive frailty.

After conceding nine goals in their first five games after the winter break, Can has established himself at the heart of Dortmund's midfield.

The German international was outstanding in the 2-1 win over PSG last week, but while his physicality has been impressive, it is his maturity which appears to be the missing piece of Dortmund's puzzle.

After Saturday's 2-0 win over Werder Bremen, the former Liverpool, Juventus and Bayern Munich player said: "I am very happy to be here. I settled in very well in a few weeks and it's a lot of fun to play here in Dortmund."

Galatasaray claim derby honours 

Galatasaray triumphed in Turkey's most explosive fixture, crossing the Bosphorus to the Asian side to beat Fenerbahce 3-1 in the Intercontinental derby, their first league victory over their rivals since 2014.

A Max Kruse penalty put Fener in front, but Ryan Donk equalised before Radamel Falcao's spot-kick and a Henry Onyekuru strike gave the visitors the victory. Both sides finished the game with 10 men.

Reigning champions Galatasaray are now in a three-way tie at the top of Turkey's Super Lig alongside Trabzonspor and Sivasspor. Fenerbahce, whose last title came in 2014, are seven points back in sixth.

 

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