As Manchester City threaten to stroll to the Premier League crown this season, title races all across Europe are shaping up to be closer than ever, and this weekend’s action saw more twists in the tale for some of the continent’s biggest sides.
In Spain, Real Madrid‘s hopes of retaining their La Liga title lie in tatters after a shock defeat to Girona; Bayern Munich have clawed their way back above Borussia Dortmund in the Bundesliga standings; Napoli remain unbeaten in Serie A but Juventus are on their tail; and PSG keep winning in France, with Monaco leading the chasing pack.
We’ve rounded-up all of the highlights from this weekend’s fixtures in Europe’s biggest leagues, picking out the stories you might have missed.
The shock result of the European weekend came at the Montilivi, which holds just 13,500 supporters, where newly-promoted minnows Girona beat champions Real Madrid 2-1.
Set against a backdrop of political unrest between Catalonia and the Spanish state, the plucky Catalan side’s victory over the might of Madrid took on an additional context.
And Girona were worth the result too. This was not a smash and grab, not the average underdog tale of clinging on for dear life amid bombardment from the powerful super club: Pablo Machín’s men were the better side.
Indeed, the expected goals (xG) stats for the game show that Girona were fully deserving of all three points, with an xG of 2.39 to Madrid’s 1.61.
On loan from Manchester City – thanks to a connection between the two clubs which has seen several of the Premier League side’s most promising youngsters farmed out to Girona to gain experience – Pablo Maffeo was outstanding in his defensive duties, keeping Cristiano Ronaldo quiet throughout.
Maffeo also had a hand in the 58th-minute winner, his screwed volley flicked home by Portu after former Middlesbrough man Cristhian Stuani cancelled out Isco’s first-half strike.
The result, coupled with Barcelona‘s 2-0 win over Athletic Bilbao at San Mamés on Saturday, means Madrid are now eight points behind their Clásico rivals at the top of the table – Los Blancos have never overcome such a gap to become La Liga champions.
Alavés 1-2 Valencia; Atlético Madrid 1-1 Villarreal; Athletic Bilbao 0-2 Barcelona; Sevilla 2-1 Leganés; Getafe 2-1 Real Sociedad; Girona 2-1 Real Madrid; Eibar 2-2 Levante; Málaga 2-1 Celta Vigo
Borussia Dortmund‘s poor form continued on Saturday as they slipped to a 4-2 defeat to Hannover at HDI-Arena. Having stormed to the top of the table, a 3-2 defeat at home to RB Leipzig two weeks ago was followed up by a 2-2 draw with Eintracht Frankfurt, in which BVB threw away a two-goal lead, meaning they have now picked up just one point from their last three Bundesliga games.
Hannover themselves had been on a difficult run, winning just once in their last six all-competitions outings before Dortmund’s visit, having initially impressed upon their promotion back up to the top flight.
What was a back-and-forth encounter changed after Dan-Axel Zagadou‘s red card for Dortmund in the 59th minute. The Teenage French defender, who scored his side’s first goal of the game, was dismissed for a foul on Jonathas outside the penalty area.
Felix Klaus netted the resulting free-kick to put Hannover 3-2 up, and Ihlas Bebou scored his second of the game with four minutes to play to seal a 4-2 win for the home side.
That result meant whoever won in the late kick-off between champions Bayern Munich and RB Leipzig at the Allianz Arena would finish the weekend top of the pile. The Bavarians, aided by Willy Orban’s 13th-minute sending off, won 2-0 thanks to goals from James Rodríguez and Robert Lewandowski.
Mainz 1-1 Eintracht Frankfurt; Bayer Leverkusen 2-1 Cologne; Hannover 4-2 Borussia Dortmund; Hertha Berlin 2-1 Hamburg; Hoffenheim 1-3 Borussia Mönchengladbach; Schalke 1-1 Wolfsburg; Bayern Munich 2-0 RB Leipzig; Werder Bremen 0-3 Augsburg; Stuttgart 3-0 Freiburg
Vincenzo Montella’s position in charge of AC Milan was plunged into further uncertainty after the Rossoneri lost 2-0 at home to champions Juventus at the San Siro on Saturday.
With an xG of 1.01 to Juve’s 0.46, there’s a strong argument to be made that Milan were the better side, but Argentinian striker Gonzalo Higuaín proved the difference, ruthlessly dispatching the chances that fell his way as he claimed a brace. This only further emphasised the home side’s lack of a top-class centre-forward, as Nikola Kalinić continued to frustrate.
The Bianconeri‘s victory means they remain within touching distance of league leaders Napoli, who beat Sassuolo 3-1 on Sunday to continue their unbeaten start to the Serie A campaign. But Milan have now lost five of their 11 fixtures, as rumours begin to circulate that former Swansea City and Fiorentina coach Paulo Sousa is being lined up to replace Montella.
Italian international striker Ciro Immobile became the highest scorer in Europe’s top five leagues so far this season with his 14th strike of 2017/18, but Benevento’s inability to compete in Serie A is raising questions over whether the Italian top flight should be reduced to 18 teams in the near future.
AC Milan 0-2 Juventus; Roma 1-0 Bologna; Benevento 1-5 Lazio; Crotone 2-1 Fiorentina; Napoli 3-1 Sassuolo; Sampdoria 4-1 Chievo; Spal 1-0 Genoa; Udinese 2-1 Atalanta; Torino 2-1 Cagliari
No Neymar, no problem. Ligue 1 leaders Paris Saint-Germain were without their world-record superstar for the visit of Nice to the Parc des Princes on Friday night after the Brazilian got himself sent off versus Marseille last week.
But the Parisians are so rich with talent that missing a player of Neymar’s calibre isn’t too much of an issue, evidenced by the ease with which they brushed aside Lucien Favre’s men, Edinson Cavani twice on the scoresheet in a comfortable 3-0 win.
Lyon skipper Nabil Fekir continues to impress this season, scoring both goals as OL saw off Metz 2-0 at home. The French forward, operating as a No.10 this season, has been outstanding of late, and now trails only Cavani and Radamel Falcao in the Ligue 1 scoring charts with nine goals.
After rupturing the cruciate ligament in his right knew while on international duty for France in September 2015, Fekir is finally back to his best. At this rate, he’ll be a shoo-in for Didier Deschamps’ World Cup squad next summer.
Paris Saint-Germain 3-0 Nice; Bordeaux 0-2 Monaco; Caen 1-0 Troyes; Dijon 1-0 Nantes; Guingamp 1-1 Amiens; Montpellier 0-1 Rennes; Strasbourg 2-2 Angers; Lyon 2-0 Metz; Toulouse 0-0 Saint-Étienne; Lille 0-1 Marseille