La Liga

European Round-up: Napoli & Dortmund Are Contenders

 • by Ryan Baldi
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After several years of domination, both Bayern Munich and Juventus appear to be under threat of having their domestic monopolies interrupted this season, with Borussia Dortmund and Napoli topping the piles in the Bundesliga and Serie A respectively.

Valencia continue to impress in La Liga under new manager Marcelino, leapfrogging Real Madrid in the table while maintaining their unbeaten start to the new season.

We’ve rounded up all the weekend’s happenings from around Europe, highlighting the interesting stories that have caught our eye.

La Liga

Valencia faced the tough task of a trip to the Anoeta to take on Eusebio Sacristán’s impressive Real Sociedad in the sixth round of La Liga fixtures, with both sides level on nine points heading into the game.

The back-and-forth encounter, which saw Los Che twice take the lead, only to twice be pegged back by their hosts, ended with only 20 men on the pitch, thanks to red cards for La Real‘s young centre-back Igor Zubeldia and Valencia new boy Geoffrey Kondogbia.

And it looked as though the game would end with honours even, the score tied at 2-2 heading into the closing stages. Valencia showed their newfound resoluteness, though, as West Ham United flop Simone Zaza bagged an 85th-minute winner.

On loan for the season from Paris Saint-Germain, 20-year-old Portuguese winger Gonçalo Guedes starred with two assists, including one for Zaza’s dramatic late strike, and looks to be showing the promise that saw him regarded as one of Europe’s brightest prospects while at Benfica.

The win moves Valencia up to fourth in the table, undefeated after six games and a point ahead of champions Real Madrid. After a tumultuous few years, Marcelino appears to be bringing hope back to the Mestalla.

Results:

Atlético Madrid 2-0 Sevilla; Deportivo Alavés 1-2 Real Madrid; Málaga 3-3 Athletic Bilbao; Girona 0-3 Barcelona; Espanyol 4-1 Deportivo La Coruña; Getafe 4-0 Villarreal; Eibar 0-3 Celta Vigo; Las Palmas 0-2 Leganés; Real Sociedad 2-3 Valencia

Bundesliga

The disappointment inside Signal Iduna Park was palpable on Saturday afternoon when Lars Stindl scored for Borussia Mönchengladbach. Goalkeeper Roman Bürki kicked the post in anger, while a heated inquisition was carried out among the Dortmund defenders.

They were 5-1 up at the time.

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It was the first league goal that BVB conceded this season, and the fact that, already cruising to their fifth win in six games, they were so put out by the concession of a consolation strike shows their ambition, the standards they now hold themselves to.

Star man Marco Reus is still out injured, but Maximilian Philipp, the 23-year-old attacking midfielder signed from Freiburg for €20million this summer, was superb, netting two technically masterful finishes and assisting the first goal of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s hat-trick.

Julian Weigl’s first-ever Bundesliga goal, a stunning 25-yard effort in the 79th minute, was the icing on the cake.

Bayern threw away a two-goal lead against Wolfsburg to draw 2-2 on Friday night, so BVB’s win means they are now three points clear of the reigning champions.

Despite the disruptive saga that surrounded Ousmane Dembélé’s sale to Barcelona in August, Dortmund look ready to end Bayern’s five-year monopoly of the Bundesliga title.

At the other end of the table, bottom-placed Cologne picked up their first point of the 2016/17 campaign, against newly-promoted high-flyers Hannover. The Billy Goats remain rooted to the wrong end of the table, however, struggling to adapt to life without Anthony Modeste.

Results:

Bayern Munich 2-2 Wolfsburg; Hoffenheim 2-0 Schalke; Mainz 1-0 Hertha Berlin; RB Leipzig 2-1 Eintracht Frankfurt; Stuttgart 0-0 Augsburg; Werder Bremen 0-0 Freiburg; Borussia Dortmund 6-1 Borussia Mönchengladbach; Hannover 0-0 Cologne; Bayer Leverkusen 3-0 Hamburg

Serie A

Juventus maintained their 100 per cent start to the season with a comfortable 4-0 victory over rivals Torino in the Turin derby, aided by a brainless red card for Daniele Baselli and the continued superlative form of Paulo Dybala, who scored his 11th and 12th all-competitions goals of the season.

But the Bianconeri, despite such an impeccable start, are not top of the Serie A table. That position is held by Napoli, who have also won all six of their fixtures so far and boast a better goal difference than the reigning champions.

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Maurizio Sarri’s Partenopei have shown that, as arguably the most eye-catching, pure footballing team on the continent, they can win in style. But on Saturday they also demonstrated that they can get the job done when they are not at their best – a sign of a genuine title contender.

Away to newly-promoted Spal, Napoli needed an 83rd-minute goal from left-back and one-time Chelsea transfer target Faouzi Ghoulam to scrape a 3-2 win and maintain their perfect start to the campaign.

Lazio have also started the season well, with 13 points for their first six games, taking Simone Inzaghi’s men to fourth place.

The scintillating form of Italian international striker Ciro Immobile has played no small part in the Biancoceleste‘s rise.

The former Torino forward overcame disappointing spells with Dortmund and Sevilla to rediscover his scoring touch with Lazio last term, hitting 26 goals in 41 games.

This term, the 27-year-old has taken his game to a new level: his brace in the 3-0 win away to Verona on Sunday took his tally to 11 in eight games, with eight from six in the league.

Results:

Roma 3-1 Udinese; Spal 2-3 Napoli; Juventus 4-0 Torino; Sampdoria 2-0 AC Milan; Cagliari 0-2 Chievo; Crotone 2-0 Benevento; Inter Milan 1-0 Genoa; Verona 0-3 Lazio; Sassuolo 0-1 Bologna; Fiorentina 1-1 Atalanta

Ligue 1

French champions Monaco turned up the heat on title favourites Paris Saint-Germain with their emphatic 4-0 victory over Lille on Friday evening, a result which drew them within a point of the big-spending capital side at the end of the seventh round of fixtures, thanks to Neymar and co. slipping to a 0-0 draw with Montpellier.

Monaco heaped further misery on Lille and their Argentinian manager Marcelo Bielsa, who are without so much as a point since the opening weekend of the season. The ruthless Monegasque side romped to a convincing win, taking advantage of their host’s lack of organisation and individual errors.

Colombian striker Radamel Falcao was once again among the goals for Monaco, netting twice to take his league tally for the season to 11. The 31-year-old marksmen is back to his prolific best, scoring every 52.18 minutes on average and maintaining an otherworldly conversion rate of 44 per cent.

Results:

Nice 2-2 Angers; Lille 0-4 Monaco; Montpellier 0-0 Paris Saint-Germain; Bordeaux 3-1 Guingamp; Caen 1-0 Amiens; Lyon 3-3 Dijon; Metz 0-1 Troyes; Saint-Étienne 2-2 Rennes; Strasbourg 1-2 Nantes; Marseille 2-0 Toulouse

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