Football Features

10 things you might have missed from Europe’s top five leagues this weekend

By CJ Smith

Published: 10:42, 12 April 2021

With the European season entering the final sprint, things are getting tense at both ends of the continent’s respective league tables.

We’re seeing title races that could go down to the wire, while others are simultaneously running away with the chase for silverware. And at the other end of the spectrum, teams are getting more and more desperate for points as they seek to escape falling through the relegation trapdoor.

Then, of course, there is the race for Champions League and Europa League qualification and Golden Boot battles raging among the game’s best strikers. We might be nearing the end of the season, with the European Championship looming on the horizon, but there’s still plenty to play for.

Of course, we know all about Real Madrid’s El Clasico win over Barcelona and Man City’s shock defeat to 10-man Leeds United. But to help keep you in the loop, here are 10 things you might have missed from Europe’s top-five leagues this weekend.

1. Inter on the brink

After nine long years, it would appear that Juventus’ stranglehold on Italian football is finally coming to an end.

While AC Milan were the early pace-setters, it is Inter who have emerged as the runaway Serie A leaders, beating Cagliari 1-0 on Sunday to remain 11 points clear of their city rivals — former Man Utd defender Matteo Darmian the surprise goalscorer.

The win also pulled Antonio Conte’s men 12 points clear of defending champions Juventus and although the Old Lady battered Genoa on Sunday to narrow that gap, it’s extremely difficult to see them catching Inter now. The sweetest thing from an Inter perspective is Juve’s reign of terror is being ended by the very man who started it.

2. Liverpool finally win at home

From the 21st of January to March 7th, Liverpool endured a remarkable six-game losing streak at Anfield in the Premier League, failing to score from open play with Mohamed Salah’s penalty against Man City their only strike. In fact, across their last eight home league matches prior to this weekend, they had taken just two points, with that Salah spot-kick remaining one of just two goals.

Jurgen Klopp’s men finally put that dismal run to an end on Saturday, coming from 1-0 down at half-time to beat Aston Villa 2-1, though the Midlands club made their Merseyside counterparts work for it, with Trent Alexander-Arnold’s winner not coming until the 91st minute. That was Liverpool’s 37th winning goal in the 90th minute or later in the Premier League era, leaving them at least 12 clear of any other team in that respect.

And, of course, it was Salah who struck first to end Liverpool’s run of 12 hours and 44 minutes without an open-play goal at Anfield in the Premier League:


3. A rare Steve Bruce comeback gives Newcastle breathing space

Many of the preconceptions of a Steve Bruce side involve defensive solidity, organisation and a strong mentality that can pull them through rough patches. Unfortunately, the stats simply don’t back that up, conceding the fifth-highest number of goals (51) in the Premier League this season and often being buried once they concede the first goal.

Did Bruce and his Magpies turn a corner on Sunday? Goals from Jacob Murphey and Allan Saint-Maximin overturned a 1-0 half-time deficit to deliver a priceless 2-1 win over Burnley at Turf Moor. Not only did the result pull Newcastle six points clear of 18th-placed Fulham with a game in hand, but it was also the first time the Tynesiders have won a Premier League match where they’ve trailed at half-time under Bruce. In fact, it was the first time any Steve Bruce side achieved that feat since Hull City did so in September 2013, ending a run of 44 games for the former Man Utd centre-back.

This is the sort of “backbone” Newcastle need to avoid the drop.

4. Jude Bellingham makes Bundesliga history

Having his number retired at Birmingham, earning a big move to Borussia Dortmund and getting his first senior caps for England, it’s been quite the season for young midfielder, Jude Bellingham. Things got even better for the budding 17-year-old star, who lashed home a low effort to draw Dortmund level in a 3-2 win over Stuttgart on Saturday.

After providing three assists, that was Bellingham’s first-ever Bundesliga goal, moving him clear of teammate Jadon Sancho as the competition’s youngest English goalscorer at 17 years and 285 days old.

His stock continues to rise.

5. Bayern give Leipzig a glimmer of hope… again

Staying in Germany, you would have been forgiven for thinking Bayern’s 1-0 win over RB Leipzig at the start of April had ended the Bundesliga title race. After all, it did move the reigning champions seven points clear at the top of the table. But no, there is faint hope yet.

With a massive second leg of their Champions League quarter-final tie with PSG to come in Paris in midweek, Hansi Flick chose to massively rotate his XI against Union Berlin at the weekend, benching the likes of David Alaba, Leroy Sane and Benjamin Pavard. Bouna Sarr, Javi Martinez and Josip Stanisic were handed rare starts, as was the ever-impressive Jamal Musiala, who once again got on the scoresheet.

But Musiala’s opener was cancelled out in the 85th minute by Union Berlin’s Marcus Ingvartsen, forcing a 1-1 draw at the same time as RB Leipzig thrashed Werder Bremen 4-1. Bayern’s lead has once again been cut to five points and while few would still back Leipzig to catch the Bavarians, it does leave you keeping half an eye on events in Germany.

6. Ligue 1’s four-way battle going down to the wire

While Bayern should still see things through in Germany, PSG are having similar problems to Juventus with their domestic monopoly crumbling. Mauricio Pochettino’s side lost 1-0 to Lille in a massive title clash at the start of April, allowing Les Dogues to move three points clear at the top of the table.

While the Parisians recovered to crush Strasbourg 4-1 on Saturday — following on from their impressive 3-2 Champions League win in Munich — Lille failed to blink a night earlier, securing an efficient but valuable 2-0 victory over Metz. Monaco and Lyon, likewise, have kept their names firmly in the conversation, ruthlessly seeing off Dijon and Angers by 3-0 scorelines to maintain respective four and five-point gaps between themselves and first place.

Illustrating just how high the standard is in the French top-flight this season, Lyon are the first team to reach 64 points by matchday 32 but not find themselves in the top three.

7. Captain America continues resurgence

From rampant injury problems to long goalless stretches, it’s been a tough second season at Chelsea for Christian Pulisic, but if the last couple of games are anything to go by, “Captain America” is back on the rise.

The 36-time United States international backed up his goal in a 5-2 defeat to West Brom last time out with a brace as Chelsea returned to winning ways on Saturday, cruising to a 4-1 victory over London rivals Crystal Palace. Couple that with his assist for Emerson’s goal in the Champions League against Atletico Madrid and Pulisic now has four direct goal involvements in his last five appearances after enduring 18 club games with just one assist prior.

Despite an emerging crop of potentially world-class talent around him, Pulisic will no doubt be the key to the USA’s hopes of Gold Cup and Nations League success later this year, while he is the centre-piece around which their 2022 and 2026 World Cup bids will be built. Seeing him back on form in the blue of Chelsea will certainly relieve some anxious USMNT supporters.

Chelsea vs Porto: Betting offer

CLICK HERE to claim 888Sport’s new customer offer • Max Bet £5 • £10 deposit using promo code 888ODDS • Free bets are granted within 72 hours and expires after 7 days • Free bet stakes not included in returns • Deposit balance is available for withdrawal at any time • Withdrawal, payment methods, and country restrictions • Full T&C’s applyBeGambleAware

8. Zlatan has another “Zlatan” day at the office

There are two ends of the spectrum for Zlatan Ibrahimovic: the insanely talented and the inexplicably stupid. On Saturday, both were on full display.

First, the returning Sweden international pulled off one of the assists of the season as he plucked the ball out of the air and twisted and turned out of pressure before slipping the ball through to Ante Rebic, who put Milan 1-0 up and en route to a 3-1 victory over Parma. Then, he expertly held up the ball before laying it off to Theo Hernandez, who set up Franck Kessie to make it 2-0 shortly before half-time.

But on the hour-mark, Ibrahimovic managed to get himself sent off for arguing with the referee over an incident that happened on the opposite side of the pitch. The 39-year-old would have to have crossed a serious line to receive a straight red card for dissent, but manager Stefano Pioli said after the match that Ibrahimovic maintained his innocence.

“Zlatan told me that he argued with the referee and it lasted some time,” Pioli said. “He assured me that he did not disrespect him and above all he did not offend.”

Whether Ibrahimovic went too far or not is for him and the referee to know but with tough fixtures against Genoa, Sassuolo and Lazio to come, his absence will be felt.

9. Surprise in-form Premier League duo strike again

Jesse Lingard has been a revelation since joining West Ham on loan from Man Utd in January, while Leicester’s Kelechi Iheanacho has been turning his form upside down in recent weeks too. On Sunday, the two forwards went head-to-head and traded direct blows, with each grabbing a brace as West Ham ran out 3-2 winners in a key battle in the race for Champions League football.

Since making his West Ham debut against Aston Villa in February, Lingard has scored eight Premier League goals while providing three assists. Iheanacho has matched the England international’s goal tally, making them both the joint-highest goalscorers in the Premier League during that time frame.

Surprisingly hot form from unexpected sources.

10. Atletico stumble again

After looking so ruthless for such a large part of the season, Atletico Madrid’s title charge is falling apart. Sure, Diego Simeone’s men returned to the top of La Liga with a 1-1 draw against Real Betis on Sunday night, but only after throwing away a 1-0 lead and squandering some good chances to seal all three points. To compound their misery, Atletico also lost Kieran Trippier and Joao Felix to injury.

Atletico’s lead over rivals Real Madrid in second has now been cut to just one point, while Barcelona are only two points behind. Even Sevilla cannot be written off just yet, sitting just nine points adrift of the summit. Simeone’s side still have to travel to Barcelona in May which could equally be viewed as good or bad news. Yes, they can take points from their direct rivals late in the season, but will they have the confidence and capability to do it? Will they even be top of the league anymore by the time that game rolls around? Given that Atletico have won just four of their last 11 La Liga games, you wouldn’t bank on it.