The Bundesliga joined the Premier League and La Liga in action for the first gameweek of 2021.
A total of 15 games took place on Saturday and 21 will follow before Monday is over, as Serie A also returns on Sunday.
Read on for the stories of the weekend so far, and what to look out for on Sunday.
Son hits 100 and Mourinho reveals his Premier League “second-team”
Saturday’s Premier League action opened with an exciting game in North London, where two very different managers went head-to-head. The defensive-minded Jose Mourinho and his Tottenham team hosted Marcelo Bielsa’s all-action Leeds. The result, for fans, was a feast of football.
Tottenham ran out 3-0 winners with goals from Harry Kane, Son Heung-min and Toby Alderweireld helping them in a well-deserved victory. While all goals were equal in the game, Son’s one was particularly special for the South Korean and perfectly highlighted just how good he has been since joining Tottenham.
Son Heung-min created more chances than any other Spurs player against Leeds.
His 100th goal for the club and an assist tops off a man of the match performance. pic.twitter.com/0JTJoDcBIY
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) January 2, 2021
It was Son’s 100th goal in all competitions for Tottenham since signing from Bayer Leverkusen in September 2015, 65 of which have come in the Premier League. The South Korean has played 253 games in that time, and only Harry Kane (169) has scored more goals for Tottenham since Son’s debut.
Kane and Son have also equalled a record held by former Blackburn pair Alan Shearer and Christ Sutton. No two players have ever combined for more goals in a single Premier League season than those two duos (13).
How do they explain their knack for assisting each other’s goals? “Sometimes it is telepathic, sometimes we talk about it,” said Son post-match.
Also speaking to reporters post-match, Mourinho revealed his favourite team in the Premier League (after Tottenham, of course). Was it Chelsea, with whom he won three Premier League titles? Or maybe Manchester United, who he also managed in the competition? What about West Bromwich Albion? We all know he loves Sam Allardyce and his style of play.
No, turns out it’s Aston Villa, Spurs’ next opponents.
“Aston Villa is my favourite team in the Premier League at the moment,” Mourinho said.
“I enjoy watching them. They have good players and are very well coached.”
Sheffield United break unwanted Premier League record
Many neutrals backed Sheffield United to earn a spot in the Europa League last season, mimicking Wolves in doing so on their Premier League return.
In the end, they finished five points behind sixth-placed Tottenham thanks to three consecutive defeats. But they were surely going to build on a solid season and make a push in 2020/21? Well, no. In fact, the Blades are rooted to the bottom of the Premier League table.
On Saturday, they took their out-of-form team to face Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park looking to build on their two points gained so far. But the Eagles scored early through Jeffrey Schlupp and Eberechi Eze secured the win just before half-time.
17 – Sheffield United are winless in their 17 Premier League games this season (D2 L15) – the longest ever winless run from the start of a Premier League campaign. Forlorn. #CRYSHU
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) January 2, 2021
Chris Wilder’s side are now 20 games without a win in the Premier League, a run stretching back to a 3-0 victory over Chelsea towards the end of last season, and have started 2020/21 winless in 17. Unfortunately for Sheff Utd fans, this saw them break the Premier League record, which previously stood at 16 (held by themselves this season and Queen’s Park Rangers in 2012/13). Even the Premier League’s worst-ever team, Derby’s 2007/08 side that managed just 11 points, won after six games (though it was their only victory of the season).
Of course, football did not start in 1992/93 but broadening the context makes for even worse reading. Not since 1902/03, when Bolton Wanderers went 22 without victory, has an English top-flight side failed to win any of their first 17 games in a season.
Schalke one away from history
Talking of unwanted history, Schalke can break a record of their own during their next match over in the Bundesliga.
When 2020 started, Schalke were fifth in the Bundesliga and looked almost a certainty for a European spot, most likely the Europa League. They managed to win their first league game of the year, too, beating Borussia Monchengladbach 2-0 at home, with the Foals second at the time. Then it all fell apart.
Since that day, on January 17, 2020, Schalke have not won a single game in the league. They finished 2019/20 in 12th, just nine points clear of the relegation spots and 24 from fifth-placed Bayer Leverkusen. In the 30 games that have followed since, Schalke have lost 20 games, drawing 10, and they are bottom of the Bundesliga, already on their fourth manager of the season.
Schalke 04 in the Bundesliga this season:
◉ 04 points
◉ 04 managers
Living up to the club name a little too well this term. 😬 pic.twitter.com/ns8etiZ2HA
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) January 2, 2021
Their 30th game came against Hertha Berlin on Saturday, coincidentally the last team they beat in any competition, but there was no streak-ending win for them in the capital as Matteo Guendouzi, Jhon Cordoba and Krzysztof Piatek all scored in a 3-0 win.
Schalke are now just one draw or defeat off the Bundesliga’s all-time winless run: 31 matches, held by Tasmania Berlin. And, bizarrely, Schalke fans won’t be alone in hoping their club don’t break the record. In the build-up to the game against Hertha Berlin a small group of Tasmania Berlin fans, eager to keep their name in the history books, turned up outside the Olympiastadion to show their support for Schalke.
Giroud to add to Man City’s misery
Now looking ahead to Sunday, and arguably to the weekend’s biggest game, Manchester City make the trip to Stamford Bridge to face Chelsea.
Just a few seasons ago this would have been a key match in the title race, but now both sides will be looking to win to aid their chances of finishing in the top four. Man City go into the game in good form, winning their past 10 games across all competitions while Chelsea have managed just one win in five. But Sunday could be Frank Lampard’s day.
Man City travel to London without at least five of their first-team players and will likely line up with a makeshift squad of their usual stars and some inexperienced players. On the opposite side of the coin, Chelsea will be missing only Reece James and could even have Hakim Ziyech back starting, something which would leave Olivier Giroud licking his lips.
The Frenchman has scored in his past two Premier League games, including in Chelsea’s most recent match, a 1-1 draw with Aston Villa in which Giroud returned to the starting XI after two games on the bench. Uncertainty surrounds Giroud’s future at Chelsea but, according to reports, he will remain at Stamford Bridge at least until the end of the season. With nothing hanging over his head, and the European Championships scheduled to take place in June, Giroud could take things up a notch and add to Man City’s tough period.
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Liverpool to continue Southampton dominance
Liverpool go into their game against Southampton on Monday top of the Premier League. But after Manchester United’s win over Aston Villa on Friday night, goal difference alone separates them from second.
For quite some time, Man Utd’s rise up the table has been somewhat ignored, overshadowed by their problems in the Champions League and subsequent criticism of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. Some still believe the Norwegian isn’t good enough to lead his former club to glory but, after 16 games, they have proven themselves to be in the title race.
Speaking prior to Man Utd’s win over Villa, former Red Devils’ and Everton man Phil Neville stated his belief they could be Liverpool’s biggest challengers this season, as no other team has taken control.
Man Utd 2-1 Aston Villa FT:
⚽ Fernandes (Penalty)
Manchester United go level on points with Liverpool at the top of the table. pic.twitter.com/PzHXQQJDJZ
— Squawka News (@SquawkaNews) January 1, 2021
“Liverpool are out in front and rightly so, I think they’re the best team in the country,” the England Women manager said.
“But there is no other team that is actually grasping to go and challenge Liverpool. Chelsea have slipped up, Tottenham have slipped up recently, Everton are up there who are in really good form. Apart from that, Manchester City are just climbing.
“United are in this title race if they keep to this level of performance. They’re playing better football, they’re entertaining, they’re starting to win at home. They’ve got a big squad, they’re scoring goals.
“There’s no reason why they can’t sustain this. Ole has spoken about them being more robust – you can see that, the last 20 minutes you could just smell that they started to believe something might happen.
“That’s what the best teams have. They’ve got to sustain that, keep that level of consistency but I do think they can maintain that for the rest of the season and challenge Liverpool, who at this moment of time have got injuries and could slip up.”
But Liverpool can reassert their dominance at the top of the Premier League on Sunday, against a team they have enjoyed facing recently. Liverpool have won their past six Premier League games against Southampton, and drawn another two, since Saints’ last league victory in 2016.
It has added to the sour feeling Southampton will have toward Liverpool, who frequently used the St Mary’s side as their feeder club, signing the likes of Sadio Mane and Virgil van Dijk.
There’s another man they’ll have to look out for tomorrow, though. One who didn’t previously play for Southampton. Mohamed Salah has scored seven goals in his six Premier League games against them, only faring better versus Bournemouth and Watford (both eight).
Bayern to restore normality to the Bundesliga
Going into the final game before the Bundesliga’s mini-break, Bayern Munich were second, one point behind Bayer Leverkusen. They beat Leverkusen 2-1 in dramatic fashion to open up a two-point gap of their own, and now they could extend that to five.
Leverkusen were beaten 2-1 by Eintracht Frankfurt on Saturday, losing their early one-goal lead, with Amin Younces and an Edmond Tapsoba own-goal doing the damage. RB Leipzig went top on Saturday night with a win over Stuttgart, but Bayern now still have the opportunity to take control of the Bundesliga title race.
Expect them to take that opportunity, too, against a Mainz side without a manager who have earned just six points from their opening 13 games. Bayern have won 14 of their past 16 Bundesliga games against Mainz, losing only once during that run, though they came back in 2016. They have also won 42 of their past 48 competitive games, only losing to Hoffenheim at the start of the campaign, a run which saw them complete the treble last season and secure two Super Cups (Uefa and German).