This past weekend, four big matches took place in Europe, whereas the “Greek derby” between Panathinaikos and Olympiacos didn’t start at all, due to a widespread conflict between police and Panathinaikos’ followers both inside and outside the stadium.
Here is the aftermath of what we saw in those five big matches:
Real Madrid vs Barcelona (0-4)
In Spain, Barcelona decimated Real Madrid 0-4 at Santiago Bernabeu in one of Blaugrana’s most dominant performances against the Whites. On the other hand, Real were very poor, however no drastic changes are expected in the next few days.
The main reason for Barcelona’s triumph was the fact that they did a great job both offensively and defensively. More significantly, Luis Enrique’s players had a much better rhythm, with almost the entire starting squad being in a decent form and they managed to retain their balance in the midfield line, which let them have control of the game for almost 90 minutes.
On the other hand, Rafa Benitez did everything wrong. He decided to select a starting squad featuring all of his superstars, but there was no defensive midfielder. As a result, this move let Barcelona take advantage.
Neymar executed perfectly against Danilo, while Luis Suarez created many problems to the duo of Raphael Varane and Sergio Ramos, with his intense pressing and his scoring ability.
At the same time, Andres Iniesta, Sergi Roberto, Ivan Rakitic and Sergio Busquets dominated the midfield line and, consequently, there was no way for Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema to find any momentum.
In the end, Barcelona showed they are capable of going all the way until the end in all competitions, just like they did last year, whereas Real Madrid needs to change many things in order to return to winning ways.
Manchester City vs Liverpool (1-4)
Jurgen Klopp seems to have changed Liverpool’s mentality since he took over the club roughly 45 days ago. His team destroyed Manchester City, and claimed another big victory on the road against a title contender (the Reds also beat Chelsea 1-3 a few weeks ago).
The German coach has transformed the team’s playing style to a more team-orientated pressing game, which helps them be more organised as well as have fun during the matches, as Adam Lallana said afterwards.
For the first time in Klopp’s era, there was so much cohesion and intensity in the squad’s playing style, both defensively and offensively, that City was unable to take control of the game for a significant period of time.
The Reds’ could now go on a winning streak, which will help them boost their confidence as well as enhance their playing style even more.
Manchester City’s poor performance drops them to third in the Premier League table, behind rivals Manchester United and current league leaders Leicester City, however the club’s biggest concern should be their ineffectiveness during the entire game.
The duo of Eliaquim Mangala and Martin Demichelis played very badly, letting Liverpool’s offensive line do everything they wanted, and as a result, the return of both Nicolas Otamendi and Vincent Kompany seems to be necessary.
More significantly, coach Manuel Pellegrini noticed that the presence of Fernandinho in the midfield line and Otamendi in defence from the beginning of the game would have brought some much needed control and composure, however it was too late when both players entered the pitch.
The only positive thing from Saturday’s defeat for the Citizens is that Sergio Aguero came back and was in good form, as his presence is expected to help Raheem Sterling (who produced a poor performance against his former team) and Kevin De Bruyne.
Juventus vs Milan (1-0)
The defending champions claimed a big victory in their effort to become again equal contenders for the title against a Milan side, who didn’t deserve to win despite missing some good chances to score.
The Bianconeri played very well both defensively and offensively, having many players in great form. More specifically, Paul Pogba, Paulo Dybala (who scored the winning goal with a well-taken, second-half strike), Hernanes and Claudio Marchisio let the Turin side take control of the game and, consequently, win the match.
Milan’s performance was disappointing, in what has been a tough start to the season so far. Only Alessio Cerci was a permanent threat for Juventus’ defence and Gianluigi Buffon, in his 20th anniversary of his Serie A debut, made some great saves.
The team’s best player, though, was goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma, who was solid throughout the entire game and let his squad fight until the end. The 16-year-old player seems to be in a great form and many people already see him as Buffon’s successor.
The match showed that Juventus have the momentum on their side, as they have climbed to sixth in the Serie A table, six points away from the top, whereas Sinisa Mihajlovic needs to make more changes if he wants to see Milan climbing to the top spots of the table (they are currently seventh). The team has a lot of new faces, but no coherence on the pitch, with their main issue so far being their ineffectiveness in front of goal, despite the investment in Bacca.
Schalke vs Bayern Munich (1-3)
The match at Veltins Arena was more difficult for the defending champions than they were expecting.
The Bavarians weren’t their usual, dominant self, but took full advantage of a young and inexperienced Schalke team. Consequently, they became the first club in Bundesliga history that has won 12 of its opening 13 domestic matches.
Although they took an early lead, the visitors saw their opponents recover and fight back, with a their defence standing firm and hitting Bayern on the break with a number of dangerous counter-attacks.
Leroy Sane, Meyer and Leon Goretzka showed exactly why Schalke are expected to contend for the title in just a few seasons, with all three of them putting tremendous pressure on the Bayern defence.
But in typical fashion, Bayern pulled through when needed. Javi Martinez scored to help his side reclaim the lead, with Thomas Muller securing the win in injury time. Manager Pep Guardiola didn’t hide the fact his team didn’t have it easy at the Veltins-Arena, however the fact remains the same: Bayern Munich cannot be stopped by anybody and now it’s a matter of when they will be able to secure the title.
Panathinaikos vs Olympiacos
Last but not least, the Greek derby was expected to be one of Panathinaikos last chances to come closer to the top of the table, as the Greens were (and still are) eight points behind their great rivals.
The Reds, on the other hand, were (and still are) undefeated and wanted to continue their unbeaten streak, just three days before their clash with Bayern Munich.
However, none of this happened. The match never began due to a widespread conflict between police and Panathinaikos’ followers, which started outside the stadium about two and half hours before the start of the game and continued inside the stadium when it was announced that the match would never begin.
The worst thing is that for one more time we saw those terrible things, but it’s certain that nobody will be punished and the same situation will take place in the next match between the big clubs, like Olympiacos, Panathinaikos, PAOK and AEK Athens.
Unfortunately, what happened on Saturday in Athens in comparison with the exceptional atmosphere in the other big matches that took place last weekend proved the great difference between the Greek Football League and the European ones, regarding not only the quality but also the conditions under which each match takes place.