Damien Kayat looks back at the weerkend's football action as City and Liverpool both won, Real Madrid claimed the LaLiga title and more!
Prem League title drama
I think that City fans were secretly fearing the worse ahead of their late Saturday night kick-off against Leeds United. Liverpool had retaken top spot in the Premier League standings courtesy of a workmanlike victory away at Newcastle.
This made their trip to Leeds a must-win affair. Leeds have been inexorably drawn into this season’s relegation battle and needed a performance on Saturday night. City also chose to rest the likes of De Bruyne and Bernardo Silva ahead of their crunch 2nd leg Champions League semi-final.
Things just had a slightly ominous feeling for Guardiola’s men. But they needn’t have worried as City strolled to a convincing 4-0 away victory. It wasn’t a vintage display of possession-based football.
In fact, Leeds looked on the front foot for much of the first half. But this City machine is a thing to behold (despite the fact that Jack Grealish still seems to go backwards more than forwards in possession).
The Gabriel Jesus renaissance has been one of the more surprising subplots for the Citizens this year. Every week feels like a crescendo in one of the greatest Premier League title races of all time.
North London pair in hot pursuit of Chelsea
It’s rare that both great North London institutions read off the same hymn sheet in a given week. As the race for a top four place reaches its climax, both Tottenham and Arsenal managed to collect crucial victories this week.
Kane and Son were at their talismanic best as Spurs defeated Brendon Rogers’ underperforming Leicester City. This laid the gauntlet down for Mikel Arteta’s side ahead of a potentially tricky away encounter at West Ham.
But the Gunners answered the call in emphatic fashion, with Holding and Gabriel helping them to a 2-1 victory. Eddie Nketiah was once again great nuisance value in what has undoubtedly been the greatest (and only) purple patch of his career.
But I think this weekend opened up another tantalizing possibility: could both North London clubs leapfrog Chelsea this season? It may still seem a stretch, with Chelsea currently holding a five-point lead over Spurs. But the current European champs seem to be on the beach already, perhaps saving themselves for that cup final against Liverpool.
Their 1-0 defeat to Everton stank of apathy and they desperately need to up their levels should they hope to remain in 3rd place.
Real Madrid champions of Spain
Real Madrid were crowned LaLiga champions for the second time in three years, emulating Man City with a 4-0 win against Espanyol. People love to wax lyrical about Pep’s tiki-taka stylistics and Klopp’s contagious passion.
But very few people namedrop Carlo Ancelotti when they are ranking their favourite managers. But with victory in Spain this weekend he became the first manager in history to win domestic titles in Spain, England, France, Germany and Italy.
It was exactly the type of hassle-free performance that Carlo Ancelotti would have wanted leading into Wednesday’s crunch clash with Man City. Ancelotti knows that his side simply have to defend better on Wednesday night (City could have won the first-leg 8-3).
He will take some solace from the fact that City are in the midst of a mini defensive crisis. I think it also helps to have Karim Benzema scoring 42 goals in 42 games this season.
It’s been amazing to watch the evolution of the Frenchman. I always thought he was an impressive target man who lacked intelligent movement. But his speed of thought has improved dramatically over the last few seasons.
It’s like he knew that the club needed him to evolve in the direct aftermath of Cristiano Ronaldo’s departure to Juventus.
German champions embarrassed
I guess you could forgive Bayern Munich for taking their foot off the gas this week. Their 3-1 defeat to Mainz bore all the hallmarks of a side coasting towards the end of the season.
Robert Lewandowski picked up his obligatory goal in defeat. It will be interesting to see if the Pole will be a Bayern player next season. Early indicators seem to suggest that Barcelona may be in the market for the evergreen marksman.
Speaking of Bundesliga strikers in the market, Erling Haaland scored another hat-trick in one of his final games for Borussia Dortmund. The Norwegian behemoth looks destined for a huge move to Manchester City and seems intent on leaving Germany with a bang.
Too bad his teammates couldn’t read the script: Dortmund went down 4-3 to Bochum despite Haaland’s best efforts.
As you were in Italy
None of the principal players in Italy fluffed their lines this week, ensuring that his year’s thrilling Serie A race approaches an even more feverish climax.
In a case of a little bit too little, too late, Napoli rediscovered their form with a thumping 6-1 victory at home to Sassuolo. What Luciano Spalletti would have given to have this result two weeks ago. Still, it does put them in the driving seat for third spot ahead of Massimiliano Allegri’s Juventus.
The race for the Scudetto title is going to be a nail-biting one. AC Milan and Inter snuck through by the odd goal this weekend, virtually guaranteeing that the title will stay in Milan this year.
Lautaro Martinez has been sharp for Inter at the business end of the season as Simone Inzaghi’s men battle to retain their title. But they still sit a point adrift of Stefano Pioli’s AC Milan.
Milan were forced to grind it out against a spirited Fiorentina side. They blew a bucketload of chances either side of half-time and looked destined to surrender their slim Serie A advantage. But Rafael Leao sent the San Siro faithful into rapture with an 82nd-minute winner that could have huge ramifications come season end.
Player of the Week- Kylian Mbappe
This week really epitomized the inconsistency of this PSG side. The recently crowned Ligue 1 champs coughed up a late league against Strasbourg in a pulsating 3-3 draw.
But Kylian Mbappe once again shone for the Parisian outfit, scoring a brace and assisting Hakimi for his goal. If the rumour mill is to be believed, can you imagine what Neymar and Vinicius Jr could be capable of at Madrid next season?
European defences will be traumatized by that level of counterattacking ferocity.