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While Bayern Munich and Liverpool enjoyed their weekend, there was not so much for the likes of Manchester United and Roma to cheer about. Meanwhile, many fine goals were scored, but not against Chelsea‘s unbeatable goalkeeper.
Here are Tom Hamilton, Sam Marsden and Mark Ogden to discuss the big stuff you need to know from around Europe.
Four talking points
Brilliant Bayern serve ominous warning
Take notice, rest of Europe. In what was a top-of-the-table Bundesliga clash in name and position only, Bayern Munich were so dominant at Bayer Leverkusen that they led 5-0 after just 39 minutes and were able to take off Alphonso Davies — who was fantastic, but coming off World Cup qualifying exertions for Canada — before half-time for a rest.
It ended 5-1 and what is really scary for Bayern’s rivals is that, in the early stages of Julian Nagelsmann’s tenure, they look an improved outfit on last season. The new manager has his side pushing higher up the field and, though that means there is more space in the back, the speed of centre-backs Lucas Hernandez and Dayot Upamecano mean they are less susceptible to counter-attacks.
On the left, Leroy Sane has prospered in the half-space and combines brilliantly with Davies, who is loving life as an inverted wing-back. Elsewhere, Thomas Muller plays just right of middle, but such is Bayern’s tactical fluidity that they shift seamlessly from a 3-4-3, to a 4-2-3-1, to a 4-4-1-1.
Allied with that unpredictability is ruthlessness in front of goal that has seen the German champions score 29 goals in eight league games this season. At Leverkusen, Robert Lewandowski added two more — the first a delightful back-heeled flick — while Serge Gnabry also claimed a brace and Muller’s inner thigh accounted for the other in what was a statement win. — Hamilton
Salah shows he is No. 1
“He is top. We all see it,” Klopp said. “Who is better than him?”
Even before Salah’s display at Vicarage Road, it would be difficult to argue that the Egypt international has not elevated himself into the bracket occupied by Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo and Salah’s incredible solo goal against Claudio Ranieri’s team — and his sublime assist for Sadio Mane — gave Klopp justification to label the 29-year-old as the best.
Liverpool have played 10 games in all competitions this season and Salah has scored in nine of them. His goal at Watford was Messi-like — a mazy dribble, sharp turn and pinpoint finish — and followed another world-class strike against Man City earlier this month. Salah can seemingly do anything with a ball at his feet and is as important to Liverpool as once were Eric Cantona and Thierry Henry to Man United and Arsenal respectively. — Ogden
— Liverpool FC (@LFC) October 17, 2021
Real Sociedad continue to impress
A last-minute strike from youngster Julen Lobete gave La Real victory over Mallorca and take Imanol Alguacil’s side three points clear atop LaLiga on a weekend that saw Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid idle.
Real Sociedad are unbeaten in eight games since an opening weekend loss to Barcelona, but had to work hard to claim their latest win; they played the whole of the second half with 10 men after Aihen Munoz was sent off and rode their luck at times before Lobete netted the winner with more than a little help from Mallorca goalkeeper Manolo Reina.
The win coincided with a capacity crowd being allowed to return to Anoeta, which allowed the club to finally celebrate its 2019-20 Copa del Rey trophy — won earlier this year — with fans. Now supporters will dream of following up with the Spanish title. — Marsden
Man United must improve at home to avoid more woe
Their record-breaking 29-game unbeaten Premier League run away from home — a sequence stretching back to a 2-0 defeat at Liverpool in January 2020 — finally came to an end at Leicester and must be marked as a fine achievement, but the run has papered over cracks at Man United and spared Ole Gunnar Solskjaer from greater scrutiny over results at Old Trafford.
In that same period, United have lost eight of 31 league fixtures at home, amassing just 53 points from a possible 93. Back-to-back wins at the start of this season have been followed by defeat to Aston Villa and a fortunate draw against Everton. Improvement is desperately needed to avoid dropping out of the top four race.
It will not be easy: Liverpool, Manchester City and Arsenal are the next three league visitors to Old Trafford and United collected just one point — in a 0-0 draw against City — from those fixtures last season. So unless things change, only another lengthy unbeaten away run can prevent another underachieving campaign. — Ogden
Janusz Michallik discusses the future of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer after Man United’s 4-2 defeat vs. Leicester.
Three must-see goals
Ansu Fati‘s amazing effort
Since returning from injury, Ansu has done nothing to quell the expectation placed on his shoulders after he inherited Lionel Messi’s No.10 shirt at Barcelona. The 18-year-old scored in his first game for 10 months in September and was on target again on Sunday to mark his first Barca start for 344 days.
Ronald Koeman’s side were a goal down to Valencia when Ansu took possession on the left in the 13th minute. He shimmied inside, played a give-and-go with Memphis Depay and then, without even looking up, unleashed a fierce drive into the bottom corner from 20 yards. Ansu later won a penalty, which was converted by Memphis, as Barcelona claimed a much-needed win. — Marsden
Hofmann’s hit rescues Gladbach
Borussia Monchengladbach will wonder exactly how they managed to get just one point at home against Stuttgart, but the match will be remembered for two wonderful goals.
While on-loan Arsenal defender Konstantinos Mavropanos‘ opener for Stuttgart was a superb driven effort from 30 yards out, Jonas Hofmann‘s 42nd-minute equaliser just edges it. Stuttgart managed to scramble away a cross, only for Hofmann to bring the ball down on the edge of the box, then angled a wonderful shot past Fabian Bredlow. — Hamilton
— Bundesliga English (@Bundesliga_EN) October 16, 2021
Kovalenko scores stunner for Spezia
After being frustrated by the heroics of Salernitana keeper Vid Belec for 75 minutes, Spezia’s Viktor Kovalenko came up with something outstanding, not just to find the net, but to secure a vital victory for his side.
The Ukrainian international, who is on loan from Atalanta, found a way through as he curled home a wonderful shot from the edge of the box. The finish matched the goal’s build-up, which featured great footwork from Suf Podgoreanu to help tee up Kovalenko. — Hamilton
Two teams that should be worried
Mourinho’s honeymoon in Rome is over
Jose Mourinho returned to Turin for the first time since taunting Juventus fans when he won there as Man United manager in 2018, but there was no ear-cupping this time as Moise Kean‘s fortuitous early header proved decisive.
Roma could have levelled, but Jordan Veretout missed from the penalty spot just before half-time after Henrikh Mkhitaryan had been fouled. There was an element of controversy, given Tammy Abraham went on to score after the foul, but the whistle had already been blown.
After three straight wins to open the campaign, Mourinho’s men have lost three of their last five in Serie A and they face Napoli and AC Milan — both unbeaten and in the top two — before the end of October. Roma are fourth, but Lazio, Atalanta and Juve are within one point. — Marsden
New manager bounce unlikely for Watford
Watford are on their seventh manager since 2017, and while some clubs get an early boost from a change of coach, the Vicarage Road side were dismal against Liverpool in Claudio Ranieri’s debut, with sloppy defending and tactical naivety contributing to a 5-0 defeat.
And things are not about to get any easier: After a trip to Everton and a match at home to Southampton, Watford face Arsenal, Man United, Leicester, Chelsea and Man City. A subsequent trip to Brentford means it is not beyond the realms of possibility that Ranieri comes away from his first eight matches with no more than a couple of points.
“I knew before coming that I had to work very, very hard and I am ready to work,” the Italian said after the Liverpool game; he knows Watford must click — fast — if they are to prevent being cut adrift at the foot of the Premier League alongside Norwich. — Hamilton
MVP of the weekend
Mendy magic saves Chelsea
Janusz Michallik doesn’t see reason to worry for Chelsea, despite relying on Edouard Mendy at Brentford.
With Malang Sarr making his Premier League debut in a Chelsea defence shorn of Thiago Silva and Antonio Rudiger, Chelsea were vulnerable at Brentford, for whom forwards Ivan Toney and Bryan Mbeumo created opportunities aplenty. That they did not break through, however, was down to the wonderful Edouard Mendy.
After a quiet opening hour, the goalkeeper was called into action during the game’s final third, making brilliant close-range saves from Toney, Saman Ghoddos and Pontus Jansson. But the Senegal international kept his best for last and the denial of Christian Norgaard‘s overhead kick ensured Chelsea went home with three points and a clean sheet.
Mendy’s display made a mockery of his Ballon D’Or shortlist snub and Tuchel was hugely thankful, saying: “He was absolutely decisive [for us] to escape with a clean sheet. He was very strong, throughout the whole match.” — Hamilton