The five-point European review
It was league business as usual for Europe’s big names this weekend. Barcelona and Real Madrid were in among the goals again, Bayern Munich struck three without reply, the Milan duo both won, and Lyon and Paris Saint-Germain collected maximum points to stay out front in France. In England, meanwhile, Manchester City got back to winning ways to draw level on points with neighbours United.
In its new-look five-point review, FIFA.com rounds up the latest events in Europe’s major championships.
Barcelona 5-0 Atletico Madrid, matchday six in Spain
Lionel Messi and Radamel Falcao, the top two scorers in La Liga, came face to face as Atletico Madrid travelled to Camp Nou determined to improve their recent record at the Catalan citadel: four defeats on their last four visits by a margin of three goals or more. “It’s going to be a closely fought game because both teams are going to come out and play,” predicted a confident Falcao in the build-up to what promised to be an intriguing encounter.
Sadly for the Colombian, the reality turned out to be very different. While the commanding Javier Mascherano snuffed out what little threat the Atleti front line posed, an inspired Messi helped himself to another hat-trick as Barça cut their way through the visiting defence almost at will. Starved of possession, Atletico had no answer to the champions’ high-tempo passing game and had to wait a whole hour before even forcing a save from Victor Valdes.
Real Madrid put their recent travails behind them against newly promoted Rayo Vallecano, coming from a goal down to ease to a 6-2 win. Despite their handsome victories, however, the country’s big two are still looking up at leaders Real Betis, who are in action against Getafe on Monday.
Manchester City maintained their impressive early-season form with a 2-0 home defeat of Everton. The in-form Sergio Aguero contented himself with an assist as City drew level on points with leaders Manchester United, who were held 1-1 at Stoke City.
Inter Milan gave themselves some breathing space as they produced a much-improved performance to win 3-1 at Bologna in Claudio Ranieri’s first game in charge. Both Diego Milito and Giampaolo Pazzini were on target as I Nerazzurri clambered out of the relegation zone following a miserable start to the season.
Javier Pastore has been living up to the huge expectations invested in him since joining Paris Saint-Germain. When he has not been setting up goals, the Argentinian playmaker has been scoring them, his latest contribution to PSG’s title push coming on Saturday with a world-class brace at Montpellier.
Fernando Torres is continuing to have his ups and downs at Chelsea. A week after a classy goal and an inexplicable miss at Old Trafford, the Spaniard got on the scoresheet again at home to Swansea City before collecting a red card for a two-footed challenge.
Starting his second consecutive game for Real Madrid on Saturday, Raphael Varane is beginning to find his bearings in the Blanco rearguard. The 18-year-old French centre-half also made a little piece of history against Rayo Vallecano, finding the back of the net with a remarkable aerial back-heel to become the youngest foreign player to score for Madrid.
11. The number of goals Belgian wide man Dries Mertens has struck in seven games for PSV Eindhoven so far this season, four of them coming against Roda this weekend.
6. The number of Argentinian players in the Catania starting line-up for their game against Juventus. In all, the Sicilians have 13 Argentinians in their squad.
300. Victor Valdes became the seventh Barcelona player to rack up 300 matches for the club on Saturday. The Spain international made his Barça debut in the 2002/03 season and has made more appearances for them than any other goalkeeper.
1. Bayern Munich custodian Manuel Neuer has conceded a solitary goal in seven league outings to date. In the meantime, the rampant Bavarians have scored 21, more than any of their Bundesliga opponents.
5. Memorable moments
All’s well that ends well: Concussed after a heavy collision with Norwich City goalkeeper John Ruddy a few weeks ago, Chelsea striker Didier Drogba celebrated his return to action against Swansea City in the best possible style, capping his side’s 4-1 win a well-taken goal in the closing stages.
More to life than football: Having resigned for health reasons, erstwhile Schalke 04 coach Ralf Rangnick has all the support he could ever wish for from the Königsblauen fans, with several banners on display for Saturday’s home game against Freiburg. “RALF, come back healthy. Good luck,” read one, while another said: “Football is our life? RALF, may God take care of you and you make a speedy recovery”.
A 30-year drought: Cesena’s 1-0 defeat to AC Milan at the San Siro was the 11th consecutive game in which they have failed to score against I Rossoneri, an unenviable run that stretches back to 1981. The Italian minnows last beat the Milan giants in 1976.
Collision course: Lyon and Paris Saint-Germain are oozing confidence this season, surging to the summit of the table with five wins in their opening eight games. The top two were in fine form at the weekend, easing to respective victories over Bordeaux and Montpellier and setting the stage for their crunch meeting in Paris next Sunday.
A century for RVP: In scoring twice against Bolton Wanderers, Robin Van Persie became the 17th Arsenal player to hit 100 goals for the club. Also figuring among the select band of centurion Gunners are fellow Dutchman Dennis Bergkamp and Thierry Henry.