Weekend Review: PSG stars show what might have been
While the big game of the weekend saw Premier League title hopefuls Manchester City and Liverpool play out a thrilling draw, there was plenty going on elsewhere: Paris Saint-Germain‘s big three found form, Real Madrid and Barcelona won, Serie A‘s title race had more twists, and Arsenal and Tottenham endured contrasting fortunes.
Here are Bill Connelly, Rob Dawson, Alex Kirkland and Sam Marsden with what you need to know from around Europe.
Go to: Talking points | Top goals | Troubled teams | Weekend MVP
Four talking points
Hat tricks for PSG’s star trio
When Lionel Messi joined Kylian Mbappe and Neymar in the PSG attack, it was easy to dream “2014-15 Barcelona, but even better” combinations and occasionally gaudy score lines, but injuries, slow-growing chemistry and occasional malaise have kept the gaudiness to a minimum … until Saturday when, wow, did PSG’s big three click.
Essentially there was a hat trick of hat tricks: Mbappe scored three times (with one assist), Neymar scored three times (with one assist) and Messi assisted three goals (one for Neymar, two for Mbappe) as the soon-to-be French champs cruised to a 6-1 win at Clermont that means Les Parisiens have a 12-point cushion with just seven matches remaining.
Mbappe moved to 20 goals and 14 assists in league play — he leads Ligue 1 in both categories — and an incredible 31 goals and 18 assists in all competitions. (Just imagine what he might have done with a few more Champions League matches.) Messi, meanwhile, moved to 13 league assists.
With Mbappe seriously considering leaving for Real Madrid, this might be the only year that this trio teams up in Paris. But though Champions League failure will forever stain the memory of this season, it has not been entirely without beautiful moments. — Connelly
The MESSI assist and the MBAPPÉ finish… ????#CF63PSG ???????? #Ligue1 pic.twitter.com/sUAePMX3V5
— beIN SPORTS USA (@beINSPORTSUSA) April 9, 2022
Vinicius plays provider as Madrid cruise
Vinicius Junior has been a revelation this season — his partnership with Karim Benzema has brought 38 LaLiga goals and 18 assists — but one thing not expected was for the winger to turn into Luka Modric. That’s what happened against Getafe on Saturday, though, when Vinicius’ outside-of-the-boot delivery found Casemiro to open the scoring.
It was the kind of match that can be tricky, sandwiched between two Champions League games, but Vinicius made sure it went without a hitch. When Lucas Vazquez added a second, the odds of an upset were reduced from slim to none as Madrid moved three points closer to title glory.
Even the ear-splitting whistles that greeted Gareth Bale‘s appearance as a substitute, which marked his first appearance at the Bernabeu for over two years and was the latest part of Carlo Ancelotti’s ongoing efforts to integrate the Wales captain as a backup No. 9 — could not spoil the night. Next up: Chelsea. — Kirkland
HIGHLIGHTS | @Casemiro and @Lucasvazquez91 score as @realmadriden extend their lead at the top of #LaLigaSantander! ????????????#RealMadridGetafe pic.twitter.com/WzuWBBJh7m
— LaLiga English (@LaLigaEN) April 9, 2022
Six-hitting Chelsea end mini slump
After Chelsea’s 3-1 Champions League defeat to Real Madrid, Thomas Tuchel suggested the tie was over ahead of the quarterfinal second leg in Spain. After watching his team put six past Southampton on Saturday, he might be ready to rethink.
It’s still a huge ask to go to the Bernabeu and win by at least two clear goals, but Chelsea will feel there’s hope after the performance at St Mary’s. Southampton have done well against some good teams this season — with draws home and away against Manchester City — but were dismantled by Tuchel’s side, which was 4-0 up after 31 minutes.
After poor results against Brentford and Madrid, a third straight defeat could have seen Chelsea’s season begin to fizzle out, but if they can take their goal-scoring form from Southampton to Madrid and score early on Tuesday night, then anything is possible — Dawson
Luis Garcia and Shaka Hislop explain how Thomas Tuchel’s Chelsea can overturn the tie against Real Madrid.
Advantage Inter as rivals slip
It was a great weekend for Inter, who took charge of one of Europe’s most exciting title races. Simone Inzaghi’s side beat Verona 2-0, then saw title rivals AC Milan and Napoli slip up; although Milan still sit top of Serie A, reigning champions Inter will leapfrog them by winning their game in hand.
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A superb finish from Nicolo Barella and a goal from Edin Dzeko earned Inter three points on Saturday to increase the pressure. Napoli were up first, but went down 3-2 against to Fiorentina at the Diego Armando Maradona Stadium.
That handed Milan, chasing a first Scudetto since 2011, the chance to move four points clear at the summit, but they could not break down Torino and drew 0-0. It means the title is now in Inter’s hands, but there are likely to be more twists and turns during the run-in. — Marsden
Three must-see goals
Luuk de Jong wins it late for Barcelona
Luuk de Jong has emerged as something of a cult hero at Barcelona, and his legacy grew with a dramatic late winner at Levante as Barca secured a 3-2 win to make it seven straight wins in LaLiga. The Dutchman had only just come on when he connected brilliantly with a 93rd-minute Jordi Alba cross to move Barca back into second place.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang‘s and Pedri‘s goals are also worth a second viewing, although as much for assists from Ousmane Dembele and Gavi. Barca’s good work in attack was almost undone at the back as they gave away three penalties. Levante scored two of them, but Marc-Andre ter Stegen saved the other. — Marsden
LUUK DE JONG MAKES IT 3-2 AT THE DEATH FOR BARCA!! pic.twitter.com/PhbjxDogqv
— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) April 10, 2022
Nkunku’s superb form continues
With a sharp turn and a low shot and some help from VAR, Christopher Nkunku opened the scoring after just five minutes as RB Leipzig rolled over Hoffenheim. The 24-year-old has 28 goals in all competitions this season, with 13 coming since the start of 2022. Nkunku also has 15 assists for good measure, including one on Sunday.
Meanwhile, the 3-0 win took Leipzig seven points clear of Hoffenheim in the race for fourth in the Bundesliga. Domenico Tedesco’s side have taken 29 points from their past 12 league matches and retain control of their own destiny, even with Freiburg scoring a vital win over Eintracht Frankfurt to stay three points in arrears. — Connelly
RB Leipzig scores three goals in the first half to take all the points vs. Hoffenheim.
Jota drags Liverpool back at Man City
Manchester City’s 2-2 draw with Liverpool might not have decided the Premier League title race, but it had some moments of pure quality, and Diogo Jota‘s effort, which cancelled out Kevin De Bruyne‘s opener, was the pick of the goals from a great game.
The 13th-minute strike was made by Andy Robertson‘s pinpoint cross and Trent Alexander-Arnold‘s cute layoff, which gave Jota the opportunity to finish with a low shot after he had shown clever moment to back off into space. — Dawson
What a start to the game!
It took less than 10 minutes for Liverpool to find their equalizer through Jota!
????: @USA_Network & @Telemundo #MCILIV | #MyPLMorning pic.twitter.com/TTQLEjiazw
— NBC Sports Soccer (@NBCSportsSoccer) April 10, 2022
Two teams that should be worried
A week to forget for Arsenal
At the last international break, FiveThirtyEight’s SPI ratings gave Arsenal a 67% chance of finishing in England‘s top four and scoring a first Champions League bid since 2016-17. They had taken 31 points from their past 13 league matches, losing only to Liverpool and Manchester City in the process. Then came a pair of downright dismal losses.
After a 3-0 defeat to Crystal Palace on Monday, the Gunners did not really find a spark against Brighton on Saturday until too late. The 2-1 loss means they trail Tottenham by three points; the Gunners do have a game in hand, plus a head-to-head opportunity against their north London rivals in May, but those Champions League odds have plummeted to 33%.
There are bad weeks, and there are really bad weeks. Now Arsenal must right the ship away from home: Five of their last eight matches are away from the Emirates Stadium, including trips to Chelsea, West Ham and Tottenham. — Connelly
Janusz Michallik speaks about Arsenal’s top four pursuit after their 2-1 loss to Brighton.
Atletico’s season in danger of unravelling
Atletico Madrid have suffered back-to-back 1-0 defeats and there is no doubt which was more disheartening. If the midweek Champions League loss to Manchester City — featuring a 5-5-0 formation that generated no shots — was excusable given the opposition, Saturday’s defeat to relegation-threatened Real Mallorca was harder to justify.
Javier Aguirre’s arrival as manager has inspired Mallorca, but Atletico had just one shot on target against the fourth-worst defence in LaLiga. Diego Simeone refused to use the second leg against City as an excuse — “It’s always easy when a game ends to blame it on the previous one” — but a top-four finish is in jeopardy, with Real Betis just one point behind. — Kirkland
Vedat Muriqi’s goal is worth all three points as @RCD_Mallorca return to winning ways in #LaLigaSantander! ????????❤️#RCDMallorcaAtleti pic.twitter.com/2z8RrTmAUJ
— LaLiga English (@LaLigaEN) April 9, 2022
Conte puts Tottenham in top-four contention
When Antonio Conte arrived in November, Tottenham were ninth. With seven games to go, they are three points clear in fourth and on course to qualify for next season’s Champions League. As Arsenal and Manchester United stutter, Spurs have won four straight — against Brighton, West Ham, Newcastle and, on Saturday, Aston Villa — with an aggregate score of 14-2.
Janusz Michallik praises Tottenham’s front three after their 4-0 win against Aston Villa.
It took time for Conte to get his methods across and tough games remain against Arsenal and Liverpool, but Tottenham have hit form at the right time. It is remarkable that, when United sought to replace Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, they passed up the opportunity to appoint the Italian. Guiding Spurs into the Champions League would be some response. — Dawson