THE EUROPEAN landscape has barely changed this season: PSG, Juventus, Barcelona, Ajax, Benfica, Liverpool and City all at the top. The once exception among the top leagues is Germany, where Borussia Mönchengladbach lead the Bundesliga and Bayern Munich are struggling to hit their best form. Bayern’s recent 5-1 defeat in Frankfurt proved to be the final straw for the Bayern politburo and just 24 hours … Continue reading Gladbach smiling, Bayern hiring
AJAX’s renaissance last season was always going to be short-lived as Europe’s big clubs were waiting in the wings for their chance to pounce on the best players. Those hung up on presentism expressed their surprise that a team from the Netherlands could compete with the likes of Real Madrid and Juventus, even though the Dutch have provided more European champion clubs than Spain and … Continue reading Ajax’s stock continues to rise, despite player losses
THEY CAME, they saw, they rained on Inter’s parade – and how it frustrated the home fans in the 75,000 San Siro crowd! It was Serie A champions against pretenders to the throne and once more, Juventus, perpetual wearers of the crown of Italian football for almost a decade, demonstrated they are still the big occasion team. Neutral Italy, indeed neutral Europe, has been hoping … Continue reading Inter’s benchmarking exercise shows why Juve are champions
EVERYBODY expected Ajax’s renaissance in 2018-19 would come to a shuddering halt as they started to lose their key players to Europe’s elite band of clubs. When Ajax were beaten in the semi-final of the UEFA Champions League, thanks to a heartbreakingly late goal, the conclusion was that an exciting young team had probably lost its chance of immortality. Ajax certainly lost two of their … Continue reading Ajax show they’re still potent
THE SCHADENFREUDE was flowing thick and fast on the night Tottenham shipped seven goals at their gleaming new stadium. Spurs have never been beaten so heavily on any of their own patches, but was there more to it than just a team of smart finishers exposing the gaps in the home defence? Nobody could have anticipated such an alarming defeat, it was Spurs’ equivalent of … Continue reading Tottenham’s collapse – possibly an era drawing to a close
WHEN CONMEBOL agreed to move the second leg of the Copa Libertadores final, South America’s equivalent of the UEFA Champions League, to Madrid, they not only solved an immediate logistical problem, they also have opened a door that could prove difficult to close. By taking the final, a high-octane fixture between Buenos Aires’ rivals, River Plate and Boca Juniors, to one of the capitals of … Continue reading Could the Copa Libertadores go global?
THE BUDGET airline revolution has made Continental Europe very accessible for tourists and football fans alike. A return trip for barely more than £100 has made it possible for the curious spectator to extend his or her horizon beyond the 92 and non-league. As a result, we have seen the arrival of the football tourist, map-wielding obsessives who go in search of foaming beer, floodlights … Continue reading The enduring romance of Mitteleuropa’s football
ITALY has needed a team to seriously challenge Juventus for almost a decade and Inter Milan have started the Serie A campaign as if they mean to fill that role. Although some people are suggesting that six wins out of six have flattered the Nerrazzuri, the club seems to have been rejuvenated by the arrival of Antonio Conte. This weekend (October 6), Inter play host … Continue reading Inter’s chance to show they can end the hegemony
BARCELONA have made their worst start to a season in 25 years, but in truth it is very much a relative problem based on high expectation, a superb domestic record in recent years and the cost of being part of the wealthy European elite. Furthermore, they have been without their talisman, Lionel Messi, and doesn’t it show? Barca coach Ernesto Valverde is under pressure and … Continue reading Barcelona may be approaching the end of a cycle
THE VULTURES are already circling the Bernabéu stadium after Real Madrid were trounced 3-0 by Paris Saint-Germain in la Ville des Lumières. The body they are eyeing is none other than Zinedine Zidane, three times winner of the UEFA Champions League as coach of Real. So convinced are people that “Zizou” will be on his way soon, they are already preparing for the return of … Continue reading Real Madrid: Zidane has to stave off the Mourinho threat
WOLVERHAMPTON Wanderers have been playing competitive football since the last week in July. Before they kicked off their Premier League programme on August 11, they had played three UEFA Europa League games and in total, they have now completed seven ties in addition to their five Premier fixtures. Their latest game, a 1-0 home defeat at the hands of Portugal’s Braga, has raised concerns that … Continue reading If Europa fatigue exists, it is a symptom of a bloated structure
PERHAPS Chelsea’s season will be tougher than their 5-2 win at Wolverhampton Wanderers might have suggested. In a fortnight’s time, should Frank Lampard’s young team lose in the Eurostar city of Lille, they may get a chance to defend their Europa League crown. It’s surely premature to write Chelsea’s Champions League obit, but against Valencia they lacked guile and midfield creativity and man-of-the-moment Tammy Abraham … Continue reading Chelsea’s lack-lustre CL return – now the task looks harder
BAYERN MUNICH recently reminded everyone they are a powerful club with substantial financial resources. Furthermore, by drawing 1-1 at RB Leipzig, they also stopped dead – for now – any talk of an imminent shift in the balance of power in the Bundesliga. Leipzig may have held the champions, but they also failed to beat them and record a victory that would have provided evidence … Continue reading Bayern Munich – who will actually unseat them?