John Gillespie ’20
After a weekend which comprised of the clash of the Titans in both the Premier League and the Bundesliga, and many more stories around European soccer/football, in enters the winter portion of the season dreadful for Premier League teams and cathartic for others. It is an exciting time to introduce a column which will highlight the happenings in the soccer world when the demand for resilience begins to define the difference between champions and the rest.
Let’s get right into the action. The long-awaited “Super Bowl” of the Premier League season thus far was dynamic, highly-contested, and unable to escape the headlines for reasons beyond gameplay (a story of the Premier League this season). Liverpool hit Man City for two goals in the first thirteen minutes, representative of the form they’ve exhibited all season but with a different weight given the occasion. Handball? No? Who cares go down and get the ball back?
Circumstance provided that points and counterpoints exist on both sides: proximity, a deflection off of Bernardo Silva, the “silhouette” and Alexander-Arnold’s arm’s position… What VAR can’t have the power to overturn is the switching of play between Liverpool’s full backs that led to the Scousers’ second goal, the likely nail in the coffin for the royal blue. Pep Guardiola by-passed subtlety when it came to his disdain for the match’s refereeing, unless that was actually the most genuine show of thanks to a refereeing crew the Premier League has ever seen.
The Citizens missed Laporte and David Silva, but Pep’s tactical decisions regarding players like Bernardo and De Bruyne have something to offer to the fire. With a return leg at the Etihad accounting for the principal possibility that Liverpool drops points in their remaining fixtures, this weekend may have made it official: the title is Liverpool’s to lose. After the international break, City face Chelsea on Saturday, November 23rd with Manchester United vs. Sheffield to come the next day to rekindle what will prove to be an exciting winter in the Prem.
“Der Klassiker” proved to be a one-sided affair as Bayern saw four past Favre’s Dortmund, the first time anyone has scored more than twice against them since Schalke in April. Mats Hummels briefly forgot he left the Bavarian giants to once again man his post at the center of Dortmund’s defense, adding insult to injury with an own goal in the eightieth minute of the match. Hans-Dieter Flick, recently given the helm at Bayern in the wake of Niko Kovac’s sacking, will look to maintain this momentum against Fortuna Düsseldorf to catch up in the league before heading into Match day 5 of the Champions League.
Favre’s days look to be numbered in the Ruhr as Dortmund’s start sees them sixth in the league, tied with Leverkusen for second most goals allowed out of teams in the top eight, behind only Bayern. Juventus beat Milan 1-0 after a late goal off of the bench from Paulo Dybala. The headline however fell upon who Dybala replaced, coming on for Christiano Ronaldo in the 55th minute. Sarri pulled the injury/time management card when questioned on the decision. But apparently, unlike Lebron, Ronaldo needs no such management, scoring a hat-trick for Portugal over the international break. We’ll see how that one plays out when the jets land in Turin to prepare for Atalanta and Atletico Madrid after the break.
This column will pick up again in the Spring after the winter has chosen its beneficiaries.