The Weekend In Football: Blowing Hot & Cold

Bastian Schweinsteiger. Tights at the top of the Bundesliga. Image: Alexander Hassenstein/Bongarts/Getty Images.

With those long winter evenings closing in, what better way to pass the time than to snuggle up warm and entertain yourself with irrelevant facts from the weekend’s European football fixtures?

Actually, don’t think about that too much that. Just read the post. Ta.

England – Premier League

A beautiful partnership. Image: GLYN KIRK/AFP/Getty Images.

If Joe Hart is experiencing a dip in form, as suggested by numerous pundits after England’s game vs. Sweden midweek, Norwich City’s John Ruddy made a decent claim for No.1 spot with his performance against Manchester United on Saturday. Having conceded to Anthony Pilkington on the hour mark, United laid siege to the Norwich goal, but were unable to pull it back as they have done so effectively in eleven of eighteen recent games.

Fernando Torres scored two goals and was then sent off in the SideEye office FIFA 13 fixture that preceded Chelsea’s visit to the Hawthorns – a result that the Spaniard might feel was preferable to what occurred in real life. Not only did the out of form striker fail to add to his tally of four league goals so far this season but speculation abounds that he may be dropped for his club’s crucial Champions League fixture against Juventus this week. If that wasn’t bad enough, his opposite number Shane Long showed shades of the petrifying threat Torres used to present to defences, scoring the first goal in the Baggies’ 2-1 win.

Another man wishing that history would bugger off and leave him alone is Spurs manager Andre Villas-Boas. Despite Emmanuael Adebayor’s now annoying inability to behave himself in front of Arsenal fans and exactly the same result at the fixture last year under Harry Redknapp, AVB copped the blame for the 5-2 defeat, and calls for his sacking from angry fans on BBC 606 on Saturday were so loud they almost overwhelmed Robbie Savage’s honking. AVB’s tenure at Chelsea, frequently cited as proof that he is clueless in a management role, is a monkey that doesn’t look to be taking it’s leave off his back any time soon, and the growing pressure will inevitably force Daniel Levy to look elsewhere if things don’t perk up.

Roberto Di Matteo may be available soon, if that helps.

Spain- La Liga

Cristiano Ronaldo. Little to do but examine his technique, apparently. Image: Angel Martinez/Real Madrid via Getty Images.

Having qualified for the knock-out stages of the Champions League with two fixtures to play, Malaga were expected to make short shrift of Osasuna, but were lucky to come away with a point after the relegation threatened home side had an early goal disallowed and two decent chances saved.  Espanyol’s defeat against Valencia saw them slide to the bottom, while Osasuna are just above on goal difference.

Cristiano Ronaldo might not have scored in Real Madrid’s game vs. Athletic Bilbao but pretty much everyone else did, thus ensuring that the points gap between them and Barcelona did not get any wider. It’s now eight, with Atletico Madrid nestling comfortably in between after a narrow 1-0 victory over Granada. We figure Cristiano will still be sad though; he’s slipped five behind Lionel Messi in the goals scored stats after the Barcelona midfielder scored two in the Catalan’s 3-1 win over Real Zaragoza. That’s 22 in all competitions this season.

At this rate, the only thing that’s going to cheer him up is if a once decent striker experiencing a hideous dip in form were to join a Real Madrid rival.

Wait, what’s that?

Germany – Bundesliga 1

Bayern Munich were held to a 1-1 draw by Nurnberg, but before you excitedly start to imagine that the title race has been thrown wide open by this result, prepare to be underwhelmed. Despite failing to beat a team currently backstroking their way around relegation waters, Bayern are still eight points clear of closest rivals Schalke, who themselves were beaten 2-0 by Bayer Leverkusen. In fact, the biggest beneficiary of all this failure was Eintracht Frankfurt, who are now level on points with Schalke after beating Augsburg 4-2. This isn’t a feat in itself, as pretty much everyone beats Augsburg, but even with an inevitable dip in form that dogs all high flying teams at some point in the season, Eintracht must now be daring to dream.

Dortmund meanwhile, despite beating Greuther Fürth 3-1, are probably just experiencing disturbed sleep patterns.

Italy – Serie A

Philippe Mexes wonders, like us, quite how Marek Hamsik manages just a smooth finish when shaving his legs. Image: Giuseppe Bellini/Getty Images Europe.

A 2-2 draw between AC Milan and Napoli gave Fiorentina the opportunity to sneak into the Champions League qualifying spot, but they were never going to do it quietly. After beating the Rossoneri 3-1 in the San Siro last week, Vincenzo Montella’s side made it five wins in five with a 4-1 thrashing of Atalanta, who were down to ten men by half time.

Meanwhile, Inter failed to capitalise on Juve’s inability to beat Lazio and haul themselves to within two points of the champions, and remain four behind after a 2-2 home draw vs. Cagliari. Struggling Bologna climbed to fifteenth after beating Palermo 3-0, but it’s Genoa in real trouble after this week’s round of fixtures, their 3-1 defeat to rivals Sampdoria places them squarely at the bottom of the table.

We’re sure Sampdoria fans were suitably respectful. Ahem.

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