Five talking points in European football this weekend


LONDON: Barcelona took advantage of their rivals drawing in the Madrid derby to close the gap atop La Liga but it was a bad weekend for AC Milan and pressure is building on novice coaches at some of Europe’s most famous clubs.

AFP Sport looks at five main talking points from the weekend on the continent:

– Real top but Barca back on track –

Barcelona were arguably the big winners from Saturday’s Madrid derby in La Liga as Atletico and Real played out a disappointing 0-0 draw.

Both teams looked keener to avoid defeat than push for victory at the Wanda Metropolitano while Barca’s 2-0 win at Getafe means they gain two points on each of their title rivals.

There is little to separate the early frontrunners as three points come between Real Madrid, who sit top, and Athletic Bilbao in seventh.

But ominously for the chasing pack, both Barca and Real Madrid appear to have overcome their respective dips.

Madrid have registered three clean sheets in a row in the league while Barcelona climb to fourth after a second consecutive win.

– Milan hit 81-year low –

Coach Marco Giampaolo said he had no thoughts of resigning even though AC Milan hit an 81-year low after losing for the fourth time in their opening six games.

Milan are 16th, one point above the relegation zone, after losing 3-1 to Fiorentina at San Siro.

The last time they lost four of their first six games was in the 1938/39 season.

“I take responsibility but I’ll keep going because I believe in my ideas,’ Giampaolo said.

Club technical director Paolo Maldini insisted it was just teething problems for the new coach.

“We will always defend him, it is right to give him time,” said the Milan legend.

“We knew what the problems could be, but we thought we would do better.”

– Sylvinho in firing line –

Sylvinho’s future as coach of Lyon is already in serious doubt after the Brazilian saw his team slump to a seventh match without a win in all competitions.

Lyon lost 1-0 at home to Nantes and sit in the bottom half of Ligue 1, nine points behind leaders Paris Saint-Germain. Their wins in their opening two matches already feel a long time ago.

Long-serving president Jean-Michel Aulas gambled in the close season when he brought back club legend Juninho as sporting director and allowed him to put his fellow Brazilian in charge of the team.

So far, it is simply not working and Juninho hinted that he may not continue to stand by Sylvinho if results do not improve quickly.

“I can’t 100 percent say that I am linking my future to that of Sylvinho. But I chose him, so I will take responsibility,” he said.

– Minnows Famalicao still top in Portugal –

Champions Benfica and fellow giants Porto both won at the weekend but it is little Famalicao who continue to top the Portuguese league seven games into the season.

The tiny outfit from northern Portugal are in their first top-flight season in quarter of a century but have won six and drawn one of their opening seven matches to sit a point clear of the big two.

On Saturday they came from behind to beat Belenenses 3-1.

Famalicao are a tiny club, but have been transformed in the last year since Israeli billionaire Idan Ofer — who owns a share of Atletico Madrid — invested in the team.

His money and a close relationship with super-agent Jorge Mendes have turned them into surprise leaders. Their next game is away to Porto.

– Anderlecht crisis deepens –

Nine games into the season and still just one win — things are not going well for Vincent Kompany at Anderlecht.

A 0-0 draw at home to struggling Waasland-Beveren on Saturday provoked an angry reaction from frustrated fans of the Brussels club, who are fourth from bottom with just six points.

Player-manager Kompany missed the game with injury but Samir Nasri was there among a host of youngsters who have been unable to revive the team’s fortunes. Manchester City legend Kompany is under increasing pressure.