European football wrap: Ederson the man for City, La Liga title race heats up

With 14 clean sheets from 22 outings so far, the goalkeeper could possibly match Petr Cech’s tally of 24 in a single Premier League edition.

Ederson passes the ball during Manchester City’s 3-0 thrashing of Tottenham Hotspur at the Etihad Stadium on February 13.   -  Getty Images

There’s no stopping Manchester City at the moment. After a slow start to the season, Pep Guardiola’s men have crossed several milestones in the past few weeks and are on their way to shattering a few more. The club extended its English record for consecutive victories to 16 following a 3-0 thrashing of the Jose Mourinho-managed Tottenham Hotspur. With 14 clean sheets from 22 outings, Ederson could possibly match Petr Cech’s tally of 24 in a single Premier League edition.

The other contenders are making it easy for the Citizens. Manchester United is seven points behind in second, having played a game more and accumulating only six points from a possible 15 in recent games. United was held to a 1-1 draw by relegation-threatened West Bromwich Albion during matchweek 24, further hampering its chances for a first Premier League title since 2013. Meanwhile, defending champion Liverpool’s misery continued as it slumped to a third straight loss, a 1-3 thumping at third-placed Leicester City.

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The Reds find themselves in a tussle for fourth spot with the likes of Chelsea, West Ham United and Everton. Aston Villa, Spurs and Arsenal complete the top 10. Fulham, Newcastle United and Burnley picked up crucial wins in their fight against relegation. As things stand, Man City might coast to yet another trophy and Liverpool winger Mohamed Salah, who’s scored 17 goals in 23 appearances so far, might snatch a third Golden Boot.

La Liga

Despite Atletico Madrid holding a five-point lead over second-placed Real Madrid with two games in hand, the 2020-21 La Liga race is far from over. Diego Simeone’s Atleti saw its eight-match winning streak in the Spanish top division come to an end with a 2-2 draw with Celta Vigo. However, the league leader earned a hard-fought 2-1 victory at Granada four days later. Meanwhile, Zinedine Zidane’s Los Blancos claimed back-to-back 2-0 wins at home to keep the pressure on their city rival.

Lionel Messi’s sensational strike against Alaves would have definitely boosted Barcelona’s title hopes amid its pandemic struggles.   -  Getty Images

 

Barcelona and Sevilla, occupying the third and fourth spots, respectively, are currently the most in-form teams. The former has 10 victories and two draws in its last 12 league games, and the latter has won all of its previous nine. Lionel Messi’s sensational strike against Alaves would have definitely boosted Barca’s title hopes amid its pandemic struggles.

Last but not least, the Champions League’s resumption will signal the start of a hectic period in La Liga.

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Bundesliga

RB Leipzig closed the gap to Bayern Munich at the pinnacle of the 2020-21 Bundesliga points table with a third win on the trot. Julian Nagelsmann’s side overcame Augsburg 2-1 in its most recent encounter. However, the Hansi Flick-managed Bayern has a match in hand following a successful FIFA Club World Cup campaign in Qatar where it became just the second team after the Barcelona class of 2009 to hold six trophies at the same time.

With six draws in the latest matchday, there was not much movement in the standings. But the fight for the UEFA spots intensified. Eintracht Frankfurt was the biggest gainer as it defeated FC Koln 2-0 to move third above Wolfsburg, which featured in a goalless clash against seventh-placed Borussia Monchengladbach. Bayer Leverkusen and Borussia Dortmund, both struggling for form right now, are placed in the two Europa League positions.

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Serie A

Inter Milan displaced AC Milan at the top of the 2020-21 Serie A standings just seven days before the big derby at the San Siro. A brace from Romelu Lukaku, which moved him above Cristiano Ronaldo in the Golden Boot showdown, guided the Nerazzurri to a 3-1 victory over Lazio. The result took Antonio Conte’s men to 50 points, one more than their long-time rival after 22 matches. On the other hand, the Rossoneri suffered a third defeat in five all-tournament outings as they were outplayed 0-2 by Spezia.

A brace from Romelu Lukaku, which moved him above Cristiano Ronaldo in the Golden Boot showdown in the Serie A, guided Inter Milan to a 3-1 victory over Lazio and took the side to 50 points, one more than long-time rival AC Milan after 22 matches.   -  Getty Images

 

Defending champion Juventus, which has a game in hand, lost to fifth-placed Napoli 0-1 to move a spot down to fourth. Roma, with 43 points, jumped to third after beating Udinese 3-0. Napoli, Atalanta and Lazio are tied on points and separated by head-to-head record. This season might end up being even closer than the 2019-20 edition.

Ligue 1

Second-placed Paris Saint-Germain will be the happiest team in France after gameweek 25 as three of its main Ligue 1 adversaries — leader Lille OSC, Olympique Lyonnais and AS Monaco — dropped points.

Mauricio Pochettino’s PSG edged past Nice 2-1 in a thriller to cut short its gap to the top to just one point. However, Les Parisiens will face Monaco, the only other side apart from themselves to win the French league in the last eight years, next in the competition. PSG will also be travelling to Barcelona for a Champions League contest before that, and it is set to miss both Neymar and Angel Di Maria for the two big fixtures.

Lille, which was held to a 0-0 draw by Brest most recently, would be looking to garner maximum points amid its closest title rival’s tricky round of games.

Lyon, on the other hand, was undone by Montpellier during a 1-2 loss in its latest encounter, while Monaco needed a stoppage-time equaliser from Wissam Ben Yedder, who is behind Kylian Mbappe and Memphis Depay in the race to become the league’s top-scorer, to share the spoils with Lorient.

Rennes currently occupies the final European slot and is in a battle to preserve it from at least six clubs below it on the table.