Man City set up tantalising showdown with Arsenal: Weekend Review

Another weekend of European football in the books, and once again drama is everywhere. Manchester City beat Arsenal in the race for the Premier League title and Marcus Rashford ensured that Manchester United would stay in the picture too.

Elsewhere, Union Berlin and Barcelona had impressive victories, with Davide Zappacosta, Nico Williams and Jordan Nobbs scoring world titles.

Sportzshala correspondents Julien Lawrence, Mark Ogden, James Ollie, Sam Marsden, James Tyler and Luis Miguel Echegaray share the most interesting and important things you need to know about the weekend.

Jump to: Topics for discussion | Best Goals | Teams in Trouble | Most Valuable Player of the Weekend

Topics for discussion

City heat up Arsenal ahead of Wednesday’s title fight

Manchester City gave up their previous chance to close the gap on Premier League leaders Arsenal, but they didn’t make the same mistake twice on Sunday.

Pep Guardiola’s team had plenty of motivation: a sense of injustice off the pitch after the Premier League’s decision to accuse City of more than 100 on-field financial fair play violations, Arsenal’s 1-1 draw against Brentford on Saturday provided a new pulse. promotion in the championship race.

– Dawson: Angry fans bolster Manchester City against Aston Villa

The Gunners may be upset that PGMOL subsequently conceded a mistake in a VAR review that should have ruled out Brentford’s equalizing goal, but after losing to Everton a week earlier, Arsenal were again unimpressed as they failed to win the league in a row. matches for the first time this season. City, visibly inspired by the events of the week, broke out of the blocks to score three goals in the first half against Aston Villa, slowing down in the second half to beat the winners 3-1. Erling Haaland and Ruben Diaz were pulled out in half-time as Guardiola had one eye on Wednesday’s clash with Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium. Haaland got hit and Diaz got booked so neither of them took any more chances.

Wednesday’s game has been on the horizon for some time since it was delayed following the death of Queen Elizabeth II in September, but it has gained even more importance following this weekend’s results. City know a win will put them above Arsenal (on goal difference) for the first time since November 5 – a potentially big psychological moment even though they played a game more. Conversely, the Gunners have a great opportunity to dispel any doubts about their tenacity in the title race. The stage is set perfectly. — Ollie

That more? Millions of Pain or his patience?

Last week, I wrote a very lengthy article in my weekly The Tap-In column about the pressure that comes from spending too much and what happens when the results on the field don’t match the efforts made off the field. Chelsea, of course, starring as accountant Todd Pawley, was no doubt sweating all of January as the West London club spent over $400m on acquisitions.

“They’re serious,” I told our David Lloyd. a few days later at SportsCenterso the question right now is pretty simple: can Graham Potter – a very talented and smart manager – be able to handle the pressure that needs to be met?

– Chelsea ratings: Felix stars, but Chelsea fail to hold the lead

Things are getting more difficult for the former Brighton & Hove Albion manager as Saturday’s 1-1 draw against West Ham United was Chelsea’s third in a row (one goal in that time frame) and they only have one win in 2023. Yes, they dominated the stats table – and Joao Felix was great – but the only stat that matters, the result, still doesn’t run its course.

“I think you saw the potential in the first half,” Potter said after the game. “You can’t control what people say from the outside, you see how it happens and continue to work. It’s a good group and we’re excited about the team and its potential, but the work is not done yet.”

This may be true, but the question remains: how much longer does he have to continue this unfinished work? Common sense will tell you that he should have the whole season, and indeed, it takes time for the manager to instill his fundamental ideals in a team that has just acquired a lot of players who have not even played in the league. But this is the Premier League, where common sense gives way to pressure. It doesn’t help that the city has a new owner who sees Chelsea not just as a club, but as a business. If wins don’t come soon, coupled with a possible setback against Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League, then I think Potter’s time is up. Money, simply put, rules everything. — Echegaray

Union Berlin continues to challenge and dazzle in the Bundesliga

The German championship race has followed a familiar pattern in recent years, with Bayern Munich loitering around, never looking truly dominant, before breaking away for a comfortable coronation weeks before the end of the season. This year it seems like the Bavarians are facing a real challenge, but did anyone expect it to come from Union Berlin? For all the talk of Dortmund, RB Leipzig and even Eintracht Frankfurt as viable rivals, Union continues to be overlooked despite being arguably the most impressive and complete of them all.

That’s right, the tiny Union, with a five-game winning streak in the league since the World Cup and already boasting a win over Borussia this season and a draw at home with Bayern back in September. They visited RB Leipzig on Saturday – no slouch, with two wins and two draws after the winter break – and lost 1-0 after a thunderous Benjamin Henriks before coming together and racking up all three points in the most dire of circumstances.

– Watch replay on Sportzshala+: Union Berlin 2-1 RB Leipzig (US only)

Union acted according to manager Urs Fischer’s plan, conceding much of the ball’s possession to Leipzig and their superior individual talent, only to create the vast majority of top scoring chances despite an early deficit. Midfielder Janik Haberer equalized at the hour mark, kicking a header and deftly catching a volley that flew past goalkeeper Janis Blasvich into the top corner. Less than 10 minutes later, Union beat Leipzig again and earned a penalty when defender Mohamed Simakan inexplicably jabbed his hand into the ball in preparation to kick it out. Defender Robin Knoch stepped out to send Blaswich the wrong way in what was Union’s second penalty converted in the Bundesliga all season.

The weak win keeps Union one point clear of Bayern Munich with 14 games remaining, which is important considering they meet at the Allianz Arena in just two weeks. Get your popcorn ready. — Tyler

Barca win again 1-0…

While all eyes were on Robert Lewandowski, Ousmane Dembele and Pedri, it was Barcelona’s defense that allowed them to achieve an 11-point lead at the top of La Liga. They beat Villarreal 1-0 on Sunday and widened their lead against Real Madrid, who won’t play until Wednesday due to participation in the Club World Cup they won on Saturday.

The score in Barça’s victory over Villarreal, where Real lost last month, was significant. It was the seventh 1-0 league win this season. No team from the top 5 European leagues has more 1-0 wins. It was also Javi Hernandez’s team’s 16th clean sheet in 21 league games. The numbers are wonderful.

Ronald Araujo received a standing ovation at the Estadio de la Ceramica. The Uruguayan was all over the place, stopping Villarreal’s counter-attacks and taking the ball away from Yeremi Pino just when it looked like he could equalize for the home team. Throughout the season, goalkeeper Marc-André ter Stegen’s return to form also helped, while new signings by Jules Kunde and Andreas Christensen further bolstered the defense.

However, Xavi insists that striker Lewandowski, “our first defender”, will start from scratch and Villarreal boss Quique Setien, who managed the Camp Nou for eight months in 2020, was amazed by their improvement without ball under the direction of Xavi.

Barça are fast and technical, but they have changed the most without the ball. “They are so tense off the ball and made us play for a long time several times. There was hardly a moment in the first half when we could comfortably play from behind. The data is there, this is the team that works the most without the ball.” — Marsden


Zappa’s Perfectly Timed World

Chelsea fans may not remember much about David Zappacosta, and to be honest, Atalanta fans don’t know much either. The 30-year-old Italian defender played at Stamford Bridge from 2017 to 2019 before moving to Bergamo in the summer of 2021, where he has made just six Serie A appearances this season.

However, anyone who watched his beautiful goal against Lazio on Saturday will never forget him. It took Zappacost over a year to get back on the record, but it was worth the wait. Immediately after the 22nd minute, with the score 0:0, when Atalanta attacked the Romans from the left side of the penalty area with Ademola Lukman, the ball returned to Zappacosta. Without thinking or in control of the ball, the number 77 landed a clean and magnificent shot that sent the ball straight into the opposite top corner.

Ivan Provedel, Lazio’s goalkeeper, didn’t even move. Still, nothing could be done. The hit was too perfect. Zappacosta didn’t know how to celebrate, which was indicative of his lack of experience in the area, but it was an incredible moment for him and his team. He set his team on the path to a very important win that saw them catapult over Lazio and Roma to finish the weekend in third place in…


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