With most European leagues 7 or 8 matches into the season, we can start to draw some conclusions from the opening weeks of the soccer season. Some teams are firing on all cylinders, while others are still working out their issues.
Now everyone is on international break for a couple weeks. So with no league play until mid-October, teams like Liverpool, Everton, and Bayern Munich, who are suddenly struggling mightily, will have extra time to contemplate their flaws.
Let’s take a look at some of the headlines from the weekend.
PSG keeps cruising
After dismantling Bayern Munich 3-0 in the Champions League earlier this week, leading to Bayern sacking manager Carlo Ancelotti, PSG were back at it during league play this weekend.
Neymar scored a hat-trick, Kylian Mbappe and Edinson Cavani both scored, and PSG breezed to an easy 6-2 demolition of Bordeaux, who hadn’t lost yet on the season.
It all looked far too easy for PSG as they dismantled Bordeaux. Even when the Parisian giants rotated their squad and formation slightly to get Julian Draxler some playing time, they were still completely in control.
Perhaps most importantly after the rumored blow up between Neymar and Cavani a couple weeks ago over who was taking penalties, Neymar stepped up for a penalty against Bordeaux, converted it expertly, and immediately went over to a smiling Cavani to celebrate.
Basically the only thing that can stop this PSG team is if they start beefing with each other, so the fact that Neymar and Cavani seem to be over their spat will be a welcome sight for manager Unai Emery.
With seven wins in 8 matches so far this season, PSG appear to be marching straight for the Ligue 1 title, but as has been said since the summer, the true test for PSG will be in the Champions League. They passed their first test when they drubbed Bayern last week.
Barcelona play in empty stadium during Catalonia referendum
While the city of Barcelona and the region of Catalonia voted on a referendum to leave Spain and become an independent state, the results led to clashes with police as demonstrators voiced their opinion.
This is why people who say “stick to sports,” bemoaning the intersection of sports and politics, miss the point. Politics are ingrained in sports and no image emphasized this fact more than Barcelona playing in a completely empty stadium as the citizens voted for independence.
Apparently the decision to play was virtually forced on Barcelona as La Liga threatened to dock them 6 points if they refused.
Didn’t share this yearerday, but Pique was brilliant.
“No violence whatsoever for 7 years, then they came”. pic.twitter.com/5xTrWfZzAu
— Lucas R. (@lucasammr) October 2, 2017
An emotional Gerard Pique was in tears after the match talking about the decision to play the game. Pique also said that if the Catalonia referendum causes problems for the Spanish national team he will not play.
There’s a lot of complicated geopolitical ramifications to Catalonia voting for their independence, but it also effects players and sport as well. Despite all of the insanity of the early season for Barcelona, with losing Neymar and everything that has been going down in the city, the club sits atop La Liga with seven wins in seven matches.
Manchester City lay down marker with win over Chelsea
In an early season showdown between last season’s title winners and this season’s favorites, Manchester City looked every bit the dominant force.
City kept the ball and pressed Chelsea magnificently in true Pep Guardiola fashion, keeping the London side bottled up in their own half for a majority of the game.
City had the majority of chances and should’ve scored more, but when the goal finally came it was the Belgian Kevin De Bruyne who supplied that little bit of magic against his former team.
De Bruyne was at Chelsea until former manager Jose Mourinho deemed him not good enough and sent him off to Wolfsburg. The attacking midfielder found his way back to the Premier League and may be the best all around player in the league. He is flourishing under Pep Guardiola’s tutelage.
It’s still early days but with City and United tied at the top of the Premier League table, all eyes are on Manchester.
Napoli with 7 wins in 7 sit atop Serie A table
Italian soccer has a reputation of being boring and defensive but no team defies this stereotype like Maurizio Sarri’s Napoli.
Napoli are one of the most exciting teams in European soccer, playing a high-octane brand of attacking soccer, predicated on quick short passing moves and high pressing without the ball.
With an easy 3-0 dismantling of Cagliari, the Neapolitans are comfortably in first place in Serie A. They aren’t as deep or rich as Juventus (who have won the league 6 straight seasons) but this might finally be the year that Juve has some serious competition at the top of the table.
With Dries Mertens, Lorenzo Insigne, and Marek Hamsik creating chances at will in attack, Napoli are one of the most dangerous teams in Europe.
For any casual soccer fans looking for entertainment, make an appointment to watch Napoli, you won’t regret it.