With a lot of football being played over the previous week, there was no shortage of talking points.
Blues’ title to lose now?
In his first North vs West London derby as in-charge at Stamford Bridge, Antonio Conte attracted demands for his head from the fans as his team was given a lesson in attack by Arsene Wenger’s men at the Emirates Stadium. Cut to this weekend, and it was like watching an exact mirror image in the reverse fixture as Chelsea, almost hungry for revenge, ran riot in their 3-1 triumph over the Gunners on Saturday. It was Arsenal’s second consecutive defeat following a 2-1 shock loss at the hands of Watford mid-week.
Chelsea looked like the stronger outfit right from the outset and the first goal came from Marcos Alonso within 13 minutes as he netted a loose ball after Diego Costa’s header rebounded off the crossbar. Arsenal wasted a couple of good opportunities in the first period, which came to haunt them immediately into the second. Eden Hazard drove from the half-line to finish a marvellous solo goal past Petr Cech in the 53rd minute, to double the advantage for the leaders.
The 85th minute then saw ex-Gooner Cesc Fabregas rub it in further as he put the ball inside an empty goal after a poor clearance from Cech. Substitute Olivier Giroud spared the blushes for Arsenal as he pulled one back in stoppage time, but the outcome was already beyond doubt. It has now put Chelsea firmly in control of the title with a 9-point lead against second-placed Tottenham Hotspur. Meanwhile, Arsenal slipped to number four and are now 12 points adrift of the top of the table. It really is Chelsea’s title to lose now.
Manchester clubs undefeated
After months of below-par performances, Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City finally looked like an expensively assembled unit by notching up two important victories last week. Summer signing Gabriel Jesus stole the show with three goals, the first in the 4-0 mauling of West Ham and the next two in a nail biting 2-1 win against Swansea City.
After opening the scoring against the Swans, Gabriel Jesus and his team found themselves on the brink of dropping points into second half stoppage time. But the 19-year-old Brazilian rose up to the occasion to give Sergio Aguero sleepless nights for the Number 9 position. Will this be the turning point for City, who are now just one point away from the second place?
On the other side of Manchester, the Red Devils bounced back from a 0-0 midweek stalemate at home with Hull City to trounce defending champions Leicester City 3-0, courtesy goals from Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Juan Mata. United have now extended their unbeaten run in the league to 15 games and are just two points away from fourth-placed Arsenal.
Spurs aim for glory; Liverpool cookie crumbling?
Despite dropping two points during the week, the White Hart Lane outfit remained confident following a crucial 1-0 win over Middlesbrough on Saturday. Goal-scorer Son Heung-Min remained a constant threat for Boro as Mauricio Pochettino then went on to say that Tottenham are ‘ready to win a title.’
Talking of managers, it has been a tough 2017 for Jurgenn Klopp and his team who have slipped from second to fifth in the table within a matter of 4-5 weeks. A 2-0 away loss to Hull City following a 1-1 draw against Chelsea midweek didn’t help either. The Reds now find themselves struggling for a top-four finish, something they would have hardly imagined going into the New Year.
Barca close in, Torres proves unlikely hero
Goals from Paco Alcacer and Aleix Vidal on either side of a fortuitous Lionel Messi free-kick helped Barcelona close the gap on top of the La Liga to just one point as they dispatched Athletic Blibao 3-0 on Saturday. Table-toppers Real Madrid though have a couple of games in hand and are due to meet Celta Vigo in a postponed fixture on Monday.
Atletico Madrid strengthened their claim for a top-four finish, thanks to Fernando Torres’ brace in their 2-0 win over Leganes. They are now four points behind third-placed Sevilla who were held to a goalless draw by Villarreal over the weekend.
Juve on top, Bayern run halted
Juventus took control in the race for the Serie A as Juan Cuadrado’s strike was enough for the holders to edge out Inter Milan 1-0 over the weekend. Napoli overtook AS Roma at second after a resounding 7-1 over Bologna that included a Marek Hamsik hat-trick.
In the Bundesliga, champions Bayern Munich saw their winning run being brought to an end by a mid-table Schalke 1-1. Robert Lewandowski fired Carlo Ancelotti’s men in front but Naldo levelled things up soon after, with Schalke more than deserving of the point.
Images: Club websites