European football talking points: Manchester City breathing down Liverpool's neck, Bayern Munich stutter and more

Nevin Thomas
Talking points from a Gameweek that would make you wonder (again) why Argentina are so heavily reliant on Lionel Messi for goals and inspiration.

A Barcelona draw and an Atletico loss have opened up the battle for LaLiga, with third-placed Real Madrid (yes, remember them?) suddenly just two points away from their city rivals. Real aren't the only side recovering from a bad start to the season though.

Manchester United forward Marcus Rashford scored on his 100th appearance in the Premier League to secure a 1-0 win over Leicester City that ensured manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's dream start remained intact. United are currently fifth in the table, two points adrift Chelsea, and are now looking favourites to clinch the final Champions League berth.

Manchester City did their bit to add pressure on Premier League leaders Liverpool by beating Arsenal 3-1 at home. Liverpool, who travel to West Ham on Monday night, have a two-point lead over City. And let's not forget the brace for Chelsea's new recruit Gonzalo Higuain and a hat-trick for Sergio Aguero!

Talking points from a Gameweek that would make you wonder (again) why Argentina are so heavily reliant on Lionel Messi for goals and inspiration.

First stutter for Juventus

One week, two results that were uncharacteristic of a Juventus side. After losing 3-0 to Atlanta in Coppa Italia quarterfinal in the midweek, Juventus suffered a surprise draw against Parma in the weekend. The league leaders held two-goal leads twice in the match, but Parma were still able to come back and punish Juve's surprisingly lackadaisical defending.

It's easy to blame the makeshift defence €" manager Massimiliano Allegri was forced to start Daniel Rugani and new-signing Martin Caceres in central defence after injuries to Giorgio Chiellini, Leonardo Bonucci and Andrea Barzagli €" but the defenders hardly put a foot wrong in a match where Juve's midfield, constituting of Sami Khedira, Mirlen Pjanic and Blaise Matuidi, was next to absent.

Cristiano Ronaldo did his growing image in Turin no harm though by assisting one and scoring two goals, including a picture-perfect header. The Portuguese superstar, with 17 goals and 6 assists, is having the best debut for a Juventus player in their history.

The Old Lady of Turin are far ahead of Serie A's chasing pack to be affected by the result though and Allegri will be hopeful for a comeback when they travel to Sassuolo to ease the pressure growing on him.

Defensive lapses undoing Emery's good work

Manchester City might have got a lightning-quick start to the match thanks to a first-minute goal from Sergio Aguero but Arsenal will only have themselves to blame for the loss against the league champions.

Arsenal's performance against City was yet another example of how a meticulous and thoughtful manager's work continues to be undermined by the ineptitude of his defence. All of the effort Unai Emery put in the practice sessions to set the team went in vain within 46 seconds as Alex Iwobi had a brain-freeze moment and presented an opportunity for Aymeric Laporte to whip in a delicious cross for one of the most straightforward goals that Aguero will score this season.

But Arsenal showed they have become more than a cakewalk to the big sides when they clawed their way back into the match after going a goal down. For much of the first half, Arsenal were organised and, remarkably, in control. Lucas Torreira and Matteo Guendouzi dominated the midfield and were locked in a battle with around four drifting City midfielders, which resulted in an unusually quiet game for Kevin De Bruyne. Laurent Koscielny headed the equaliser in the 11th minute and, from there, Arsenal were causing genuine trouble for City.

But again, Arsenal were undone by a defensive lapse, which allowed Raheem Sterling to pick a pass for Aguero, who slotted it in from a close range. In fact, all three goals for City came from the left-wing, manned by Iwobi and 35-year-old Stephan Lichtsteiner, who was playing due to injuries for Hector Bellerin and Ainsley Maitland-Niles. Which begs the question -- Why did they not look for defensive reinforcements in the January transfer window?

The centre-back combination of Koscielny and Shkodran Mustafi was too slow for a team like City, which meant Emery could not play a high defensive line. That limitation meant City had more space to operate in the opposition half which is always an invitation for trouble. Full-backs Nacho Monreal and Lichsteiner weren't impressive going forward and affected the side's plan to counterattack City.

It looks like Emery will have to rely on his attackers bailing out the team for the rest of the season and hope summer brings some defensive reinforcements.

LaLiga excites

Valencia, who were struggling for goals in 2018, can't suddenly stop scoring! The latest victims to Valencia's change in fortunes were league leaders Barcelona, who had to come back from being two goals down, to secure a 2-2 draw in the weekend.

The problems at defence for Barcelona don't seem to have a solution though. Against Valencia, manager Ernesto Valverde opted to give Jordi Alba a rest and play Sergi Roberto as a left-back. But the latter struggled in the role and Alba had to be brought in the second half to bring balance to the side. The Spain left-back picked up a yellow card in the match though which means he will now be absent for the El Clasico.

With no natural left-back in the team, this could be an area for Real Madrid to exploit, especially with the form Vinicius Jr. is in. The Brazilian was instrumental in Madrid's 3-0 victory against Alaves in the weekend and got a standing ovation from the Santiago Bernabeu faithful in his ninth consecutive start for Real.

Meanwhile, things didn't go well for former Real Madrid forward Alvaro Morata in his debut for Atletico Madrid, who succumbed to a 1-0 draw against Real Betis. Morata started in place of the injured Diego Costa, but brought nothing but bad luck for Atletico, who lost for the first time in 20 games in all competitions. Atlético were defensively shut out by Betis, with Morata's one big opportunity getting saved by Pau López.

PSG and Bayern suffer surprise defeats

Bayern Munich's plans to make Borussia Dortmund's charge to the Bundesliga title a little difficult took a surprise hit after they were defeated 3-1 by Bayer Leverkusen. A three-goal berserk in the second half by the home side was enough to wipe out Leon Goretzka's first-half header for Bayern. The first loss in 2019 for the current champions meant they could not capitalise on Dortmund's draw against Eintracht.

Moussa Dembele scored and won a penalty as Lyon stunned a Neymar-less Paris Saint-Germain 2-1 in the weekend to end the runaway leaders' hopes of an unbeaten Ligue 1 campaign. Argentine Angel Di Maria had fired PSG into a seventh-minute lead, but Dembele equalised and Nabil Fekir scored the winner from the spot three minutes after half-time. PSG have a 10-point lead on top of the table though (having played two matches lesser) and are unlikely to be challenged for the title.

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