By IAN HOLLIDAY
With the UEFA Champions League and Europa League group stages getting underway last week and most European leagues playing midweek games this week, managers across Europe saw their squads' depths tested this weekend, and some sides fared better than others.
Napoli followed up an impressive road draw against Manchester City in Champions League play with a convincing 3-1 victory over AC Milan on Sunday in a battle of Serie A title contenders. Edinson Cavani netted all three goals for Napoli.
Two Champions League sides who endured disappointing weekends were Arsenal and Real Madrid. On Saturday, the Gunners twice surrendered one-goal leads and gave up two own-goals en route to a 4-3 loss to Blackburn at Ewood Park. The next day, Real Madrid fell 1-0 at Levante on a 68th-minute goal from Aroune Kone. The Merengues were forced to play 10 men for the final 60 minutes after Sami Khedira was shown a second yellow card for shoving Sergio Ballesteros.
Two champions league club that definitely didn't struggle this weekend were returning finalists Barcelona and Manchester United. Barcelona rebounded from its 2-2 Tuesday draw with AC Milan to crush Osasuna 8-0 at Camp Nou. Manchester United took a 3-0 lead into the halftime break against Chelsea and never looked back, winning 3-1.
Here's a rundown of all the weekend scores from Europe's top leagues:
It was a good weekend for newly promoted clubs in the Premier League, as Swansea City, Norwich City and Queens Park Rangers all won in comfortable fashion. Swansea and QPR blew out West Brom and Wolves, respectively, by the same 3-0 scoreline. Norwich took a 2-0 lead at Bolton at halftime and held on to win 2-1. For Norwich and Swansea, the wins were the first of the season, while QPR's victory was its second. All three results carry added significance because they came against clubs that figure to be involved in the relegation battle this year.
Tottenham 4, Liverpool 0
Fulham 2, Manchester City 2
Sunderland 4, Stoke City 0
Manchester United 3, Chelsea 1
Blackburn 4, Arsenal 3
Aston Villa 1, Newcastle United 1
Bolton 1, Norwich City 2
Everton 3, Wigan Athletic 1
Swansea City 3, West Bromwich Albion 0
Wolverhampton Wanderers 0, Queens Park Rangers 3
Real Madrid won't have long to dwell on its first defeat of the season, as the club visits Racing Santander on Wednesday. Barca will also be back in action on Wednesday, in what should be the game of the week in La Liga at Valencia. The hosts are one of only two clubs in Spain left with a perfect record, neither of which is one of the big two (the other one is promoted Real Betis). A home win over Barcelona would put Valencia in position to make some noise in this year's La Liga title race.
Getafe 0, Rayo Vallecano 1
Real Zaragoza 2, Espanyol 1
Atletico Madrid 4, Racing Santander 0
Levante 1, Real Madrid 0
Athletic Bilbao 2, Real Betis 3
Granada 1, Villarreal 0
Mallorca 0, Malaga 1
Sporting Gijon 0, Valencia 1
Barcelona 8, Osasuna 0
Sevilla 1, Real Sociedad 0
Napoli's victory over AC Milan took the club to the top of the Italian table with a perfect record, though through just two rounds of Serie A, the table is still mostly meaningless. Three other teams can claim a share of the lead with a perfect record. They are Juventus, Udinese and Cagliari. All four clubs will see midweek action on Wednesday, with Udinese's visit to the San Siro to take on AC Milan the best game of the bunch.
Atalanta 1, Palermo 0
Bologna 0, Lecce 2
Catania 1, Cesena 0
Lazio 1, Genoa 2
Parma 2, Chievo Verona 1
Siena 0, Juventus 1
Udinese 2, Fiorentina 0
Napoli 3, AC Milan 1
Cagliari 2, Novara 1
Inter Milan 0, AS Roma 0
While Spain, Italy and France all have midweek fixtures scheduled this week, the Bundesliga will be on a normal schedule, with clubs returning to play next weekend. Though the schedule isn't quite as congested, two of the league's three champions league participants still lost their matches over the weekend. On Saturday, Bayer Leverkusen fell 4-1 at home to FC Cologne, and on Sunday, Borussia Dortmun lost 2-1 at Hannover 96. The only champions league club not to lose was Bayern Munich, which cruised to 2-0 victory at Schalke that sent the visitors to first place.
Hannover 96 2, Borussia Dortmund 1
Schalke 04 0, Bayern Munich 2
Bayer Leverkusen 1, FC Cologne 4
Hamburg 0, Borussia Moenchengladbach 1
Hertha Berlin 2, FC Augsburg 2
Nurnberg 1, Werder Bremen 1
Hoffenheim 3, VfL Wolfsburg 1
Kaiserslautern 3, Mainz 1
SC Freiburg 1, VfB Stuttgart 2
Through six rounds of the Ligue 1 season, just one undefeated team remains. Lyon defeated suddenly hapless Marseille 2-0 on Sunday to move to the top of the table after Montpellier drew 2-2 at Brest on Saturday. The former seven-time champions haven't hoisted the Ligue 1 title since the 2007-08 season, but with the league looking rather evenly matched for another season, Lyon must be thinking this is its year to return to the top.
Evian Thonon Gaillard 2, Paris St. Germain 2
Stade Rennes 1, AS Nancy Lorraine 1
Lyon 2, Marseille 0
AJ Auxerre 1, Caen 1
Brest 2, Montpellier 2
Lorient 3, St. Etienne 0
Nice 3, AC Ajaccio 0
Toulouse 3, Bordeaux 2
Valenciennes 4, Dijon FCO 0
Lille 2, Sochaux 2
This Sunday marked the first Old Firm match of the season in Scotland, and it was a good one. Steven John Naismith opened the scoring for Rangers in the 23rd minute, only to see the visitors take a 2-1 halftime lead through goals from Gary Hooper and Badr El Kaddouri. The hosts equalized in the 55th minute through Nikica Jelavic and took the lead in the 67th through Kyle Lafferty. Celtic finished the match with 10 men after Charlie Mulgrew was sent off in the 75th minute. Naismith added another goal in stoppage time to round out the scoring in a 4-2 win for the home side. Americans Carlos Bocanegra and Maurice Edu started and went the distance for Rangers.
What did you think of this week's matches? Which result impressed or surprised you the most? Will you be following the midweek games?
Real Madrid look like they have a problem staying composed. They’ve seen red in 2 of their last 3 games.
I would love to see Real dump Jose. They have so much talent yet play wrestling matches instead of football.
And some sliced oranges.
I never understood the hate on Serie A. The Napoli-Milan match was very enjoyable. Cavani is an unbelievable talent. I hope he enjoyed himself an x-large pizza after the match.
Really? I read Rangers doesn’t pay anyone over 20,000 pounds a week. And I’m sure Boca was making that while at Fulham and arguably that range while in France. He had EL play while in Rennes a few years ago.
i blame di maria for the madrid loss. he took an EMBARRASSING dive acting like he got shot in the face when he didn’t even get touched. same then went over to di maria to make sure the guy wasn’t messing with him and he shoved the guy, got a second yellow. if di maria had just located his balls and not fallen over like a little girl, sami would have never got the second yellow. even as a madrid fan, im really starting to dislike di maria.
18 minute cameo.
You’re not wrong.
Celtic & Rangers pay very well and better than alot of Premiership clubs. No one in their right mind heads off to the SPL unless they’re trying to get into a European league or looking to pad the retirement fund.
Celtic & Rangers pay more than many French Clubs. So Boca is making more money at Rangers than he ever would at St. Etienne. Remember, he was a team captain at St. Etienne and they liked him alot.
I would say the russian league is clearly better than scotland, it is just impossible to watch for many americans due to the time difference. I live on the west coast so i have never seen a live russian league game for instance
sooo how did Michael Bradley do?
O/T but why did Boca and Bedoya join Rangers? I’m sure Bedoya’s payday shot up a lot since he was in Sweden, but did Boca really make that much more than in France? Surely around the time of negotiations Rangers were kicked out of the CL, so why?
Interesting point. The Danish/Belgian league is arguably more competitive and interesting than the SPL
Poor Torres. 2011 will go down as the worse of his career. 4 years ago he came to Liverpool as a decent striker with lots of potential and became world class in under 2 seasons. But the move to Chelsea seems to have been ultra bad luck. For shame. I’ll always have the image of him from Liverpool. He was HAPPY
Why are you including the Scottish League as a top-tier league? Is it only because there are 3 Americans on Rangers? Competetively speaking, it is a piss-poor league with below-average teams and only 2 spots in Europe (both of which are in the qualifying rounds). The only news we ever hear from the league is an American getting injured or an American having his car blown up. I would rather have a report on the Dutch League, which is far more competetive and still has 4 or 5 euro spots. Just my opinion, I could be wrong.
It’s results like this that really make me wonder why just about every soccer writer thinks City and Bayern will clearly make it out of the group stage in expense of Napoli. Did they forget that Napoli is a great team?