Five Things We Learned In European Football This Weekend

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Chelsea’s English midfielder Ruben Loftus-Cheek (C) celebrates after scoring their second goal during the English Premier League football match between between Cardiff City and Chelsea at Cardiff City Stadium in Cardiff, south Wales on March 31, 2019. Chelsea won the game 2-1.
Geoff CADDICK / AFP

Barcelona, Juventus and Paris Saint-Germain all moved closer to retaining their domestic titles this weekend, but there were plenty of other talking points in Europe.

AFP Sport takes a look back at the action as Borussia Dortmund and Ajax claimed big victories, and a famous old name lifted silverware in France.

Luca Zidane is in Zizou’s plans

Zinedine Zidane gave his son Luca just a second start in goal for Real Madrid against La Liga’s bottom side Huesca, the 20-year-old getting his chance with Thibaut Courtois and Keylor Navas missing. However, the young Zidane may not be starting again any time too soon — he conceded twice as Real needed a late Karim Benzema goal to win 3-2.

“When I give Luca a game, I am not giving my son a game, I am giving a game to a member of the Real Madrid squad,” insisted the coach. Luca had been completely sidelined by former boss Julen Lopetegui earlier this season.

Real have now won both games since ‘Zizou’ returned, but there were less than 50,000 at Sunday’s game at the Bernabeu, underlining the apathy amongst supporters just now.

Baby boom for Dortmund

Borussia Dortmund fans will have feared the worst when Marco Reus pulled out of their Bundesliga clash with Wolfsburg to be at the birth of his first child.

Yet it proved to be a good day all round for both Reus and his club. Even without their talismanic captain, Dortmund snatched a 2-0 win over Wolfsburg to go top of the Bundesliga.

As Bayern Munich were held to a 1-1 draw in Freiburg, Paco Alcacer’s injury-time brace saw Dortmund go two points clear at the top.

Just a few hours after full-time, Reus and his partner Scarlett Gartmann announced the arrival of their baby daughter.

“There are some things which are more important than football,” said Dortmund’s sporting director Michael Zorc.

Yet Dortmund will no doubt be relieved when Reus returns in next week’s title-race showdown against Bayern.

No excuses for Ranieri’s Roma

Roma president James Pallotta blasted his side’s 4-1 defeat at home by Napoli, saying Claudio Ranieri’s side need to “stand up and show they have balls”.

Ranieri won his first match against Empoli after taking over from Eusebio Di Francesco but now has two losses on the trot against SPAL and Napoli.

“Everyone knows what’s gone wrong this season and that’s why we had to make changes,” said Pallotta on Twitter. “But the time for excuses is over. The performance against SPAL wasn’t acceptable and today was even worse.”

Last year’s Champions League semi-finalists slumped to seventh and are four points adrift of the top four.

“These players have to stand up and show they have balls,” said Pallotta. “No more alibis for anyone.”

Dutch title race back on

The fight for the Dutch league title is very much on again after Ajax beat leaders PSV Eindhoven 3-1 in Sunday’s big game in Amsterdam, despite playing most of the second half with 10 men after Noussair Mazraoui’s red card. The Champions League quarter-finalists — who face Juventus next week in that competition — were grateful to a Dusan Tadic penalty and a late David Neres goal to win it as they moved to within two points of the reigning champions with seven games remaining. It was a first defeat since early December for Mark van Bommel’s PSV side.

Strasbourg cap rise back to top

Strasbourg seized the rare chance to steal the limelight from Paris Saint-Germain in France as they won the League Cup by beating Guingamp on penalties in the final in Lille. Lionel Carole scored the winning spot-kick in the shoot-out after a 0-0 draw in a game that was largely forgettable, but certainly not for fans of the Alsace side.

It is the third time they have won the trophy, and it caps a remarkable rise back to the top for the 1979 French champions. They were relegated to the fifth tier in 2011 after going into liquidation, but returned to Ligue 1 in 2017 and will now be playing in the Europa League next season.

AFP

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