Barcelona’s struggles, Silva, Zlatan: European football talking points
Barcelona are enduring their worst start to a La Liga season in nearly two decades, but the evergreen David Silva and Zlatan Ibrahimovic continue to flourish, helping Real Sociedad and AC Milan top their respective leagues.
AFP Sport rounds up some of the main talking points from the weekend across the continent:
Bleak outlook for Barcelona
Barcelona’s poor form in La Liga is that of a club in crisis, which they very much are off the field with president Josep Maria Bartomeu resigning last week.
On Saturday they were held to a 1-1 draw at 10-man Alaves, despite Antoine Griezmann getting his first goal of the season.
Barca have now gone four La Liga games without a win and languish in 12th place, nine points behind leaders Real Sociedad, albeit with two games in hand.
Ronald Koeman’s side are enduring Barcelona’s worst start to a league season in 18 years, when another Dutchman was in charge. Louis van Gaal was sacked midway through that campaign in which they finished sixth.
No team has ever won La Liga after taking just eight points from their first six matches in the era of three points for a win. Lionel Messi has just one La Liga goal this season, and that was a penalty.
Silva service for La Real
Real Sociedad continue to set the pace after a comprehensive 4-1 win at Celta Vigo as David Silva got his first goal since moving to San Sebastian from Manchester City.
The Basque club may have seen Martin Odegaard return to Real Madrid after helping them finish sixth last season during a successful loan spell, but they have now won five of their last six matches having already held Madrid in this campaign.
They sit three points clear of the reigning champions, albeit having played a game more, and are scoring goals for fun — 14 in their last four outings. If they can keep up this form they should fancy their chances of a return to the Champions League for the first time since 2013.
Zlatan better than ever
If Silva is still going strong at 34, Zlatan Ibrahimovic is still starring aged 39.
The Swede’s late overhead kick gave AC Milan a 2-1 win at Udinese that maintained their unbeaten start to the season.
They are two points clear of Sassuolo at the Serie A summit, and four ahead of both Juventus and Atalanta.
The season is only six games old, and there will be tougher tests ahead, but it has been a fine start for the Rossoneri, who have also won both Europa League group matches.
Ibrahimovic, who has in the past likened himself to Benjamin Button as he seemingly gets better and better with age, is Serie A’s leading scorer with seven goals already.
There are only seven sides still unbeaten in Europe’s “Big Five” leagues, and alongside the likes of Milan, Juventus and Atletico Madrid in remaining undefeated at the start of November there is one surprise name.
Sassuolo have established themselves in Serie A in recent years and came eighth last season under Roberto De Zerbi, who has led them to four wins and two draws in their first six games.
On Sunday the Neroverdi claimed a 2-0 victory at Napoli with Italian international defender Manuel Locatelli putting them ahead with a penalty before French midfielder Maxime Lopez, on loan from Marseille, added a second.
Parked in between Milan and Juve in second, Sassuolo’s fixture list has been kind so far but they will hope to build on this start and go on to qualify for Europe for the second time in their history.
Just the five for Ajax
A week after making history by crushing VVV Venlo 13-0 in the biggest ever victory in the Dutch Eredivisie, Ajax managed just the five goals in their win over Fortuna Sittard.
They triumphed 5-2 against the side who sit bottom of the table, with ex-Everton midfielder Davy Klaassen scoring twice. The 18-year-old Brian Brobbey scored on his debut, while Dusan Tadic and Quincy Promes netted penalties for Ajax, who visit Midtjylland in the Champions League this week.