Five things we learned from European football
It was a disastrous weekend for Lyon and Netherlands striker Memphis Depay who is now likely to miss Euro 2020 but an excellent one for Philippe Coutinho who is proving his worth for Bayern Munich.
Here, AFP Sport takes a look at five things we learned from European football last weekend:
Dutch sweat on Depay
The Netherlands’ hopes of winning Euro 2020 took a massive blow when star forward Memphis Depay suffered a cruciate ligament injury in Lyon’s 1-0 loss against Rennes.
The 25-year-old went off just after half-time and, according to his club, will be out of action for “no less than six months”, which could rule him out of the Euros which begin on June 12 in Rome.
The loss of Depay is critical for Lyon who also lost Jeff Reine-Adelaide, also to a cruciate ligament injury.
Depay has scored eight times in his last eight matches in all competitions for Rudi Garcia’s men, including the goal that took them to the last 16 of the Champions League midweek.
“Memphis’ injury is a catastrophe because he is our most decisive player… we’ll have to forget about him for the rest of the season,” said Lyon’s sporting director Juninho.
Lyon are now eighth in Ligue 1, five points behind Rennes in fourth.
Christmas comes early for Coutinho
A late arrival on-loan in the summer transfer window, Philippe Coutinho’s spell at Bayern Munich has reflected the clumsy lows of his time at Barcelona rather than the scintillating highs of his stint at Liverpool.
With three goals and two assists in the Bavarians’ 6-1 win over Werder Bremen on Saturday however, it would have been tempting for Bayern fans to celebrate finally witnessing the ‘real’ Coutinho.
His return to form is good news for a side which has been overly reliant on Robert Lewandowski so far this campaign.
But the Pole – who has 18 goals so far this campaign including two against Bremen – said he had no qualms about the Brazilian taking his usual role on centre stage.
“That was his game today. With the ball, his movements – what he did was outstanding today,” Lewandowski said. “We need such a player.”
Bayern paid 8.5 million euros ($9.47 million) for a one-year loan deal for the 27-year-old and have an option to make it permanent next summer for 120 million euros.
Neither Barcelona nor Real Madrid will head into Wednesday’s Clasico on the back of a win as La Liga’s leading pair were both held to draws ahead of their crunch meeting at Camp Nou.
A pulsating contest between Barca and Real Sociedad finished 2-2 on Saturday, which presented Real with the chance to pull two points clear at the top of the table.
But they too were denied victory against Valencia on Sunday, even if a 95th-minute equaliser from Karim Benzema had Zinedine Zidane’s side celebrating at the final whistle.
It means Barca and Real remain level on points, with the winner of their showdown in midweek set to claim first place over the Christmas break.
Ronaldo honours Matuidi
World Cup winner Blaise Matuidi described Cristiano Ronaldo as “world-class” for handing him the captain’s armband in Juventus’s 3-1 win over Udinsee which put the champions back the joint top of Serie A, equal on points with Inter Milan.
Gonzalo Higuain was subbed off with ten minutes to go with the Argentinian giving the armband to Ronaldo, who instead handed it to 32-year-old Matuidi.
“World-class. Thanks for this honour,” wrote Matuidi on Twitter.
Juve goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon, meanwhile, made his 646th Serie A appearance on Sunday, one short of Paolo Maldini’s all-time record.
The 41-year-old also notched up his 478th Serie A appearance for Juventus to equal Alessandro del Piero’s club record.
Bleak house at Ajax
Not such a Merry Christmas in Amsterdam. Dumped out of the Champions League by Valencia on Tuesday, Ajax then slipped to a 1-0 defeat at AZ Alkmaar on Sunday which puts a dent in their hopes of retaining the Eredivisie.
Last season Ajax were arguably the story of the Champions League when their youthful team went all the way to the semi-finals.
And Erik ten Hag’s team were in a good position to qualify for the last 16 this time as they went into the final matchday with a two-point lead at the top of their group.
But Rodrigo Moreno’s 24th-minute strike for Valencia along with Chelsea’s win against Lille sent them spinning into the Europa League instead.
Sunday’s defeat, courtesy of a Myron Boadu header in the 90th minute, means Ajax and Alkmaar are now level on 41 points at the head of the Eredivisie but you must wonder just how deflating that Champions League exit will be.
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