A quick glance through the week's action. How are the top football leagues in Europe shaking out?
Did any of you have the misfortune of watching Chelsea - Manchester City on Sunday? If so, I'd ask for my money back. Rafa Benitez did not make the best of impressions in his first match in charge of the Blues, nor does he appear to have worked any miracles with regards to Fernando Torres. As for Roberto Mancini, can we please stop pretending he's good enough to coach the plethora of talent that City's sheikhs have provided? His side have crashed out of the Champions League again, and are second in the league thanks to cautious football and impressive poaching by Edin Dzeko.
Of greater surprise are West Bromwich Albion, sitting third. The Baggies are on a tear, having won four in a row. But this isn't sustainable...is it?
Why do we even bother talking about Spain? It's going to be Barcelona, and everyone knows it. They hammered Levante 4-0 on Sunday, with Lionel Messi scoring the first two, of course. He's up to 17, from 13 matches.
Atlético Madrid did well to keep pace, maintaining the 3-point gap on Barcelona with a 4-0 win over Sevilla. Sorry guys, but Falcao scored but one, a penalty conversion.
Real Madrid remain 11 -- yes, 11 -- points back, although in Spain, that puts them in third. It would've helped had they won this weekend, but instead lost 1-0 to Betis. Beñat went right through Sami Khedira and struck from 25 yards out. I guess once you secure your place in the Champions League, the domestic title isn't so important, eh, Jose?
Germany is actually getting almost as bad as Spain -- there are nine points separating first and second. But that's pretty much because Bayern Munich have been absolutely ridiculous this season. How ridiculous? They ran wild over mid-table Hannover, beating them 5-0. And none of those were questionable penalty calls!
Dortmund have managed to claw their way back into second place -- as well as secure the top spot in their Champions League group, comfortably brushing aside Ajax, 4-1. The win against Mainz was a bit more nervy, as the home side took the lead in the 4th minute. But Robert Lewandowski came up with a brace to bring his team up the table.
It didn't help, of course, that Schalke could only manage a 1-1 draw with Frankfurt. The two sides are now level on 24 points. Schalke may be forgiven for this minor lapse, however, considering their win over Olympiakos sent them through to the next stage of the Champions League.
Hey, Juventus lost again! And this time it was on a dubious penalty that went against them. That's right, there was a probably-not-handball called against Mauricio Isla, which resulted in Robinho converting a penalty for AC Milan. This would be less tragic for Juve had they managed to get more than one shot on target all night. Instead, they lost 1-0.
I know there's a Fiorentina interest around here, so Viola supporters should be thrilled that their side moved into second with a 2-2 draw against Torino. But caution -- the week in Italy isn't over yet, and Napoli and Inter Milan have yet to play. Wins from those sides will push Fiorentina back into fourth.
Bastia won...time to celebrate. Sure, they're still in 14th, but a 2-1 win over Lorient on Saturday did them no harm.
PSG absolutely thrashed Troyes, 4-0. But I ask you: is it fair to start Zlatan Ibrahimovic against a relegation-dwelling side that's picked up one win this season? I do not think it is. The Swede bagged a brace in the last 20 minutes.
Marseille are holding steady with PSG, though, picking up a 1-0 win against Lille. St Etienne, who beat Valenciennes, and Lyon, who could've taken top had they not lost 3-0 to Toulouse, are both just a point behind, and Bordeaux a point behind that. With five clubs separated by two points, Ligue 1 should be the most exciting league out there. And yet...
Twente slipped up this week, picking up just a point against Zwolle. Not a great week for Steve McClaren's side, who also crashed out out of Europa League with a stale 0-0 draw against Hannover.
Twente's failures paled compared to PSV, who also dropped out of Europa after a loss to Dnipro. Even worse, the Dutch leaders lost to Vitesse, who seem intent on making a run for the title. They're now even with Twente, although the race might open up now that no one has to concentrate on European play.
In fact, that might even bode well for Ajax, currently six points out of first. It might be better for Holland's giants to take last in their group of death, leaving them free of the hassle of Europa League and more able to concentrate on domestic matters.