Sad Messi is sad - David Ramos
There's less than two weeks left in the January transfer window, but this week's hottest signing was that of a manager. Meanwhile, the Eredivisie is heating up and there's been a meltdown in Spain.
Sorry about the break -- consider it a much needed avoidance while the Villa were breaking my heart. But it's time to dive back into the world of football. What do you think was the most exciting part of the week?
The biggest surprise in the Premier League came at the end of the week (well, Everton still need to play Southampton, but you know what I mean). Aaron Lennon set up Clint Dempsey to score the equalizer for Tottenham Hotspur against Manchester United. I'm pretty sure Spurs supporters are still giddy after that.
With Manchester City winning 2-0 over Fulham, that puts United just five points clear at the top of the table. Rafa Benitez managed to coax a win out of Chelsea this week, but his side are still 11 points off the pace.
In happy news, Aston Villa's draw with West Brom -- a result we would've all been thrilled with had the Villans not lost a 2-0 lead -- brings them out of the relegation zone, where Reading, Wigan Athletic and Queens Park Rangers dwell. But before we get back to league play, it's a week of cup ties coming up.
It happened! It finally happened! Barcelona lost their first La Liga match of the season. They were up 2-0 against Real Sociedad, courtesy of Lionel Messi and Pedro, when it all just fell apart. Gonzalo Castro scored for the home side. Then, after the break, Gerard Pique was sent off, and Castro had his second less than five minutes later. The dramatic comeback was completed in extra time, when Imanol Agirretxe tapped the winner past Victor Valdes.
Of course, Barca still have an eight point cushion at the top of the table, but Atlético Madrid, who beat Levante 2-0, might just be retaining a faint glimmer of hope now that the unbeaten run has run its course. Rivals Real Madrid apparently thought they could gain points simply by thrashing Valencia 5-0 this weekend, but apparently things don't exactly work that way and they remain 15 points back of first place.
In case you've been in a sensory deprivation chamber for the past seven days, the biggest news from Germany this week is that Pep Guardiola will join Bayern Munich in the summer. Yeah, because Bayern really need a boost -- they've got a solid nine-point lead at the top. However, the German giants failed to impress against bottom-dwelling Greuther Furth, a side that has just nine points this season (fun fact -- that's the lowest point total in all the top leagues!). Mario Mandzukic scored a brace to give his side the 2-0 win, but it was mostly a training exercise for Bayern.
Bayer Leverkusen, in second, pulled off an impressive 3-1 win against now fourth-placed Frankfurt. However, the visiting crowd got a bit too feisty, lighting flares and forcing a break in play after about fifteen minutes. Dortmund, three points further behind, were thrilled to have Nuri Sahin back, celebrating by scoring five against Werder Bremen. Well, Sahin didn't. He came on as a late game sub. But you get the idea.
Oddly enough, the Italians were the least interesting league over the weekend. Napoli got their two points, and captain Paolo Cannavaro, reinstated this week, but could manage just a point on their visit to Fiorentina. Lazio, tied on points for second with the partenopei. were even less impressive, barely able to scrape a draw against pitiful Palermo.
Juventus, naturally, kept their five point lead at the top with a resounding 4-0 win over Udinese. Paul Pogba, eager to prove Antonio Conte's faith in him, scored a brace, and even Alessandro Matri got one. That means we're almost certain to see Matri start against Lazio on Tuesday. The week ended with a 1-1 draw between AS Roma and Inter Milan, but don't worry, we'll see the same match again on Wednesday in the Coppa.
Paris Saint-Germain returned to the top in France, albeit just barely. Zlatan Ibrahimovic provided the only goal against Bordeaux on Sunday, but it was enough to get the win for PSG. Lyon, meanwhile, couldn't get more than a point out of a goaless encounter with Evian, although that point lifted Les Croix de Savoie out of the relegation zone.
Marseille are still in this fight, just one point behind the top two. They fought off a comeback from visiting Montpellier on Saturday, and Andre-Pierre Gignac got the winner in added time. And, in case you were curious, Bastia lost at home this weekend, 2-0 to Rennes. They're currently 13th.
The Dutch turned everything topsy-turvy this weekend. PSV, who had the chance to go top, managed to lose, at home, 3-1 to Zwolle. Twente managed yet another draw, this time a goalless one at home to Waalwijk. I'm going to start calling Twente the Dutch Manchester City.
This loss of points at the top gave Ajax room to scramble into third place, even with PSV and just one behind Twente. Viktor Fisher had a brace and Siem De Jong grabbed the final goal as Ajax beat fourth-placed Feyenoord 3-0.
African Cup of Nations
To say that ACON has been a bit dull and dry in its opening weekend would be a bit of an understatement. It wasn't until the 40th minute of the 3rd game, Ghana v Democratic Republic of the Congo, that someone finally scored. The first games in Group A -- South Africa v Cape Verde and Angola v Morocco -- were both scoreless.
Ghana and DRC shared the spoils, paving the way for Mali to get the first win in the tournament. Seydou Keita got the only goal for the Eagles, giving them a 1-0 win over Niger.