Halloween is quickly approaching in the wide world of soccer with many teams spooked by their own reality, and others with scary good form. Girona became Real Madrid’s boodeyman, AC Milan keeps getting scared by its own shadow, and the Jupp Heynckes’ Frankenstein monster is quickly waking up.
This and much more in this bag full of treats known as 90 Minutes’ Top Five of the Weekend.
As the month of October winds down, defending champions of everything Real Madrid have developed an interesting and worrisome trend for those who follow the team: multiple personality disorder.
Sunday’s stunning loss against La Liga rookies Girona was the epitome of the wrong side of the coin, the evil facet of a two-faced team. This side has a higher-than-usual degree of difficulty in the local competition against inferior sides like Girona, Betis in defeat, and even in victory against teams like Getafe, Alaves, and lower-division side Fuenlabrada. Sunday, in particular, revealed a surprising lack of concentration and effort defensively, perhaps the most glaring flaw of the evil Madrid side, not to mention Cristiano Ronaldo’s awful start to the season with only one goal to this name.
Then there’s Champions League Madrid, the good Madrid, where Cristiano scores by the hat-trick, and where the heart and the pride of the European champions comes to life. Which one will ultimately prevail in this personality tug-of-war?
Jose Mourinho laid the boots to his own team for lacking “attitude” in the loss to Huddersfield last weekend.
Manchester United rebounded at Old Trafford against the Harry Kane-less Tottenham Hotspur, showing a little more willingness to attack at home after taking a much-criticized defensive approach at Liverpool and at Huddersfield, yielding the Red Devils a total of one points, and opening a five-point gap behind rivals Manchester City for the top spot in the Premier League. With Kane being out with a hamstring injury, United played without the worry of stopping such a game changer like Kane.
Speaking of game changers, Anthony Martial’s game clincher is now his fourth goal coming off the bench, bringing forth another question for Mourinho: reward Martial with a starting spot or keep Martial as the not-so-secret weapon off the bench?
Yes, every week it sounds more like a broken record. AC Milan has problems. AC Milan is underperforming. Vincenzo Montella is on the hot seat.
However, this weekend came the Juventus match that many had circled as the litmus test to see how this renovated squad measures against the bar setters of Serie A. The result? Simply more of the same: a team without identity that’s unable to get out of its own way and can’t come up with ideas even if its collective life depended on it. At this point, its life is sort of on the line after the 200 million euro investment to at least reach Champions League spots this season. Games pass by and Montella still struggles to find the sweet spot tactically, and it showed once again against a vastly superior Juventus, led by the dormant Gonzalo Higuain.
Since taking over on October 9 (20 days ago), Jupp Heynckes has fixed and transformed Bayern Munich back to the Bundesliga giants that dominate German soccer. So much so, that after beating RB Leipzig for the second time in four days, the Bavarians are back atop the standings (with an assist from Borussia Dortmund’s ineptitude, to be fair). In the five matches Heynckes has managed, Bayern have outscored opponents 13 to one across all competitions. Perhaps most importantly, Heynckes has restored a culture of tactical work and cohesion lacking under Carlo Ancelotti, and the difference is notable on the pitch. Communication and cohesion and defense, especially, has transformed a feeble defense back to being a strong virtue of a team that used to suffer more than it should against any kind of opposition.
Bayern was the sleeping giant of Germany and Europe, and Jupp Heynckes has found the right formula to wake it up. Watch out.
Sampdoria is off to a flying start in Serie A, rubbing elbows with the cream of the Italian soccer crop. But nothing is flying faster in the Italian skies than Lucas Torreira’s missile of a free kick in Samp’s victory over Chievo, landing softly as the Top Five Goal of the Weekend.