Real Madrid have some ground to make up, while Borussia Dortmund and Juventus look to run up the score once again.
Despite their success in the Champions League this past Tuesday, a look at the table shows Real Madrid in fourth place and a staggering seven points behind leaders Barcelona heading into matchday 7. A slow start and the absence of Cristiano Ronaldo seems to have hurt Real early on. In a league where Barcelona are not likely to give up points, how do Real catch up? It won’t be easy. It may also mean that Los Blancos could miss out on the title this season.
Ronaldo is still looking for his first Liga goal after serving a five-match ban this summer. While Real looked great in preseason, they haven’t looked that good in matches that actually count. After last weekend’s 2-1 win against Alaves, Real coach Zinedine Zidane said, “This is not a brilliant period for us … We must come through this moment. We will play better other days.”
Those better days have taken place in the Champions League, not in La Liga. The defending European and Spanish champions need to channel what they did versus Dortmund, with Gareth Bale a major part of the attack, going forward in league play. Better finishing and more chances will result in wins.
Ronaldo, for example, has 18 shots and no goals in two Liga matches. In addition, Real have been beaten by Real Betis and dropped points in draws against Levante and Valencia. Securing just two points out of a possible nine in the home confines of the Santiago Bernabe also hasn’t helped. Despite their depth, injuries to regulars like Karim Benzema, Mateo Kovacic and Theo Hernandez have also served as a blow. Throw in a shaky defense and a lethargic midfield (highlighted by the poor form of Luka Modric) and you have all the ingredients for a bad start.
After their 3-1 midweek win against Borussia Dortmund, Los Blancos host Espanyol in a must-win game, while Barcelona are also at home against Las Palmas. It’s another weekend where it looks as if Barcelona will maintain, or even pad, their lead against Madrid. They currently maintains a four-point edge over a very good Atletico Madrid side.
With Bayern Munich struggling with internal strife and injuries, the spotlight has been on Borussia Dortmund. The team led by Christian Pulisic is currently top of the table with 16 points and remains undefeated as they hit the road Saturday for their matchday 7 encounter with Augsburg. They need to bounce back from their Champions League defeat to Real Madrid. Dortmund, struggling with no points in the Champions League, have stuck to their high line defense (and often reckless tactics in the back) as deployed by coach Peter Bosz. They’re in the opposite position of Real Madrid in that they’ve beaten easy Bundesliga opponents, but not stronger continental clubs.
Despite being in fifth place, Augsburg have scored just eight goals, compared to Dortmund’s 19. Dortmund have the attack to run up the score once again like they did last weekend in a 6-1 against Monchengladbach.
Bayern, meanwhile, are currently in third place with 13 points, and enter the weekend under something of a cloud after Carlo Ancelotti was fired on Thursday after a 3-0 spanking to PSG in the Champions League.
Willy Sagnol has been placed in charge on an interim basis and will lead the side in an away match against Hertha Berlin on Sunday, a game they should win even under the current circumstances. Like Real Madrid, Bayern have gotten off to a slow start domestically and need to record victories in order to keep up with Dortmund.
Hoffenheim, a point above Bayern in the standings, play at Freiberg, who are struggling near the bottom of the table. In another game to keep an eye on this weekend, FC Koln, currently in last place with just a point, host RB Leipzig, another German club struggling to get in the Champions League, this Sunday.
Italy’s top flight continues to be a two-team battle featuring Juventus and Napoli, clubs with perfect records, as the league enters matchday 7. Napoli, 3-1 winners against Feyenoord in the Champions League on Tuesday, host Cagliari on Sunday. Juventus travel to Bergamo to take on Atalanta the same day. Look for Paulo Dybala, who leads the league with 10 goals, to lead the Juve attack and add to his personal tally. Gonzalo Higuain, who has struggled to get on the scoresheet all season, was only brought on as a second-half sub (and ultimately scored the team’s first goal) in their 2-0 Champions League win Wednesday against Olympiakos.
But Juventus also have some off-field distractions to deal with. Earlier this week, Juve president Andrea Agnelli, along with three other club officials, were banned for a year for their role in the sale of match tickets to mafia-linked fan groups. Agnelli was accused of helping to sell tickets, which were later resold at a profit, to so-called “ultras fans.” The club said Monday that it plans to file an appeal.
The two-team race has also taken a backseat to the seemingly early demise of AC Milan. The club that spent oodles of cash to rebuild this summer (and picked by some to contend for the title) appear to be in free fall. Their 2-0 loss to Sampdoria last Sunday marked their second defeat of the season. The highly-touted club, currently in sixth place with 12 points, plays Roma on Sunday in Serie A’s biggest match this weekend.
Roma, tied with AC Milan on points, seem to have found their footing following a slow start. Led by Edin Dzeko’s six goals, the Giallorossi could very well hand AC Milan another loss and throw into jeopardy coach Vincenzo Montella’s future with the team. Dzeko, meanwhile, seems to have regained his scoring touch, the same finishing that led him to be Serie A’s top scorer last season with 29 goals in 37 league games. The Rossoneri will need to contain Dzeko if it hopes to snag at least a point.