Everyone is busy talking about the El Clasico right now. Why don't we take a break and look at the other major games of the weekend instead.
I know I'll be the pantomime villain here for trying to undermine the importance of El Clasico, arguably the biggest game of the planet. But haven't we talked too much about it? Yes, the game was exciting. Yes, it did turn out to be an entertainer even without the presence of two of the greatest players of all time. But can we please move past El Clasico now? Plenty of football happened outside this mammoth fixture in Spain. Why not we talk about it.
Alright, let's just dive into it then. If you, like all others, were also busy watching El Clasico and missed other games of the weekend then this is the right place for you to be. Let's have a look at what happened around the world of football. Well, everything except the El Clasico.
First things first: The tragic loss of Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha
The biggest and the most tragic news this weekend was the loss of Leicester City chairman Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha after the helicopter he was traveling in crashed outside the King Power Stadium. It really shocked the whole of the footballing world. Fondly called Vichai, the Leicester Chairman was responsible for overseeing the most successful period in the history of the club. Having brought the club while it was in Championship, he became a part of the history when Leicester won the Premier League title in 2015-16.
He was a genuinely kind soul as evident from his various acts of generosity as well as the glowing praise that came his way from all corners of the footballing world. I personally have read a lot about him, and I always believed that people like Mike Ashley and the Glazers could learn a thing or two from this man about running a football club. May his soul rest in peace.
It was another good day at the office for Martial, who seems to have been slowly rediscovering his form. The games at Manchester have become too unpredictable of late. The club seems to move ahead without any specific direction. Mourinho's men seem bereft of any identity. Last season, at least they were solid at the back. Jose can't even park his bus this time around. But luckily, Martial was there to save the day. Though he missed a glorious chance during the game and is still not doing enough defensively, he did show the world a glimpse of his quality and the humongous potential he holds. He won the penalty and then in the second half, scored an exquisite goal. As a Manchester United supporter myself, I just hope he can keep this rich vein of form in the next games too. With Lukaku not firing well and Rashford still lacking game rhythm, Martial could prove to be crucial in the coming weeks.
Chelsea breaking records
Most of us, at the beginning of the season, predicted Chelsea to suffer. 'Sarri will take time to get his team playing the way he wants' is what we all said. But in these initial months of the season, he has made us eat our words. Chelsea have been playing sensationally at times. Barring a few anomalies, Chelsea have played brilliantly. This weekend too, they were back to their sparkling best. After the 4-0 hammering of Burnley, Sarri became the first manager in the history of Chelsea to go 10 matches without a defeat. A hugely impressive feat considering this is the same Chelsea that was seemingly in crisis at the beginning of the season.
And has anyone seen Ross Barkley? Coz I'm pretty sure this isn't the Ross Barkley that we know. Sarri has transformed him into a different beast altogether.
Arsenal's winning run finally halted
Emery's Arsenal is nothing like what it was under Wenger last season. His intense training methods, attention to every little detail and an overhaul of the backroom staff seem to be paying dividends now. Earlier, when Arsenal went behind, the only thought would be the goal margin with which they will lose. They lacked that winning mentality and character. Wenger's Arsenal, in more cases than not, used to crumble down under pressure. This season though, we are seeing a different Arsenal.
Emery's Arsenal have suffered a lot this season, especially during the first halves of the games. But unlike in previous seasons, the team keeps on trying till the end. There's always a hope with this team that somehow they will grow back into the game. Though Milivojevic's two penalties helped halt Arsenal's winning run, they still are undefeated in the past 12 games. It is still a mightily impressive feat.
Liverpool back to playing with their traditional swagger?
In the days preceding this week's game, a lot was said about Liverpool's shift from an out and out attacking team to a defensive side. OptaJoe and WhoScored were throwing out stats highlighting how Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool have transformed from an ultra-attacking to a more defensive team, tipping more towards getting results. However, all the talks went to the bin when Liverpool turned up for the game against Cardiff City. Cardiff did defend diligently and tried to get something out from the game. But Liverpool's quality and the squad depth they have this season made them come out on top. With close to 80% possession and a total of 19 shots, Liverpool looked like the team of last year. Mane's brace and one goal each from Salah and Shaqiri put Cardiff to the sword. Along with City and Chelsea, they have been the only undefeated team in the league so far. It's turning out one hell of a title race this season by the way.
Ronaldo living up to his billing
He was criticized and he was mocked. He was told that he's a spent force now. But as it is with Ronaldo always, he once again rose and he once again silenced his critics.
That has been the story with Ronaldo throughout his career. After initially taking a while to open his account for the Bianconeri, he has been consistent in finding the net for his new team. With 7 goals and 3 assists in his last 10 games, Juventus are getting the Ronaldo they paid such huge bucks for. He has been directly involved in 10 of Juve's 14 goals this season. This weekend too, Ronaldo was in imperious form when he took Juventus over the line with a victory against Empoli.
After initially going one goal down, Ronaldo scored two goals to extend Juve's lead at the top of the table. The second goal was a stunning strike, the kind we've come to expect from Ronaldo.
Real steel: Guardiola's Manchester
It was supposed to be one of the biggest games of the season. But the only talking point before and after the game was not football but the condition of the pitch at Wembley. Due to an NFL game that took place 24 hours earlier at the same stadium, the pitch was left in a deplorable condition. It did contribute to an overall sloppy game, with the ball bouncing oddly at times. Even the players, pundits and the fans suggested that it was due to the pitch that Lamela missed a glorious chance to put the game in level.
That said, this was also the game when Manchester City showed why they are the favorites to win the title this time around too. The pitch didn't allow City to implement their gameplan as smoothly as they often do. But scoring against a top competitor, shutting out the opponent and coming out with a win (most importantly the 3 points) prove their strength. The title will be decided by very small margins, and such crucial victories against the top 4 opponents could prove key come May.