European football returns to action
The National staff | January 7, 2014
Europe's biggest football leagues, with the exception of Germany's Bundesliga, were back in action at the weekend following their winter break. Those matches threw up some startling statistics.
8 - The Italian title looks to be heading back to Juventus for the third consecutive season after Juventus beat their nearest rivals Roma 3-0 to open up an eight-point lead in the Serie A table. The match also brought two red cards for the visitors as Rudi Garcia’s men were turned over. Arturo Vidal, below, who scored Juve’s first, has eight in 18 league games – not bad for a midfielder.
3 – Also on eight goals is Barcelona’s Alexis Sanchez, who stepped up in the absence of Lionel Messi and Neymar with a hat-trick in the 4-0 win over Elche. Barca returned to the top of the Spanish Primera Liga, on goal difference, ahead of Atletico Madrid. The two meet next week in what is probably the biggest match of the season so far in Europe.
13 – The Scottish Premiership is as good as over after champions Celtic established a 13-point lead. A 4-0 victory away to St Mirren saw all the goals scored in a 20-minute second-half spell. It was Celtic’s ninth league win in a row. Celtic are not back in action until January 18 and manager Neil Lennon, below, said: “The break has come at a very good time.”
127 – There was a €127 million (Dh634m) difference in the budgets of top-flight Monaco and third-division Vannes, but it took a goal from Yannick Carrasco four minutes from time to secure a 3-2 away win for Monaco in the Coupe de France. They avoided the fate of Lorient, who lost 1-0 at fourth division side Yzeure.
2 – Manchester United’s 2-1 defeat to Swansea City in the FA Cup meant they exited the tournament at the third-round stage for only the second time in 30 years. It was also their fourth defeat in six home games in all competitions. United, below, are 11 points off the pace in the Premier League, making tonight’s League Cup semi-final against Sunderland even more important.