Another weekend of European football is in the books with plenty of action to sink our teeth into. The Bundesliga title race is set up for a thrilling finish, while in the English Premier League, the season is going from bad to worse for Tottenham Hotspur.
In LaLiga, Barcelona are comfortably ahead of Real Madrid as the season winds down, and a hat-trick from Riyad Mahrez inspired Manchester City into the FA Cup final.
ESPN correspondents Rob Dawson, Julien Laurens, Sam Marsden, James Olley and James Tyler break down the most interesting and important stuff you need to know about the weekend.
Newcastle versus Tottenham on Sunday was supposed to be a tight battle between two sides targeting Champions League qualification. Instead, it was a one-sided humiliation.
The Magpies thrashed Spurs 6-1 at St James’ Park to put clear daylight between the two clubs as they battle for a top four spot. But more than that, it raises deeper questions about Tottenham’s current malaise and just how badly they have squandered the promise of last summer.
Last August, they had Antonio Conte, Champions League football and money to spend. Yet after a season of poor decisions and internal tension, Spurs now find themselves managerless and rudderless, staring at the loss of their top four place to Newcastle, whose rich owners and shrewd investment suggests they are on a sustained upward curve. Finding a new head coach is an urgent priority for Tottenham but whoever the new man is, it may not be enough to convince Harry Kane to stay at the club beyond the summer.
Kane scored a fine goal on Sunday but it stands as a mere footnote to a hugely damaging afternoon for the club where he has one year left on his contract but almost no reason to suggest his desire to win a trophy can be sated in the next 12 months. Spurs badly need to reestablish a sense of direction. Newcastle increasingly look like they can’t be stopped. — Olley
Let’s review: Bayern Munich thumped Borussia Dortmund 4-2 in Thomas Tuchel’s first game in charge (we still don’t get it either), which seemed to end any title talks for BVB. But then Bayern drew with Hoffenheim, giving Dortmund another opening, though they squandered it with an inexplicable 3-3 draw at Stuttgart that allowed the Bavarians to once again take control of the race.
Then early Saturday, Bayern took the lead at Mainz only to lose 3-1, and Dortmund responded later in the day with an emphatic 4-0 win over Eintracht Frankfurt to reclaim top spot. It wasn’t a close game, either: Jude Bellingham (goal), Julian Brandt (assist), Donyell Malen (two goals) and Karim Adeyemi (goal, assist) thrived behind Sebastian Haller in a fluid and furious attack, seizing a 3-0 lead before half-time and rarely looking troubled in front of a frenzied home crowd at Signal Iduna Park.
The weekend results mean Dortmund hold a one-point lead over Bayern with just five rounds of matches remaining, and Dortmund will know they can’t finish level on points given their rival’s superior goal difference (+46 to BVB’s +27) over the course of the campaign. With Bayern having a slightly tougher run-in — hosting RB Leipzig in the penultimate matchday could be a fun spoiler scenario for former BVB manager Marco Rose — all eyes are on Dortmund when it comes to closing this out. After all, finishing things they’ve started hasn’t exactly been their strong suit in recent seasons. — Tyler
The title race was never really back on in Spain, but it may have been sold that way if Barcelona had failed to beat LaLiga’s in-form team Atletico Madrid this weekend. After back-to-back stalemates against Girona and Getafe, Barca saw their lead at the top cut to eight points when Real Madrid beat Celta Vigo on Saturday. Standing in between Barca and restoring their 11 point gap were Atletico, unbeaten in 13 in the league, dating back to a January loss to Barca.
When former Barca forward Antoine Griezmann crashed the ball off the bar after just 40 seconds, the Catalan side looked shaken. But, boosted by the return of Frenkie de Jong in midfield, they steadied themselves and, after a goal drought of almost 350 minutes in all competitions, finally found the back of the net again. Ferran Torres, the scorer of Barca’s previous goal back on April 1 against Elche, produced a composed finish from 18 yards after good work from Raphinha.
Gavi and Raphinha missed chances to double Barca’s lead and Robert Lewandowski missed a one-on-one as his scoreless run worryingly extended to four matches. Goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen had to be alert to keep out Griezmann two more times as he kept a 23rd clean sheet in LaLiga this season. It’s that record at the back, rather than their woeful finishing in attack, which explains why Barca are now firmly back on track for their first league title since 2019. — Marsden
Usually, being promoted from the English National League (the 5th division in England) is no big news. Last season, Stockport County went up to League 2 (4th tier) and nobody outside of Stockport fans cared, really.
This time, it is different. After 15 years outside of the Football League, Wrexham, the small Welsh town and the third oldest club in the world, are back in League 2 after their 3-1 win over Boreham Wood on Saturday. It made the headlines worldwide because it made their two Hollywood stars owners cry! Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney bought the club in February 2021 and after missing promotion last season, they have finally seen their team going up and could hardly believe it.
Paul Mullin was, again, the hero with a brace. The striker, who scored 38 goals this season, has been the star of the show through the whole campaign and McElhenney called him “one of the greatest players in the world” after Saturday’s victory. Notts County pushed them all the way but it was written in the stars that Wrexham would finally do it. They topped an incredible title race and can now dream for even better and bigger. — Laurens
Sheffield United will feel they could have defended better for Riyad Mahrez’s second goal in Saturday’s FA Cup semifinal but the Algerian winger still won the ball on the halfway line, carried it 40 yards and then produced a burst of speed on the edge of the penalty area to give himself the chance to slot home.
It was the best of his three goals at Wembley and one that will stick in Pep Guardiola’s mind when he picks his team to face Arsenal at the Etihad Stadium on Wednesday in Manchester City’s crucial top-of-the-table clash. — Dawson
Time will tell if Bayern Munich’s 3-1 defeat at Mainz has cost them the title, but you have to give credit to the home side for conjuring up three lovely second-half goals in a fully deserved win. It’s hard to pick a favorite of the three, but I’ll go with Aaron Caricol’s emphatic 79th minute finish to put the game beyond doubt.
After another sweeping attack down the right, Andreas Hanche-Olsen’s quick decision to slide a ball wide left for Caricol proved a good choice, with the Spanish left-back taking one steadying touch before thumping it beyond a flailing Yann Sommer. Three points for Mainz, more pain for Bayern, and a lovely memento for Caricol. — Tyler
Malo Gusto will soon be a Chelsea player and will open a new chapter in his life and career. But for now, he is still on loan at Lyon and his Sunday has been a nightmare. The right back came on in the 80th minute of a huge Olympico between Lyon and Marseille. The score was 1-1 then but both teams had to win and neither could afford to lose either as they are both fighting for European places (Marseille for 2nd place, Lyon for 5th).
And in the 93rd minute, after one last Marseille attack, Sinaly Diomande tried to clear the ball after a deflected cross in his own box but the OL centre back’s clearance hit Gusto, his own teammate, and the ball slowly, almost in slow motion, crossed the line to the delight of the Marseillais and the despair of the Lyonnais. — Laurens
It’s tight at the bottom of the Premier League table and while other teams threatened by relegation are picking up valuable points, Leeds United are sinking. After losing 5-1 to Crystal Palace and then 6-1 to Liverpool, Saturday’s game at Fulham represented a chance to steady the ship but instead they lost 2-1 to make it three defeats in a row.
It didn’t help that Southampton, Palace, Everton, Leicester and West Ham all earned at least a point over the weekend. It has left Leeds, in 16th, just a point above the relegation places with six games to go.
You can argue that their next two games will decide whether or not they will survive. They face 17th-placed Leicester at Elland Road on Tuesday before travelling to 15th-placed Bournemouth on Sunday and really they need at least four points to have any hope of staying in the league.
After playing Bournemouth, they face Manchester City, Newcastle and Tottenham in their final four games and they cannot go into that difficult run expecting a significant return. There are always twists and turns in a relegation battle and momentum can count for a lot. Leeds desperately need some this week, starting with a win over Leicester on Tuesday. — Dawson
Relegation in 2020 offered Espanyol the chance to reset. They bounced back to LaLiga at the first attempt and, after a season of consolidation, were expected to build this year under highly-rated coach Diego Martinez, who previously took Granada into the Europa League. However, Martinez has since been sacked and the second club in Barcelona find themselves in real danger of returning to the second tier of Spanish football.
The appointment of club legend Luis Garcia — not the ex-Liverpool forward Luis Garcia or the other Spanish coach called Luis Garcia — has provided no new manager bounce. This Luis Garcia has no top-level coaching experience and, after opening with defeats to Athletic Bilbao and Real Betis, his side could not break down fellow relegation candidates Cadiz at home on Friday. Given their run-in, Espanyol really need to beat the teams around them.
The weekend ends with them two points from safety but their final eight games look tricky. They still have to play Villarreal, Sevilla, Barcelona and Atletico Madrid. Matches against relegation rivals Getafe, then Valencia and Almeria in the final two weeks of the season could be huge. — Marsden
Riyad Mahrez became the first player to score an FA Cup semi-final hat-trick since 1958 in Manchester City’s 3-0 win over Sheffield United. Pep Guardiola’s side took a step closer to the Treble with a comfortable win at Wembley, made easier by Mahrez’s clinical finishing either side of half-time.
Mahrez has not always been the most consistent from the penalty spot but he made no mistake from 12 yards when opening the scoring on 41 minutes before running through the heart of United’s defence unchallenged to roll in a second just after the hour mark.
His third was a smart first-time finish from Jack Grealish’s pass, affording Guardiola the chance to rest several players ahead of Wednesday’s Premier League title showdown with Arsenal. Mahrez has sometimes struggled on the periphery of Guardiola’s thinking in the biggest matches but at 32 years old, he now appears a central component of what could be a historic season for the blue half of Manchester. — Olley