Man United are looking quite the mess right now, as they continue to lose games and see their manager under fire. However, it was a different story on Saturday at Anfield where Jota did his thing for Liverpool in an insurance of what could be another huge victory with Champions League qualification still up for grabs. Meanwhile Barcelona continued to push towards that top spot while PSG were beaten by Lille
Manchester United and Liverpool faced off in a game that was more about the home side’s lack of urgency than the visitors’ attacking prowess. One player who stood out for United was Jota, who scored a hat-trick. Meanwhile, Barcelona defeated Atletico Madrid with three goals from Pedri. Read more in detail here: manchester united vs liverpool.
What an amazing weekend! Man United were once again left unsatisfied in their pursuit of fourth place in the Premier League as championship contenders Liverpool and Man City won. In other news, Real Madrid bounced back from their Clasico setback to maintain control of LaLiga’s championship battle, despite Barcelona’s second-place finish thanks to Pedri’s spectacular goal.
There was also plenty of drama in the Bundesliga and Serie A, so here’s all you need to know from Mark Ogden, Sam Marsden, Bill Connelly, and James Tyler from across Europe.
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There are four items to consider.
What exactly has Rangnick accomplished at Man United?
When Ralf Rangnick took over as interim manager in December, Manchester United were three points behind fourth place in the Premier League, and four months later, they are still three points behind fourth, despite having played two more games than Arsenal, who now hold the final Champions League berth.
United are facing the prospect of losing out on Champions League qualifying after a 1-1 draw against Leicester at Old Trafford on Saturday. After home losses in the FA Cup (Middlesbrough) and Champions League (Atletico Madrid) since Rangnick took over from Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, there will be no trophy to look forward to.
Underperforming players such as Paul Pogba, Marcus Rashford, Harry Maguire, and, yes, Cristiano Ronaldo, have all taken the brunt of the criticism and blame for United’s poor season, but Rangnick now deserves even more scrutiny because, to be blunt, he has done nothing but add to the club’s inconsistency and confusion since Solskjaer was fired in November. While Jadon Sancho has showed flashes of his actual potential in recent weeks, and Anthony Elanga has justified the manager’s trust, the former RP Leipzig coach has seen players like Maguire, Rashford, and Ronaldo regress.
The outcomes have likewise been disappointing. United has won only four of their last 11 games in all competitions, and has lost six of their last ten games at Old Trafford since January 1.
Rangnick has dodged most of the negative press surrounding the club, despite the statistics, but a guy with a reputation as one of the game’s great tactical strategists has revealed himself to be out of his element at United. Ogden, Utah
At this moment, Real Madrid is not going to allow LaLiga slip away from them.
Real Madrid defeated Celta Vigo 2-1, scoring two penalties and missing another, disappointing any neutrals looking for some late championship drama in Spain. The runaway leaders’ pressure was significantly enhanced by their loss to Barcelona in the Clasico before the international break, but they bounced back at Balaidos to preserve their 12-point advantage at the top of LaLiga with eight games left.
So, although there may not have been much drama at the top, there was plenty in Vigo on Saturday.
Karim Benzema’s early penalty had been cancelled out by Nolito, leaving the match tightly balanced coming into the last 30 minutes. Matias Dituro stopped Benzema’s second penalty, but he had another opportunity to give Madrid the three points only minutes later as the referee pointed to the spot for the third time, infuriating Celta. The first two were “soft,” while the third, for a foul by Kevin Vazquez on Ferland Mendy, was “never a penalty,” according to Celta captain Aspas.
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Celta coach Eduardo Coudet remarked, “If anything, the foul was committed by Mendy.” “I’m sure Sevilla, Atletico Madrid, and Barcelona [the pursuing clubs] would be pleased with what they witnessed in the game.”
Saturday’s victory was significant for a number of reasons, including the fact that Madrid was without coach Carlo Ancelotti after he tested positive for COVID-19. They needed a victory after the international break to prepare for this week’s Champions League clash against Chelsea in London, not only to silence rumors of a championship race. Marsden’s words
Dortmund’s yellow barricade is shattered by clinical RB Leipzig.
The Yellow Wall at Borussia Dortmund’s Signal Iduna Park was packed for the first time in almost two years, and the home team came out on fire in a crucial match for both BVB’s fading Bundesliga championship hopes and RB Leipzig’s prospects of a top-four finish. Borussia Dortmund came close to taking the lead in the seventh minute when Marco Reus missed a clear transition chance, but they dominated RBL in the opening 20 minutes, trying five shots to RBL’s zero and tilting the field with 48 touches in the offensive third to RBL’s eight.
RBL, on the other hand, absolutely turned the match around after weathering an early storm. Konrad Laimer scored on a deflection in the 30th minute after scoring on a transition goal in the 21st minute. In the 58th minute, Christopher Nkunku came in to assist a late Dani Olmo goal, putting the game out of reach. (For those keeping count, Nkunku has a total of 27 goals and 14 assists this season across all competitions.)
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• Athletic vs. Elche, SUNDAY, APRIL 3 (8 a.m. ET) • Wolfsburg vs. Augsburg (9:30 a.m. ET) • Osasuna vs. Real Betis (10:15 a.m. ET) • Mainz vs. Gladbach (11:30 a.m. ET) • Cadiz vs. Valencia (12:30 p.m. ET) • Rayo vs. Granada (12:30 p.m. ET) • Sevilla vs. Barcelona (3 p.m. ET) • Pachuca vs. Santos (8 p.m. ET)
The visitors delivered a superbly polished counterpunching attempt. RBL had slid to 11th position in the Bundesliga when Domenico Tedesco was recruited to replace Jesse Marsch in early December, but they’ve since climbed to fourth place with 30 points from 14 league matches, three points ahead of Freiburg and four ahead of Hoffenheim.
Both of the upstarts lost on Saturday, Freiburg to Bayern Munich and Hoffenheim to Bochum, and paired with Bayer Leverkusen’s 2-1 victory against Hertha Berlin, it might have effectively ended what had been shaping up to be a crazy fight for third and fourth.
The SPI at FiveThirtyEight now gives Leverkusen a 91 percent probability of qualifying for the Champions League, while RBL currently has an 88 percent chance. Meanwhile, Dortmund’s hopes of keeping a championship chase alive until they visit Bayern Munich on April 23 have all but evaporated. Is Erling Haaland also going to disappear this summer? — Sean Connelly
Three clubs are still fighting for the Serie A championship.
Italy’s three-team battle for the championship is the only one in Europe’s major leagues that rivals the Premier League in terms of tenseness. Napoli’s 3-1 victory over Atalanta to pull level with Milan (who play Monday) was the precursor to a violent, disputed Derby d’Italia in which Inter Milan triumphed at red-hot Juventus to keep within striking distance of their rivals.
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Inter’s victory was a typical smash and grab, with just one shot on target compared to five for Juve. As if that wasn’t enough, their game-winning penalty was marred by controversy: after VAR concluded Inter deserved a penalty, Wojciech Szczesny stopped Hakan Calhanoglou’s first effort, only for VAR to give a retake deep into first-half injury time. Not all games with a score of 1-0 are made equal!
Juve squandered the majority of scoring opportunities, with Giorgio Chiellini, Paulo Dybala, and Dusan Vlahovic all missing chances they should have converted 99 times out of 100. Inter also ended Juve’s incredible run in Serie A, which saw them go undefeated since November 27 and progressively climb back up the standings from eighth to within a whisker of entering the championship battle.
With eight sets of games left, the Rossoneri, Napoli, and Inter are separated by three points in the standings, with Milan facing mid-table Bologna on Monday. So, it’s game time. Tyler’s comment
Three objectives that you must see
Eriksen’s fantasy return continues.
Christian Eriksen’s comeback to football with Brentford is continuing to be a fairytale. The midfielder scored his first Premier League goal in the amazing 4-1 victory at Chelsea in February, after having a heart episode while playing for Denmark at Euro 2020 last June.
Since his dramatic return against Newcastle six weeks ago, the 30-year-old has performed so well for Thomas Frank’s side that his four outings for the Bees have almost become normal. Nonetheless, Eriksen’s goal at Stamford Bridge served as a reminder that every game he plays, and every goal he scores, is a testament not only to the medical team’s skill in saving his life and allowing him to even consider a comeback, but also to Eriksen’s incredible determination to not let that terrible incident in Copenhagen define him.
Inevitably, the latter will always be the case, but Eriksen has managed to keep writing fresh chapters on the football field, and his goal against Chelsea is yet another unforgettable one. Ogden, Utah
Christian Eriksen scored his first goal for the club since his comeback to the game!
Brentford has a 2-1 advantage. In the last eight minutes, there have been THREE goals! #MyPLMorning | #CHEBRE | @USA Network pic.twitter.com/yzvrBYHquj
— April 2, 2022, NBC Sports Soccer (@NBCSportsSoccer)
Pedri conjures yet more enchantment for Barcelona.
Pedri scored the goal of the weekend in Spain, lifting Barcelona into second place in LaLiga ahead of Sevilla. Late in the second half, the Barca midfielder got the ball just outside the area and pretended to shoot with his left foot, sending Sevilla’s Ivan Rakitic flying in the other way. Then he lined up on his right, only for another feint to knock down defender Diego Carlos as well. When he did eventually take a shot, even tired goalie Yassine Bounou couldn’t keep his 20-yard rocket into the corner.
With the 1-0 win, Barcelona has now won six consecutive league games and is undefeated in 13 matches across all competitions. It’s no surprise that Xavi Hernandez’s team has improved so much since Pedri, who is still just 19, returned from injury in January. Marsden’s words
XAVINETA IS IN FULL SWING!
PEDRI, WHAT A GOAL! pic.twitter.com/c1EfKJL7nb
— April 3, 2022, ESPN FC (@ESPNFC)
Bayern Munich takes a straight path to the goal.
Look at how easily Bayern Munich cut another route through Freiburg to score what would be the crucial third Bayern goal with less than 10 minutes left, according to the tweet. It was the most aesthetically appealing “route one” goal as Dayot Upamecano’s long ball found Kingsley Coman in a sliver of space, with which he twisted back onto his right foot and uncorked an unstoppable low shot past a sprawling Mark Flekken at his near post in the blink of an eye.
When you play Bayern, you never know what you’re going to get: overwhelming numbers up front, a flash of brilliance from Robert Lewandowski, or a deft long ball that leaves you gasping for breath. All of this explains why they’re not just nine points ahead of second place with six games remaining in the season, but also why they’ve won the last nine league crowns. Tyler’s comment
Dayot Upamecano passes the ball to Kingley Coman for the finish pic.twitter.com/OcITCGd6ML
— April 2, 2022, ESPN FC (@ESPNFC)
There are two teams that should be concerned.
Aston Villa’s Gerrard resurgence has come to an end.
When Steven Gerrard left Scottish champions Rangers to take over as manager of Aston Villa in November, he had an immediate impression, leading his new club to three victories in his first four games. The former Liverpool captain’s honeymoon phase at Villa Park is gone, with Villa’s fifth defeat in their last eight Premier League games, a 2-1 derby loss to Midlands rivals Wolves on Saturday.
Gerrard slammed his players’ performance after the loss at Molineux, stating, “You can’t show up for derbies at half-time.” He also said that if his present group is unable to “help me repair it,” he would make changes to his team in the summer.
Villa are safely mid-table and out of danger of relegation, but a poor finish to the season may have an influence on the next season, and Gerrard must find a way to break the slump and rekindle his team’s fortunes. Gerrard understands how to turn things around, having overcome adversity at Rangers to win the championship at Ibrox, but Villa can’t afford to wait until next season to get back on track. Ogden, Utah
The decline of Mallorca continues.
Mallorca had no new manager bounce, as Mexican coach Javier Aguirre’s first game in command ended in loss at Getafe at the weekend, leaving the American-owned club in relegation danger.
When Mallorca defeated Athletic Bilbao on Valentine’s Day, they had a six-point lead over the bottom three, but they have already lost seven consecutive games and are in serious danger. With just eight LaLiga games remaining, they are presently two points from safety. Before the international break, Luis Garcia was fired as coach in the hopes that a new manager would be able to turn things around. But not even Aguirre’s extensive experience in the Spanish league could save them from losing to Getafe on Saturday due to a Borja Mayoral goal.
In the next weeks, things aren’t going to get any easier for Mallorca, which is owned by Robert Sarver, who also owns the NBA’s Phoenix Suns and the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury. Atletico Madrid is up next, followed by Barcelona and Sevilla in the following six games. Marsden’s words
MVP of the weekend
Liverpool is led by Diogo Jota.
Any points lost by either Manchester City or Liverpool, as was the case in the infamous 2018-19 Premier League championship battle, would have significant ramifications. It entails succeeding even when you aren’t at your best. After identical 2-0 victories on Saturday (City over Burnley, Liverpool over Watford), the clubs are separated by only one point. However, although City were dominating from the outset, Liverpool were careless for big sections of their game. They only got three of their 20 efforts on target, but they did give Watford a number of good opportunities in the middle of the game.
Liverpool, fortunately, had Diogo Jota.
That cross by Gomez & header by Jota is pure class. 😍
📺: @USA_Network, & @NBCUniverso #MyPLMorning | #LIVWAT pic.twitter.com/LI6iHqlNBK
— April 2, 2022, NBC Sports Soccer (@NBCSportsSoccer)
All three of them on-target shots were at least partially due to Jota. In the 22nd minute, he scored off a beautiful cross from Joe Gomez, and late in the first half, he forced a short-range stop from Ben Foster. He drew a penalty (with what amounted to an American football tackle by Juraj Kucka) late in the game, which Fabinho converted in the 89th minute to seal the 2-0 win.
As impressive as Mo Salah has been for Liverpool this season (28 goals and 10 assists in all competitions), Jota’s contributions have grown in importance. Only Jordan Henderson (all competitions) has played in more games than Jota (40), and only Salah (all competitions) has scored more goals than Jota (20).
Jota was Liverpool’s motor on Saturday, with both Salah and Sadio Mane off the mark — they combined for four shots (none on target) and one opportunity created in 90 minutes after their return from a crucial international break in Africa. It also worked out rather nicely. — Sean Connelly