Weekend Winners: Liverpool, Barcelona, Asensio Shine Before International Break
- The international break is upon us, but before World Cup qualifying takes center stage, a number of clubs and figures around Europe held the spotlight for good reason.
The international break is upon us, but before World Cup qualifying takes center stage, a number of clubs and figures around Europe held the spotlight.
Liverpool took Arsenal to the woodshed in the marquee Premier League matchup of the weekend, while Manchester United improved to a perfect 3-0-0 and still hasn't conceded on the young season–and neither has Huddersfield Town! Chelsea, meanwhile, continued to bounce back from its opening day disappointment with a comprehensive win over Everton, and Burnley delivered a piece of humble pie to another London power, with new signing Chris Wood's stoppage-time heroics forcing a draw away to Tottenham.
In Spain, Real Madrid was held to a draw for its first dropped points of the season, and Barcelona continued its climb out of its summer doldrums with a key result and a key signing. It's somewhat status quo in France, where PSG and Monaco won again–before reportedly doing business in a surprising manner–while the Milans are sharing the spotlight again in Italy. Finally, in Germany, Dortmund moved on quite easily from dealing Ousmane Dembele. Here's a closer look at the biggest weekend winners around Europe:
The weekend could have been remembered for Jurgen Klopp creating a goalkeeper controversy out of nowhere, with Simon Mignolet apparently needing rest–right before an international break–and Loris Karius getting the rare Premier League start at Anfield. Instead, the club's 4-0 thrashing of Arsenal has England buzzing. The Reds' ball movement, spacing and lethal counterattack had the Kop in hysterics, and the Sadio Mane-Roberto Firmino-Mohamed Salah-Emre Can attack makes Philippe Coutinho appear less necessary by the game. With Naby Keita reportedly secured for next summer already, Liverpool could do worse than flipping Coutinho to Barcelona, signing a replacement before the deadline (Thomas Lemar reports are swirling) and earning a nice financial windfall in the process.
Add that to the fact that Liverpool secured an absolute sweetheart draw in the Champions League group stage, and there's reason for plenty of optimism again on the Red end of Merseyside.
THE 'WENGER OUT' CROWD
There were undoubtedly some new recruits into the Wenger Out brigade after Arsenal's showing at Anfield. At no point did the Gunners look up to the challenge, and they were gutted repeatedly by Can, Mane, Firmino, Salah. Wenger's tactics were wrong from the start, while big-money signing Alexandre Lacazette and opening-day hero Olivier Giroud sat on the bench until it was way too late. But, hey, look on the bright side: the Europa League group doesn't look too daunting.
Lionel Messi scores two goals (and it could've been three if not for a missed PK) in a league win, Dembele joins the fold, Coutinho still might and Real Madrid drops points? That's what we call a much-needed weekend in Catalonia. Barcelona's problems aren't all magically solved, of course, and Dembele's performances at Camp Nou better be better than his keepy-uppy/rainbow flick skills, but things are generally trending in a better direction.
The French club may have lost to Toulouse over the weekend, but it managed to set its transfer record ... by Dortmund dealing Dembele to Barcelona. The 25% sell-on clause in Dembele's contract means over €26 million of the transfer fee is reportedly headed to Rennes.
The German power pocketed over €100 million for Dembele and didn't miss a beat in handling Hertha Berlin on a pair of first-class goals from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Nuri Sahin. Dortmund then turned around and splashed some of that Dembele cash on Andriy Yarmolenko, adding the fine Ukrainian winger as a roster replacement after a transfer with Dynamo Kiev. If the club can hold onto Aubameyang and avoid another rash of injuries like it endured last season, a race could be on in the Bundesliga.
Forget the result (another cakewalk Ligue 1 win): PSG will apparently somehow manage to convince its chief competitor in the league to give up its best player, Kylian Mbappe, on loan before a permanent purchase next summer. Why is Monaco going so far out of the way to help out a direct competitor and serve up Mbappe on a platter again?
How do you make already absurd transfer fee figures go up? This. This is how:
All of the headlines in Milan this summer have been reserved for AC Milan's incredible makeover, but Inter delivered a statement victory with a 3-1 result at Roma. Mauro Icardi's two second-half goals in a 10 minute span sparked the turnaround after an early concession to Edin Dzeko, and Inter improved to 2-0-0. AC Milan did as well, staying perfect after Suso's 70th-minute winner over Cagliari, but it was Inter's time to bask in the Serie A spotlight for a change.
The Real Madrid rising star was at it again, salvaging a point vs. Valencia with a two-goal showing. There are reports Asensio could be in the shop window, with clubs set to pay his release clause, but why would Asensio want to leave? He has the keys to the castle at Europe's preeminent team, is the apparent heir apparent to Cristiano Ronaldo and is already a key figure in the club's plans. Oh, and he gets to play for Zinedine Zidane. Nowhere else will offer him the ideal situation to thrive and grow at the same time. Unless he fancies himself a challenge in another league (which, at 21, seems about five years too early), continuing to be Real Madrid's golden boy figures to be the best option available. And in the meantime, his price tag will continue to sky rocket, especially given the current market.
No, not the men's team (which recovered from a shocking start at Genoa and won again 4-2 thanks to a Paulo Dybala hat trick), but the women's, who played their first game ever and strolled to a 13-0 win over Torino in the Coppa Italia. Salute!