Saturday. The great football fork in the road of life. Will the weekend be a good one or will it be ruined by the inability of eleven strangers to put a ball in a net more times than eleven others. To look at it from the outside, it seems quite ridiculous that this game has such a hold over us but those that know wouldn’t have it any other way.
Much like when Gordon Ramsey goes back to terrible restaurants that he once helped out only to find that when the cameras disappeared everything went back to disastrous (imagine!), we’re going to check up on a couple of former winners. First up, Everton and Romelu Lukaku. When he’s not getting in touch with his agent and discussing a move to a Champions League club (or even tweeting words to that effect) he’s actually quite deadly on the football pitch. Ronald Koeman has come a long way from the dark days of having red Christmas baubles, the blue half of Merseyside are now unbeaten in nine games following their 2-0 victory over David Moyes’ ghosts of Toffees past. Lukaku’s eightieth minute strike saw him join Duncan Ferguson as Everton’s top Premier League striker, having reached the sixty goal total in over a hundred games less than the Scottish hitman (emphasis on him killing people). It’s unlikely but maybe eventually if the Belgian continues his great record of scoring, eventually people will refer to that instead of having their minds blown by how young he still is.
The last time we spoke about Eibar it was full of patronising language and backhanded compliments. Which is to give you a hint as to what’s coming next. Pedro Leon wasn’t quite as imperious as he was against Granada, with Adrian Gonzales grabbing all the headlines with his first half double. Eibar are now just a point behind Villarreal in the hunt for European places and though it may be hard going squeezing any more juice out of this Basque orange but there are certainly worse places for an English side to take their reserves and underestimate a foreign side in the Europa League next year.
Our next game features a side that no-one will ever underestimate but their recent performances in both league and Europe shows that if they turn it on, you are powerless to resist. Like eleven Tom Hardy’s. Or maybe even one Xabi Alonso. Bayern Munich are able to overpower most teams, their effect on Hamburg however is something special. It wasn’t that long ago that meat based German side had gone to second placed Red Bull Leipzig and pulled off one of the upsets of the season (in beating them 3-0). This time around, things were much more straightforward. About as linear as Pac-Man when he’s only got one place to go in fact. Bayern Munich decimated Hamburg (as is their thing) 8-0. Lewandowski got a hat trick, Kingsley Coman nabbed a brace and there was even time for Arjen Robben to cut inside and do his thing. As emphatic as it was, go and look at HSV’s recent record against Bayern. To award anything to them right now would be like awarding Piers Morgan for being a slimy toad.
From one emphatic victory to another. Dundee are quite possibly the epitome right now of making hay while the sun shines. Having effectively relegated rivals Dundee United last year (with a last minute goal just for added “OMGFU”) they have in recent weeks managed to propel themselves from relegation candidates to houses that are safer than the ones under Katy Perry’s charge. Being 5-1 up away from home at half time isn’t so much dominance, it’s the kind of destruction that walls were built for. M’on the Dundee.
Transitions between Scotland and Italy don’t come much easier than Gennaro Gattuso. The bearded antagonist for whim everyone once hated and yet wanted in their team has been for some time now plying his trade in this management lark, only to find that being purely fuelled by anger doesn’t always work. Sometimes however, the stars align and eventually the force with which Gattuso motivated (intimidated) his players, finally it pays off. Prior to today Pisa had scored four away goals all season, today they managed to match that total in ninety minutes. We can only but imagine an angry Gattuso demanding more.
It isn’t that much further that we have to go for tonight’s award winner in terms of their location. Napoli are a side that have featured in this column many a time for the way they’ve taken Serie A by the scruff of the neck lately, so it’s only fair that when someone shuts them down we dish out the same level of praise. The last time Napoli failed to score at home was in December 0f 2015 (24 games). Normally that’d be enough to give the ultimate credit to a hard working back four. One Atalanta player decided to go all in with his performance however, being not only part of the defence that kept one of Serie A’s most potent attacks at bay but also scoring not one by two goals himself to earn a most unlikely victory. Mattia Caldara; quite literally the best of everything right now.