Five Things We Learned In European Football This Weekend
Barcelona warmed up for their Champions League semi-final against Liverpool with a title party while Paris Saint-Germain crashed to a shock defeat in the French Cup final as golden boy Kylian Mbappe got himself sent off.
Here, AFP Sport takes a look at five main talking points from the weekend in European football:
La Liga belongs to Barcelona
It was only a matter of time, but Barcelona are champions of Spain again, wrapping up their eighth title in 11 years with three games to spare by beating Levante 1-0 on Saturday.
It was the perfect way for the Catalans to warm up for their Champions League semi-final against Liverpool, with Lionel Messi starting on the bench before coming on to score the winning goal.
Messi has now won 10 league titles with the club, more than any other player, and he raised aloft the trophy at the Camp Nou to start the party.
“To win the title with a distance and gap is difficult with the rivals we have. We’ve done it two years in a row,” coach Ernesto Valverde said.
The hope now is that Barca can go on to complete a treble, with a Copa del Rey final against Valencia to come as well.
Real want season to end
The end of the season cannot come soon enough for Real Madrid, who lost 1-0 at impoverished capital neighbours Rayo Vallecano on Sunday and sit 18 points behind the champions, Barcelona.
They have now lost 10 times in La Liga this season and coach Zinedine Zidane felt compelled to apologise at the end.
“We must be very angry… we have to apologise for our performance, all of us,” said Zidane, who demanded an improvement from his team in their final three league outings.
PSG in meltdown mode again
The Paris Saint-Germain psychodrama continued as they threw away a two-goal lead before losing the French Cup final on penalties to Rennes.
PSG looked certain to complete a domestic double, and win the Cup for the fifth year running, when goals by Dani Alves and Neymar had them 2-0 up midway through the first half, but they ended up being taken to extra time.
That was when Kylian Mbappe was sent off for a shocking tackle, before Christopher Nkunku’s miss in the shootout handed the trophy to Rennes. It was a first piece of silverware for them in 48 years.
However, the nature of PSG’s defeat, Mbappe’s sending-off and Neymar’s confrontation with a fan as he went to collect his runners-up medal, all hinted at the ongoing psychological problems at the Qatar-owned club.
Despite winning the league, the manner in which they limped over the line, their exit from the Champions League in the last 16 and now this mean this season has been branded the worst in the eight years since the Qatari takeover.
‘Crazy’ weekend for Bayern and Dortmund
Borussia Dortmund coach Lucien Favre declared the Bundesliga title race over after his side crashed to a 4-2 defeat against local rivals Schalke on Saturday.
Two red cards and a hotly contested penalty decision saw Dortmund slump to what appeared to be decisive defeat in the title race. Yet there was another twist on Sunday, when league leaders Bayern Munich were held to a 1-1 draw at relegation-threatened Nuremberg.
Bayern missed the chance to go four points clear of the top of the table with three games to play, and they were lucky to escape with a point after second-from-bottom Nuremberg missed an injury-time penalty.
“The Bundesliga is crazy,” said Bayern coach Niko Kovac, whose side are now two points ahead of Dortmund, and still have to face top four sides RB Leipzig and Eintracht Frankfurt in their quest for a seventh successive title.
Belotti back as Torino eye Champions League
Andrea Belotti is back to his goalscoring best as Torino continue their hunt for a first-ever qualification for the Champions League, bagging the opener in their first Serie A win over AC Milan since 2001, 2-0 in Turin on Sunday night.
Torino captain Belotti had struggled with his form since scoring 26 league goals two seasons ago — which made him a transfer target for Milan — but his 58th-minute penalty in a superb display on Sunday made it six goals from eight games as Walter Mazzarri’s rock-solid Torino moved to sixth.
Belotti’s 13th league strike of the season helped move Torino within two points of Champions League spots ahead of fifth-placed Atalanta’s home match with Udinese on Monday night and next week’s local derby with newly-crowed champions Juventus, which will take place the day before the 70th anniversary of the Superga air disaster that wiped out their all-conquering team of the 1940s.
Should they make the top four it would be their first appearance in Europe’s top club competition since 1976-77, when they were knocked out of the old European Cup in the second round by eventual finalists Borussia Moenchengladbach.