The action has been nonstop this week and it came to a head last night with three key results in Italy, Spain and France, all of which had huge ramifications. Monaco won their first Ligue 1 title in 17 years with a 2-0 victory over Saint-Etienne, whilst Juventus secured the first part of a possible domestic and European treble with a 2-0 victory over Lazio in the Coppa Italia. In Spain, Real Madrid took a giant stride towards their first La Liga title since 2011/12 with a 4-1 away victory over beaten Europa League semi-finalists Celta Vigo. The result leaves them on 90 points, three ahead of Barcelona with the same number of games now played. We examine the key talking points from a decisive night of football around the continent.
Juventus: Part one of three complete
Juventus 2-0 victory over Lazio secured the first part of a domestic and European treble as the Old Lady lifted their 12th Coppa Italia, a record high. Currently four points ahead of Roma with two games to go in Serie A, there’s still a possibility that a sixth consecutive Scudetto could evade them, but the focussed minds of Max Allegri’s squad are unlikely to let such an achievement slip, especially with relatively easy fixtures against Crotone and Bologna.
Dani Alves, again, proved decisive when he opened the scoring after 12 minutes, whilst Leonardo Bonucci’s tap-in put the game beyond doubt in the 24th minute as Juventus cruised to their third successive Coppa Italia. They used the Italian cup final to send a powerful message to Real Madrid ahead of June’s Champions League final and after a defeat in the final in 2015, they seem more determined than ever. One trophy down, two to go. It’s hard to look beyond the Old Lady winning this weekend’s game with Crotone, given that it’s at the Juventus Stadium, so the treble is very much achievable.
Monaco: Ligue 1 champions, but is this the end of the road?
A 2-0 victory over Saint-Etienne was enough to bring the Ligue 1 title to the Stade Louis II for the first time since 1999-2000, Monaco’s eighth time winning the competition. After such a stellar breakthrough campaign, it was only fitting for Kylian Mbappe to open the scoring in style, latching on to Radamel Falcao’s through pass and rounding the ‘keeper. Valere Germain made sure of the win an injury time tap-in. They were rarely troubled in their 11th consecutive league win, demonstrating the combined strength of youth and experience, none more so than their duo up front.
Monaco’s success is in large part down to Mbappe and Falcao, the former 18 and the latter 31, who have been Monaco’s top scorers in Ligue 1; Falcao has 24 goals, whilst Mbappe has 15. The teenager also scored six in six in Europe as Monaco swept aside Tottenham, Manchester City and Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League.
However, the issue that this raises is that Mbappe, amongst the likes of Thomas Lemar, Tiemoue Bakayoko and Bernardo Silva, has caught the eye of a number of Europe’s top clubs. They have the ability to offer higher wages and break the bank to entice these players away from the principality. It would be such a shame to see this young, exciting side cherry-picked apart, but such is the power of Europe’s financially superior clubs.
Real Madrid: La Liga all but secure
A 4-1 victory for Real Madrid in Vigo last night all but secured their first La Liga title since 2011/12. After the 3-2 El Clasico defeat, the onus was on this one catch-up game, originally scheduled during Madrid’s participation in the FIFA Club World Cup, essentially deciding where the La Liga title would end up. It now leaves Los Blancos three points ahead of Barcelona with one game left to play, meaning they need only a point to secure the title.
Not only did Real get one hand on the title, iconic forward Cristiano Ronaldo broke a long-standing European scoring record. His second goal against Celta was his 367th in Europe’s top five leagues, surpassing a 46-year record set by former Tottenham striker Jimmy Greaves, part of Bill Nicholson’s 1960/61 double-winning side.
With La Liga nearly secure, Madrid can look ahead to the Champions League final with Juventus, a side likely to have won a double of their own this season by the time the two sides meet. It’s a clash of two contrasting styles, Madrid’s attacking prowess versus the defensive solidity of the Old Lady, but Zinedine Zidane is confident that he can secure back-to-back Champions Leagues for the first time in the competition’s modern format.
Is this the end of the road for Monaco? Who will win the Champions League? Let us know in the comments section below.