Bayern are back, Sterling falling short

Another weekend of headlines, golazos and unpredictable finishes across Europe’s biggest league is in the bag. From Bayern Munich hitting top gear in a 6-2 thrashing of Mainz, to Chelsea’s shock loss at Brighton, to Atletico Madrid once again coming unstuck in the 99th minute — there was no shortage of drama.

ESPN correspondents Julien Laurens, Sam Marsden, James Tyler and Mark Ogden break down the big stuff you need to know about the weekend.

– Stream on ESPN+: LaLiga, Bundesliga, MLS, more (U.S.)

Jump to: Talking points | Best goals | Teams in trouble | MVP of the Weekend

Talking points

Bayern finally hitting stride in the Bundesliga

It’s taken them eight rounds of matches and almost two months of fumbling around in league play, but Bayern Munich are finally where they expect to be season after season. Just one point off the top after Union Berlin’s last-gasp win over Borussia Monchengladbach on Sunday, Bayern showed their fullest on Saturday, thrashing Mainz 6-2 at the Allianz Arena. From here, you’d expect normal service to resume, with two slumping teams (Hertha Berlin, Schalke 04) and two wildly inconsistent ones (Werder Bremen, RB Leipzig) to play before the World Cup and an extended winter break, especially after another huge win that didn’t really require much effort.

Mainz seemed beaten from the opening whistle and were behind after just five minutes, giving Serge Gnabry tons of room and time on the edge of the six-yard box to receive Sadio Mane’s low centering pass and chip it beyond a flailing Robin Zentner to open the scoring. Another flowing move on the half-hour mark led to Bayern’s second goal, with Alphonso Davies and Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting combining nicely on the edge of the box to tee up Jamal Musiala for an emphatic, low-driven finish into the far corner. Combination play, precision passing and a thumping finish: you have to enjoy the entertainment, right?

– Watch replay: Bayern Munich 6-2 Mainz (ESPN+, U.S. only)

Mainz did threaten in what remained of the first half, with Jae-Sung Lee and Jonathan Burkhardt hitting the post within seconds of each other as Sven Ulreich was beaten, but Mane made it 3-0, tapping in from close range after Zentner saved his penalty (confirmed by VAR).

After a run of three draws and a defeat allowed their rivals to sit in the champions’ seat for a few weeks, Bayern have quietly found form despite spells of not playing well with Julian Nagelsmann still figuring out the right combinations in midfield and attack. Mane looks like he’s always been a Bayern player, while Musiala continues to show the dynamism and purpose in midfield that should see him breakout in front of a global audience at this winter’s World Cup.

As for Mainz and the rest of the Bundesliga, they should keep pushing to not let the Bavarians get too far away, but as usual for Bayern these days, it only seems like a matter of time before they do. — Tyler

Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting, left, and Serge Gnabry, right, were two of Bayern’s six different goal-scorers on Saturday. CHRISTOF STACHE/AFP via Getty Images

Sterling falling short for Potter

Raheem Sterling arrived at Stamford Bridge as Chelsea’s statement signing earlier this summer, with the England forward signalling the start of the Todd Boehly ownership era when completing a £47.5 million move from Manchester City.

But the 27-year-old has done little to warrant his big-star status so far for his new club and Saturday’s 4-1 defeat at Brighton extended his worrying run of form to just one goal in 11 games.

Manager Graham Potter said last week that Sterling’s performances and lack of goals were down to collective problems in the team rather than a singular issue with the player.

– Olley: Chelsea collapse at Brighton as Potter’s risky tactics falter

But dig deeper into his contribution under Potter and it is clear that Sterling still has plenty to do to convince the new boss that he can live up to his reputation as one of the Premier League’s most consistent forwards.

Sterling has completed 90 minutes just once for Chelsea since Potter replaced Thomas Tuchel as manager in September has been been substituted in six of his last seven games — the other being a goalless draw at Brentford when he started on the bench and replaced Mason Mount after 62 minutes.

In 16 appearances altogether for Chelsea, Sterling has scored just four goals and registered two assists, so he is some way short of the form he displayed at City.

So is he under-performing at Chelsea or did he seem a better player at City because he was surrounded by world-class talent in Pep Guardiola’s team?

Right now, it seems to be the former and Sterling might be seeing his World Cup starting spot disappear if he continues to fall short for Chelsea. — Ogden

Graham Potter’s former club hands him his first loss as Chelsea manager!

What a day for Brighton 🔥 pic.twitter.com/PS9sNw3MH8

— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) October 29, 2022

Serie A’s epic battle at the top

With Napoli flying high, five points clear at the top of Serie A and not looking like they are ready to slow down anytime soon, it is time to look behind them at the fascinating race for the top four.

Below Luciano Spaletti’s men, we find seven teams within five points of each other. Between Atalanta, currently second in the table on 27 points and Udinese, in 8th with 22 points, there is a massive fight for who will finish in the Champions League places. AC Milan, Lazio, Internazionale, AS Roma (with a game in hand) and Juventus are all in the mix.

Atalanta and Udinese are the only ones not playing in Europe this season, although Juventus could join them soon in this category, but they don’t have the depth of squads of the two Milanese sides or even Juve. Next weekend, six of the top eight teams will play each other: Atalanta-Napoli on Saturday, the Rome Derby between Lazio and Roma on Sunday, and the Derby d’Italia between Juventus and Inter. Then, the weekend before the start of the World Cup, Atalanta will host Inter, Lazio will travel to Turin and Napoli head to Milan to face Inter.

The Serie A dogfight is well and truly ON. — Laurens

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0:53

Julien Laurens reflects on Napoli’s dominant run of matches lately.

Atleti’s 99th-minute agony repeat

Atletico Madrid’s miserable week ended with more 99th minute agony on Saturday as they were beaten 3-2 by second-bottom Cadiz in LaLiga. Ruben Sobrino struck the winning goal in a five-goal thriller nine minutes into stoppage time just three days after Atletico had been knocked out of the Champions League. Atletico would still be in the Champions League, though, if Yannick Carrasco had converted a 99th minute penalty in the 2-2 draw with Bayer Leverkusen.

Sobrino’s winner at the Nuevo Mirandilla came after the home side had squandered a two-goal lead with Joao Felix coming off the bench to remind coach Diego Simeone what he’s capable of. Felix, on his day one of the most talented players in Atletico’s squad, has not started a game since Sept. 18 for his club and his last five appearances have accounted for a total of 54 minutes. Against Cadiz, Simeone handed him half an hour and his brace looked to have earned Atletico a point.

But then Sobrino struck to leave Atletico eight points adrift of second place Barcelona. Cadiz, meanwhile, are up to 10 points, level with a clutch of clubs, including Jorge Sampaoli’s Sevilla, who dropped back into the bottom three after losing at home to Rayo Vallecano. — Marsden

CADIZ BEAT ATLETICO WITH A 99TH MINUTE WINNER 😯 pic.twitter.com/Lu4HFEymzv

— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) October 29, 2022

Goals

De Bruyne’s best hit

There is the goal itself of course, a wonderful direct free kick. There is the player who scored it, Kevin De Bruyne in the conversation to be crowned the best midfielder in Premier League history. There is the significance of the goal, the winning one for Manchester City away at Leicester City, in a game without Erling Haaland and where the Citizens needed something special from someone.

And finally, there is the comment made after the game by Guardiola, almost hinting that KDB was back after going missing for a few games, which is a bit harsh considering the season the Belgian is having. But sometimes we are almost more demanding of geniuses like De Bruyne.

Saturday was his day and he delivered in the absence of Haaland. This is De Bruyne’s first goal from a direct free kick this season, on his third attempt. Whether you agree with Pep or not, KDB’s hit on Saturday was a special moment in this season’s Premier League. — Laurens

The best free-kick ever scored by a City player? 🤔@KevinDeBruyne’s sublime free-kick against Leicester 👇 pic.twitter.com/C4da0tdlCb

— Manchester City (@ManCity) October 29, 2022

Summerville’s birthday present

Leeds United have been waiting for 21 years for one of their players to score a winning goal against Liverpool at Anfield and Crysencio Summerville finally ended their wait — a day before his 21st birthday.

The last time Leeds won at Anfield, in April 2001, Rio Ferdinand was on the scoresheet for the Whites in a 2-1 win. Summerville hadn’t even been born.

But the Dutch forward showed composure beyond his years with the finishing touch to score his goal in the 89th minute.

Spotting a gap at the far post, the former Feyenoord youngster poked the ball beyond goalkeeper Alisson to score in front of the section housing the Leeds supporters.

It was the perfect end to the perfect day for Summerville, who said afterwards that he would celebrate by flying to the Netherlands on his birthday to spend time with his family. — Ogden

🤯 “That is sensational!” pic.twitter.com/onfkRI5jvG

— Leeds United (@LUFC) October 30, 2022

Hey Jude!

Apologies for the bad pun around Borussia Dortmund star (and top transfer target of Every Club In The World FC) Jude Bellingham’s name, but I shall not say sorry for his brilliant goal on Saturday — one that proved to be the game-winner as BVB racked up an impressive 2-1 win on the road at Eintracht Frankfurt.

Following a fancy flick-on by Youssoufa Moukoko (who is starting to look better and better in that center-forward role), Bellingham surged into the box, cut beyond one defender and left several others fumbling before arrowing a shot into the top-left corner. It was flair, it was force, it was everything you want to see from an attacking midfield talent like the 19-year-old England international. That it helped Dortmund pick up all three points made it even sweeter. — Tyler

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Jude Bellingham continues his hot scoring streak for Borussia Dortmund at Eintracht Frankfurt.

Teams in trouble

Leverkusen trending down

There’s a problem at Bayer Leverkusen, and it’s evident that after the Oct. 5 coaching change — goodbye Gerardo Seoane, hello Xabi Alonso — and just one league win since the end of August that it will take quite some time to figure out. The talent is there — Moussa Diaby is electric on the wing, Robert Andrich remains persistent in midfield — but the results just don’t add up and that was true again this weekend, where Leverkusen went to Leipzig and managed just five shots (0.14 xG) in a rather boring 2-0 defeat.

Things could certainly change when some major players finally return from long-term injuries (you can see where they’re missing Florian Wirtz to knit everything together in the final third), but it’s likely that the real work won’t begin until the World Cup break, which means that form and confidence likely won’t return until the new year. It shouldn’t be too late to save their season, but it’s going to require a lot of saving. — Tyler

Marseille can’t stop the rot

Marseille were already my team in trouble last week, but they have to be up there again after another disappointing result — this time at Strasbourg.

Three days before the biggest game of their season, at home against Tottenham Hotspur in the Champions League to make it to the last 16 or not, they could not afford to keep their negative spiral in Ligue 1 going. After three defeats in a row, they had to get back to winning ways. Despite a good first half, Igor Tudor’s side made the same mistakes as in their last league encounters and conceded two late goals to only go home with a point.

It is not good enough at the moment for the Marseillais and the pressure is going to be massive, not just on Tuesday against Spurs but also on Sunday against Lyon at the Velodrome. The Olympico is a huge occasion and one l’OM cannot lose. — Laurens

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Julien Laurens and Craig Burley preview the Champions League matchup between Tottenham and Marseille.

Weekend MVP

Lewa keeps his cool for Barca

There may have been better performances than Robert Lewandowski’s in Europe this weekend but few will have been as important as the Barcelona striker’s at Valencia. Lewandowski struck the winner in the 94th minute of a hard-fought game at Mestalla to earn his team three points, cancel out the criticism which would have followed a draw after Champions League elimination in midweek and, most significantly, move Barca to within one point of leaders Real Madrid, who were held by Girona on Sunday.

Xavi Hernandez has spoken about the need to connect more with Lewandowski but the Poland international never disconnects from the game, no matter how much of the ball he sees. That was evident against Valencia. When Raphinha’s cross dropped into the box in the fourth minute of stoppage time, he was switched on and athletic enough to produce a brilliant finish back across the goalkeeper. It was his 18th goal of the season and, to date, perhaps his most important for Barca so far. Time will tell just how key it was when the points are added up at the end of the season. Marsden





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