Talking points from around Europe


Atletico Madrid stayed on course to win La Liga even as their rivals kept up the pressure, Kylian Mbappe reached a milestone and Juventus saw their Serie A title hopes surely come to an end.

AFP Sport rounds up some of the main talking points from across the continent:

– Oblak keeps Atletico on course –

Atletico Madrid were grateful for goalkeeper Jan Oblak’s superb late save from Joselu’ penalty as they edged struggling Alaves 1-0 to stay on course for the Spanish title. Luis Suarez scored his 19th goal of the season as Atletico put their Champions League exit to Chelsea behind them and got back in track in La Liga.

How they needed the win too, as Barcelona destroyed Real Sociedad, Sergino Dest and Lionel Messi both scoring twice in a 6-1 win. That is 18 games unbeaten for the Catalans, with Messi onto a league-high 23 goals.

Barca are four points behind Atletico with 10 games left, including a meeting of the sides at the Camp Nou in May. Ronald Koeman’s team might even be favourites now, but Real Madrid are still in it, sitting six points off the leaders in third after winning 3-1 at Celta Vigo. Karim Benzema’s brace leaves him with seven goals in his last five league appearances.

– Mbappe sprints to century –

Kylian Mbappe is always in a hurry, whether sprinting past opponents on the pitch or collecting trophies. A World Cup winner as a teenager and already four times a Ligue 1 title-winner, on Sunday Mbappe became the youngest player to reach 100 goals in the French top flight with a brace in Paris Saint-Germain’s 4-2 win at Lyon.

At 22 years and three months old, Mbappe is more than a year younger than Saint-Etienne great Herve Revelli when he reached 100 goals in 1969, according to sports daily L’Equipe. Just Fontaine was 24 years and eight months when he reached a century while playing for Reims in 1958, the year he scored 13 times for France at the World Cup in Sweden.

– Flick row simmers at Bayern –

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All looks well at Bayern Munich, with a 4-0 win over Stuttgart keeping them four points clear of RB Leipzig atop the Bundesliga after they reached the Champions League quarter-finals last midweek.

However, pull back the lid and the talk is of tensions simmering behind the scenes between coach Hansi Flick and sporting director Hasan Salihamidzic. Some suspect Flick, linked with the soon-to-be-vacant Germany job, is deliberately snubbing players signed by Salihamidzic.

On Saturday, Spanish midfielder Marc Roca — signed at the start of the season — was left on the bench despite the absence of Joshua Kimmich. Instead, David Alaba stepped into midfield but Lucas Hernandez, the club record signing, was also left on the bench and stayed there after left-back Alphonso Davies’ early sending-off.

With 10 men Bayern still cruised, as Robert Lewandowski scored a hat-trick to move onto 35 goals in 25 league games this season.

– What next for Juventus? –

Juventus’ hopes of a 10th straight Scudetto surely disappeared as they slumped to a 1-0 home defeat by Benevento, a result that leaves them 10 points adrift of leaders Inter with 11 games left.

The defeat comes soon after their Champions League last-16 exit to Porto and means Andrea Pirlo’s first season as a coach looks certain to end in failure, although they still have the Coppa Italia final to come against Atalanta.

On Sunday, Pirlo was bettered by his old AC Milan teammate Pippo Inzaghi, now in charge of Benevento. Will Pirlo still be there next season? And will Cristiano Ronaldo leave or will he stay for the last year of his contract?

– Gladbach bounce back amid Alonso reports –

Borussia Moenchengladbach had suffered seven straight defeats since the announcement that coach Marco Rose would leave in the summer for Borussia Dortmund. What they really needed was a game against struggling Schalke and they duly won 3-0 at the Bundesliga’s bottom side on Saturday to revive their dwindling European hopes.

Meanwhile the club continue their search for a successor to Rose with reports indicating they have chosen Xabi Alonso, the ex-Liverpool, Real Madrid and Bayern star now on the coaching staff at Real Sociedad.

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