Hoping for a winter break boost after a Clasico defeat, life has gone from bad to worse for Real Madrid…but Benevento are born again
Now an incredible 16 points behind Barcelona, despite the positive note of Gareth Bale scoring two against Celta Vigo. Simply not the same solidity at the back, a lack of overall motivation – understandable after winning everything, less so at Real Madrid – and the La Liga title race that is already over. And at this rate, it will be tough for Los Blancos to keep up with Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League round of 16 next month.
For the holders to get knocked out in the third round of the FA Cup by a struggling Championship side is just humiliating. The defending was embarrassing, the attacking non-existent. Just classic Arsenal, one could say, but the FA Cup in recent years had become the competition where the Gunners did best, winning two over the past three years. There’s little Arsene Wenger can do to justify it. Even squad rotation cannot be an excuse for this. Arsenal need to change things, or the future will continue to be a slow decline.
The Giallorossi are in crisis, there’s no hiding anymore. Losing 2-1 home to Atalanta is the nail in the coffin to their title race chances, after picking up just one point in three games. Napoli and Juventus have sprinted away at the top of the table, and the only satisfaction come mid-season for Roma remains topping the group in the Champions League. Add to this the problem with Radja Nainggolan misbehaving off the pitch on New Year’s Eve and the issue of Patrick Schick – the most expensive ever player in Roma’s history – not integrating in the system, and you have a lot of work to be done by manager Eusebio Di Francesco and the club directors.
Incredible how quickly things change in football. Benevento had managed one point in the first 18 games, then six in the following two. Trailing by one goal at half time against Sampdoria, the Witches put in a fantastic second-half shift to turn things around and with a Cristiano Ronaldo-esque Massimo Coda brace making it 3-2 in the end to win the game. Currently the most exciting team in Serie A without a doubt.
It certainly isn’t anything like lifting two European Cup trophies in a row, but caretaker Gary Brazil and the players can definitely be over the moon about knocking out holders Arsenal from the FA Cup. By far the biggest surprise of the weekend by a historical English club that had been almost forgotten in recent years. Forest took the lead on 20 minutes and never had to trail behind Arsenal, dominating a game that exposed all the faults of the Gunners and gives some glory to Nottingham.
It’s the first time in their history Betis score five goals away to Sevilla, and the derby was a spectacular game, with a 3-5 final result that condemns Vincenzo Montella to his first Liga defeat in his debut game as Sevilla manager in the league. The celebrations after the game from the fans explain just what a result this is, and Betis legend Joaquin Sanchez crying joyfully after the match is another image to remember.