When Manuel Neuer got injured once again early in the season, there were a few worries from the Bayern Munich faithful, and those worries became utter discomfort when they were battered at Paris Saint-Germain in September, a game where Bayern’s second choice goalie Sven Ulreich hardly covered himself in glory.
Ulreich was subject to some scrutiny after two questionable goals in Paris, but he has proved his worth to Die Roten ever since, his late penalty save against former club Stuttgart last weekend which saw Bayern go 11-points clear atop the Bundesliga table going into the winter break added to his collection of claim-staking displays.
Bayern haven’t particularly been sparkling since Jupp Heynckes took over, but they have been, as Mats Hummels put it, ‘consistent’. Grabbing a couple of scrappy wins here and there is never a bad thing, and Ulreich has contributed in no small amount.
City’s ability to adapt is another weapon in their arsenal
Another day, another win. It seems so routine now for Manchester City it’s barely even news. But it is, every league win now is another Premier League record, and it inches them closer to the European record set by Bayern Munich a few years ago (under Pep Guardiola of course).
The first few wins in this astonishing run have seen them blow teams away with their utterly dominant back to front passing, shredding teams for pleasure. The past few have been rather hard fought, opponents sitting back and narrowing the space, but City still found a way.
On Saturday however, opponents Spurs adopted another system, trying to press high and prevent the back-to-front passing. Enter City with a new plan, going direct. Goalkeeper Ederson attempted 19 long field passes at the Etihad this weekend, more often than not finding a team-mate, which meant as Spurs pressed high, City’s direct approach would leave the Londoners short at the back, and how the league leaders capitalised. Slick pass and move, wearing down the opposition, or hoofing it a bit, City always seems to find a way. A dominant way for that matter.
Dortmund feeling new manager bounce
From seventh to third in the space of five days, Dortmund have suddenly jumped from crisis mode to steady progress. They’ve won both games under new manager Peter Stöger, although it’s definitely no indicator that they are immediately back on track. But the increasingly-famous new manager bounce is with them, and they’ll happily take that into the winter break.
Liverpool still have defensive problems, but are a joy to watch
There was no South Coast capitulation for Liverpool this time, as they brushed aside Bournemouth. The front three all found the net, Roberto Firmino with his head, Philippe Coutinho with a delightful solo effort, and too-hot-to-handle Mohammed Salah scored his 20th goal of the season already. The Reds football have been absolutely eye-catching recently, to say the least, and although their defence still has its giant flaws, their front line makes up for it.
In fact, their open backline makes the game even more watchable, if not as solid.
Atletico will make do with another narrow win for now
Simply, Atletico Madrid have done an Atletico Madrid, a not-so inspiring game is settled by a lone goal, this time it was Fernando Torres, whose first goal of the season was enough against Alaves at the weekend.
They’ve been limping towards the winter break, like wounded soldiers inching ever closer to the gates of sanctuary. But with just one game left before they set off for the new year, which will see them return with the anticipated Diego Costa in the side, those limps will have to do. Sanctuary isn’t that far away.