WHAT WE LEARNED: Excitement in the Premier League, Barca miss Lionel Messi and Real Madrid still look off the pace
LONDON: They say never look at the League table until November. Well, that time has crept up on us, and here is what we have learned from the latest round of matches across Europe.
WILL THERE BE A GENUINE TITLE RACE IN ENGLAND?
Manchester City once again showed why they are the team to beat this season when they fired six past Southampton. In truth, they could have easily scored more and it was the 21st time that they have scored five or more in a league match since May 2013. But while for some that would indicate the title is once again theirs to lose, the fact is that Liverpool and Chelsea are also unbeaten and look like they too have the firepower and, more importantly, the nous to go all the way. It is the first time since 1978 that three top-flight teams have gone unbeaten in their first 11 matches in England and hints that should City defend their title successfully they will have likely more than earned it.
City look in fine form, but the performances of Liverpool and Chelsea suggest they will not have it all their own way this season.
BARCA WITHOUT MESSI LOOK VULNERABLE
Since Lionel Messi has been sitting on the sidelines the Catalan club have won all their matches. Not bad, you may think. But if their 3-2 comeback win over Rayo Vallecano tells us anything it is that there is a vulnerability about this side that the victory could not hide. Rayo had won just once in their first 10 league games this season and should have been easy pickings for Luis Suarez and Co. But they toiled and were a goal down with just three minutes to go. That they snatched victory from the jaws of defeat is laudable, but it is clear that the likes of Philippe Coutinho, who is yet to justify his £142 million ($184 million) transfer fee from Liverpool, struggle without their Argentine ace.
Lionel Messi's importance to the Catalan giants has been easy to see in his absense.
REAL ARE A CUP TEAM
Santiago Solari got his Real Madrid reign (interim one at least) under way in La Liga with a 2-0 victory over Valladolid. The capital club left it late, however, with two goals in the last 10 minutes gifting them the points. It was their first win in the league for five matches but came about only because their opponents were wasteful in front of goal. But should we really be surprised that this Real side — now without Cristiano Ronaldo — is struggling? Yes, they have won three Champions Leagues in a row, but that success was always against a backdrop of a lack of domestic dominance. They have won only one La Liga title in six years and the fact is that Real, for all their European success, are simply a very good cup team. Judging Solari on the side’s results in Spain does seem a bit harsh.
Real may have won at the weekend, but it took two late goals for them to grab the points against Valladolid.