Welcome to our weekly rundown on the biggest news stories and best goals in the wide world of football – and as much as we’d love to stick strictly to on-field matters, it’s necessary to start in Spain, where racism has yet again reared its ugly head.
We’ve discussed the events surrounding Valencia’s 1-0 win over Real Madrid in far more detail in this article, but suffice to say that Real forward Vinícius Junior was yet again the subject of appalling abuse, and yet again the result is pushed to the background by the grim spectacle of grown adults hurling bigoted insults at a man whose crime is being Black, talented, and in the public eye.
The effect of that scoreline on the La Liga table is rendered a secondary matter by the league’s apparent unwillingness to take action, with president Javier Tebas more keen to criticise the victim for failing to engage with their non-existent anti-racism programmes than he was to find any fault with the perpetrators. Anyway, as we must mention how it affects the relegation battle, it was a key win which pushes Valencia up to 40 points and probable safety.
There was also a huge win for Espanyol – whose own supporters, including far-right ultras, last week invaded the field of play to attempt to assault Barcelona’s players. They beat Rayo Vallecano 2-1 in the outskirts of Madrid to bring them to within a point of safety. Real Valladolid, who are in freefall, and Getafe are a point further ahead, while Cadíz, Almería and Celta Vigo – who have tumbled down the table in recent weeks – are all still in danger if they can’t string a few results together.
At the other end of the table, Real Sociedad’s superb 2-1 win over champions Barcelona means that they are within touching distance of a Champions League berth, with Villarreal five points behind with three to play. Mention should also be made of Sevilla, who spent most of the season hovering above the drop zone but now find themselves in with a very real shout of European qualification even if they fail to win the Europa League final against Roma. José Luis Mendilibar has done an extraordinary job since taking over the Andalucian side a couple of short months ago.
Over in Germany, meanwhile, Bayern Munich’s 3-1 home defeat to RB Leipzig meant they once again managed to throw away their position at the top of the table, and they may not have enough time left to do anything about it. Borussia Dortmund shrugged off the injury-enforced absence of Jude Bellingham to beat Augsburg 3-0, putting them two points clear at the top.
Dortmund still need to beat Mainz at home on the final day of the season to finally break Bayern’s seemingly endless run of Bundesliga championships, and have some recent experience of blowing the lead in an absorbing title race, but it would all be moot if Bayern fail to beat 1. FC Köln away on Saturday.
At the other end of the table, Hertha Berlin’s relegation was confirmed after a 1-1 draw with VfL Bochum, who currently face a relegation play-off – but it will be a tense finale at both ends of the table, with Schalke, Bochum and Stuttgart all within a point of each other. One will go down, one will have a shoot-out against a 2.Bundesliga team to determine their fate, and another will survive. Augsburg could also be dragged into the play-off place if they lose and both Bochum and Stuttgart win. Meanwhile, Leipzig’s huge win over Bayern locked up Champions League football, with the fourth spot going to either Union Berlin or Freiburg, level on points as it stands. Xabi Alonso’s Bayer Leverkusen, meanwhile, will qualify for the Europa League with a last-day win against Bochum.
Over the border in France, Paris Saint-Germain’s 2-1 win over Auxerre means that they’ve all but sealed another Ligue 1 title – they would need to lose both of their remaining games in catastrophic fashion for Lens to catch them. Lens have at least wrapped up a deserved Champions League qualification, with Marseille joining them. Either Auxerre or Nantes will be relegated along with Troyes, Ajaccio and Angers.
Both France and Germany earn a joint mention, courtesy of another incident when bigotry reared its rotten head. Toulouse player Zakaria Aboukhlal made headlines by refusing to wear a special jersey with a symbol of support for the LGBTQ+ community on it, and Bayern’s Noussair Mazraoui was among players who came out in support of Aboukhlal. Credit must be given to Bayern’s fans whose own response was to raise a banner reading “All colours are beautiful, in Toulouse, Munich and elsewhere. Respect our values, Mazraoui.”
Aboukhlal is currently training separately from the rest of his squad, and in a separate incident was cleared by his club after an internal investigation into allegations that he made sexist remarks towards the city’s deputy mayor. French media company RMC had alleged that he told her “where I’m from, women don’t talk to men like that”, which Toulouse have decided was untrue.
By way of a palate cleanse, let us at least enjoy Kylian Mbappé’s glorious opening goal that set PSG on their way to their effective title win:
Over in Portugal, there’s a final day shootout for the title on the cards, with Benfica set to wrap up the Primeira Liga if they can beat bottom team Santa Clara on the last day of the season - a situation set up neatly by João Neves’ 94th-minute equaliser against Sporting CP this weekend. Reigning champions Porto, who play Vitória Guimarães at home, can catch them should the Lisbon side slip up. Braga will join those two teams in the Champions League, with Sporting resigned to a crack at the Europa League.
Let’s take a quick spin through some of the very best goals that graced the game this weekend, starting in Uruguay, where Luís Suarez is clearly enjoying himself very much back in his homeland, as evinced by this brilliant strike against Internacional:
Over in Belgium, Danish midfielder Casper Nielsen ran onto a ball into the box and kicked it very, very hard into the goal. Sometimes you just need to skip the fancy descriptions and enjoy the sight of someone taking the leather right off the face of the ball:
We want your feedback on 3 Added Minutes - details here
And finally, please enjoy Yuki Honda of Andrès Iniesta’s Vissel Kobe slotting one home from over 40 yards. You’ll enjoy it more than he did – it was into his own net. Whoops.