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Cremonese’s historic cup run, Angers’ disastrous league form & more

Between some interesting cup knockouts and league fixtures, we have a bunch of games in Europe to look back on.

Let’s get started with our weekly column by heading to Rome.

🇮🇹 Italy: Roma 1-2 Cremonese

We covered Cremonese’s shock Coppa Italia win over Napoli a couple of weeks ago in this column, but they have stolen the headlines again.

This time, they were on the road to the Italian capital. They are still winless in the league and 10 points away from safety, but they seem a totally different side in the cup.

In this match, they took advantage of a poor first-half performance from Roma to take a one-goal lead into the break thanks to Cyriel Dessers’ penalty.

Crucially, they got a cushion early in the second period when Zeki Çelik turned the ball into his own net. The home side looked much improved thereafter, but they could only pull one back deep into stoppage time, so the match was lost.

For just the second time in their history and for the first time since 1986/87, Cremonese have reached the semi-finals of the Coppa Italia. Their next opponents are Fiorentina, but there is a lot of time left for those matches as they will be played over two months later.

🇫🇷 France: Angers 1-2 AC Ajaccio

We had a full round of midweek fixtures in France again, including some exciting clashes close to the top of the table and European spots. However, we will be focusing on a relegation six-pointer which turned out to be a record-breaking fixture.

Newly promoted Ajaccio travelled from the island of Corsica to Angers to face the side at the bottom of the table. The visitors were only 18th in a season where four sides are set to be relegated as the division is trimmed down to 18 sides, but they had a seven-point gap to their opponents.

Since their promotion in 2015, Angers have comfortably been finishing in the mid-table spots and therefore have not experienced a relegation battle of late. This season, though, they are fighting against all odds if they haven’t already lost.

The home side went into this match on a run of eight-straight losses in the league looking to avoid a record-breaking ninth.

They started well and took the lead 13 minutes in, but it all unravelled in the second half. About 10 minutes after conceding an equaliser in the 65th minute, Angers went down to 10 men. Still, they could have held on to a point, but a stoppage-time winner for Ajaccio prevented that.

Angers remain rooted to the bottom spot on just eight points – 11 from safety.

🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿 England: Newcastle United 2-1 Southampton (3-1 on aggregate)

Newcastle United’s first full season since the Saudi-backed takeover has been brilliant on the pitch. They are still in the top four in the Premier League and are among the favourites to qualify for Champions League football next season.

They have also found a great deal of cup success. Their FA Cup run did not last longer than one match as Sheffield Wednesday sent them packing in the third round, but the Carabao Cup has provided them with a lot of joy.

They defeated Crystal Palace, Bournemouth and Leicester City en route to the semi-final, where they faced relegation-battlers Southampton.

The Saints had staged a significant upset in the quarter-finals by knocking out Manchester City, but they could not repeat the trick in the two-legged semi-final.

They produced a decent performance at home but went down 1-0, and an early brace from Sean Longstaff in the second leg put Newcastle in a commanding position.

Che Adams quickly pulled one back, but the hosts preserved a two-goal advantage till full-time. With that, they sealed a spot in the final, which will be their first direct shot at a trophy this century.

🇪🇸 Spain: Real Madrid 2-0 Valencia

There were a couple of La Liga fixtures this week involving the four teams involved in the Super Cup in Saudi Arabia, and they both happened to be rematches of the semi-finals.

That meant Real Madrid hosted Valencia, who had changed since that semi-final. After a last-minute defeat to Real Valladolid on the weekend that left them just a point above the relegation zone, Gennaro Gattuso was sacked. His interim replacement was Voro, who Valencia fans have seen in the dugout a fair few times over the years.

Having come through the club’s academy as a player and made close to 250 senior appearances, Voro returned to Valencia at the end of his playing career.

He mainly served in the backroom staff but was called into the hot seat on an interim basis when Ronald Koeman was sacked in 2008. This is the eighth time he is temporarily taking charge of the senior side.

Things have not got off to the best of starts for the 59-year-old Spaniard. After a decent defensive performance in the first half, the visitors conceded twice in quick succession within ten minutes of the restart. First came a typical long-range strike from Marco Asensio, followed by a great run and finish by Vinícius Júnior.

Valencia never looked likely to stage a comeback as they were completely flat up front, but any outside chances were significantly diminished by Gabriel Paulista’s sending-off in the 72nd minute for kicking out at Vinícius. He will be missing in their next couple of matches, but Valencia need to start picking up points.

🇬🇷 Greece: Asteras Tripolis 1-0 Panathinaikos

There has been quite a twist to the title race in the Greek Super League since the restart after the World Cup break.

Panathinaikos had an eight-point lead at the time as they looked in command on their quest for a first league title in 13 years, but that has completely evaporated.

The Greens have endured a disastrous run of form that has seen them drop points in six of their last 10 league games and get knocked out of the cup.

Their latest setback was a loss to lower-table side Asteras Tripolis, who benefitted from a numerical advantage for about an hour as Panathinaikos captain Dimitrios Kourbelis was booked twice in quick succession in the first half.

Meanwhile, AEK Athens have been on fire as they have won 10 of their last 11 games, so they have leapfrogged their local rivals and climbed up to top spot now.

Defending champions Olympiacos and PAOK have also been in fine form, so just five points separate the top four in Greece at the moment.

(Image credit: FotMob)

A dramatic title race is in the offing.

👀 What To Watch Next:

The weekend brings various big games with it, so here are a few to watch.

🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿 England: Everton vs Arsenal (Saturday, 12:30 UTC)
Sean Dyche’s first match in charge of Everton sees them come up against league leaders Arsenal. First tests don’t get much tougher than this, but given that the Toffees are in the relegation zone, they will need to start picking up points as soon as possible.

🇳🇱 Netherlands: Feyenoord vs PSV Eindhoven (Sunday, 13:30 UTC)
Things are continuing to get tighter at the top of the Eredivisie table, and we seem to have a match between title contenders on a weekly basis. This time, league leaders Feyenoord host third-placed PSV, who have a four-point deficit to them.

🇩🇪 Germany: Wolfsburg vs Bayern Munich (Sunday, 15:45 UTC)
It is a very unusual season in the Bundesliga because we still have a title race even though we have crossed the halfway mark. Bayern have drawn each of their three league matches after the World Cup break, so they will be keen to end that run against a revitalised Wolfsburg side.

🇮🇹 Italy: Inter vs Milan (Sunday, 19:45 UTC)
The Milan derby this weekend sees two teams in very different veins of form facing. We covered Milan’s troubles last week, and things have not got any better for them since. Inter, on the other hand, have won all but two and lost just one match in all competitions since the turn of the year and have climbed up to second place in the league.

Stats courtesy Transfermarkt and Opta via FotMob.

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