WHAT WE LEARNED: Delightful derbies and Lionel Messi misery

Barcelona's Lionel Messi looks dejected as Real Betis' Sergio Canales celebrates scoring their fourth goal with team mates. (Reuters)
Updated 13 November 2018
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WHAT WE LEARNED: Delightful derbies and Lionel Messi misery

LONDON: It was a weekend of derbies and big clashes across Europe’s top leagues, and a genuine shock result in Spain has thrown the La Liga title race wide open. Here is what we learned from the latest round of matches.

MIND THE GAP
The gulf in class between City and United was there for all to see in Sunday’s Manchester derby. Jose Mourinho has bemoaned the difference in levels of investment in the two clubs in the past, but that does not wash when you note that United will struggle to get into the top four this season, let alone challenge for the title. City completely outclassed their rivals, and 3-1 flattered the visitors — it could have been a lot worse.

AN EPIC ‘DER KLASSIKER’
This was a pulsating game of football, which the hosts Dortmund edged 3-2, and one that forced Bayern Munich to acknowledge that this is a young, talented and dynamic Dortmund side who must be favorites to clinch the title now. Lucien Favre scoffed at that suggestion post-match and insisted the title race is still open — but in the Bundesliga seven points is a monumental gap, even for a club such as Bayern to overhaul.

BAD DAY IN MILAN
AC Milan’s defeat to runaway leaders Juventus showed another gulf in class — mainly due to Juventus having Cristiano Ronaldo in their ranks rather than the disappointing Gonzalo Higuain. But Milan’s other club, Inter, had an even worse weekend with Atalanta resoundingly ending their seven-match winning streak. All hopes for a title race in Italy seem to rest on Napoli once again, with the Milanese and Roman clubs fading fast.

MESSI CANNOT DO IT ALONE
With the exception of a hopeful few in the city of Seville, nobody foresaw Real Betis’ 4-3 victory over Barcelona at the Nou Camp, in the biggest La Liga shock for months. Lionel Messi managed a brace, but even that was not enough to deny victory for a very attractive Betis side — whose performance belied their 12th place in the table. It was the first time Messi had scored two goals and ended up on the losing side. He has made a stuttering start, by his own standards. It seems, sometimes, he needs his teammates to step up to the plate.


Egypt in surprise bid to be new African Cup host

Updated 14 December 2018
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Egypt in surprise bid to be new African Cup host

  • Egypt’s bid came after Morocco said this week it wouldn’t put itself forward as a candidate
  • Cameroon lost being the host of the Cup because of poor preparations and a violent insurgency in parts of that country

CAIRO: The Egyptian Football Association says it has submitted a bid to replace Cameroon as next year’s African Cup of Nations host, a surprise pitch by the North African country which wasn’t initially thought of as a contender.
Egypt’s bid, announced Thursday to meet Friday’s deadline, came after Morocco said this week it wouldn’t put itself forward as a candidate. Morocco had been considered the front-runner after being a candidate to host the 2026 World Cup. It lost out in that race to a joint United States-Mexico-Canada bid.
The Confederation of African Football has given countries until the end of Friday to submit bids for the 2019 African Cup, which was taken away from Cameroon last month because of poor preparations and a violent insurgency in parts of that country. CAF wants a new host in place by Dec. 31, with the tournament in June and July looming.
South Africa is another possible stand-in host, but the South African Football Association hasn’t confirmed it will bid and says it needs government approval before any decision.