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European soccer news: Spurs’ UCL hopes slip in Liverpool loss

Written by on May 6, 2024

What a weekend across European soccer!

A chaotic loss to Liverpool on Sunday saw Tottenham’s hopes of qualifying for the Champions League unravel and now Spurs are hanging on by a thread. Elsewhere in England, Manchester City’s grip on the Women’s Super League title was loosened by the one-two punch of Arsenal beating Man City as Chelsea earned a lopsided win. Meanwhile, David Moyes’ standing at West Ham looks shaky after a huge loss to Chelsea in the Premier League.

On Saturday, Arsenal and Manchester City both won to keep the title race in the Premier League close, and Ipswich Town secured automatic promotion to the English top flight after 22 years on the outside looking in.

In Germany, Bayer Leverkusen cruised to a comfortable win on Sunday, bringing their unbeaten streak to a stunning 48 games across all competitions. Down the table the day before, Stuttgart thumped Bayern Munich to get a chance at overtaking them.

In Spain, Real Madrid took down Cádiz on Saturday and were able to celebrate clinching LaLiga when Girona rallied to beat Barcelona later in the day. That’s one more title race done and dusted!

– Stream on ESPN+: LaLiga, Bundesliga, more (U.S.)

The end of the season is nigh and every result means that much more. So, let’s take a look back at what happened all across the continent this weekend.

SUNDAY REVIEW

The lead: Tottenham’s Champions League hopes unravel at Anfield

Tottenham’s Champions League qualification hopes are now hanging by a thread after a late second-half fight-back at Liverpool failed to save Ange Postecoglou’s team from a 4-2 defeat at Anfield.

With fourth-place Aston Villa losing at Brighton in Sunday’s earlier Premier League fixture, Spurs knew that a win against Liverpool would take them to within four points of Villa with a game in hand.

But despite the boost of Villa’s defeat, Spurs were unable to take advantage and must now win all three of their remaining games — against Burnley, Manchester City and Sheffield United — and hope that Aston Villa collect no more than one point in order to finish in the top four.

After conceding the opener to Mohamed Salah in the 16th minute, however, Spurs never looked close to winning at Anfield and Andy Robertson gave the home side a 2-0 half-time lead by scoring just before the interval.

Robertson’s goal sparked a bust-up between Cristian Romero and Emerson Royal as the Spurs defenders left the pitch at halftime, with goalkeeper Guglielmo Vicario having to face from his penalty area to separate his arguing teammates.

The mood within the Spurs camp was already downbeat before Cody Gakpo and Harvey Elliott made it 4-0 by the hour mark, but a raft of substitutions by Postecoglou help his team turn the tide as Richarlison, James Maddison and Giovani Lo Celso inspired a fightback.

Richarlison scored on 72 minutes and Heung-Min Son added another five minutes after that to reduce the deficit, but Spurs couldn’t claw back two more goals to claim a point. The defeat leaves Tottenham needing Villa to slip up for them to have any hope of the top four.

And although Liverpool’s win kept alive their faint hopes of winning the title, Jurgen Klopp’s side would need leaders Arsenal to lose their final two games and Man City to claim just one point from their remaining three fixtures to ensure a remarkable Liverpool title triumph. — Mark Ogden


Sunday talking points around the leagues

Leverkusen hit a stunning 48-game unbeaten run across all competitions

The Leverkusen train is not stopping. After easing past Roma in the Europa League earlier this week and moving closer to the final in Dublin, Bayer Leverkusen cruised to another win in the Bundesliga on Sunday.

Eintracht Frankfurt had rarely any chance of becoming the first team to defeat Leverkusen this season. Instead, they suffered a 5-1 loss to the new Germán champions in front of their home supporters at Deutsche Bank Park.

Leverkusen did not even need Xabi Alonso coaching from the sideline, as the Basque manager watched from the stands due to a suspension. Despite assistant coach Sebastian Parrilla replacing Alonso on the sideline, Leverkusen knew exactly what to do to break down an at times overwhelmed Frankfurt side.

Eintracht had some dangerous moments, but Leverkusen scored goal after goal to stunt any possible momentum from the other side. In the end, Leverkusen’s Robert Andrich and Nathan Tella celebrated their stand-in head coach by giving Parrilla a shower with water bottles.

It is safe to say that Leverkusen would like this season to never end. They are now 48 games unbeaten across all competitions, and they are currently five games away from staying unbeaten for the entire 2023-24 campaign.

Meanwhile, Eintracht find themselves in a tricky situation where they are seemingly not good enough to compete with the top five in the Bundesliga, but too strong for almost everyone else in Germany’s top flight.

Frankfurt have followed Dortmund’s blueprint in recent times: they are highly attractive to promising young talent that the club hopes to move on at a profit, as happened with Randal Kolo Muani. But some of the younger talents do not yet seem able to perform consistently, while Frankfurt’s veterans, including Mario Götze and Ellyes Skhiri, need to show more leadership going forward. — Constantin Eckner

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Bayer Leverkusen make it 48 games unbeaten after 5-1 hammering of Frankfurt

Bayer Leverkusen are just two games away from going an entire Bundesliga season unbeaten after a 5-1 thrashing of Frankfurt.

Arsenal and Chelsea combine to dent Man City’s WSL title hopes

It was supposed to be so straightforward for Manchester City when they hosted Arsenal on Sunday: they were sitting pretty at the top of the Women’s Super League table and hosting a team who hadn’t won at their ground since 2017. After Chelsea’s midweek loss to Liverpool, manager Emma Hayes had all but conceded the WSL title to Man City, and when Lauren Hemp swept the ball home early in Man City’s fixture against Arsenal on Sunday, there was a sense of Man City fastening their grip on the trophy.

That feeling, however, would not last at Joie Stadium. In the second half, Arsenal began to flood numbers around the home box and scored two goals in three minutes straddling the 90th to beat Man City, 2-1.

To make matters worse, Hayes appears to have engaged in some misdirection with her comments earlier in the week — Chelsea were hardly giving up. On Sunday, Hayes’ Chelsea side demolished already-relegated Bristol City by 8-0, overturning their goal difference deficit and revitalising their title bid.

Chelsea still have to face Spurs in the midweek ahead of the last matchday of the season, but are back in their favourite position of chasing down the leader to set up what has become an annual last day showdown for all the marbles. Hayes could not have asked more of her players after a taxing spell of games that has seen them removed from the running for the Champions League, FA Cup and League Cup.

Meanwhile, for Gareth Taylor’s Man City, there will be plenty of time to lick their wounds after surrendering all three points late in the day to the Gunners. Although the sense is still that the title is Man City’s to lose, the Cityzens will have to dig deep into their mental reserves to come out on top against Aston Villa when the WSL season wraps up. — Sophie Lawson

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Lawson: Man City let ‘massive opportunity’ for WSL title slip

Sophie Lawson looks back on Manchester City’s failure to wrap up the WSL title after conceding two late goals to Arsenal.

Chelsea lands a harsh blow on David Moyes’ job security at West Ham in Prem

If you’re a Premier League manager looking for a good run of form, the end of the season is the perfect time to do it. Both Mauricio Pochettino of Chelsea and David Moyes of West Ham United have been under pressure in recent weeks, prompting many to ponder who might replace them ahead of next season.

Pochettino, though, has strengthened his position as his team have suffered just one Premier League defeat since early February, leaving Chelsea with the opportunity of ending the campaign in the European places. However, Sunday’s 5-0 win over West Ham served to further exacerbate Moyes’ problems.

The lack of anticipation and sense of occasion ahead of kick-off was disconcerting. Walking to Stamford Bridge along the rows of Georgian townhouses that dominate this part of west London, the call-to-arms chanting of yesteryear was replaced by idle chatter as supporters strolled alongside dog walkers and past neighbours chatting joyfully about the warm spring sunshine over front garden fences. This was a London derby in name only.

Perhaps that is common for these late-season matches, or maybe it is representative of these two teams from opposite ends of the capital, both of whom have struggled to generate buy-in from their fan bases this season.

But despite the frosty relationship between Pochettino and the Chelsea supporters due to his association with rivals Tottenham, his work is beginning to bear fruit.

Chelsea tore through Moyes’ team in the first half on Sunday and were 3-0 up after 36 minutes, sparking a party-like atmosphere in the stands at Stamford Bridge while some West Ham fans made for the exits before the break. Jarrod Bowen did strike the crossbar three times over the course of the match, but in truth West Ham offered little resistance. Nicolas Jackson added two more goals after the interval to heap more pressure on Moyes who said that his team lacked “toughness, leadership” and “mental toughness.”

The majority of Chelsea’s good work came via the left foot of Cole Palmer who opened the scoring with his 21st goal of the season which, along with his nine assists, takes him to 30 goal contributions in the Premier League. Only two players this century have started a Premier League season aged 22 or younger and achieved the same feat: Cristiano Ronaldo (31) in 2007-08 and Erling Haaland (36) last season. Cole Palmer Football Club, indeed. — Tom Chambers

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Why Pochettino & Gallagher are vital to Chelsea’s progression next season

Mark Donaldson looks back on Chelsea’s big win over London rivals West Ham in the Premier League.


Americans Abroad: USMNT’s De la Fuentes, Pulisic and Aaronson all add goal contributions

On a Sunday when the likes of Christian Pulisic, Weston McKennie and others were playing, bet you didn’t expect this segment to open with Konrad de la Fuente.

Well, here we are. De la Fuente, the winger on loan from Marseille to SD Eibar in Spain’s second division, had a big Sunday, netting one goal and one assist in Eibar’s 5-0 win over Amorebieta.

De la Fuente, a 22-year-old Miami native, now has three goals and one assist from 292 minutes in Spain’s second division this season.

Now, alright, let’s give you the Americans Abroad content you were expecting: Pulisic earned a crucial assist on Sunday in AC Milan’s 3-3 draw to Genoa.

With the game deadlocked at 2-2, Pulisic floated a ball to the back post, which Olivier Giroud smashed into the goal, giving Milan the lead. But I Rossoneri failed to hold on, allowing Genoa to equalize.

Meanwhile, Brenden Aaronson also got in on the action Sunday, registering an assist in Union Berlin’s 3-4 lost to VfL Bochum.

Oh, and as for McKennie: Both he and fellow American Timothy Weah started on Sunday for Juventus, but neither of them did anything of note in a 1-1 draw to AS Roma. Unless you count Weah getting a yellow card and coming off after 61 minutes as “of note,” that is.

One final bit of news of interest to U.S. men’s national team fans: PSV Eindhoven — the club of Sergiño Dest, Malik Tillman and Ricardo Pepi — clinched the Eredivisie title on Sunday. — Caitlin Murray

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Party time for PSV & Tillman after sealing Eredivisie title

Hear from the USMNT’s Mailk Tillman as his PSV side claim the Eredivisie title and spark a huge celebration.


News of the day

  • Jurgen Klopp said on Sunday he’s confident his predecessor can build on what he’s done with Liverpool. It’s been widely reported that Arne Slot is set to replace Klopp. “Liverpool 2.0 doesn’t stop after I leave — it’s just the start of another project with a really good squad,” Klopp said.

  • World Cup-winning coach Cesar Luis Menotti, who led Argentina to the title in 1978, has died at the age of 85, the Argentine Football Association said on Sunday.


And finally, on Sunday…

The tail end of Paul Pogba’s soccer career has been a rough one.

There was that dispute with his brother and an alleged extortion plot with even weirder allegations of a “witch doctor” being involved. It wasn’t long after that Pogba was investigated for alleged doping, which eventually led to a four-year ban from playing soccer, which he is still serving.

Well, it appears 31-year-old Pogba is making lemons out of lemonade and using his time off well. This week, Pogba filmed scenes in Paris for a new movie he’ll be in, per ESPN’s Julien Laurens.

A sequel to a popular soccer film made in 2002, “4 Zéros” will see Pogba take on the role of a youth soccer coach. It’s unclear how large Pogba’s role in the film will be, but we should know soon as the film is set to release in April 2025. — Murray

SATURDAY REVIEW

The lead: Madrid crowned champions with Cádiz win… eventually

In the 84th minute, with Real Madrid leading Cádiz 2-0, the first chorus of “campeones” (“champions”) rang out around the Santiago Bernabeu. Madrid weren’t actually champions, not yet –but this win made their LaLiga title all but a certainty, and the crowd were enjoying the moment.

In the end, it finished 3-0, with Joselu scoring in added time after Brahim Díaz and Jude Bellingham had put Madrid in front. The result left Madrid on 87 points from 34 games and from there, attention turned elsewhere to watch Barcelona play Girona. They knew that if Barca dropped points, the league title was Madrid’s. If they didn’t, that confirmation would have to wait another week.

Hours before kickoff, earlier than usual and in greater numbers, Madrid fans had started to gather in the streets around the Bernabeu. Later, some of them would head to Cibeles — the fountain where Madrid celebrate their trophies — in excited anticipation of what might happen at Montilivi. The players wouldn’t be joining them, aware of the need to focus on Wednesday’s Champions League semifinal second leg against Bayern Munich.

With that game in mind, Coach Carlo Ancelotti had made 10 changes to his team, with only defender Nacho Fernandez keeping his place from the first leg. Still, Madrid’s squad contains such quality that their “B-team” was able to overcome Cádiz, who were in desperate need of points in order to avoid relegation.

After an evenly matched first half, Diaz made the difference, curling the opener into the net from the edge of the box. He then provided Bellingham with assist for the second, spotting the substitute’s near-post run. Bellingham and Vinícius Júnior are the stars, but Diaz has been one of the low-key success stories of Madrid’s season.

The third goal came from an unexpected source, with Nacho charging upfield to find Joselu unmarked at the far post. Moments later, after the final whistle, there were some brief celebrations on the pitch before the players headed down the tunnel to watch the Barca game together.

“I don’t mind whether it’s today, Sunday or next Sunday,” Ancelotti said, as journalists kept him up to date on the score during his post-match news conference. “We deserve to win this league. When we win it doesn’t change much.”

As it turned out, they didn’t have long to wait thanks to Girona’s victory. Now, Real Madrid are 2023-24 LaLiga champions with an unbridgeable 13-point gap. It’s an accurate reflection of just how much better they’ve been than all the rest this season. — Alex Kirkland


Saturday talking points around the leagues

Hoeness’ Stuttgart close gap to Bayern in race for second place

Sandwiched between two Champions League semifinals against Real Madrid, Bayern Munich travelled for a Southern Derby in Stuttgart that pitted the second- and third-placed teams against one another in the Bundesliga.

Interestingly, Stuttgart proved the better side over 90 minutes, creating the majority of chances and recording a higher percentage of possession. After Stuttgart took an early lead via defender Leonidas Stergiou‘s first-ever Bundesliga goal, Bayern managed to equalize before half-time when Harry Kane converted a contentious penalty.

After the break, Bayern were never really able to get going. Manager Thomas Tuchel gestured wildly from the sidelines, urging his team to prevent Stuttgart from progressing down the pitch and while things remained 1-1 until the final stages, the hosts soon took charge as Silas found Jeong Woo-Yeong with a beautiful cross toward the back post. Neuer was well positioned having anticipated the ball movement, but agonizingly for Bayern fans, he couldn’t prevent the ball from crossing the goal line. In added time, Silas put the game to bed when he converted an assist from the lively Serhou Guirassy to make the final score 3-1.

The man of the moment in Stuttgart was once again their manager, Sebastian Hoeness, who prepared his team with aplomb. The 41-year-old has recently been linked with the Bavarians as the super-club continue their search for a new head coach to lead them into next season. Munich-born Hoeness, who coached at Bayern earlier in his career, has earned the attention of his former employer thanks to Stuttgart’s impressive performances throughout the season. Plus he just so happens to be the nephew of Uli Hoeness who, despite only being a member of the supervisory board, continues to be an influential figure behind the scenes.

His nephew, however, has stressed that he is keen to stay on with his current team despite Stuttgart’s financial constraints and thanks to Saturday’s win, they could even overtake Bayern in the Bundesliga standings. VfB currently trail by only two points with a couple of games remaining.

Meanwhile, Bayern cannot afford to pay too much attention to the league table at the moment, as they face Real Madrid on the road this week. This loss might not only have dented their confidence ahead of their trip, but also impacted their squad. Both Raphaël Guerreiro and Eric Dier — key players in the first-leg 2-2 draw — had to be taken off with injuries. — Eckner

Girona batter Barça to secure Champions League football

As if losing the Spanish title to Madrid in one day was not enough, Barcelona are now in serious danger of ending the season as only the second-best side in Catalonia after a crushing 4-2 defeat to Girona, who confirmed their place in next season’s Champions League for the first time in the club’s 94-year history with the win.

A brace from substitute Portu helped Girona come back from behind at a bouncing Montilivi as they climbed one point clear of Barça in second place. Whoever finishes runners-up will book their place in next season’s Spanish Super Cup, along with champions Madrid and Copa del Rey finalists Athletic Club and Mallorca — and the cash boost that comes with it. It is advantage Girona with four games to play.

Barça would have moved five clear of Girona in second with a win and they looked on track for three points when Andreas Christensen opened the scoring in the third minute with a fine chest and volley combination. Artem Dovbyk, the league’s leading scorer, responded less than a minute later, heading home his 20th goal of the campaign. Robert Lewandowski‘s penalty after Lamine was felled restored Barça’s lead, but they imploded after the break.

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How Real Madrid’s mentality won them LaLiga

Sebastian Salazar and Luis Garcia break down the reasons behind Real Madrid’s dominance in winning their 36th LaLiga title.

First, Sergi Roberto‘s misplaced pass played in Dovbyk and the Ukraine striker squared for Portu, just off the bench, to equalize. Left-back Miguel Gutiérrez then put the home side in front before Portu rounded off the win. When Girona were promoted to LaLiga for the first time in 2017, a win against Barça still seemed a long shot, let alone two 4-2 wins in the same campaign. Lightning struck for the second time in the beating Catalan sunshine on Saturday as they repeated the scoreline from December’s game at the Olympic Stadium.

For Girona, Portu’s second goal started a party in the city that will continue long into the night. The supporters chanted for Barça coach Xavi Hernández — who recently announced a U-turn on his decision to part in the summer — to stay. Then, when the whistle blew, they backed in those football classics: the Champions League anthem, “Freed from Desire” and “Sweet Caroline.”

An exciting few months follow as they prepare for their first-ever shot at European football — never mind Champions League football — on the back of a remarkable campaign in just their fourth top-flight season. As for Barça and Xavi, the noise that led to his decision to step down in January may reappear if they are not even the best team in Catalonia after 38 games. — Sam Marsden


Americans Abroad: A mixed bag for U.S. stars on show

Let’s do a quick tour of the big leagues and the U.S. players who play there, shall we? Starting in England, defender Antonee Robinson played the full 90 as Fulham drew 0-0 at Brentford, completing 65% of his passes and making 11 ball recoveries in a typically lively display. (His U.S. and Fulham teammate, Tim Ream, was an unused substitute.)>

Sheffield United vs. Nottingham Forest involved no fewer than three players in the U.S. talent pool, though only one made the field. However, Auston Trusty had a difficult afternoon in the Blades’ defense as Forest ran away 3-1 winners to give themselves a chance of avoiding relegation and remaining to fight another season in the Premier League. Goalkeeper Matt Turner and playmaker Gio Reyna watched the fun from the Forest bench.

Let’s now drop a division to the English Championship, which played its final round of matches for 2023-24 on Saturday with everything from promotion to relegation at stake. Josh Sargent had a poor game up front for Norwich, managing zero shots on goal over 82 minutes as Birmingham won 1-0. However, the Canaries were still assured of a place in the promotion playoffs even with defeat, while Birmingham were relegated to League One despite taking all three points.

Goalkeeper Ethan Horvath had a day to forget, conceding five goals in Cardiff City’s heavy defeat at bottom-side Rotherham United, while Reggie Cannon and QPR won 2-1 at Coventry City, for whom Haji Wright notched an assist in defeat. Duane Holmes started for Preston North End at West Bromwich Albion, though was subbed off with 18 minutes left as the Baggies romped to a 3-0 win.

Elsewhere in Europe, defender Kevin Paredes started at left-back in Wolfsburg’s 3-0 win over Darmstadt, and Joe Scally went the full 90 in Borussia Monchengladbach’s 2-2 draw at Werder Bremen. (Fellow U.S. talent Jordan Pefok came off the ‘Gladbach bench with just under 20 minutes remaining.

Finally, defender Cameron Carter-Vickers was a robust presence in defense as Celtic wrapped up a 3-0 home win over Hearts to move closer to a Scottish Premiership title, and forward Folarin Balogun came off the bench in the second half for AS Monaco, who thrashed Clermont Foot thanks to two goals from veteran forward Wissam Ben Yedder.

All in all, a fairly standard day for the Americans in action, though big things will be expected on Sunday when the likes of Christian Pulisic (AC Milan), Johnny Cardoso (Real Betis), Catarina Macario (Chelsea), Weston McKennie (Juventus) will take the field. — James Tyler


News of the day

  • Declan Rice scored and assisted as Arsenal earned a 3-0 victory over Bournemouth on Saturday, keeping pressure on Manchester City in the race for the Premier League title. The victory puts Arsenal one point clear of Manchester City, who beat Wolves later on Saturday and have an additional game in hand.

  • Birmingham City have been relegated from the Championship despite beating Norwich 1-0 on the final day of the 2023-24 season. The result ends a difficult first season for the club’s American ownership group, which includes NFL legend Tom Brady.

  • Stuttgart substitutes Jeong Woo-yeong and Silas scored late goals to snatch a 3-1 win over visitors Bayern Munich in the Bundesliga on Saturday, spoiling the Bavarians’ preparations for their Champions League semifinal return leg against Real Madrid.

  • Girona have qualified for the Champions League for the first time in the club’s history after beating Barcelona 4-2 at Montilivi on Saturday. The win over Barça, Girona’s second against their Catalan rivals this season, moves them 13 points clear of fifth-placed Athletic Club with just four games to go and into second place.


And finally, on Saturday…

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Moreno slams Barcelona’s fragility after gifting Madrid LaLiga title

Alejandro Moreno reacts to Girona’s comeback win against Barcelona in LaLiga.

Superstar musician Ed Sheeran has been a lifelong fan of Ipswich Town — he has even been the kit sponsor since 2021 — and ended up watching his side clinch promotion to the Premier League while on tour in Miami, Florida. ESPN’s Nate Saunders caught up with Sheeran ahead of the Miami F1 Grand Prix, which takes place on Sunday.

“Living just outside of Ipswich, I’ve seen it go through really difficult times, and I know that being in the Premier League is going to bring, not just real excitement to the football club but also real excitement and joy to the town and lift it up, which is really important,” Sheeran told ESPN.

You may have been thinking out loud about a possible pun involving an Ed Sheeran song, but we’ll just say that his Saturday was probably perfect.

“What’s brilliant about football is it is very unpredictable and you never know what’s going to happen,” Sheeran said. “We’ve seen the top six teams in England fall from grace before, and you’ve seen people like Leicester win the league. You never know, if we avoid relegation next season, that’s the biggest success for me, but you never know what’s going to happen.” — Tyler

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