European Paper Review: Lionel Messi’s injury setback, Cristiano Ronaldo’s goalscoring problems and Robert Lewandowski’s record-breaking feat

Andy Mitten

A look at what the European newspapers are reporting, including the worrying news of Lionel Messi’s injury setback and Robert Lewandowski’s record-breaking goalscoring feat.

Making the headlines on Sunday in Spain was Lionel Messi’s injury, his worst for eight years, which was picked up in Barcelona’s 2-1 win at home to Las Palmas which keeps them second behind surprise leaders Villarreal. 

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AS carried Barcelona’s confirmation that the player has “a tear to the collateral internal ligament in his left knee”. Messi received a sympathetic response, though by Monday the Madrid-based media were trying to work out whether he’ll be back for the first El Clasico on November 21st and pointing out that Barça have to play Sevilla away and leaders Villarreal the week before they meet Madrid. With no Pedro, Marca write about the ‘Puzzle for Luis Enrique without Messi’. Sandro and Munir are expected to step up.

El Pais reports that Barca win 70% of games with Messi and 62.5% without him. They also average 2.5 goals with Messi and 2.1 without. Messi won’t be around to score, but then few are scoring in Spain. The race for the Pichichi top goalscorers’ award has yielded the lowest goals total since 2011. Karim Benzema, Cristiano Ronaldo and Celta’s Nolito head the table with five goals each. Ronaldo’s ‘drought’ makes the front page of Monday’s Marca under the heading ‘The Strange Case of Cristiano’. He’s scored five in six league games – but they all came in one game at Espanyol. The article reveals that he had 13 shots on goal in Saturday’s 0-0 draw with Malaga.

Only two points separate the top four in Spain, with Celta Vigo, who hammered Barça last week, in fourth thanks to a equaliser at Eibar from local hero and Liverpool flop Iago Aspas.

German is a rich and precise language but the Bundesliga’s englische Woche, where teams play three matches in one week, saw the German press almost run out of superlatives as Robert Lewandowski hit 5 goals in 9 minutes as Bayern Munich “swept aside” (Kicker) supposed title-challengers Wolfsburg 5-1. Die Zeit kept it topical, quipping “Bayern striker sends Volkswagen share price tumbling quicker than any emissions test” whilst Süddeutsche Zeitung opted for a meteorological angle with “One-man tornado breaks records!” Others left earthly analogies far behind; Kicker described the striker as “supernatural - a giant by the name of Lewandowski”, whilst Die Welt spoke of “539 seconds to eternity”. 11Freunde thought it must have been a fairytale, asking: “Dad, is Lewandowski real?”    

The win put Bayern clear at the top as Borussia Dortmund lost their 100% record in a 1-1 draw away at Hoffenheim, in a game boycotted by Dortmund’s ultras due to €55 tickets. “Nobody wants to hear any Bayern comparisons at BVB”, remarked Spiegel Online. The Bavarians pulled further ahead on Saturday with a comfortable 3-0 win away at Mainz, although BILD joked of a crisis as Lewandowski only managed 2 goals in 12 minutes. Dortmund, meanwhile, fell even further behind with a 2-2 draw at home to minnows Darmstadt who, as the Rheinische Post pointed out, are not in this season’s Bundesliga “just to swap shirts”.

Three days after Lucien Favre’s resignation, Sportschau reported on a “resurrection” as Borussia Mönchengladbach finally won in the league, Spiegel describing a “rush of liberation” as the managerless Foals surged to a 4-2 victory over Augsburg on Wednesday. Their form continued with a 3-1 win away at struggling Stuttgart on Saturday. “Gladbach fire themselves into Champions League mood”, said Die Welt ahead of Wednesday’s visit of Manchester City, whose own recent fortunes contrast sharply with the Germans’ recent upturn.

“Angriff auf Europa!” – Assault on Europe! – screamed the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung on Sunday ahead of this week’s Champions League ties, referring not only to the Manchester clubs’ meetings with Gladbach and Wolfsburg, but also to a more general fear in Germany that English teams are preparing to “buy Europe dry”, boosted by the new Premier League TV contract.

Bayer Leverkusen meanwhile “whetted the appetite” ahead of their trip to Barcelona with a 3-0 defeat of Werder Bremen (Lausitzer Rundschau) who have endured a “zero points horror week” (BILD) with three straight defeats.

In France, Bordeaux bounced back from their midweek 6-1 thrashing at the hands of Nice by beating a “sombre” (Le Progrès) Lyon side who were without striker Alexandre Lacazette and who, according to Le Monde, seemed to have their minds on Tuesday’s visit of Valencia. “Monaco don’t half make life complicated for themselves”, said L’Équipe after the Monégasques three times surrendered a lead to draw 3-3 with Guingamp in a “match spectaculaire” (TF1) in Brittany.

Angers pulled off a “masterstroke” (TF1) by beating Marseille in the Stade Véldrome for the first time since the 1978-79 season. The Phocéens’ produced a fittingly lacklustre performance in front of “hollow, empty stands” (Le Progrès) – a punishment following crowd trouble which caused last week’s tense clash with Lyon to be suspended for 20 minutes. Marseille travel to the capital next Sunday to face PSG who, after an “utterly apathetic” first-half display (Le Monde), eventually thrashed Nantes 4-1 with goals from Ibrahimovic, Cavani, Di Maria and Serge Aurier.

In Italy, Fiorentina’s rise to the top of Serie A for the first time in 16 years makes the front page of La Gazzetta dello Sport. La Viola stunned leaders Inter Milan, who had a 100% record, with a 4-1 win in San Siro. Croatian Nikola Kalinic, once of Blackburn Rovers, scored a hat-trick in the most surprising win of Serie A so far.

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