With Der Klassiker taking the headlines, Andy Brassell wonders if another Bundesliga title contender is serious...
Gladbach stretch lead at top but all eyes on Bayern
German football might not quite have got its collective head around Sunday lunchtime kickoffs just yet, but Borussia Mönchengladbach were ready early this weekend. Their 3-1 win over Werder Bremen, while perhaps a little flattering (Florian Kohfeldt's visitors had a goal debatably chalked off and missed a penalty), once again showcased that they don't need a torrent of chances to trim their opponents to bits.
The win, in combination with results elsewhere, put Marco Rose's side four points clear at the top, but you could be forgiven for having missed it with all the noise surrounding Der Klassiker this weekend. While it wasn't much of a contest it certainly felt significant, with Bayern Munich's 4-0 win comfortably their best display of the season so far and interim coach Hansi Flick showing that yes, this Bayern squad do still have the capability to press their opponents when sufficiently motivated to do so.
Much as with Dortmund last season, who led the table by nine points in December, the question could be how much of a lead Gladbach need in order to put themselves in the conversation for the title into the new year. It is too soon to talk about them as a bona fide threat in Rose's first year in charge but the former Salzburg coach has his team playing great football, and they have a great range of attacking options, led by the outstanding Marcus Thuram. At their current price, they could be worth backing before cashing out later - especially with a home game against Bayern to come on December 7th.
Back Gladbach to win the Bundesliga at16.50
Serie A already a two-horse race
If you avoided your calendar while watching Serie A this last weekend, it would have been easy enough to mistake the second Saturday and Sunday in November for the season's home strait in spring. The day after Inter came back from a goal down to beat Verona with a superb late strike from Nicolo Barella, a sprinkling of magic from Paulo Dybala prised Juventus a win from an unpromising performance against a vastly improved AC Milan. Dybala's winner, of course, vindicated Maurizio Sarri after the coach brought him on for a none-too-pleased Cristiano Ronaldo.
These were the sort of late, by-any-means-necessary sort of victories that we not only expect from title contenders, but which we associate with the final push towards a title. That both champions Juve and challengers Inter are being forced to dig deep so early in the race is a sign of how evenly matched and competitive the battle is already.
With Napoli, who have won just one of the last six in the league and none of the their last five in all competitions combined, struggling and wracked by internal strife, it's hard to see anybody else crashing the title party. Carlo Ancelotti's team are already 12 points behind Inter and 13 adrift of Juve after Saturday's goalless draw with Genoa, so already Antonio Conte's team look like the sole hope to challenge the holders' hegemony.
Back Inter to win Serie A at3.75
Are Real Madrid finding their feet under Zidane?
Just a few months into the season, it feels as if Real Madrid have had more false dawns than a convention for fans of The Office, but the last week has been a good one. Sweeping aside a disappointing Galatasaray 6-0 in the Champions League was followed by a 4-0 win at Eibar in La Liga action, in which both Karim Benzema and Eden Hazard shone.
Even more promising than the form of their stars are the contributions of some of the younger players, with 21-year-old Fede Valverde essential in midfield and Rodrygo dazzling with his hat-trick against Galatasaray, and still only 18. These are the type of young players that Zinedine Zidane so struggled to integrate in the latter part of his first spell at the club.
With La Liga's second-best defence behind Atlético, El Real could be poised to take advantage of the lack of consistency of any of the top echelon's major contenders.