Biggest Winners and Losers from World Football's Weekend
With Champions League and Europa League action primed for the week ahead, you'd have been forgiven for looking past the Easter weekend to the European games.
However, thanks to a thrilling weekend of action from right around the world, there was no shortage of domestic highlights and talking points.
In fact, there was probably even more to talk about this weekend than there will be in the days ahead—that's how good the weekend was.
Who were the big winners and losers this weekend?
Winner: Bayern Munich
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With a big Champions League game around the corner, Bayern Munich would have been forgiven for taking it easy in their Bundesliga game this weekend.
After all, they do have an insurmountable lead in the German competition, and their opponents in the Champions League (Juventus) will definitely be a big test for the Bavarian club.
Yet even with players rested, Bayern still did what Bayern do best.
The German powerhouse ran out incredible 9-2 winners on the night over Hamburg, with substitute striker Claudio Pizarro (who doesn't usually start for the Germans) netting four goals in the phenomenal victory that saw them further extend their lead at the top of the table.
The two goals against—which ties for the most Bayern have conceded domestically all season—don't even seem worth a mention in this one.
Loser: Inter Milan
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After having slipped out of the Champions League positions for next season and beginning a slow slide down the Serie A table, Inter Milan came into this week knowing that they needed a strong performance.
Playing at home to league leaders Juventus, Inter were much better than they had been previously, but they were simply still not good enough to chalk up a win in this one.
They dropped 2-1 to the Old Lady and are now just two points away from eighth place in the league table, when they should really be pushing inside the top four by now.
It's further frustration for Inter this week as their decline continues.
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Rarely will any team in world football score five goals away from home, but that's exactly what Napoli did in Serie A this week against Torino—running out 5-3 winners on the night.
Trailing 3-2 heading into the final 10 minutes, Napoli kept their cool and managed to take advantage of the key chances afforded to them. That could well have a profound impact on their season overall and their chance of playing Champions League football next year.
Had they not won this one, Napoli would have conceded ground to Milan, guaranteed the title to Juventus and put plenty of pressure on themselves heading into the back half of the year.
Instead, they remain within 10 points of the Old Lady and likely to earn a Champions League berth at the end of the year, which could be crucial in keeping players like Edinson Cavani over the summer transfer window.
There's no telling how profound this win could be for Napoli, but what is clear is that they're very big winners in world football this weekend.
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Yes, they rested a number of players so that they could have a stronger and less fatigued team for their FA Cup quarterfinal against Manchester United on Monday.
Yet despite that, the Blues should not have lost on the weekend to Southampton of all teams. The loss only furthered Rafa Benitez's frustration at the West London club and increased the pressure as Chelsea seek to earn a top-four spot for next season.
The Blues could have kept themselves in third place and likely to qualify for the Champions League next season. Instead, with the embarrassing loss, they now find themselves just two points inside the top four with both Arsenal and Everton closing rapidly on the European champions.
A frustrating year continues to get worse for Chelsea.
Winner: Robin van Persie
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Robin van Persie ended his goal-scoring slump on the weekend against Sunderland—even if the scoresheet doesn't necessarily reflect that.
Van Persie's shot against Sunderland took a deflection off Titus Bramble en route to beating Simon Mignolet. It was credited as an own goal for Bramble, but Van Persie once again announced himself as a goal-scoring threat all the same.
Even without Wayne Rooney in midfield behind him, the Dutchman was a real threat all afternoon against the Black Cats and showed again that he is a world-class striker.
Few had forgotten that, but the fact that he hadn't scored for United in over two months was starting cause some concern amongst Red Devils fans.
Until this weekend, however.
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Lyon could look back at this weekend as the one that cost them a European berth next season.
Coming into this weekend, Lyon were just five points behind PSG. The big-spending club had a tough home match to play against last season's champions in Montpellier, whilst Lyon had a relatively easy game at home against Sochaux.
Yet instead of picking up points, Lyon dropped them, with the 18th-placed team stunning the home side in a 2-1 victory.
What's more, PSG managed to defeat Montpellier 1-0 and Marseille picked up a huge win away from home against Nice. So instead of being only two points away from the top of the table, Lyon find themselves eight points adrift and all the way down in third now.
Not exactly a great weekend for Lyon.
Winner: Club America
Photo via mlssoccer.com
In arguably the biggest rivalry game of the year, Club America triumphed over bitter rivals Chivas Guadalajara 2-0—in front of their rivals' home fans.
The El Super Clasico was largely expected to fall the way of Chivas, who had the stronger team on hand and were playing better football, but thanks to some assistance from the referee and player injuries, America triumphed in the end with a hard-fought 2-0 victory.
The win was the biggest win that America has scored over their rivals since 1999 (h/t Paul Carr, ESPN), and it boosted their standing in Liga MX ahead of the upcoming playoffs.
Chivas will feel devastated and rightly so. Regardless of what was expected or transpired on the night, they ended up with an embarrassing rivalry loss while Club America were big winners.
Loser: Real Madrid
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They might not be able to catch Barcelona in La Liga, and they will surely not see their top-four spot slip away by the end of the season, but Real Madrid's draw against Real Zaragoza this weekend makes them big losers from the domestic action.
Zaragoza are just one win outside the relegation zone this year, but they managed to hold the defending champions to a 1-1 draw and continue the domestic frustration for Jose Mourinho.
Los Blancos were certainly looking to this week's Champions League action more than they were this weekend's game, but it's hard to argue that a draw against a lowly domestic team was the preparation they wanted—especially not when Zaragoza looked like the better team for much of the game.
It just hasn't been the year Madrid would have imagined this year, and their draw against Zaragoza was the epitome of their domestic season thus far.
Winner: Lionel Messi
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Barcelona, too, had a shock draw this weekend as they looked forward to the Champions League, but despite that, Lionel Messi managed to work his name into the winners' circle this weekend.
Which isn't really a shock at all.
The Argentinian striker scored against Celta de Vigo—making it 19 games in a row in which the little magician has found the back of the net for Barcelona. That also means he becomes the first footballer ever to score against all 19 La Liga teams in a row.
It's been an incredible year for Messi and Barcelona, and the accolades will no doubt continue to flow in throughout the season for both parties. But given the fact that his remarkable achievements are often overlooked, it's appropriate that we recognize this weekend just how incredible his goal-scoring streak and performances in La Liga have been this year.
There truly is nobody like him in world football.
Who do you think were the big winners and losers this weekend?
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