World Football Weekend Review: EPL, Bundesliga, Ligue 1 and Eredivisie
While many of us may still be anxiously awaiting the arrival La Liga and Serie A football in the next couple of weeks, the most popular league in the world finally kicked things off this weekend as the Barclay's Premier League opened up their season.
But that's not the only news to report on out of Europe following the weekend, as the German, French, and Dutch domestic seasons are now two weeks old and dominating leaders are starting to take their positions at the top of the tables.
EPL may be vastly entertaining football to many of our readers, but Bleacher Report goes above and beyond to provide football fans with the top stories from each of Europe's top leagues.
This week, we will focus on finding out who is making the biggest leaps to take a surprising lead in the German Bundesliga. We'll cover the struggling French powerhouse sides as they slip to the bottom half of the table. And we'll see why Ajax remains such a strong favorite for Eredivisie's top honor.
And, of course, you'll get a full recap of this week's EPL action.
This is Bleacher Report's World Football Weekend Review. Enjoy.
English Premier League
With only three outright victories and fourteen total goals (eight of which were distributed amongst only three clubs), it was a relatively quiet opening weekend for English football.
Most notably (and it's important to say this first, as it's not likely to ever be said again in the coming months), Wolverhampton jumped to the top of the table with a 2-1 victory over Blackburn on the road. While it's not likely to last for long, they'll be enjoying the view from the top half for at least another week, until Fulham visits on Sunday.
Wolverhampton—as they demonstrated last season—are notoriously difficult to overcome at home, however, so a six-point jump-start on the season is far from out of the question for the side that narrowly avoided relegation in the last campaign.
Other victories this weekend came in the form of a 4-0 goal-fest from Bolton over the newly promoted Queens Park Rangers and a fairly routine and predictable 2-1 victory for Manchester United over the hosting West Bromwich Albion.
Far from routine, on the other hand, were the scoreless draws earned (suffered?) by Arsenal and Chelsea, as they both took to the road for their season openers. With Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri nowhere to be found for the Gunners (and Fabregas' transfer to Barcelona finalized following the match), Arsenal struggled to find an offensive foothold to take control. A 76th minute red-card ejection to newly acquired Gervinho made a late surge for Arsenal nearly impossible.
Still, Gunners fans will surely prefer the result to the blown 4-0 lead that became infamous around the world during their last meeting with Newcastle United.
Chelsea, in their own road opener, had the opposite problem of lacking offensive production. Outshooting Stoke 20-6 and commanding 66% of the total possession throughout the match, Chelsea forced seven huge saves from Stoke keeper Asmir Begovic. Chances are, they'll be fed up with finishing drills by the end of the week as they hope to alleviate their first-match goal scoring woes at home against West Brom this coming weekend.
Tottenham Hotspur also failed to secure a win this weekend, but only due to a postponement of their home match against Everton. The match was called off in the interest of public safety in the midst of London riots that were a little too close to White Hart Lane to reasonably expect to go forward with the match.
Newcastle United 0-0 Arsenal
Wigan Athletic 1-1 Norwich City
Queens Park Rangers 0-4 Bolton Wanderers
Liverpool 1-1 Sunderland
Fulham 0-0 Aston Villa
Blackburn Rovers 1-2 Wolverhampton Wanderers
West Brom 1-2 Manchester United
Stoke City 0-0 Chelsea
I asked it last week, and I'll ask it again: could 2011-12 be the year for FSV Mainz?
Last week, Mainz took on Bundesliga's second-place finishers from the last campaign and defeated them by a margin of two goals. This week, they remained at the top of the table, securing another three points in their first road match of the season at SC Freiburg, defeating the hosting side 2-1.
It was not nearly as dominating of a performance this time around, as Mainz were left with a minority share of the possession and took half the shots that Freiburg managed to get off. But six big saves by goalkeeper Heinz Muller, as well as some precision shooting, helped put Mainz on top again.
This weekend, Schalke remembered how to score goals after falling last weekend in a 3-0 defeat on the road. Despite being the surprise success of last year's Champions League tournament, Schalke struggled in domestic play and fell to 14th in the league. This week, they recaptured the European magic of 2010-11 in 5-1 romp of Cologne, partly thanks to a hat trick by striker Klaas-Jan Huntelaar.
Last year's Bundesliga champions, Borussia Dortmund, could be in for some tough competition from clubs like Mainz and Hannover 96, as both have demonstrated early on an impressive ability to win at home as well as overcome the challenges of winning on the road. Meanwhile, Dortmund failed to secure any points from their first road match, failing to come back from a single 9th minute goal despite owning 65% of the possession.
Finally, Bayern Munich seem back on track to compete for a Germany's top spot, after falling at home last week to a lower-table competitor at home. They offset the home loss this week by defeating Wolfsburg on the road with a 90th minute winner. Still, Bayern has a lot of questions to face regarding their finishing, having gone 180 minutes without a goal, and only scoring once in their first two matches of the domestic season.
Leverkusen 1-0 Werder Bremen
Kaiserlautern 1-1 FC Augsburg
Monchengladbach 1-1 Stuttgart
SC Freiburg 1-2 Mainz
Hamburg SV 2-2 Hertha
Nurnber 1-2 Hannover 96
Schalke 04 5-1 Cologne
Hoffenheim 1-0 Borussia Dortmund
Wolfsburg 0-1 Bayern Munich
French Ligue 1
With just one point earned in the first two matches of the French season, some analysts may be questioning their predictions for Paris Saint-Germain to take the top spot this year in Ligue 1. Last weekend, PSG failed to score at home and dropped all three points to Lorient in the season opener. This weekend, the finally managed to find the back of the net against Rennes, but conceded a last-minute equalizer to settle for the draw.
Defensively, PSG are not performing all that terrible, having only conceded twice in 180 minutes. Unfortunately, their lacking attacking game has made one goal per match plenty enough for opposing sides to steal points from the supposed domestic favorites.
They're not the only top French side to be facing problems early on this season, though. After settling for a draw last weekend on the road thanks to a disappointing own-goal by Lille defender Franck Beria, last year's Ligue 1 champions fell at home to Montpellier despite outshooting the visiting side 20-9.
This summer, Lille made waves in the transfer market by stealing coveted striker Dimitri Payet from the grasp of financial-powerhouse PSG. Payet, however, has been ineffective thus far as Lille has scored only one goal in 180 minutes, and even that came off the head of defender Mathieu Debuchy instead of an attacking player.
Olympique de Marseille are wishing for a better start as well, after settling for their second draw in a row. This time, it came by way of a blown 2-0 lead on the road as hosting Auxerre brought it back to within one goal early in the second half, and equalized late in the match.
With all of these slow starts from traditionally upper-table Ligue 1 sides, could a table-wide shakeup of the French domestic league be imminent? Perhaps not, as the slow-starting behemoths are likely to climb up the table again the coming weeks.
The one side that's not having much trouble as of late is Lyon. With a draw this weekend, the club has secured its fourth point of the season and is sitting well within the top half of the table. Out of last year's top three, they are the only side not sitting in the bottom half at the moment.
Lille 0-1 Montpellier
Evian Thonon 1-0 Nice
Auxerre 2-2 Marseille
Valenciennes 0-0 Brest
Rennes 1-1 PSG
Toulouse 2-0 Dijon FCO
Sochaux 1-2 Caen
Lorient 1-1 Bordeaux
St Etienne 1-0 Nancy
Lyon 1-1 AC Ajaccio
The Dutch domestic league might not get the same amount of coverage as some of Europe's other top leagues, but each Monday you will be guaranteed to find a recap of the weekend's top Eredivisie stories on Bleacher Report's World Football Weekend Review.
This week, Ajax and Twente continued to demonstrate that they've maintained the form that won them the first and second place spots in the league table last season. After both sides enjoyed opening victories on the road last week, they returned home to remain neck and neck with another three points each.
Ajax had the most impressive of the home victories again this weekend, scoring five times from five different players as they ran over the visiting Heerenveen 5-1. They have now scored nine times in 180 minutes to start the season, and have only conceded twice. Miralem Sulejmani scored again this week for Ajax, adding to last weekend's brace and earning him the current spot as the league's top goal scorer.
FC Twente has taken a little more of a subtle approach to starting off strong. Coming out of this weekend, they've scored only three times (and one was an own-goal), and have yet to concede at all. It should be another interesting race in the Netherlands, with one side explosively offensive and the other quietly defensive, but both getting good results to climb the table. When these two sides meet this season, it should be as exciting as ever, and it will be interesting to see how the differing philosophies compete with one another.
A 3-0 home victory for Feyenoord was also their second victory of the season, rounding out the top three. All three sides have earned all six points available to them thus far.
FC Groningen 4-2 ADO Den Haag
Ajax 5-1 Heerenveen
FC Utrecht 2-2 Graafschap
SC Heracles 2-1 NAC Breda
Feyenoord 3-0 Roda JC
PSV 1-0 RKC Waalwijk
Vitesse 4-0 VVV Venlo
FC Twente 2-0 AZ Alkmaar
World Football Weekend Review will return next Monday with expanded coverage to include the La Liga opening fixtures, MLS recap and results, and coverage of South and Central America's top leagues as well.
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