Sevilla bare their title teeth and what we learned in Europe this week

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Jorge Sampaoli’s side are going to stick with Spain’s big three all season long while there was a title to be celebrated in Ireland this weekend

It was always going to take something pretty special to hand Diego Simeone and his Atletico Madrid team their first defeat of the Spanish season. Step forward Jorge Sampaoli and Sevilla.

It was an epic contest in Spain’s rainy south on Sunday evening from which Sevilla emerged victorious. Barcelona target Steven Nzonzi scored the only goal against 10-man Atleti, who had Koke sent off in the second half.

Sevilla have won all five of their home games in La Liga this season and are now placed second in the table behind Real Madrid. Moreover, they have won all of their last five games as Sampaoli’s philosophy begins to take hold in Andalusia.

He has reinvented playmaker Samir Nasri, discarded by Pep Guardiola at Manchester City, and almost immediately given Sevilla a new playing identity. Having lost both super cups at the start of the season to Barcelona and Real Madrid respectively, Sampaoli came into this game in the knowledge that his side needed a big scalp to lay down their title marker. They did so against one of the world’s best teams.

Sevilla are in possession of one of the most innovative, enterprising coaches in the world and will do more than simply disrupt the Spanish title race this season. They’ll take part in it.


FUN POLICE CRACK DOWN ON COSTA


Douglas Costa is in trouble with the fun police. He performed a selfie celebration after Bayern Munich’s second goal against Borussia Monchengladbach on Saturday – marking his first Bundesliga goal of the season – but it’s fair to say that it has not gone down well.

Gladbach sporting director Max Eberl was outraged while a DFB spokesperson confirmed to Bild that the legality of a selfie celebration will be looked into and clarified this week. Even team-mate Manuel Neuer gently rebuked the Brazilian, stating it would have been a “disaster” for Bayern had they dropped the lead following that incident.

 

It’s all a bit much isn’t it? Costa has had a difficult time of it so far this season – missing more matches than he’s played due to a persistent hamstring injury. It is understandable that his emotions were high and that he felt like having a bit of fun.

It was not disrespectful or outrageous; it was simply a player involving his own supporters in the team’s celebration – albeit in a modern way.

Carlo Ancelotti said he’d like to know if Costa is planning the same kind of thing again – if only to get in the picture with him while club CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge said he wished smartphones existed in his heyday so he could have done one himself.

That is the right kind of reaction. Lighten up people.


CONGRATULATIONS DUNDALK = IRELAND’S BEST-EVER TEAM


There is a growing realisation that this Dundalk team might be the best side ever seen on the island of Ireland. They have just wrapped up the Premier Division title with two games to spare having beaten Bohemians, 2-1, at home on Sunday night. It marked a third title win in a row for Stephen Kenny’s side who are now absolutely dominating the domestic landscape.

Not only that but Kenny’s history-makers also became the first-ever Irish team to win a game in the Europa League group stage when they beat Maccabi Tel Aviv last month. They boast a respectable four points from their three Europa outings so far – a run which included a narrow 2-1 defeat to Zenit on Thursday  a team assembled for €20,000 taking on one put together for €145 million.

It’s all the more remarkable when you consider Dundalk have played nine matches in the last 26 days and are not even classified as a professional club. More remarkable still is the fact that Dundalk were days from oblivion in 2012, unable to pay bills or wages and struggling to make it to the end of the season.

All this happening in a country which broadly shuns its own national league and back-page headlines usually concentrate on what’s going on across the water in the Premier League. The national broadcaster would not even pay for the rights to show Dundalk’s first Champions League qualifier of the season; against Iceland’s FH.

Kenny, though, has helped rescue the team on the field while a new consortium is looking after matters off it. An upgraded stadium is in the works thanks to the Europa League money but it would be no surprise to see Dundalk in the Champions League proper before it restructures in 2018.


NICE STAY STRONG – EVEN WITHOUT BALOTELLI


Nice are now six points clear of billionaires Paris St-Germain in France’s Ligue 1. Lucien Favre’s side kept their remarkable start to the season going with a 4-2 win away at Metz while PSG – in third place – slipped up again at home to Marseille.

There was no Mario Balotelli in the line-up for Nice – he was injured – and so the goal scoring burden fell to Alassane Plea. The Lyon youth product responded in stunning fashion for the league leaders – a hat-trick confirming their superiority on the day – to follow his goal against Salzburg in the Europa League on Thursday.

Nice remain unbeaten in Ligue 1 after 10 matches and boast the joint-best defensive record to boot. There is clearly much more to this team than the star-quality offered to them by Balotelli’s signing with Favre having solidified them in all departments.

Bigger tests are sure to come with neighbours Monaco – in second place – in terrific form themselves and PSG bound to get going.

For now though Nice are top and that’ll do nicely.


SAMPDORIA BASK IN DERBY GLORY


Sampdoria went into Saturday’s intense Derby della Lanterna against city rivals Genoa on the back of six consecutive Serie A matches without a win but prevailed in a thrilling contest at the Marassi. Coach Marco Giampaolo – who only joined this summer from Empoli – might well have paid for defeat to Genoa with his job but managed to stave off the pressure for another week at least.

The Genoa derby is traditionally one of the most hotly-contested games in Italian football and Saturday proved no different. A strike from Luis Muriel and an Armando Izzo own goal either side of a goal from Luca Rigoni decided the tie in Samp’s favour, helping them overcome the pain of a 3-0 defeat at the backend of last season. Fabio Quagliarella missed a penalty for Samp but that was not enough to prevent a win.

Their next challenge? Away at Juventus on Wednesday night as the champions look to bounce back from a 1-0 defeat to Milan on Saturday night.

Despite their results, signs have been promising for Samp this season. They have had some moments of outrageously bad fortune and Giampaolo is getting to grips with a squad that endured a heavy turnover in the summer. If he is to get it right, he will some time.

Thankfully, the derby gave him some breathing space.

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