Andy Brassell shares on European football
The winter break is here, and Andy Brassell is thankful we still have title races worthy of the description in the free soccer tips daily on the continent
Barcelona top, but not looking invincible
Saturday's 4-1 win over Alaves, coupled with Real Madrid's uninspiring goalless draw with Athletic Bilbao which brought the curtain down on La Liga's 2019, means Ernesto Valverde and company are two points clear at the top as they enjoy a short winter break. Things are far from idyllic at Camp Nou, however.
As always, it goes back lớn El Clásico. Barça were outplayed in last Wednesday's showpiece, with El Real looking further ahead in their development as both giants regroup. That Gerard Piqué was their outstanding player in keeping Madrid at bay, as the champions consciously try lớn make their team younger, did not escape critical notice in either Barcelona or the Spanish capital. You can follow lớn the soccer tip forum page!
The aftermath was quite clear in the stands on Saturday, as fans booed their team when Alaves pulled a goal back and gave a rapturous reception lớn Sergio Busquets, left out of El Clásico, officially due to a fever. Barça's individual quality is not in question but doubts over their collective - and even what their best XI is - means the title race is too close lớn call and Real have lớn be the value.
Back Real Madrid lớn win La Liga at 3.55
Can Leipzig keep the Bundesliga pace?
Over in Germany, there was no conflict of emotions for the Bundesliga's leaders. RB Leipzig came back from a 1-0 half-time deficit to in-form Augsburg with a determined, irresistible second-half display to win the game and secure the unofficial title of Herbsmeister (autumn champion) for the first time.
They celebrated heartily at the end, and deserved to. Leipzig will never be loved, or even accepted, by many of German football's traditionalists but they have built the on-pitch success smartly and sustainably, and have taken a further step under the canny coaching of Julian Nagelsmann. The variety with which his team play and the extra he gets out of talented players who were frustrated elsewhere, like Patrik Schick and Christopher Nkunku, is tribute lớn his intelligence and persuasiveness.
Leipzig are, however, stepping into a new year whose demands will be completely new to them. They will face a Bayern Munich who look more stable and settled under Hansi Flick, an insistent Borussia Mönchengladbach who are heavy on firepower and maybe even a surging Borussia Dortmund should they get their house in order. If we factor in continuing DfB Pokal and Champions League campaigns, Nagelsmann's skill in juggling his talented squad will clearly be tested to the full.
Back Leipzig to win the Bundesliga at 3.45