It was another weekend of headlines, golazos and unpredictable finishes across Europe's biggest leagues. From Manchester United's first trophy since 2017 to clutch LaLiga matches involving Barcelona, Real Madrid, and Atletico Madrid to Lionel Messi reaching more milestones, there is plenty to catch up on.
ESPN correspondents Luis Miguel Echegaray, Julien Laurens, Sam Marsden, James Tyler, and James Olley break down the most interesting and important stuff you need to know about the weekend.
Arsenal win, Man City keep title race intriguing
As Manchester United defeated Newcastle United in the Carabao Cup final on Sunday, thus ending their six-year drought without silverware, Mikel Arteta and Pep Guardiola generated more breathing space in the Premier League table.
Let's begin with league leaders Arsenal, who did not have the easiest of days against Leicester City, but still managed the victory. This, however, is how you win a title. By winning games that are sticky, uncomfortable and devoid of rhythm. For Arteta, whose strategy prides itself on fluidity, and whose team with an average age of 24.7, these are the games you have to deliver. The win was won from the back, meaning that they allowed their resiliency to lead everything that was being done creatively.
After trailing Aston Villa twice last weekend and conceding two goals, plus no clean sheets in the last six matches prior to Saturday, Arteta wanted to tighten things up at the back and that's exactly what happened. Arsenal's backline only allowed one attempt from the hosts and none on target, and this became their main recipe for success. But it was also about simplicity.
"It was coming back to some details and basics that get games away from us that we made much more. The last two games -- especially on Saturday -- we have done it much more," said Arteta after the game.
Arsenal now have an opportunity to gain more momentum with matches against Everton and Fulham before a trip to Sporting CP in the Round of 16 of the Europa League. The Gunners know that every game counts, especially as a trip to the Etihad awaits in April.
For City and Pep Guardiola, the weekend task was much easier as they seamlessly disposed of 19th-placed AFC Bournemouth at Vitality Stadium. A 4-1 win was exactly what the doctor ordered after the defending champions had drawn the last two games in all competitions. Guardiola, the master, sees his former student above him in the table and knows that in order to surpass him, the pressure must continue, especially as Arsenal's two-point lead is complimented by an extra game.
Something tells me there are more twists and turns in the title race, and much of it will be solved on April 26 when they both meet again.
-- Luis Miguel Echegaray
Messi-Mbappe masterclass for PSG in Classique win
After some struggles and a lot of tension in recent weeks, a lot of downs and many doubts and a huge crisis, if there was one way for Paris Saint-Germain to almost put everything right, it was to defeat their archrivals Marseille at the Velodrome, who are just five points behind them in the table.
That's exactly what the Parisians did. They suddenly started playing like a team, despite a slow start. They found some cohesion. They ran, fought, moved the ball well in their 3-5-2 formation. And they relied on the wonderful talent up front of Kylian Mbappe and Lionel Messi. The two superstars had one these nights where they produced a masterclass. Two assists and a goal for the Argentine (who reached 700 career league goals) while Mbappe's two goals equalled Edinson Cavani as the club's all-time scorer with 200.
This huge victory in Marseille is the perfect rehearsal and template for the Champions League Round of 16 second leg at Bayern Munich. With Neymar injured, manager Christophe Galtier, who bought himself a bit of peace after the storm of the last few weeks, will likely start a very similar XI against the German champions in 10 days. When the Double M is in this kind of form, no one can stop them. They will be Paris' main hope once again. -- Julien Laurens
Bayern show why they're still in pole position
Recent wobbles by Bayern Munich have had the rest of the Bundesliga licking their chops at the prospect of a new champion for the first time in a decade, but Sunday's 3-0 romp over third-place Union Berlin was a reminder of just why Bayern have had such a grip at the top. Julian Nagelsmann's side didn't have to strain too much to tame this season's Cinderella team, either, simply pouncing on errors and punishing them accordingly. But it went deeper than that: Bayern were dominant without really trying.
Racing to a 3-0 lead at the break, with two goals in the final five minutes of the half, they were really the only team that looked like scoring in the second half. Only the exploits of Frederik Ronnow (six saves) between the posts, even using his face at one point to block a Kingsley Coman cross, prevented this from being even worse.
Setting up in a 3-5-2 with Thomas Muller playing closer to Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting up front helped create all sorts of room to exploit wide areas, with Coman and Alphonso Davies proving far too good for Jerome Roussillon and Christopher Trimmel. After some feisty early changes, Choupo-Moting headed the hosts in front, looping one beyond Ronnow after a fine run and cross from Coman on the right flank. They doubled their advantage less than 10 minutes later, with Coman profiting from Muller's clever flick-on, rounding Ronnow and firing low into the empty net. It seemed as though Union were playing for the whistle from there, but it backfired as Coman seized on a loose ball in the box, slid it wide for Muller, whose low cross was guided in by Jamal Musiala in injury time.
Borussia Dortmund continue to keep pace at the top with a victory Saturday, but Bayern showed that they're not going to relinquish the throne this season without a fight. Those two meet in Munich on April 1, too. Game on. -- James Tyler
18-year-old Alvaro Rodriguez scores late to rescue a point for Real Madrid against Atletico Madrid.
Barcelona's season reaches pivotal moment
Barcelona capped a miserable week with a shock 1-0 loss at relegation-threatened Almeria. After being eliminated from the Europa League by Manchester United on Thursday, Real Madrid's draw with Atletico Madrid handed Barca the chance to go 10 points clear at the top of LaLiga on Sunday. However, they produced what an angry Xavi Hernandez labelled their "worst performance of the season" to miss a golden opportunity to take a huge step towards their first league title since 2019.
Janusz Michallik reacts following Chelsea's 2-0 defeat at Tottenham in the Premier League.
Xavi said what disappointed him most was his team's lack of intensity and desire. With Ousmane Dembele, Pedri and Ansu Fati missing through injury, they could have few complaints about what was just their second defeat in LaLiga this season -- and ended a 13-game unbeaten streak in the league. They were dire in Almeria, mustering just one shot on target and got exactly what they deserved: nothing.
It's not dramatic to say Barca are now facing the biggest few weeks of their season before the March international break. They face Real Madrid in the first of three Clasicos in a month on Thursday in the first leg of the Copa del Rey semifinal (stream all matches on ESPN+). They then welcome Valencia to Camp Nou in LaLiga with Pedri and Dembele still injured and Gavi and Raphinha now suspended. A visit to San Mames then looks tough all of a sudden, before Madrid are due at Camp Nou on March 19 for a Clasico which will now have a massive say in the title race. Barca need to get back on track quickly. -- Sam Marsden
Buendía sends Everton defenders back to kindergarten
Look. It's not everyday I'm given the chance to highlight an Aston Villa goal, so please give me this moment of joyful bliss courtesy of this lovely, little Argentinian.
To be fair to Everton, the game was reasonably even -- and perhaps even leaning towards their direction -- before Emiliano Buendía's introduction at Goodison Park. The game was at a stalemate until Buendía (and Álex Moreno) came on in the 61st minute. Two minutes later, Villa took the lead thanks to a penalty won by John McGinn and scored by Ollie Watkins. It was Buendía, however, who started the move with a lovely first touch for McGinn, before he was brought down in the box.
But I'm here to discuss what happened in the 81st minute, when Buendía, after receiving the favor from McGinn's ball, picked up the ball, drove inside the Everton box and as three defenders neared him, the attacking midfielder dragged the ball with his right and faked them all out like an Allen Iverson highlight before smashing it past Jordan Pickford with his left.
It was a lovely piece of artistry, which ensured Unai Emery's side the three points. After the goal, Buendía ran to the away Villa crowd and extended his hand out as if to say, "there you go, guys. You're all welcome." Muchísimas gracias, Emiliano. Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni was hopefully watching.
Rodriguez's first of many for Real Madrid?
A new star could have been born at Real Madrid. El Bilal Toure's winner against Barcelona for Almeria was perhaps the best goal in LaLiga this weekend -- thumped in off the underside of the bar -- but Alvaro Rodriguez's first for Los Blancos may be the one remembered in years to come.
Luis Garcia thinks Real Madrid brought intensity to their game against Atletico quite late to save a 1-1 draw in the derby.
The 18-year-old Uruguay youth international came off the bench to rescue a point in the Madrid derby against Atletico with a glancing header from a Luka Modric corner. It looked like two points dropped as opposed to three at the time, but proved a point gained when Barca lost the next day.
Carlo Ancelotti says Rodriguez, who grew up in Catalonia, north of Barcelona, will be with the first team permanently next season. It was the second week running the striker has made an impact off the bench after setting up a goal in the win over Osasuna last weekend. -- Marsden
Thuram's 'Nice' goal lives up to name
Kephren Thuram carries a notable last name. Of course, his dad Lilian Thuram will always be the great 1998 World Cup winner with France and his sibling Marcus Thuram reached 2022 World Cup final with Les Bleus, but the youngest of the Thuram dynasty is also making a name for himself. And his beautiful goal on Sunday for Nice in the Mediterranean derby against AS Monaco is certainly not doing him any harm. He started the move by finding his teammate Terem Moffi in behind and then he received his cross on the edge of the box to hit a superb shot past Alexander Nubel, in front of his delighted father.
At 21, Thuram is becoming a very special player. He is a modern midfielder like Jude Bellingham, capable of doing everything with and without the ball. He is tall, strong, powerful and technically gifted. He has been brilliant creating chances at times this season (22 for the campaign) and even if he has only scored 2 goals this season, he has given five assists and is a threat now for goal contributions.
There are already a few top clubs after him and he could get a big move this summer even with his contract expiring in June 2025. -- Laurens
Teams in trouble
Chelsea's owners want to give head coach Graham Potter every chance to succeed but Sunday's 2-0 defeat at Tottenham Hotspur leaves them 14 points off the Premier League's top four. A year without Champions League football would be a huge blow to a club that has spent £600 million in two transfer windows but they now face an uphill struggle in the league while attempting to overturn a 1-0 deficit to Borussia Dortmund in this season's competition.
There is recognition of the sheer scale of transition at all levels of the club but supporters are growing restless as questions grow louder as to whether Potter should be getting more from such an expensively assembled group despite all the mitigating factors. Sunday's loss to Spurs followed a familiar pattern: sterile possession, a lack of clinical finishing and frequent defensive vulnerability. Potter has now won two of his last 15 matches across all competitions. The short-term situation surely has to improve quickly if the owners are to hold their nerve. . -- James Olley
It's fair to say there is little sympathy available for Dietmar Hopp's team these days, but Hoffenheim's 1-0 home loss to Borussia Dortmund means their winless run in 2023 is now at eight games and really shows little sign of stopping. Their last point gained was over a month ago (a 2-2 draw vs. Stuttgart on Jan. 24), they were eliminated from the DFB-Pokal by RB Leipzig and have lost their other six league games since the winter break.
Saturday could have been even more of a nightmare had Oliver Baumann not made 11 saves to keep the score at 1-0, even though Marius Wolf had a second-half strike ruled out by VAR. In the end, they had little rebuttal for Julian Brandt's 42nd minute goal, the winger flicking Marco Reus' fizzing free kick off his back and leaving Baumann no time to adjust, and must regroup quickly before several head-to-head games against other relegation candidates. They have to win sometime, right? -- Tyler
Phil Foden has started just four Premier League games since the World Cup but the England midfielder played a starring role in Manchester City's 4-1 win at Bournemouth on Saturday. City were under pressure having fallen five points behind leaders Arsenal - winners at Leicester earlier in the day -- at kick-off, but Foden enabled City to be at their fluid best in an easy victory.
Three first-half goals ensure a simple 3-0 win for Bayern Munich over FC Union Berlin to head back atop of the Bundesliga.
The 22-year-old scored one and assisted another, creating seven chances in total -- the most by any City player in a league away game since James Milner's eight against Aston Villa in October 2014. Jack Grealish and Riyad Mahrez have largely been favoured ahead of Foden in recent weeks but it would be a huge boost for Pep Guardiola in the run-in if he could rely on Foden to deliver this level of performance on a consistent basis. -- Olley