THE GOOD. And then there were none.
Newcastle’s 2-1 win over Chelsea on Saturday means there are no more unbeaten teams in Europe’s top soccer leagues. Papiss Cisse, from Senegal, doubled up African legend Didier Drogba in the second half at St. James’ Park, where Newcastle finished with 10 men. Cisse scored both goals in just 37 minutes of work, while Blues boss Jose Mourinho was typically gracious in defeat.
"We were unlucky," Mourinho said on Chelsea’s official Twitter account. "The best team lost. The team that tried to win lost. That's football.”
Manchester City cut Chelsea’s lead to just three points by beating Everton at home, but at great cost. Sergio Aguero, the hottest soccer player on the planet outside Spain, hurt his knee and will miss at least a month, including City’s critical UCL game at Roma midweek. (City’s Eliaquim Mangala apparently thought Samuel Eto’o was the ball).
Franck Ribery's first league goal of the season gave Bayern Munich a 1-0 win over Bayer Leverkusen on Saturday. Ribery's 100th goal in all competitions for Bayern also kept the club's seven-point cushion over Wolfsburg. Augsburg took over third from Leverkusen with a 2-1 win over FC Koln, but it's a distant third, 12 points behind Bayern. Borussia Dortmund ensured its banishment to the Bundesliga basement was a brief one by beating Hoffenheim, 1-0, on Friday, moving BVB up to 14th.
Juventus opened the door for AS Roma with a scoreless tie on Friday, but Roma couldn’t take advantage, going down 2-0 to Sassuolo on Saturday, before salvaging a 2-2 tie to stay three points behind Juve.
Marseille briefly fell out of first in France on Saturday, before beating Metz 3-1 on Sunday. Paris Saint-Germain applied the pressure the day before, when Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored a pair of terrific goals in a comeback win.
This free kick was the winner, making it 2-1, as Zlatan breaks the rule of physics by threatening them with his stare.
THE BAD. How did Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi wind up in the doghouse after they each tallied hat tricks in convincing victories this weekend? For being too greedy, that's how.
Ronaldo scored all three goals in Real Madrid’s 3-0 win over Celta Vigo on Saturday, and Messi scored three in Barca's 5-1 win over Espanyol in the Catalan derby on Sunday. So we’re dedicating this to those poor souls who were foolish enough to think their Spanish scoring records would last forever.
Most hat tricks in La Liga history: Ronaldo 23, Telmo Zarra 22, Alfredo Di Stefano 22 and Messi 21.
Ronaldo has been in Spain just five years, how is he already breaking an Alfredo Di Stefano record, and what about poor Telmo Zarra’s family? Messi breaks Zarra’s all-time scoring record in La Liga just weeks ago, and Saturday Ronaldo snatches Telmo’s shared hat-trick record. The Zarra family owned those two records for over 60 years, before losing them both forever in less than a month.
The NASL hadn’t even hitched its hype train to Spanish legend Raul, before Messi broke his all-time UCL scoring record, with Ronaldo hot on his trail.
This terrible twosome sure is fun to watch, unless you own(ed) a scoring record in Spain.
We're choosing to ignore their exploits this week, but we have included this Oscar worthy dive that earned Ronaldo his opening goal from a penalty kick.
WEEK 6 OF THE CHAMPIONS LEAGUE. This is the final week of group play in the UEFA Champions League. The Round of 16 will begin in mid-February; the draw will take place on Dec. 15.
These 11 teams have qualified: Atletico Madrid, Real Madrid*, Bayer Leverkusen, Borussia Dortmund, Arsenal, Bayern Munich*, Paris Saint-Germain, FC Barcelona, Chelsea*, FC Porto*, Shakhtar Donetsk (*Group winners)
These 10 teams have been eliminated: Anderlecht, Malmo FF, PFC Ludogorets Razgrad, Ajax, APOEL FC, NK Maribor, Athletic Club, FC BATE Borisov, Benfica, Galatasaray
These are the 11 teams competing for the five remaining tickets to the Round of 16: Olympiakos, Juventus, FC Basel, Liverpool FC, AS Monaco, FC Zenit, AS Roma, Manchester City, CSKA Moscow, Schalke 04, Sporting Lisbon.
These four intriguing games should make for great viewing, and in deference to your DVR's, UEFA has conveniently scheduled two for Tuesday and two on Wednesday. All four games start at 2:45 ET.
Reason to watch? Simplicity breeds tension. Two teams enter; one goes through.
The Swiss team arrives knowing they beat Liverpool 1-0 in Switzerland, and they only need a draw. Steven Gerrard has been rested for this game, and with the top four in the EPL looking out of reach -- this game is Liverpool’s season.
The math: It's simple; Basel can afford anything but a loss, while Liverpool must win to progress.
(Group C's game in Monaco offers similar stakes on Tuesday, when Zenit must win to progress, while Monaco only needs a tie, but my editor told me no one would watch that game).
Reason to watch? Two of Europe's only rugged teams that also possess technical skill, watching Paul Pogba in the same midfield as Andrea Pirlo feels like watching soccer's future sharing the ball with its timeless past.
While Atleti is once again being underestimated, even as reigning La Liga champion and UCL runners up.
The Math: Atletico has progressed, Juventus must avoid losing at all costs; a loss and a win by Olympiakos against Malmo would eliminate Juve. A draw puts Juve through, and if Juve can beat Atletico by two goals, Juve will win the group.
Reason to watch? Both teams have progressed, but winning the group is huge. Over the last 10 years, 71.25 percent of group winners have made the UCL quarterfinals. Which also means that 71.25 percent of runners-up lose in the first knockout round, and that’s what’s at stake in this game.
PSG enters on a high, with Ibrahimovic returning to form. The big Swede has been vocal about his mistreatment at Barca, and would relish making a statement. The game in Paris may have been the tournament’s best yet, expect more of the same
The math: PSG wins the group with a draw or better; Barcelona must win the game to win the group.
Reason to Watch? One of these quality teams is going home, both could be eliminated if CSKA pulls a shocker at Bayern, which already won the group.
Aguero put on his cape and dragged Man City out of its coffin, his hat-trick to beat Bayern in Week 5 gave City a chance to progress. But the visitors will be without their best player, and facing one of Europe’s most exciting attacking clubs.
The math: Roma goes through with any type of win, or a scoreless tie. Man City goes through with any win as long as CSKA fail to beat Bayern, and City will go through with a scoring tie, as long as CSKA lose.
To see the permutations for all eight groups and every team, click HERE.
TRICKS ARE TREATS. Andres Iniesta plays the straight man in Neymar’s slapstick routine on Sunday. With the Brazilian showing just a few of the reasons he became one of soccer's first Internet sensations.
Yannick Bolasie of Crystal Palace pulled off this incredible move at White Hart Lane on Saturday during a scoreless tie against Tottenham. He called this “a 360 and a flick” -- we call it tasty.