Big wins for Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund won’t quiet Bundesliga Big Two speculation

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Three years ago, Borussia Dortmund weren’t even in Europe. Two years before that, Wolfsburg won Germany’s title. Still, over the last two years, there’s been an increased willingness to paint the German Bundesliga with the same brush we do most European leagues, trying to reduce everything to a couple of haves and a litany of have-nots. While the success of Bayern Munich and Dortmund led to some minor La Liga-fication of the circuit, we need more evidence before saying the Bundesliga’s set to join the likes of Spain, Portugal, Ukraine, the Netherlands, and potentially France (thanks, Monaco) in their big two dynamics.

That said, the first match day of the Bundesliga season won’t do anything to quiet that speculation. Both of last year’s Champions League finalists strolled to easy opening weekend wins, and while they weren’t the only ones in Germany to post convincing results on the season’s first match day, there’s nicely confirm any bias that this German campaign will be decided by the league’s current big two.

Friday’s opening by Bayern Munich doesn’t look like a big win on paper, the defending champions “only” posting a two-goal win over visiting Broussia Moenchengladbach, but the manner in which they did it was almost scary. Against a team that had given them problems on their two previous visits to the Allianz Arena, Bayern struck twice in the first 16 minutes. Although they gave one back before halftime, Dante’s own goal pulling Moenchengladbach within one, David Alaba’s mid-second half penalty kick sealed Bayern’s opening win. They more than doubled their opponents shots on goal (13-6) while holding 59 percent of possession, living up to the expectations of Pep Guardiola’s FCB debut.

A day later, Borussia Dortmund gave us reason to think they may be ready to put up a bigger challenge. Last year, Dortmund finished 25 points behind Bayern (notably, only one point ahead of third place Bayer Leverkusen). On Saturday, however, three goals from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in the Gabonese attacker’s Bundesliga debut paved the way to a 4-0 victory at Ausburg, with Robert Lewandowski’s conversion from the spot sealing the game late.

Aubameyang’s stellar opener will temporarily quell doubts Mario Götze’s departure could derail Dortmund. If anything, people may be talking about the new dynamic he brings to the team. Whereas last year’s addition of Marco Reus from Moenchengladbach gave Jurgen Klopp a complement to play with Götze, Aubameyang provides the team a more out-and-out goalscorer, somebody who was thought to be the eventual successor to Lewandowski. That may still happen next summer, when the Polish international moves to Bayern, but in the interim, Aubameyang gives BVB a different look – somebody who may end up scoring more goals than either Reus or Götze provided last year.

After one week, Hertha Berlin sit top of the table, their 6-1 win over Eintracht Frankfurt proving a rousing return to the top flight. And like Bayern, Bayer Leverkusen also put up a 3-1 win at home, hinting they could again threaten the top two.

Yet three days into the Bundesliga season, the might of Bayern and Dortmund is evident. While that doesn’t necessarily confirm the idea Germany’s developed a Big Two scenario, it certainly doesn’t dispel the notion.

Dortmund hammer Freiburg but gain no ground on Bayern

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Borussia Dortmund moved back within one point of Bundesliga leader Bayern Munich with a 4-0 win against Freiburg on Sunday.

[ LA LIGA: Real Madrid win to stay within striking distance of 2nd ]

Dortmund went ahead in the 11th minute when 19-year-old Jadon Sancho scored from the six-yard box after a run by Marco Reus. It was Sancho’s 11th Bundesliga goal this season.

Dortmund added three after the interval with goals from Reus, Mario Gotze and Paco Alcacer with a penalty.

[ MORE: PSG crowned Ligue 1 champions with five games left ]

In the day’s other game, Hertha Berlin was held 0-0 at home by bottom side Hannover, which ended an eight-game losing streak.

On Saturday, Bayern beat Werder Bremen 1-0.

With four rounds left, Bayern leads with 70 points, Dortmund has 69 and Leipzig is third with 61.

La Liga: Real Madrid win to stay within striking distance of 2nd

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A roundup of all of Sunday’s action in Spain’s top flight…

[ MORE: PSG crowned Ligue 1 champions with five games left ]

Real Madrid 3-0 Athletic Bilbao

Karim Benzema bagged a hat trick (WATCH HERE) — his 19th, 20th and 21st goals of the league season (second-most, 12 behind Lionel Messi) — to send Real Madrid to a comfortable victory over Athletic Bilbao at the Santiago Bernabeu. The result also keeps Los Blancos within four points of capital rivals Atletico Madrid in something of a battle for second place behind runaway leaders Barcelona.

Benzema has scored 10 goals in his last seven La Liga appearances, a run in which Madrid have complied a 5W-1D-1L record. Benzema failed to score in Zinedine Zidane’s re-debut as Madrid manager, but has scored eight goals in five games since.

Sunday’s game marked the 300th league appearance for midfielder and 2018 Ballon d’Or winner Luka Modric in a Real Madrid shirt.

Getafe 3-0 SevillaWATCH HIGHLIGHTS

Sevilla’s hopes of returning to the UEFA Champions League following a one-year hiatus took a serious hit on Sunday, as Pablo Machin’s side was hammered by Getafe, the side which now occupies fourth place, two points ahead of them. Getafe continue to enjoy their meteoric rise through the Spanish ranks, as they were competing in the second division this time two years ago.

Two of the three goals the scored on Sunday came from the penalty spot, as Jaime Mata and Jorge Molina converted in the 35th and 45th+4′, respectively. Molina completed the scoring eight minutes into the second half.

Elsewhere in La Liga

Real Betis 1-2 Valencia
Levante 2-2 Espanyol
Villarreal 2-1 Leganes

PSG wins French league after 2nd-place Lille fails to win

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PARIS (AP) Paris Saint-Germain clinched the French league title without kicking a ball as second-place Lille could only draw 0-0 at Toulouse on Sunday.

Lille had to win to have any chance of catching PSG, but PSG is now 16 points ahead of its only rival with five matches left after this weekend.

After failing to clinch the title in the past three matches, drawing one and losing two, PSG can celebrate the eighth title in its history ahead of its home game against Monaco later Sunday.

It is PSG’s sixth title in the last seven seasons, with only Monaco in 2017 breaking PSG’s dominance.

Although the title was long expected from a side scoring 92 goals in 32 games so far, it took longer than it should have.

PSG could have won it three games ago, but drew 2-2 at home to Strasbourg when a win would have clinched it.

Then PSG needed a draw at Lille last Sunday, only to lose 5-1 in the club’s heaviest defeat since Qatari investors QSI took charge of the club in June 2011.

A win away to Nantes would have sufficed, too, on Wednesday night only for PSG to lose 3-2 .

The 10 goals conceded in those three games made for PSG’s worst defensive record during a three-game spell since 1985.

Also Sunday, striker Kalifa Coulibaly scored twice as 13th-place Nantes beat 17th-place Amiens 3-2.

Later, Saint-Etienne needed a draw at Reims to move above Marseille and into fourth place.

More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/apf-Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

Klopp hails Liverpool mettle in face of “proper banana skin”

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Jurgen Klopp knows that more than a few clubs would’ve slipped up Sunday at Cardiff City, given the hosts’ desperation and the visitors’ midweek triumph, but his Reds stood up to the test.

[ RECAP: Cardiff 0-2 Liverpool ]

Liverpool beat Cardiff City 2-0, scoring a pair of second half goals to go back atop the Premier League before Manchester City plays its final match-in-hand of the season in a midweek Manchester Derby.

“It was prepared to be a proper banana skin and we knew that, the boys were unbelievable,” Klopp said after his team kept a second consecutive clean sheet.

He insists that he’s not feeling pressure as Liverpool may need to win every one of its matches and get help to capture its first Premier League crown.

“I only know about me and I didn’t feel it (the pressure) we have to do it like we do it. We cannot change it. The boys try really with all they have, we only speak about the things we have to do. Their attitude is outstanding and it’s a tough season but a very positive one as well.”

Liverpool has two banana skins left, a visit from Huddersfield and trip to Newcastle, closing out the league slate with Wolves at Anfield.