Five things we learned in European football play over the weekend

As we approach a bye week for the overseas football leagues, let’s take a look at some of the highlights (and lowlights) in league play over the past weekend.  Some teams we anoint, while others just disappoint. The season has barely begun, but there are some trends that seem to be developing. As the transfer window closes today, perhaps a blockbuster trade or loan will transpire, but it would seem that most of the bigger names are spoken for. What can we take away from the season at this point?

Chelsea vs. Everton was no snoozer

One would’ve expected a low scoring match at Goodison Park, but it was anything but. With both Everton strikers (Samuel Eto’o  and Romelu Lukaku) being ex-Chelsea players wanting to showcase their goal-scoring prowess against their former club, it was Everton’s normally solid defense that was torched for six goals.

So while the Liverpool-based Blues have a combined two points after three matches, Chelsea has won all three of their games and have nine points heading into the break.  Diego Costa has proven to be a solid performer up front, as the name of Torres slowly fades away. Courtois is winning the battle of the keepers against Petr Cech, and Jose Mourinho’s vision is taking shape. Again, the season has just started, but these Blues seem to be headed in opposite directions.

Manchester United continue to struggle

Louis van Gaal continues to adjust his formations to achieve better results, and the supporters are still in his corner, but this is a team in need of points. After a 0-0 result at Burnley (currently the last place team in the EPL), the Red Devils are in 14th position with two points and a minus one goal differential after the first three matches. While it is difficult to adjust new players into his system while flushing out others via trades or loans, some of their more reliable players such as Wayne Rooney seem to be having difficulty finding success this season.

With today’s signing of Radamel Falcao on a season-long loan deal, the Man U supporters are hoping that their scoring drought can end. With recent signings including Angel DiMaria, Luke Shaw, Marcos Rojo and Ander Herrera, it may take a while for these players to morph into a new system  The recent signing of Daley Blind on defense might prove easier to digest, as he has played for van Gaal in the World Cup. But with so many players transitioning in and out of the lineup, expect this crop of Reds to struggle, at least through the fall.

Barcelona FC reaching midseason form

The past few seasons have shown that games played away from Camp Nou are rarely easy, and this week’s match at La Madregal against a tough Villarreal side proved to be no exception. While both teams had scoring opportunities, it was the 82nd minute that saw Maestro Messi weaving his way along the touchline and producing a pass for a tap in by the 19 year-old substitute Sandro Ramirez for the lone goal of the game.

Barcelona have amassed all six points after two games, all while Andres Iniesta is out with a knee injury, Neymar is working his way back to match fitness and Luis Suarez serves his suspension until he is league-eligible to play later this fall. This is a team who will only get better as the season unfolds.

Real Madrid still struggling with consistency

This week’s match had the Galacticos ahead 2-0 after 11 minutes at Anoeta against Real Sociedad, a team who lost to newcomers Eibar in week one of La Liga and was knocked out of the Europa League competition by Krasnodar last Thursday. From the middle of the first half through the rest of the match, however, the Galacticos were thoroughly outplayed, losing to a weak Real Sociedad team 4-2. With Cristiano Ronaldo still hobbled, they seemed to be a team needing a spark.

Replacing Xabi Alonso with Toni Kroos is a work in progress, while relying on their offensive firepower to keep the ball on the other teams’ half of the pitch has been a less than successful strategy. Perhaps the newly signed Javier Hernandez from Manchester United will help, and of course Ronaldo will return to form at some point.  But Carlo Ancellotti’s boys were less than impressive in beating a weak Cordoba team at the Bernabeu last weekend in their season opener, and he faces Atletico Madrid in his next La Liga match. With expectations high from Galacticos management and supporters, Real Madrid has their work cut out for them and need better play and results soon.

AC Milan’s rebuilding process has been successful thus far

A storied team in the Serie A that finished a disappointing 2013 season in eighth position, a full 45 points behind Scudetto winners Juventus. Management decided to dismantle the team, jettisoning their players and firing their manager. New manager Filippo Inzaghi, a legend in Serie A as a player, has obtained a wealth of new players such as Fernando Torres and Martin van Ginkel from Chelsea, Jonathan Biabany from Parma and Keisuke Honda from CSKA Moscow, who scored Milan’s first goal in a convincing 3-1 victory over Lazio at the San Siro. In fact, many key positions for il Rossoneri had new players, from El-Shaawary up front to goalkeeper Diego Lopez. While room for improvement exists, this team should only get better as the season progresses and might well give Juventus a run for their money for the top spot in the Serie A.