5 Truths: Unstoppable PSG, Chelsea loyalty, and is Neville good enough?
Our writers look back at what we learnt in a frantic night of football across Europe.
Is Gary Neville good enough as a manager?
The simple answer on the evidence of his first two months in charge at Valencia is: no. However, it was impossible not to feel a little bit sorry for Neville this evening as his team were torn apart time and again by a quite frankly obscenely good Barcelona side. Luis Enrique’s men are so good that they must surely now be considered on a par with Pep Guardiola’s Barca at the very least, while the front three of Neymar, Messi and Suarez is simply the greatest that club football has ever seen. Every one of the three is capable of destroying opponents with sublime skill, creating chances almost at will and finishing with impeccable precision. You have to fear for any side scheduled to come up against them in the next few weeks.
Valencia manager Gary NevilleReuters
Big Mike has found £83m from his wallet, but Newcastle are still struggling
Newcastle have been spending money faster than Lonsdale shoes are flogged by their owner Mike Ashley's Sports Direct chain. Since Steve McClaren was appointed manager last summer, Ashley has found £83m to spend. Jonjo Shelvey from Swansea, Andros Townsend from Tottenham, Henri Saivet of Bordeaux and Roma's Seydou Doumbia on loan were all recruited during the January transfer window for around £29m. The splurge would have reached £50m if West Brom had not rejected an offer for Saido Berahino.
Doumbia never turned out at Goodison Park, but there is little to suggest Steve McClaren's side have improved much after they were flogged 3-0 by Everton. If not for goalkeeper Rob Elliot, Newcastle would have suffered a heavier beating. Depending on how quickly they gel will determine whether or not Newcastle avoid relegation. McClaren said it was "unacceptable" and that his team had retreated to where they have been "three or four months ago". He was right. This was a dismal performance, and there remains a real threat that Newcastle in 18th place in the standings after 24 matches could be the most expensively assembled squad to be go down in Premier League history.
Chelsea’s baffling safety-first approach
Last season’s champions lie 13th in the table and surely have a free reign now to express themselves and play free-flowing, attacking football. The match against Watford was a snorefest and they played with two holding midfielders in Matic and Mikel, whilst deciding to leave last year’s player of the season on the bench until the 72nd minute. The exciting Ruben Loftus-Cheek was also left twiddling his thumbs as Guus Hiddink seemed happy to come away with a point. Why?
Chelsea's Oscar goes down after a challenge by Watford's Sebastian ProdlReuters
John Terry’s fans show their loyalty, as John Terry shows why Chelsea have lost theirs
Even the most ardent members of the anti-John Terry brigade must admit a bit of grudging admiration for the constancy and ardour of Chelsea’s travelling fans on Wednesday night. They rose to their feet to give the Chelsea captain, leader and legend a hero’s welcome as he jogged on to the pitch, then sang constantly throughout the entire 90 minutes.
No, scratch that: the singing began long before the man himself even made it on to the pitch, and carried on long after he had disappeared back down the tunnel. You might wish that such loyal fervour was reserved for some other individual who, for want of a better word, was a bit nicer; but there’s still something to admire about a reception that couldn’t have been warmer or more earnest.
Did Terry’s performance justify those cheers? Well, not really. That’s not to say he was bad, but such a level of hero worship demands a heroic level of performance. Terry did not do anything wrong, but nor did he exactly have Odion Ighalo in his pocket (then again, who has this season?), and was left floundering by Jose Jurado at one point. He got better as the match progressed, and looked fine, solid; but not so good that you’d still want to build your defence around him next season, during which he’ll turn 36. Whoever Chelsea bring in as their new manager might want to keep him around, and there’s no reason not to; but even if he does stay, Terry will no longer be the over-arching figure at the club that he has been for the last couple of decades.
PSG are unstoppable... Chelsea beware
We knew it would happen. Paris Saint-Germain beat Lorient 3-1 to go 24 points clear of second-placed Monaco in Ligue 1. In the process they set a new record of 33 unbeaten matches in the French top flight. Nothing can stop them in France right now, it is simply a case of testing themselves against the best in Europe as a barometer of whether this team is truly great or simply a big fish in a little pond. Chelsea stand before them in the last 16 of the Champions League, and they must be dispatched with ease if Laurent Blanc's side want to prove that their domination at home can be translated.
Tom Bennett, Des Kane, Fraser Masefield, Toby Keel, Kevin Coulson