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European football: Five things we learnt this weekend

European football: Juventus and Paris Saint-Germain belatedly wrapped up the Italian and French titles respectively, while Neymar returned to action and a nail-biting championship race remained in the balance.

European football Ronaldo
Juventus’ Portuguese forward Cristiano Ronaldo (R), his hair covered in foam, celebrates with Juventus’ Italian goalkeeper Carlo Pinsoglio (C) and Juventus’ Italian defender Mattia De Sciglio after Juventus secured its 8th consecutive Italian 2018/19 “Scudetto” Serie A championships, after winning the Italian Serie A football match Juventus vs Fiorentina on April 20, 2019 at the Juventus stadium in Turin. (Photo by/ AFP)

Here, AFP Sport takes a look at five main talking points from the weekend in European football:

‘Just the beginning’ for Ronaldo at Juventus
Cristiano Ronaldo warned it “was just the beginning” after winning Serie A in his first season in Italy, as Juventus claimed an eighth consecutive Scudetto and the 35th in their history.

“Proud to help write the story of an exceptional club that has strongly wanted me and for which I am honoured to play,” the 34-year-old said on social media.

“We dominated a difficult championship, we fought, all together. We are a strong and extraordinary group. And this is just the beginning. Great Juve.”

It was Ronaldo’s sixth domestic league title, having won three with Manchester United and two with Real Madrid, as he becomes the first player to win in each of Europe’s top three leagues — the Premier League, La Liga and Serie A.

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Juventus remain on track to match the record 102 points achieved in 2014 under Antonio Conte after securing the title at the third time of asking.

PSG big guns ready for Cup final
Paris Saint-Germain finally wrapped up their sixth Ligue 1 title in seven seasons on Saturday as their star players returned ahead of the French Cup final against Rennes.

Thomas Tuchel’s men will attempt to complete the domestic double at the Stade de France next Saturday and atone slightly for the disappointment of their shock Champions League exit to Manchester United.

Neymar returned as a half-time substitute after a long spell out with injury on Sunday as Monaco were swatted aside 3-1, while Kylian Mbappe scored a hat-trick having been absent from the midweek loss at Nantes.

The third member of that attacking triumvirate, Edinson Cavani, was also back as a sub.

However, having struggled with a three-game winless run before the Monaco victory, PSG will know they have to strengthen their squad in the close season to compete both at home and abroad next term.

Barca can turn focus to Europe
Barcelona could win the title this week after a 2-1 victory over Real Sociedad on Saturday put them within touching distance of their eighth La Liga triumph in 11 years.

Beating Alaves on Tuesday will be enough if Atletico Madrid lose to Valencia on Wednesday while if Atletico prevail over Valencia, Barca’s success will be confirmed on Saturday with a win at home to Levante.

Goals from Clement Lenglet and Jordi Alba did the job against La Real and the reward for winning the league early could be the chance to focus completely on the Champions League, with their semi-final against Liverpool to come.

Real Madrid have long been able to concentrate on La Liga but remain 13 points adrift of Barcelona, despite Karim Benzema continuing his own brilliant run of form by scoring a hat-trick in a 3-0 win over Athletic Bilbao on Sunday, when Gareth Bale was again whistled by his own fans.

Reus revives Dortmund hope
Marco Reus’ superb performance against Freiburg on Sunday gave Borussia Dortmund fresh hope of stealing ahead of Bayern Munich in the Bundesliga title race.

While Bayern toiled to a 1-0 home win against Bremen on Saturday, Dortmund returned to their free-scoring best with a 4-0 win in Freiburg the next day.

Dortmund’s title bid had looked wobbly of late after a 5-0 defeat by Bayern and a nervy win over Mainz.

Reus himself had not scored in four games, but returned to his best form with a goal and two assists against Freiburg.

The win keeps Dortmund just a point behind Bayern with four games to go, and also provides a timely confidence boost ahead of next weekend’s derby against Schalke.

“We still believe we can be champions and we want to keep the pressure on Bayern until the very end,” Reus told Sky on Sunday.

Ajax young guns turn to old hand
Ajax’s much-vaunted young side were rescued by veteran striker Klaas-Jan Huntelaar on Saturday as Erik ten Hag’s side managed to stay ahead of PSV Eindhoven at the top of the Dutch Eredivisie on goal difference.

With the four-time European champions perhaps struggling with a slight hangover from their magnificent Champions League quarter-final victory over Juventus, the 35-year-old Huntelaar came off the bench to score a 78th-minute winner in a 1-0 win at Groningen.

Huntelaar was later sent off, but it mattered little as his side kept their hopes of a stunning double in their own hands.


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