Light at the end of the north-east tunnel?

The gloom in the north-east shows no sign of lifting as Newcastle and Sunderland cannot seem to find their way out of the grim form that has put them at the bottom of the Premier League. Midweek League Cup defeats for both – especially Newcastle’s capitulation at home against Championship club Sheffield Wednesday – only added to the misery. It’s not going to get any easier for Newcastle manager Steve McClaren and Sunderland counterpart Dick Advocaat with games coming up against Chelsea and Manchester United respectively.


Barcelona defensive crisis?

It’s hardly a crisis after just five games of the new La Liga season but Barcelona coach Luis Enrique must have real concerns about the champions’ defence. The midweek 4-1 thrashing at Celta Vigo – his biggest defeat since taking charge at Camp Nou – was the third time this season Barca have conceded four after their 4-0 defeat by Athletic Bilbao in the Spanish Super Cup and the 5-4 win over Sevilla in the UEFA Super Cup. He can only hope for better things against Las Palmas on Sunday.


Must win game for Borussia Monchengladbach?

A game at fellow strugglers Stuttgart on Saturday has become a must win for Borussia Monchengladbach if they are to arrest the dreadful start to the season in which they have lost five out of six, leading to the resignation of coach Lucien Favre. Reserve team coach Andre Schubert, named as Favre’s interim successor, has his work cut out.


Will Valbuena be given an easier ride by opposing supporters?


Mathieu Valbuena must be happy he will probably only have to run across fans of his former club, Marseille, once more this season after the midfielder was verbally abused and pelted with missiles on his return with new club Lyon last week. The fans were angry that long-serving Valbuena quit the club last summer for Dynamo Moscow for what they saw as purely financial motives. Valbuena will hoping for a smoother time when Lyon visit Bordeaux on Saturday, looking to make ground on leaders Paris Saint-Germain.


Can anyone stop the legend of Heracles growing?

Unheralded Heracles Almelo are the surprise package of the new Eredivisie season, winning five on the trot – the latest a 2-1 victory over champions PSV – after losing their first game at Roda. In second place, a point behind leaders Ajax. can John Stegemen’s men keep up the good work at AZ Alkmaar on Saturday?


Is Mario Balotelli returning to his best?


Are there happier times ahead for maverick Mario Balotelli after he scored his first goal for Milan in midweek since joining them on loan from Liverpool. The 3-2 win at Udinese put Sinisa Mihajlovic’s side up to fourth place in Serie A and Balotelli, a misfit in the Premier League, will look to kick on when Milan visit Genoa on Sunday