European roundup: Bayern ensure top spot, Napoli cling on for nervy victory

Bayern Munich eased past Schalke 2-0 to make sure of top spot going into the World Cup break as they hunt a record-extending 11th straight Bundesliga crown. The Bavarians, who fielded a starting lineup consisting entirely of World Cup-bound players, scored once in each half, through Serge Gnabry and Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting, with the Germany international Jamal Musiala delivering both assists.

Bayern’s sixth consecutive league win – and 10th across all competitions – lifted them to 34 points, six ahead of second-placed RB Leipzig. Freiburg and Union Berlin, both on 27, face each other on Sunday.

Bayern had the upper hand from the start but it was not until Musiala, who at 19 is the youngest Bayern player to reach 100 matches, combined well with Ganbry for the lead in the 38th minute.

“Jamal has played an outstanding first half of the season and will hopefully play even better at the World Cup and the second half of the season,” Julian Nagelsmann, the Bayern coach, said of his attacking midfielder. “He listens well and he wants to develop. He just has a lot of talent. He also has improved defensively.”

Musiala, who also has nine league goals, delivered his sixth assist of the season for Cameroon’s Choupo-Moting to tap in seven minutes after the restart and leave Schalke in last place following their eighth loss in the last nine matches.

RB Leipzig muscled their way past their hosts, Werder Bremen, 2-1 to finish the year with their fourth consecutive league victory. Leipzig, who had a bad start to the season with only one win in their first four league matches, have recovered in recent weeks with six consecutive wins across all competitions and a 13-game unbeaten run.

André Silva put the visitors in front in the 31st minute but a deflected shot from Christian Gross drew Werder level in the 56th. Leipzig, however, were sharper up front and Silva superbly flicked the ball to Xaver Schlager, charging into the box, to snatch the winner in the 71st minute.

The Bundesliga goes into a prolonged break after this weekend’s matches, resuming on 20 January.

Napoli’s nervy 3-2 win over Udinese highlights how the Serie A leaders cannot take their position for granted, their coach, Luciano Spalletti, said. Spalletti’s side almost squandered the chance of setting a club record of 11 consecutive Serie A victories within a season when Udinese substitutes Ilija Nestorovski and Lazar Samardzic both scored late in the game.

“Every victory is a struggle, and the final 15 minutes of this game help to underline just how much these players have achieved so far is not to be taken for granted,” Spalletti told DAZN. “We thought the game was over and took our foot off the gas, but the game is never over because when you can introduce players off the bench like Nestorovski, they can find a way through if you don’t keep the tempo up.“

Napoli go into the World Cup break top of the Serie A standings, with their next game to come in early January, but Spalletti was still cautious about talk of winning the league. “There are six challengers and they are all close by, because it just takes a couple of incidents, a couple of minutes to create problems,” he said.

“This afternoon’s match will help us because it hasn’t happened so far, but we need to be even more determined and committed to the end in every match.”