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Dublin: 4 °C Thursday 23 November, 2017
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The watercooler: talking points from the weekend's football

Paul Ring has plenty to reflect on after a busy weekend throughout Europe.

Image: AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti

1. Is Bent worth the dough?

Darren Bent started to re-pay some of the £24m fee Aston Villa paid Sunderland for his services with the winner in the Villains’ game against Manchester City.

A lot have questioned the size of the fee and whether or not it represents value but Villa instantly looked more of a threat with Bent leading the line.

With Ashley Young and Stewart Downing roaming behind him Bent’s impressive goal record will be enhanced further. Randy Lerner has splashed the cash when his manager really needed him to.

A penny for Martin ‘O Neill’s thoughts…

2. The Zarate kid

Bologna were comprehensive 3-1 winners at home to Lazio on Sunday. That, however was not the story because at full time a brawl broke out between both sets of players. The Lazio striker Mauro Zarate allegedly spat at one Bologna player and punched a referees assistant having failing to connect with his original target.
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Zarate is a curious player. One blessed with ability but with an allergy to hard work. Last month the Lazio coach Edy Reja said of him: “If a champion like Eto’o can press and win the ball back, why can’t he?”

With a hefty suspension now looming he will be pondering this question from the stands.

3. Hearts take their luck

It was a classic case of role reversal at Tynecastle stadium on Saturday as Hearts snatched a barely deserved win over Rangers. Ryan Stevenson hit the winner that leaves Hearts seven points off of Celtic with a game in hand and a trip to the league leaders on Wednesday.

Do they dare dream? Probably not, but it is nice to see someone putting up a fight to the old firm.

4. Dortmund stall but stay clear at the top.

Broussia Dortmund remain comfortable leaders of the Bundesliga despite only drawing at home with lowly Stuttgart.  They now stand 11 points clear of second place Bayer Leverkusen who welcomed back Michael Ballack on Saturday in their 3-1 win over Borussia Moenchenglabdach.

This stunning free-kick from Michal Kadlec was the pick of the goals.

That lead may not be insurmountable for Leverkusen or the rest of the chasing pack. Dortmund are missing Japanese star Shinji Kagawa who is representing his country at the Asian games. Given the chances they failed to convert against Stuttgart they need him back and in the form that has seen him linked with moves to Liverpool and Manchester United if they are to be crowned champions.

5. Barcelona still making it look easy.

A routine 3-0 win over Racing Santander saw Barcelona cement their superiority over Real Madrid at the top of La Liga. Messi scored again. Pedro scored again, while Andres Iniesta is starting to fill his boots. The regularity of their brilliance should never be taken for granted.
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Real Madrid are desperately hanging on in second place four points off of the Catalans after beating Mallorca 1-0 last night. Despite the fact Karim Benzema netted the winner Madrid’s need for reinforcements up front is obvious.

A loan move for Ruud Van Nistelrooy appears to have fallen through and sporting director Jorge Valdano’s insistence that they do not need another striker continues to irk Jose Mourinho.

It would surprise few if the special one walked away in the summer.

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About the author:

Paul Ring

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