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Soccer on the side - Drama in Spain and Chelsea on the mount
Published in Al-Ahram Weekly on 25 - 02 - 2014

There was too much drama in the Spanish league this week as both Barcelona and Atletico Madrid suffered shocking defeats to hand Real Madrid who defeated Elche 3-0 in Madrid the top spot for the first time since the first few weeks of the season. Prior to this game week, it was Barcelona, Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid all level on points at the top of the league with the Catalans claiming the top spot on goal difference. However, Real Madrid who was the first team out of the three to play this week put pressure on their rivals when they defeated Elche at the Santiago Bernabeu thanks to goals from Illaramendi, a world class strike from Gareth Bale and Isco. It is worth mentioning that Cristiano Ronaldo missed the game as he served his third and final game of his three-games suspension. On the same day later on Barcelona took on Real Sociedad away from home as they entered the game aiming to take back the top spot from Cristiano Ronaldo and Co. However, things didn't go according to plan as the visitors fell behind in the 32nd minute after Alexander Song put the ball into his own net. Four minutes later it was no one other than Lionel Messi who found the back of the net with a stunning equaliser after some crisp passing in the build-up. The first half ended that way and as Barcelona started the second half looking to take the lead they found themselves 3-1 down inside the first 15 minutes of second period. The hosts played with massive confidence from that point and missed the 4 or 5 clear cut chances while Barca attacked sparingly in a game that could have ended in a huge win for the home side that played one of their best games this season. It was very obvious that Barcelona's players suffered from fatigue after their huge win against Man City in England just a few days prior to the game. The same can be said about Atletico Madrid as they both suffered a shocking and disappointing defeat at the hands of Osasuna by three goals to nothing with all three goals coming in the first half. Fresh from their massive 1-0 win over Ac Milan in Italy, they were hoping to stay at the top of the league but, to their misfortune, were below par from the very first minute in a game that was all but over by half time. It's now Real Madrid at the top with 63 points followed by Barcelona and Atletico with 60 points each.
In England, Chelsea snatched the only goal of their game against Everton in the 93rd minute through Frank Lampard after the evergreen Tim Howard failed to deal with the cross shot. Even though Chelsea were failing badly in troubling the opponents' goal keeper, our Egyptian Gem Mohamed Salah did not see action, having to watch the whole game from the bench as Mourinho preferred to introduce the German International Schurrle who came on for Samuel Etoo in the 62nd minute. Man City defeated Stoke by a single goal in the Ettihad stadium thanks to their saviour and best player in recent times, Yaya Toure. Man City's players clearly looked off form and not really interested after their very disappointing defeat at the hands of Barcelona in England just a few days before the Stoke game. On the other hand, Arsenal did not seem bothered by their 2-0 defeat against Bayern Munich in London as they destroyed Sunderland in a game that finished 4-1 for the hosts but could have seen them score more goals. The massive win meant Arsenal stayed second with 59 points behind Chelsea who are top with 60 points, while Man City (with a game in hand) are third with 57 points. Man City will go top if they won their postponed game as their goal difference is far bigger than that of Chelsea and Arsenal.
In Italy, Carlos Tevez scored the only goal of the game as Juventus defeated Torino 1-0 at home to make sure they stayed 9 points away from second placed Roma and a massive 16 points away from third placed Napoli with both Roma and Napoli having a game in hand. Roma are making sure they are in the title race week in, week out with 5 wins and one draw in their last 6 games but unfortunately for them Juventus are winning games for fun and it'll need a miracle for Roma to top them anytime soon.
In Germany, Bayern Munich fans can already celebrate another league title as they went 19 points clear this week after another huge win in the form of 4-0 win over Hannover 96 away from home, while second-placed Leverkusen and third-placed Dortmund suffered big defeats at the hands of Wolfsburg and Hamburger respectively. It is also worth mentioning that Pep Guardiola made 6 changes in the starting line up from the team that defeated Arsenal in London, which shows that strength and depth of his squad that very few football fans around the world argue that they're the best team in the world by some distance.

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