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Soccer on the side - Chelsea advances as Barcelona falters
Published in Al-Ahram Weekly on 11 - 03 - 2014

Jose Mourinho has captialised on Manchester City's two-week absence from the English Premier League as his team played the League Cup final and then the FA Cup quarter final. Manchester City now has three games in hand and is 9 points behind Chelsea as the competition enters into the final 9 weeks of the campaign.
Chelsea defeated Tottenham by four goals to nil at Stamford Bridge in a game that saw Egypt's Mohamed Salah take place in the 18-man squad of the game in the last minute replacing Fernando Torres. The Spaniard was slotted to start the game but injured himself in the warm-up to leave his place in the starting line to Samuel Eto'o, who in turn left his place on the bench to Salah.
Alas, Salah did not leave the bench for the entire game, watching his side torment Tottenham in the second half thanks to the African stars — Cameroon's Samuel Eto'o, who scored one and won the penalty for the second goal and the forgotten Senegalese star Demba Ba, who came on for the last 13 minutes and scored a brace. Salah will probably find his chances more limited in the coming weeks due to the form of Andre Schurrle, who notched a hat-trick against Fulham and started against Tottenham, while Willian, who's above Salah in the pecking order, dropped to the bench for the second consecutive week.
In Spain, there is non-stop drama as Valladolid, who was 18th in the league table before this game week, managed to shock football fans worldwide as they defeated Barcelona by a single goal in a game that was expected to end in a hugely comfortable win for Messi. Barcelona's defeat meant Atletico Madrid knew that a win over Celta Vigo later the same day would at least take them to second place in the table, which they eventually managed to do. David Villa scored two goals in three minutes to ensure the Capital Club put pressure on their city rivals Real Madrid, who played hosts the following day against Levante. Led by the best player on the planet, Cristiano Ronaldo, Real Madrid started brilliantly and hit the post twice in the first ten minutes before Ronaldo put them ahead with a header. In the second half a Marcelo beauty and an own goal meant Real Madrid stayed top of the table, four points ahead of Barcelona and three above city rivals Atletico Madrid.
In Germany, Bayern Munich destroyed Wolfsburg by beating them by six goals to one. The Bavarian club is already 20 points ahead of the second-placed club, Dortmund. They are not showing any signs of complacence as they continue to hammer their opponents week in week out, bearing in mind they now have scored 11 times in the last two games against the 4th and the 5th of the table. Football pundits and experts around the world have been baffled at Guardiola's motives for taking over a club that won every single trophy last season, placing himself in a situation where he has no chance of bettering the results of Jupp Hynckes, the previous manager. Those same pundits and experts are now praising Guardiola's Bayern every single week as it has become amply clear that the Spanish coach has already taken them to another level. Granting that past years' results cannot be improved upon, yet any football fan watching them this season can easily notice their considerably enhanced performance.
In Italy, Juventus came another step closer to retaining their title as they defeated Fiorentina by a single goal at home, while second-placed team Roma suffered a defeat at the hands of third placed team Napoli who returned back to their winning ways after two draws. Juventus is now 14 points clear of Roma, who still has a game in hand. Even if they managed to collect maximum points from it, the 11-points gap is still too large. Everyone agrees that Roma would need nothing short of a miracle to overcome this huge deficit.
The writer is a freelance journalist.

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