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Mind-blowing action
Published in Al-Ahram Weekly on 06 - 05 - 2014

This week saw a repeat of exhilarating play as Atletico Madrid, Real Madrid and Barcelona all fail to win for the first time this season. Being up for relatively easy games, the three were expected to collect maximum points with minimum effort. The 36th gameweek started with Atletico Madrid on top with 88 points, Barcelona second with 84 points and Real Madrid third with 82 points with a game in hand. Barcelona hosted 17th-placed Getafe in a game that was expected to witness a flood of goals from Messi and Co. However, the brave visitors fighting for survival managed to come back twice from behind to salvage a point at Camp Nou, much to the shock of both home fans and players.
A win for Atletico Madrid the following day against Levante would have pronounced Barcelona out of the title race and would have boosted Atletico's chances of clinching the unlikely triumph. However, a more shocking result took place as Levante stunned the league leaders who had just reached the Champions League final at the expense of Mourinho's Chelsea and defeated them by two goals to nothing. The result meant Real Madrid entered their home game against Valencia knowing a win in this game and another win in their postponed game will take them level on points with Atletico Madrid with two games to go, which means they will firmly be in the race for the title.
However, the team that just tormented the best team in the world, Bayern Munich, away from home, defeating them by four goals to nothing, were nowhere near their best and had 90 minutes to forget. Valencia took the lead twice and, if not for Munich heroes, Ramos and Ronaldo, who scored a last-minute world-class goal, Barcelona would have led the race once again. Ronaldo's magnificent back heel goal meant Real Madrid may need a favour from Barcelona in the last game of the season. Barcelona will host Atletico knowing that if they got any points from the game and Real Madrid won, Ronaldo and Co will be crowned. The shocking results this week reminded us that nothing is impossible in football.
In England, Liverpool fans were hoping their local rivals, Everton, would do them a favour from their game against Man City. Their hopes were crushed when Man City managed to win by three goals to two to go top for the first time in more than three months. Liverpool are yet to play this week, as they travel to London to face Crystal Palace later this week aiming to collect the three points. They are no doubt praying for a miracle to happen in Man City's final two games of the season against Aston Villa and West Ham, both at home. Man City is one of the strongest teams in the world when playing at home, rarely wasting points when they host teams at Etihad Stadium.
If both Liverpool and Man City win all their remaining games, Man City will win the league on goal difference for the second time in three years, much to the agony of Liverpool fans who thought their dream came closer than ever until they lost to Chelsea at home. Mohamed Salah's Chelsea are out of the title race as they drew 0-0 against Norwich at home in a game that saw Salah start and play for the first half, then get replaced as Mourinho brought on Hazard in place of him at half time after a weak game by the Egyptian star. Salah's teammates failed to find a breakthrough against Norwich's stubborn defense and the game ended in a 0-0 draw, which meant that Norwich are on the verge of relegation. Salah's game was below par during his time on the pitch, not managing to test the goalkeeper at all.
In Italy, Roma lost to Catania by four goals to one, which meant Juve officially retained the title without even playing this week. Roma has now played 36 games and collected 85 points, while Juve has secured 93 points from 35 games. To be honest, even though Juventus clinched the title as early as in the 35th week, this was possibly one of the best seasons Italian football has witnessed in the last five or six years, as we saw teams like Roma and Napoli testing Juventus over the course of the season. Congratulations to Conte and his brilliant team.
In France, PSG will probably clinch the title this week as they host Rennes, knowing a win will officially crown them for another season to achieve back-to-back league titles. PSG has just won the French Cup, defeating Lyon 2-1 in the final thanks to an Edinson Cavani brace as Ibrahimovic missed the game through injury. A domestic double just shows how far this team has gone in the last three years, thanks to some extraordinary signings, such as those of Ibrahimovic, Cavani, Lavezzi, Veratti and Cabaye.
The writer is a freelance journalist

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