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April 12, 2010

Chelsea and Barcelona both a little closer

In a dramatic weekend in both England’s Premier League and Spain’s La Liga, Chelsea and FC Barcelona both emerged just a little closer to winning their respective titles. Chelsea, who, ironically, were involved in FA Cup semi-final action, cemented their place at the top of the table when Manchester United failed to break down Blackburn’s strong home record at Ewood Park and played out a goalless draw.

Missing the cutting edge provided by the injured Wayne Rooney, Manchester United enjoyed by far the majority of the possession against Rovers but were unable to muster more than a couple of genuine chances to win the game. It has not been a good couple of weeks for Sir Alex Ferguson’s team and they will be desperate for three points in next Sunday’s vital derby with Manchester City.

The form of the Eastlands’ team, however, suggests that the task of defeating them might be easier said than done. Following last week’s mauling of Burnley, City comprehensively outplayed a Birmingham side that has been difficult to break down all season. Goals from Tevez, from the penalty spot, followed by two each from Onuoha and Adebayor mean that Roberto Mancini’s men appear to be hot favourites for the vital fourth Champions’ League spot.

All the other Premier League games played on Sunday finished goalless -not just the fixture at Blackburn but also the matches between Liverpool and Fulham and Wolves and Stoke. If the game at Anfield was, as most English supporters hope, a dress rehearsal for the final of the Europa League competition, then it could be a very drab affair! Liverpool, who began the game not only without talisman Fernando Torres but also the twin threats of Benayoun and Kuyt, rarely looked capable of opening up a stubborn Fulham side.

Saturday’s two league games both had great significance for the bottom of the table. West Ham’s one goal win over Sunderland, thanks to the second consecutive strike from Brazilian Ilan, probably takes them to one victory away from safety. Much more surprising was Burnley’s 4 – 1 success at Hull – a victory which took the visitors ahead of Hull in the table and really pulled the home side deep into the relegation struggle. It all looked highly unlikely when Kevin Kilbane gave Hull an early lead and, indeed, for the first 30 minutes Burnley looked destined for another big defeat. However, goals from Paterson, Elliott and two penalties from captain Graham Alexander, ensured that Burnley perhaps stand a chance of catching up Wigan – just 4 points ahead at the moment.

The table, then, shows Chelsea lead the way with 74 points from 33 matches, followed by Manchester United (73 from 34), Arsenal (71 from 33), Manchester City (62 from 33), Spurs (58 from 32), Liverpool (56 from 34) and Aston Villa ( 54 from 32). Arsenal, though, could overtake Manchester United if they win their local derby against Spurs this week.

Portsmouth are now officially relegated (14 points from 33 games), Burnley and Hull both have 27 points (34 and 33 games respectively) and Wigan and West Ham have 31 points from 33 and 34 games.

The FA Cup semi-finals at Wembley ended up with two very contrasting matches. Saturday’s meeting between Chelsea and Aston Villa finished with the holders winning by three clear goals. A couple of crucial refereeing decisions went against Villa but once Drogba had opened the scoring with his 32nd goal of the season, Chelsea cruised home comfortably – the extra goals coming from Malouda and Lampard.

Sunday’s game had little in common – other than the dreadful quality of the Wembley playing surface which really must be addressed urgently by the football authorities. Overwhelming favourites Tottenham completely dominated the game – 20 corners and 31 goal attempts – and yet Portsmouth kept a clean sheet thanks to totally committed defending and then snatched two breakaway goals during extra time – Piquionne and a penalty from Kevin Prince Boateng. An intriguing final awaits at Wembley on May 15th.

La Liga

The eagerly awaited clasico between Real Madrid and Barcelona finished with a two goal victory for the visitors – ruining Real’s 100% home record and giving Pep Guardiola his fourth consecutive victory in the fixture. The Barcelona coach caused a pre-match shock by selecting full back Dani Alves as a front man instead of the injured Ibrahimovich. The goals were scored by Messi and Pedro – both being set up by the incomparable Xavi Hernández. Both goalkeepers, Valdéz and Casillas, made good saves and both sides might have had penalties but Real can have few complaints about the final score. Although there are still 7 league games remaining, Barcelona are now in a very strong position to hold on to their title.

Mallorca came out on top of the odd goal in five at home to Valencia, thus capping off a bad week for the Ches, who had their goalkeeper César to thank for staying in the game for so long. Valencia still look very secure in third place, however.

In the other games, Sevilla had an important 2 – 1 success at Málaga and Villarreal continued their good run with a single goal victory over Sporting. Atlético’s European exertions showed in a very dispirited 3 – 0 defeat at Espanyol and the biggest margin of victory came in Bilbao where Athletic defeated Almería by 4 goals to 1. Osasuna beat Zaragoza by two goals, Getafe had a one goal margin over Xerez and the games between Tenerife and Valladolid and Deportivo and Racing finished all square.

Barcelona, therefore, now have 80 points from their 31 matches, followed by Real Madrid (77), Valencia (56), Sevilla and Mallorca (51), Athletic (48) and Villarreal (46). The bottom three places seem to have been the same for months now – and Xerez, Tenerife and Valladolid remain well adrift and doomed to the Second Division A next year.

Posted by admin @ 9:30 am
Category: Premier League,Spanish League

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