A quick run down of where we’re at in the big four after this weekend:
English Premier League
So the biggest headlines may have been about Wayne Rooney saying a few naughty words in front of a TV camera, but that covered up what looks like being potentially the most important weekend of the Premier League. Man Utd’s four-goal, second half response to two first half West Ham penalties puts Fergie’s men in pole position to regain the title from the blue half of London – as Arsenal and Chelsea both only managed draws against Blackburn and Stoke respectively. Arsene Wenger’s side now lie seven points behind the leaders, albeit with a winnable game in hand and a home encounter with the Red Devils to come. On paper (by which I mean one of those predictor websites) Arsenal could still manage to upset the applecart and clinch the title – Man Utd have the harder run in – but judging by how Wenger’s ‘boys’ (used in the strictest sense) have coped since that Wembley defeat it seems highly unlikely, whilst Chelsea’s result this weekend rules out any chance of a miracle comeback.
Further down the table, West Brom are surely on the road to survival under Roy Hodgon as he got one over on his former employees (and backseat driver), Birmingham should green shoots of recovery after suffering similar ill effects to Arsenal from the Wembley final, Wigan are still clawing away at any last glimpse of a point at the bottom, while Blackpool and Wolves – despite their season form clearly being worthy of mid-table comfort come May – stare precariously at Championship football next season after heavy defeats to Newcastle and Man City respectively. It’ll be a tight run in-and one feels the final-day Wolves v Blackburn fixture could be key to who plays where next season.
Key fixture next weekend: Blackpool v Arsenal, Saturday
Spanish Primera Division
Let’s pretend we’re interested in the rest of the league for the moment, as we marvel at Brazillian striker Diego Costa’s hat-trick to gift Atletico a 3-2 away win at Osasuna on Sunday. That wasn’t enough to outshine Valencia’s ex-Real Madrid striker Roberto Soldado, who went one better, scoring four to not only gain his side a 4-2 away win, but at his former side Getafe, and giving his team some space in third place, sitting as they now do three points ahead of Villarreal. The Yellow Submarine, of course, met their maker, albeit stubbornly, as they fell at the foot of Gerard Pique in a 1-0 home defeat to Barcelona.
The big news in Spain came on Saturday evening at the Bernabeu, as Real Madrid lost 1-0 to Sporting Hee-Haw, the sound a million Barca fans made no doubt as Jose Mourinho reflected on his first home league defeat in nine years, spanning four clubs. Impressive stuff. Not so impressive are the eight points that now lie between the big two in Spain. Jose could have done with a couple of those Soldado goals this weekend. It looks like he will be focussing all his efforts on the Champions League for the rest of the season – which can’t be good news for Spurs.
Key fixture next weekend: Valencia v Villarreal, Sunday
Italian Serie A
So much for the Milan derby to end them all – AC took the spoils in a dominant 3-0 win over Inter, including goals in the 1st and 89th minute for good measure. Another derby for Leonardo, another defeat, but importantly just maybe we’ll have a new name on the Serie A title this season. But will it be Milan’s? Napoli are hot on their heals, after a highly entertaining 4-3 win over Lazio. The Naples side found themselves 2-0 down, before Uruguayan and surely Galactico-in-making Edinson Cavani netted his 23rd, 24th and 25th goals of the season, keeping his (loan) side three points behind AC Milan.
Elsewhere a disappointing Juventus overcame a disappointing Roma 2-0, in a battle of two former greats now finding themselves disappointingly slugging it out for a disappointing Champions League play off spot, which both teams will likely fail to even achieve. Add to that a couple of standard Italian sackings, as Palermo went back begging to their last manager Delio Rossi (himself sacked in February), while Parma contemplate a move for former striker and all-round-good-egg Gianfranco Zola.
Key fixture next weekend: Fiorentina v AC Milan, Sunday
After one point from six in their last two games Borussia Dortmund threatened allowing Leverkusen and Bayern Munich back into the frame to make the end of the German season something-near exciting. Alas a 4-1 win over Hannover this weekend sees the young, talented side back on course for their first title in nine years. Leverkusen and Bayern kept their side of the bargain though, both winning 1-0 respectively in the hope another bad patch of form hits the Black Yellows over the remaining six games; if not, there’s always the Champions League next season…
Key fixture next weekend: Hamburg v Borussia Dortmund, Saturday