Results from last night’s UEFA Cup semis: Osasuna beat holders Sevilla 1-0 and Espanyol shocked Werder Bremen 3-0. Return legs are next Thursday.
Before looking at this weekend’s big domestic matches, let’s salute those fine footballing teams who have already clinched titles. Congrats to French Ligue 1 champs Olmpique Lyon (a swank 6th consecutive title), Scottish Premiership champs Celtic (who else?) and Italian Serie A champs Inter Milan who thrived in a waterdowned league. While Inter certainly played brilliantly in the Serie A this year and finally won some silverware, remember Juventus was trolling in Serie B and AC Milan docked points for their roles in a corruption scandal. Aah, those backhanded swipes at Italian football felt good. Kind of cathartic, like a stiff headbutt to the chest. Now to the games of meaning.
Sunday is the last day in the Dutch Eredivisie and upstarts AZ Alkmaar are prepared to party like its 1981. AZ, PSV Eindhoven (who’ve blown an 11 point lead) and AFC Ajax all have 72 points, but Alkmaar has a significant lead in goal differential meaning a win versus Excelsior gives AZ the title. Since 1965, AZ is the only team besides the big 3 of Ajax, PSV and Feyenoord to have won the Eredivisie (in 1981 ahaha). The Dutch football authorities are taking no chances, bringing replicas of the Kampioenschaal (whew!) trophy to all the pertinent venues on Sunday. But TTL doesn’t see the need as AZ should win and be able to showcase their fun, attacking style of play in the Champions League next year.
In the German Bundesliga there are 4 games remaining and here’s the table. Schalke 04 are favorites to win it, especially considering 3 out of their 4 games are against bottom tier clubs. But those games can be tricky, especially since those lower teams are battling like mad to avoid relegation. Bremen has the team to put pressure on Schalke unless last night’s 3-0 loss in the UEFA semis has dented Bremen’s confidence. Also of note, Bayern Munich lies in 4th place 5 points adrift of Stuggart. Only the top 3 sides qualify for the Champions League, so Bayern is in real danger of missing out for the 1st time in 11 years. No tears here, as always like to see new teams get a chance.
To sunny Spain, where in keeping with the laid-back Mediterranean attitude the Primera Division still has a cool 7 games remaining. The title race is scintillating. Barcelona hosts struggling Levante this weekend while Real Madrid travels to relegation threatened Athletic. Sevilla hosts Espanyol in a possible UEFA Cup Final preview. The real moving and shaking should come next game (May 6th) when Real Madrid battles Sevilla.
Now to the best league in Europe (in TTL’s humble opinion), the English Premiership. Commiserations to Watford who were relegated last week. Great coach and a decent squad but they were not up to the Premiership grind on a weekly basis. They should contend next season in the Championship and possibly get promoted back up. To the top of the table where Man United have a 4 point lead over Chelsea with 4 games to play. Tricky games this weekend as Chelsea hosts Bolton while Man U travel to Everton. TTL predicts Chelsea squeaks out a home win while Man U escapes with a draw. But circle Wednesday, May 9th on your calendar as Chelsea welcomes Man U to Stamford Bridge in the game that will decide it.
Since it is Friday, it is time for the Best of Sports #3. This clip is dedicated to Sri Lanka and Australia who do battle on Sunday in the Cricket World Cup Final. Its an amazing strike from Ruud Van Nistlerooy that capped a team move where 9 Real Madrid players touched the ball (including Ruud on 2 different occasions) with 13 one-touch passes involved. Unfortunately, can’t find the whole build-up but the finish and the Spanish announcing is fantastic.
Have a good weekend and enjoy the games.