After taking a break for national team action, the La Liga title race commences again this weekend. All the revelant contenders play on Saturday (21:00 CET, 3:00pm EDT). Leaders Real Madrid (72 pts) have a tough game at Real Zaragoza. Barcelona (72 pts) host city rivals Espanyol in a bitter derby battle. And FC Sevilla (70 pts), minus starting strikers Frederic Kanoute and Alexander Kerzhakov, visit mid-table Mallorca.
Real Madrid has their fate in their feet. Win their final 2 games and the title is going to Real for the 30th time. They hold the tiebreaker over Barca based on their better head-to-head results. But both teams have tricky games this Saturday. Real face a scrappy Zaragoza squad that is fighting for a UEFA Cup berth. And Zaragoza is fantastic at home beating Barca 1-0 in April and thrashing Real Madrid 6-1 last year in the Copa del Rey. Barca will be without the suspended Ronaldinho when they battle old foes Espanyol. With no hope of reaching Europe next season and fresh off a heartbreaking loss in the UEFA Cup Final, a loose Espanyol side would relish ending Barca’s attempt at a 3rd straight La Liga title.
Patiently lurking in 3rd is UEFA Cup winners Sevilla. They’ll be missing their top 2 strikers but should prevail against Mallorca. Sevilla is a fantastic team to watch as they play a nice, fluid attacking style. The club has risen to great heights in the past few seasons with consecutive UEFA Cup titles, solid campaigns in La Liga and are finalists in the Copa del Rey (Spanish Cup Final) against Getafe on June 23rd. Hopefully Sevilla can afford to hold onto this talented team as the big clubs will be circling for several of their players this summer.
There are few other sub-plots to La Liga worth mentioning. Red-hot Villarreal has won 7 straight to move 1 point out of the UEFA Cup berths (5/6th place). Earlier this week in training Villarreal’s striker Diego Forlan and midfielder Marcus Senna fought for almost 2 minutes after some heavy tackles. Seems these guys are pumped. Villarreal host relegation-threatened Athletic Bilbao. Bilbao has played over a 100 years of top-flight football and never been relegated. All makes for a very intriguing game on Saturday evening.
Liverpool continues to lock-up their core players as Spanish goalkeeper Jose Reina and Spanish midfielder Xavi Alonso signed new deals. TTL wholeheartely approves of all the recent re-signings but wonders when LP will make a splash in the transfer market.
French international and Olympique Marseille winger Franck Ribery signed a 4-year deal with Bayern Munich. Ribery is a nifty little player who sprang into prominence at the World Cup last year. Thought he’d be going to Arsenal but Bayern ponied up a whopping 26 million Euro transfer fee for Ribery. The German giants are having a busy transfer season as Ribery is their 6th signing so far. Finishing in 4th place in the Bundesliga and not qualifying for the Champions League has spurred Bayern to reload.
Kudos to coacher Bob Bradley for his first “official” win with the USA. The former interim coach guided the USA to a 1-0 win over Guatemala in what most people labelled a boring Gold Cup game. A win is a win. Enjoy the games you play and watch.