Real Madrid supporters are electrified as their club finds itself at the top of La Liga, now edging Barcelona on goal difference, after a spectacular injury time victory at the Bernabeu against Sevilla. Milan’s visit to Roma ended just the way Inter wanted it, but it did not matter – another scoreless draw meant Mourinho’s men could not take advantage of the opportunity against Genoa. Juventus extended Fiorentina’s painful streak to keep pace with Palermo, while Napoli dropped all the points in play at Bologna. In South America, Independiente efficient win against River Plate will be remembered most for the spectacular performance of Independiente’s hinchada throughout the match.
Sevilla’s match against Real Madrid featured so many great players that anticipation loomed large. In the end, expectations were exceeded. Sevilla did not play remarkably well and seemed short of ideas for stretches of the match, yet nevertheless was sitting on a two goal lead an hour into the match. The minutes of relaxation proved lethal, as always, as Madrid struck quickly in a span of five minutes. The two goal lead evaporated fast. From there, Sevilla bravely resisted the rest of the way, while Madrid attacked from every angle with urgency. The Andalucians survived and even had a chance to take all the points, but in injury time the resistance broke. Higuain, who tormented Sevilla all night, was directly involved in the winner. It was a deserved win for the Merengues who pressed throughout the match and never slowed down for a draw.
The body language of the Madrid players at the end was joyful, but indicated “we are just getting started, we are not a final product yet, wait ’til you see what’s coming.” It’s clear to see why. While Barca is passing through a bumpy road, Madrid’s explosive offense was fully calibrated once again. At times Cristiano Ronaldo seems unstoppable, creating havoc through a combination of athleticism, technique, ingenuity and power. His play opens spaces for everyone around him. Kaka did not have a memorable game, but Van der Vaart did. Higuain, Marcelo, Sergio Ramos, all of them are playing with tremendous confidence now. Lyon comes next, in a tough Champions League second leg. Failure to advance would be ruinous for Madrid.
Barca in the meantime had a very hard time at Almeria. A Puyol own goal, an Ibra red card, a gritty Almeria all put the Catalans in deficiency not once but twice. Messi saved the day and a point. Not a disaster, it was a hard away point earned, but the ominous signs are worrisome for Guardiola. Barca has plenty of time to get into a groove before the Madrid encounter, but first must take on Valencia without Zlatan and assure its passage in the Champions League. Henry has a good opportunity to step in.
Roma – Milan ended with a fierce John Arne Riise cannon turned away by Abbiati. It was a match with few clear goal scoring opportunities that sent everyone home feeling unfulfilled. Relief came 24 hours later when Inter split the points with Genoa at home. That’s four draws in the last five matches for Inter, three of them scoreless, two at home against the teams from Genova. Inter is once again counting on direct adversaries to slip, rather than taking charge of the Scudetto race with conviction, adding to it detractors. The road ahead is tough and Milan and Roma must like their chances going forward.
A loss to Juventus, at home no less, is devastating to Fiorentina’s people. But so it went. The Tuscan club, visibly short of firepower, will now have to generate its best game possible to salvage the last remaining objective in play this season: advancing in the Champions League against a strong Bayern Munich. For Juve, the winning feeling is back, along with a sense of stability around the club, both attributed to the arrival of new coach Zacherroni. Juve is in a race with Palermo, Napoli and Sampdoria for the coveted, final Champions League spot. Lazio lost again, the club’s crisis deepening. It should be a dramatic spring at both ends of the Serie A table.
In Argentina, Racing Club de Avellaneda produced a great surprise for its long suffering supporters, winning away at Boca. Velez Sarfield lost at Argentinos Jrs. The match of the week tooK place at the Stadio des Libertadores, between Independiente and visiting River Plate. Spectacular choreography and incessant chanting provided the magical atmosphere experienced only in Buenos Aires. The match itself? Independiente created three opportunities throughout the match and capitalized on two. River created the same and capitalized on none. It seems increasingly like this is Independiente’s title run. Not a dominant side, but the elements and the luck have been there thus far. Still a long way to go.