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In our latest Monday Spanish soccer post, Mark Elkington in Madrid reviews the situation in La Liga after Real Madrid’s shock 1-0 defeat at home to Sporting Gijon and looks ahead to this week’s Champions League action.
La Liga is Barca’s to lose
In a week when Real Madrid were reported by local media to have vetoed the playing of any Shakira songs in the Bernabeu because of her romance with Barcelona’s Gerard Pique, the Spain defender gained more than ample revenge.
Pique scored the only goal as the leaders survived their toughest remaining game in La Liga this season -– aside from the eagerly-awaited “Clasico” at Real in two weeks time -– volleying in the decider against Champions League qualification-chasing Villarreal.
The 1-0 win at the Madrigal put the champions on 81 points with eight left to play and they moved eight clear of Real, who were upset 1-0 by relegation-threatened Sporting Gijon at home earlier on Saturday.
With all the hype surrounding this week’s Champions League quarter-finals, the events of the weekend seem like a distant memory. Here’s a recap of a fascinating set of results around Europe the past few days.
The first day of the fourth month means April fools day, so we would really love to hear from you if there are any dubious stories doing the rounds.
As the weekend approaches we can all start getting excited about domestic football again and the increase in stories and transfer speculation.
Germany captain Michael Ballack was in the stands to watch his team lose 2-1 to Australia in a friendly on Tuesday, the first time he was present since their World Cup quarter-final win over Argentina last year.
He was in no mood for any chats with reporters, opting to sit back and watch the game, surely knowing that his own international career is quickly drawing to an end.
Now the international period is over we can focus on domestic issues again, or can we?
Tuesday’s matches provided plenty of drama, from the battles Spain and the Netherlands had to fight to get through tricky Euro 2012 qualifiers, to Ghana’s lighting up of London, to Australia’s World Cup revenge against Germany in a friendly.
Spring is here and love should be in the air, but instead all we’re left with is bickering managers.
Fabio Capello and Jose Mourinho are no strangers to controversy, so it’s no surprise to see them at it again, though the timing is odd. Mourinho still has it all to prove at Real Madrid over the next two months, while Capello has yet to truly inspire confidence in England fans.
THE NEW AMERICAN HOPE?
MLS’s odd policy of playing through FIFA international dates meant that the league action was overshadowed by the big friendly in New Jersey, where nearly 80,000 fans watched Bob Bradley’s U.S. team battle to a 1-1 draw against a Lionel Messi inspired Argentina. The U.S team is dominated by players based in Europe but there was a big bright point for MLS when New York Red Bulls teenage striker Juan Agudelo came off the bench to score. Agudelo, who scored on his international debut against South Africa last year and bagged on the opening day of the MLS season last week, is the hottest young talent in MLS and has huge potential. For his sake though, it is hoped that he doesn’t have to endure the premature hype that surrounded the last great American hope in soccer – Freddy Adu. Adu was treated as the American Pele as a teenager but having failed to live up to such ludicrous expectations he has stumbled around Europe and at the age of 21 he has already slumped to the obscurity of the Turkish second division. Agudelo would be well served by a couple of years gaining experience in MLS before he starts thinking about a big move abroad.
One of the interesting things about Agudelo is that he hasn’t come through the old-fashioned college system in the U.S. Born in Colombia, he moved to the States with his family as an eight year old and came through the Red Bulls academy. That surely is the future for soccer in North America – players who come through the college system might get a good all-round education but if they want to be an internationally marketable talent when they are at the key age of 20-21, they need to be playing professional soccer in their teens. The likes of Messi and Wayne Rooney wouldn’t be where they are now if they had been studying social sciences at 21 and playing three or four months out of the year.
In the latest edition of our Monday Spanish soccer blog, Mark Elkington looks at a dispute that threatens the next round of La Liga matches, Spain’s Euro 2012 qualifiers against Czech Republic and Lithuania and the problems affecting second-division leaders Rayo Vallecano.
Many of La Liga’s finest packed their bags and headed off to represent their countries last week while the action in Spain switched from the pitch to the courtroom.