Double figures gap at the top meant that all eyes were on relegation places and Champions league spots. London’s musical chairs for the Champions league spots continued, and Wigan’s first back to back win of the season got them out of the drop zone.
The West London derby on Monday night was a make or break for QPR when they faced Fulham. Berbatov’s brace extended his goal scoring streak to 5 goals in the last 4, and as QPR’s defensive calamity continued, Clint Hill converted the ball into his own net. A Taarabt strike just before half time decreased the difference to 2, Mark Schwazer’s second half performance was the key to Fulham’s win as he saved a Remy penalty, despite the Frenchman scoring a couple of minutes later.Wigan welcomed mid-table Norwich at the DW, where they have only managed 3 home wins this season. The Latics’ hopes for a safe place was fading slowly until Arouna Kone managed to get his 10th goal of the season and prevent another Norwich goalless draw. 3rd place Chelsea went south to St.Mary’s to face Pochettino’s men, Jay Rodriguez gave Southampton the lead, but a John Terry header equalized the score. Rickie Lambert celebrated his 500th game of English football with a stunning free kick, which saw the Saints beating Chelsea at home for the first time since November 2000.
Tottenham had to travel to the Liberty to face Michael Laudrup’s Swansea. Gareth Bale, who participated in 81% of Tottenham’s last 11 goal, had a major role yet again, after he grabbed his 17th goal of the campaign and assisted another to steal 3rd place from the Blues . A consolation goal from Michu ended his 4 match drought, but wasn’t enough for the Jack Army. Arsenal hosted bottom of the league Reading, who secured only 5 away points this season. Gervinho’s opener was only the beginning for Nigel Adkins’ side, 3 more from Santi, Giroud and Arteta saw Arsenal clinching their 5th win in the last 6 games.
Liverpool‘s trip to Villa Park was a tough one, as Aston Villa slided back to the drop zone due to Wigan’s result. Aston Villa took the initiative through a Benteke volley, to record the Belgian’s 8th in his last 9 matches. Villa’s inexperienced defense led to a Liverpool win, after two goals from Jordan Henderson and Steven Gerrard respectively. Sunderland’s horrific displays continued when they entertained top of the league Manchester United at the Stadium of Light. United’s winning streak elevated to the number 7, after Robin Van Persie’s shot was deflected off Titus Bramble to go past Simon Mignolet. Newcastle traveled to the Etihad to face 2nd place Manchester City, who have a 100% record in the last 6 encounters between the two teams. City thrashed the Toons with 4 goals through Tevez, Silva, Kompany and a Perch own goal, to keep Newcastle in 15th place, 3 points away from the danger zone.
Sam Allardyce’s West Ham entertained West Brom at Upton Park, a brace from Andy Carroll and a fine shot from Gary O’Neil increased the Hammers points tally to 36, but a soft penalty which was translated by Graham Dorrans, prevented them from their 9th clean sheet. Stoke City had to go to Goodison Park to face a depleted Everton side, which missed the efforts of Pienaar and Fellaini due to suspension. However, the Belgian flag was still flying high through Kevin Mirallas, whose goal separated both sides at full time.
Player to watch:
Philippe Coutinho’s arrival at Liverpool never raised a question, the number 10 Brazilian participates in a goal every 70.4 minute. The ex-Vasco da Gama player will try to impress the Kop end when Liverpool host West Ham next week.
It was definitely the match of the day when Torino hosted Napoli, with 8 goals and 2 penalties in the process. Dzemaili grabbed his first hat-trick in Serie A, to become the 4th player in Serie A to score a hat-trick in an away match this season, scoring against his former team in 2009. Hamsik missed a penalty for Napoli before Cavani scored a brace to secure all 3 points for the visitors and to secure his place as Serie A’s top scorer with 22 goals. Napoli now have 59 points, 9 points less than Serie A leaders Juventus. It was a goalless draw when Atalanta hosted Sampdoria at the Stadio Atleti Azzurri d’Italia in Bergamo. Atalanta’s Stefano Lucchin will miss the next match after receiving a red card just 10 minutes before the final whistle. Sampdoria still have a game in hand against Inter Milan.
Juventus looked for a payback against Inter Milan, the team that ended their 49 unbeaten streak back on November 3rd. Goals from Fabio Quagliarella and Matri ensured they got their payback, with only a consolation goal to Inter Milan from Palacio. Just with the final whistle, Esteban Cambiasso picked up his 1st red card in 277 Serie A games after a brutal tackle on Sebastian Giovinco, to sum up Inter’s shaky performance on the day.It was an easy mission for the home side when Parma hosted Pescara,who have the worst defense in Serie A, conceding 61 so far. Pescara stay at the bottom of the table with 21 points with almost a sure chance of being in Serie B next season, while Parma climb to the middle of the table with 38 points.
Fiorentina were hoping to take all 3 points home and take one more step to the Champions League spots when they visited Cagliari. However, Mauricio Ricardo Pinilla had another opinion when he scored a brace for the home side. Juan Cuadrado grabbed a consolation goal for the visitors. Cagliari rise to the 11th place in the table with 38 points while Fiorentina remain in 4th place. Both Genoa and Siena were looking forward to snatch all 3 points and escape from the relegation zone but they had to settle for a 2-2 draw.
It was a dramatic end when Lazio hosted Catania at the Olimpico in Roma. Mariano Julio Izco gave the visitors a lead but Lazio turned the table around in 3 minutes thanks to an own goal from Nicola Legrottaglie and a penalty taken by Antonio Candreva. AC Milan clinched a not so easy win when they visited Chievo. It was an average match due to the poor pitch but that didn’t stop Ricardo Montolivo from scoring his 4th league goal in the first half against Chievo, his favorite target in Serie A. Milan stay in 3rd place.
Roma were eager to continue their run of 5 unbeaten matches when they visited Palermo. However thanks to goals from Fabricio Miccoli and Ilicic, Palermo secured 3 points for the home side. This win will give Palermo a glimpse of hope to stay in Serie A next season, who are currently in the 19th position with 24 points. It was another goalless draw at the Stadio Communale Friuli in Udine when Udinese hosted Bologna. Both teams couldn’t break the match and secure the 3 points. However, Udinese had a chance to do so in the 66th minute when Roberto Pereyra earned a penalty but Di Natale was denied by a fine save by Bologna keeper just to keep things leveled.
Player To Watch:
Blerim Dzemaili (Napoli): The 26 year old Swiss scored 4 goals this season; however 3 goals came this week vs Torino in an away match. Dzemaili could have a great role in securing the 2nd place and a direct Champions League spot for Napoli along with his teammates Marek Hamsik and Edison Cavani.
Deportivo moved within one point of their rivals at the bottom of La Liga with a 3-2 away victory over Mallorca in a relegation six-pointer at the Iberostar Stadium. Though the hosts started scoring through Victor Casadesus, the visitors turned the table with 3 goals through Silvio, Carlos Marchena and Riki. Emilio Nsue squeezed home from a yard with four minutes to go to make it 3-2, but the damage had already been done and Deportivo escaped with the points. Celta, the 3rd team in the relegation zone, had to host Barcelona this week. Celta certainly proved themselves to be no pushovers however, and took a lead in the 38th minute through a close range Natxo Insa strike that reflected a truly encouraging first half display. Barca responded just before the interval, as Messi set up Tello for a splendidly taken equaliser, before converting the 21-year old forward’s pass in the 73rd minute to seemingly put the visitors on their way to all three points. With this goal, Messi has now plundered goals against every team in the league during his 19-game incredible scoring streak. However, with one minute remaining, Borja Oubina rose highest to head home the tying goal to deny the Blaugrana victory, though they still hold a 13 point lead at the top of the table.
With their goal keeper Courtois being the man of the match, Atletico Madrid managed to secure a point from their encouter against against their sixth-placed opponents Valencia at the Vicente Caldero. The visitors went ahead through Jonas early on, but were soon pegged back by Los Rojiblancos as Radamel Falcao equalised with a neatly-taken volley shortly after. Ernesto Valverde’s team had 12 shots at goal in the first half but were thwarted on a number of occasions by some inspired goalkeeping from the on-loan Thibaut Courtois. With a 1-1 home draw, Atletico failed to take the advantage of Real Madrid‘s draw against Zaragaoza at the La Romareda. On-loan Barcelona B player Rodri gave the hosts the perfect start as Los Merengues struggled to get a foothold in the game. Cristiano Ronaldo managed to net an equaliser before the break with his 28th league strike of the season but they could not find another in a lacklustre second. Los Blancos failed to close the gap at the top of La Liga making this season title just a matter of time for the Blaugrana.
Real Sociedad stretched their Liga unbeaten run to 11 games with a hard-fought 2-2 draw with Espanyol at Estadio Cornella-El Prat. Sergio Garcia gave the home side a 1-0 lead after nine minutes but the advantage did not last long though, as the visitors equalised midway through the half through David Zurutuza. Javier Aguirre’s team restored their lead through Christian Stuani but Sociedad hit back in fortuitous fashion 14 minutes from the end when Espanyol’s Javi Lopez turned the ball past his own goalkeeper. The draw allowed Sociedad to preserve their impressive form and stay one point ahead of Malaga in the fourth place. Malaga in turn gained their 3 points through 3 goals in Rayo Vallecano’s net. Julio Baptista made his 1st goal for one-and-a-half years along with Weligton and Morales for Malaga while Piti scored Rayo’s only goal through a penalty.
A solitary strike from Ruben Garcia gave Levante their first win since the end of January as Juan Ignacio Martinez’s outfit came out narrow 1-0 winners over Sevilla at Ciutat de Valencia. Sevilla probed for an equaliser, but the home side held on for the win, which takes them above their opponents in the table. The other Andalusian team, Betis, went out with a goalless game against Getafe sharing out the spoils at the Benito Villamarin.
Osasuna distanced themselves from the relegation zone with a 3-1 comeback win over Real Valladolid. Both sides looked relatively comfortable in the opening few minutes, but Valladolid took the lead on 11 minutes thanks to an unfortunate own goal from Ruben Gonzalez. Osasuna’s great come back in the 2nd half was enough to guarantee the 3 points, thanks to De las Cuevas and Kike Sola who scored a brace. Athletic Bilbao secured a 1-0 victory over Granada 1-0 at the San Mames, thanks to Aduriz who scored in the 67th minute keeping Granada in danger in the coming fixtures.
Player to watch:
Atletico Madrid’s goal keeper Thibaut Courtois is our player to watch for this week. The on-loan goal keeper showed a great performance this week, thwarting about 12 shots in Valencia’s match allowing his team to get out of the match with a point which could help in the 2nd place competition against Real Madrid in the coming few weeks.
Champions League Preview:
Can les Parisiens re-create the 1995 quarterfinal? Or does Messi have another opinion? Barcelona will travel to the Parc des Princes to face Paris St. Germain tonight with Tito back on the bench, but Xavi and Jordi Alba are doubtful albeit training on Monday night. Ibrahimovic’s suspension was reduced, which allows him to play. Juventus‘ trip to Germany to face Bayern Munich doesn’t include any fresh injuries, Mirko Vucinic who missed the win at the San Siro is included, also Giovinco who picked up a knock in the same match. Bayern’s 9-2 thrashing against Hamburg didn’t secure the league mathematically but could prove to be a major boost.
Borussia Dortmund‘s european trip continues as they hit the road to La Rosaleda, to face Malaga. Hummels is sure to miss the encounter, but Marcel Schmelzer’s broken nose won’t prevent him from playing, Eliseu’s still out for Malaga. The tournaments top scorers Burak Yilmaz(9) and Cristiano Ronaldo (8) go head to head, as Real Madrid host Galatasary on Wednesday night, with the last encounter dating to a 2001 quarterfinal which ended in a 3-0 home win for Real Madrid.