The eyes of the world were focused on Barcelona on Sunday, and the stars on the field did not disappoint. Messi had a brilliant assist on a free kick that set up the opening goal. He put the ball perfectly into the penalty area and Mathieu headed the ball past Casillas. Neymar had a great chance to double the lead, but the ball hit off his knee and into the arms of Casillas. On the ensuing counter attack, Modric played in Benzema, who back heeled the ball into the path of Ronaldo, who poked the ball into the net. We were now level on the score sheet. A couple minutes later, Bale had the ball in the back of the net, but it was ruled to be offsides. While Bale was not offsides, Ronaldo was when the initial ball came in and since he flicked it on the correct call was made. The game was rough and chippy and looked set to be a back and forth contest. In the second half, Dani Alves played a great pass over the top for Suarez to run onto. He beat Pepe and Ramos to the ball and took one touch to create space before he beat Casillas and scored what would be the game winner. Barcelona held on to win the game 2-1. They are now 4 points ahead of Real Madrid with just 10 games to go. Looking at both of their run-ins, Real Madrid has it easier than Barcelona. Both teams have trips to Sevilla and Espanyol and host Valencia. The big difference between the schedules is that Barcelona has a trip to Madrid left to face Atletico de Madrid. This is on the penultimate day of the season and could play a big role in who wins the title.
In England, all of the action focused on Anfield and the huge match for fourth place between Manchester United and Liverpool. The game was fast paced with action all over the pitch. Ander Herrera made a splitting pass to put Mata in on goal to open the scoring in the first half. The game completely changed 48 seconds into the second half when Steven Gerrard was sent off for a stamp on Herrera. Liverpool would now have to climb back into the game with just 10 men. Mata added a second with probably a goal of the year contender, when Angel Di Maria chipped a pass over the defense and Mata meet the ball with a sublime overhead kick. Sturridge would give Liverpool hope when he beat De Gea to the near post, but it was too little too late. Rooney had a chance to make it 3-0, but his penalty was brilliantly saved by Mignolet. United are now 5 points clear in the race for fourth place and can set their sights on finishing even higher than that.
Elsewhere in England, Chelsea needed a late goal from Loic Remy to beat Hull 3-2. They took an early 2-0 lead, but the Tigers were able to peg their way back in the first half. Everton beat QPR to give themselves some breathing room at the bottom end of the table. Tottenham needed a Harry Kane hat trick to beat Leicester 4-3. Southampton beat Burnley 2-0. Arsenal dominated the first half and took a 2-0 lead into the half, but Newcastle came to play in the second half and nearly equalized. Arsenal were able to hold on to a 2-1 victory. Manchester City were aided by an early red card that was a case of mistaken identity as the wrong man was sent off. City went on to cruise to an easy 3-0 win.
In France, we have a new team at the top of the table. PSG beat Lorient on Friday 3-1 to jump to the top. They stayed there when Eysseric scored the 86th minute winner for Nice. Despite playing the majority of the second half with just 10 men, Nice were able to beat Lyon 2-1. Marseille kept pace with the top two as they beat Lens 4-0. Monaco was also able to keep up, as they beat Stade Reims 3-1. The race for the top spot has really tightened up since PSG have just a 1 point lead on Lyon and are only 2 points up on Marseille. Monaco are just 4 points away from the top 3.
In Italy, Sampdoria jumped into the top 4 when they beat Inter Milan 1-0. Napoli are now in 5th place, since they drew 1-1 with Atalanta. Fiorentina also drew 2-2 with Udinese. Lazio put some distance between themselves and fourth place as they beat Verona 2-0. Roma finally got back to winning ways,beating Cesena 1-0. Lazio are only one point behind Roma and could catch them in the weeks to come. Juventus maintained their 14 point lead at the top with their 1-0 win over Genoa.
In Germany, Monchengladbach got the result of the weekend when they beat Bayern Munich 2-0 in Munich. This was Munich’s second loss of the season and first defeat at home in 11 months. Wolfsburg failed to capitalize on Munich’s loss as they drew 1-1 with Mainz. Bayer Leverkusen strengthened their position in 4th place with a 1-0 win at Schalke. This now means that there are 6 points between them. Augsburg lost 2-0 at Freiburg, so they are 7 points out of the Champions League places. The top four spots may be set with just 8 games left to play.
Elsewhere in Spain, Valencia continued their great run of form when they beat Elche 4-0. Atletico Madrid also won to keep pace when they beat cross-town rivals Getafe 2-0. Sevilla remained just 4 points behind Atleti when they beat Villarreal for the third time in two weeks. Valencia are now just 4 points behind Real Madrid and one point ahead of Atleti. It should be a fascinating race to the end of the season, as all of the top four teams have matches against each other still to go.
This week we have an International Break. Looking at the schedule for the week and weekend here are some of the games that I feel might be worth a watch. On Wednesday, Denmark hosts the United States and Germany plays Australia. Thursday the big game is France against Brazil. Friday sees European Qualifying begin. Spain host Ukraine and England hosts Lithuania. On Saturday, Netherlands host Turkey, Belgium hosts Cyprus, and Italy travels to Bulgaria. Argentina plays El Salvador in a friendly match. Brazil host Chile on Sunday as Portugal hosts Serbia. The World Cup Champs travel to Georgia on Sunday in their European Championship qualifying match.
Enjoy the break from the action for the week and watch some International matches.