New week coming up (at least for those who go back to work on Sunday) and a new tradition – recapping the major leagues in Europe and picking our performer of the day. If you put your mouse on the picture, you can guess who it is. So, after we’re through with the introduction, let’s get down to business.
English Premiership / FA Cup Semi Final
We begin our tour with the best league in European soccer right now, the English Premier League, but not with league play.
Arsenal and Chelsea clashed at Wembley playing for the right to appear in the FA Cup final this afternoon. Chelsea came out on top despite going behind early on to a Theo Walcott goal 18 minutes into the game. Chelsea didn’t go into shock and grabbed the equalizer 15 minutes later with a goal from Florent Malouda.
The Blues went on to dominate the gunners throughout the match and got the goal they deserved 6 minutes from the end from Didier Drogba who is just in lethal form of late, probably thanks to his new coach. Chelsea go on to their second final in three years. They won it last time around.
None of the Top 4 took part of league play as Man United play Everton tomorrow in the second semi final while Liverpool wait for Arsenal on Tuesday.
We did have some important games regarding the relegation battle. Stoke defeated Blackburn at home 1-0 as Liam Lawrence scored in the second half to put Stoke 8 points above relegation and pretty much safe for another Premiership season. Blackburn on the other hand are in deep trouble.
Portsmouth beat Bolton 1-0 from the legs of veteran Kanu while Sunderland beat Hull City 1-0 as well with a goal from Djibril Cisse but both teams aren’t safe yet. Boro drew 0-0 at home to Fulham, keeping them under the red line at 18th but Newcastle, placed 19th have a game in hand.
Aston Villa and West Ham finished their game with a one all draw, as Diego Tristan scored a late equalizer for The Hammers after Heskey put Villa in front 11 minutes into the game. The draw means Villa will probably have to give up their Champions League dream for next season.
Tottenham host Newcastle in a game which means the world to the visitors from up north while Man City host WBA. Man City are coming off their UEFA cup exit and need a win so they don’t get caught up in relegation battles for the last month of the season.
Spanish La Liga
The main interest in the Spanish first division was of course the Real Madrid chasing Barcelona and hoping for Los Cules to slip up in the earlier game. Like in recent weeks, the status quo was maintained. Barca played in Getafe and won 1-0 from a Lionel Messi goal, putting the pressure on Real who played immediately afterward against Recreativo Heulva. The Champions did their job and also grabbed a 1-0 victory from the legs of Brazilian Marcelo.
Deportivo won in Bilbao and Atletico Madrid won 3-0 at home against Numancia to keep both teams in the race for Champions League place while waiting for Valencia and Villareal to play today and hope they both drop points.
The Bottom in Spain is on fire with all teams positions 20-10 in the mix. Mallorca was the only one of those teams to get points today, with a 1-1 draw at Malaga.
Italian Serie A
Only 2 games in Italy on Saturday, but one of those was the Derby d’Italia with Juventus playing hosts to Inter Milan and hoping of winning to keep some chance of catching up with the league leaders who lead them by 10 points. They didn’t, but they managed to grab an equalizer in injury time to end the game at 1-1.
Inter grabbed the lead in the 64th minute through young phenom Mario Balotelli and despite Juventus playing with 10 men from the 76th minute (Tiago was sent off) their Czech defender, Zdenek Grygera managed to grab the late equalizer and keeping the lead at 10 and the distance between them and third place Milan at 3 points.
Lazio beat Genoa at Genova 1-0 with Mauro Zarate continuing his good form and winning it for Lazio. This goal kept Lazio’s hopes of a Champions League place alive and also helped Fiorentina and AS Roma with the same cause in their chase after fourth placed Genoa. A Fiorentina win in Udinese today will put them at fourth.
French Ligue 1
The Main Focus in the French League on Saturday was Tolouses’ visit to Grenoble in their attempt to catch up with Marseille, Lyon and Bordeaux. Unfortunately for them, Grenoble needed a win to keep clear of the relegation zone and won 1-0 from a Laurent Courtois penalty kick. Tolouse are now 5 points below Marseille and a game more, but with the craziness this year in France you never know. Bordeaux host Lyon today in huge game with huge implication on the title race so it’s still anyone’s game.
Marseille, coming off a home defeat to Shakhtar in the UEFA Cup, play today at Lorient, a very tough outing against a very unpredictable team.
Elsewhere Nantes beat Nice 2-0 to help their cause of surviving another season in the top division ( Bagayoko, Bekamenga). St Etienne drawing 0-0 at home against Lille which kept them at 19th and Sochaux losing at home to Auxerre (Kahlenberg) helped Nantes as well.
The Craziest league in Europe this season produces our performer of the day, but first, the Top 2. Wolfsburg had Leverkusen pay a visit to their fortress (Undefeated at home this season) and stayed top of the league for another week with Grafite scoring two, reaching 22 goals this season, a league best. Wolfsburg won 2-1.
Bayern kept their place at second with Luca Toni scoring for them to come away with a 1-0 against Armenia Bielefeld. Hamburg can tie them with 54 points if they win their game at Hannover today.
And for today’s star, Mario Gomez of Stuttgat. Stuttgart came away with a 3-0 victory in Cologne to put them currently at third, 6 points behind Wolfsburg. Mario Gomez scored the hat trick for Stuttgart bringing his tally to 15 this season, and giving him our Saturday star award.