Barring a preposterous collapse, Real Madrid will win the Primera Liga. Franco’s favorites dismantled 10-man Levante 4-2, with a hat-trick from perpetual showman Cristiano Ronaldo. Barcelona bizarrely lost 3-2 to Osasuna. The results stretched the gap to ten points. Against the downtrodden opposition those clubs face, the lead is virtually unassailable. Real Madrid would need to lose to Barcelona and drop eight additional points against the league’s unwashed. They have dropped a total of five in 21 matches this season.
Lost focus throughout leaves Barca in this position, though Saturday’s result will irritate them particularly. The Catalans were thrice screwed by linesmen. Two onside Alexis Sanchez goals were disallowed. Raul Garcia was likely offside in the buildup to Osasuna’s second goal.
Winning the league is a feat. It will permit Jose Mourinho to declare victory, but the trophy holds little intrinsic value. Should Real Madrid lose the second clasico and lose in the Champions League the bragging rights will remain in Catalonia. Their domestic triumph would be a hallow one.
Huge Upset: Zambia are your African champions. The Copper Bullets (yes, that’s really their nickname) outlasted continental titan Ivory Coast in an 8-7 shootout after a 0-0 draw to win the African Nationas Cup. Zambia entered the tournament ranked 76th in SPI and have never qualified for a World Cup. They featured just two players based on the European continent, compared to an Ivory Coast squad rife with Premier League stars. This was the Elephants fourth-straight disappointing loss in a tournament they have not won since 1992. It will prove especially painful for Didier Drogba, who missed what could have been the winning penalty in regulation.
Battle of Who Could Care Less: Normally, a huge wad of cash is quite the incentive, but none of the second-tier English clubs are feeling greedy enough to claim fourth place. Chelsea failed to win its fourth-straight, losing 2-0 to Everton. Newcastle was boat-raced 5-0 away at Tottenham. Liverpool lost 2-1 at Manchester United. That left the impetus to Arsenal, who squeaked by Sunderland 2-1 on a late Thierry Henry winner in (likely) his final appearance for the club. Arsenal now possess fourth place on total goals.
Decline: Claudio Ranieri might want to update his resume. Less than two years after winning the Champions League, Inter Milan are scrambling to even qualify for it. They lost 1-0 to Novara in the San Siro in the last round of games, their third loss in four matches. Novara are bottom of the table and were defending with 10 men for the match’s final minutes. The Nerrazzuri are now in fifth, six points behind third-place Lazio. They have earned just 36 points from 23 matches and have a goal difference of just plus four.
Confiscated: Manchester police seized thousands of copies of the Man U fan magazine Red Issue outside Old Trafford before Patrice Evra and Luis Suarez renewed their acquaintance. The magazine, employing rather dark satire, featured a cut out Ku Klux Kan hood on the back cover with the words “LFC: Suarez is Innocent” on it. Police confiscated the magazines, as well as some offensive t-shirts. The publication is considering taking legal action.
[Photo via Getty]