• Tuesday, 8 May 2012

    TW3 #12

    A busy weekend all over the place and for all sorts of reasons, so let's get to it.

    For the first time since 2003, Zlatan Ibrahimovic is not a league champion. It was the Milan derby on Sunday evening and it turned out to be one of the games of the season. Having cut Juventus's lead to a single point in midweek, Milanese hopes were high, especially as a brace from Zlatan put the Rossoneri ahead after Diego Milito had put Inter ahead early. Two Milito penalties restored Inter to the lead and a complete thunderbastard from Maicon put the tin lid on it. As job interviews go, it was a pretty good one for Andrea Stramaccioni who now looks like being confirmed in the role full-time. More remarkably, with Inter three points from third, he could yet get them back into the Champions League. While it was all going off in Milan, Juventus were cruising to a 2-0 win over Cagliari in Trieste. Mirko Vucinic had them in front early on and an own goal from Michele Canini sealed the game and, as it turned out, the championship. The club, or elements within it, still claim it's their 30th Scudetto and another star needs adding to the badge, but that conveniently ignores the 2005 and '06 championships that were stripped for... well, y'know... that massive cheating scandal. They've earned this one though. Still unbeaten, they've conceded just 19 goals in the league all season.
    At the bottom, Novara beat Cesena, but both were down anyway. Nine-man Genoa lost to Udinese and need a point from their last game at home to Palermo to make sure of survival. Lecce need a win to draw level with them and force a play-off. They're away to Chievo. Speaking of Udinese, Antonio di Natale gave hints that he will be finishing at the end of the season. Now 34, he has been fighting through injuries for a while and the sudden death of Piermario Morosini has seemed to give him pause to reflect on the potential issues inherent in carrying on.

    Anderlecht are champions of Belgium after a 1-1 draw with Club Brugge left the gap at seven points between the two clubs with two games remaining. A last-minute penalty from Guillaume Gillet snatched a point after Maxime Lestienne had looked like wresting the initiative back. The top four in Holland all won, so Ajax finish top with Feyenoord in second and in the Champions League play-offs. PSV and AZ go into the Europa League directly with Heracles taking a spot after their cup final loss to the Eindhoveners. Heerenveen and Twente go into the play-offs for the remaining Europa League spot along with Vitesse and NEC, but the Eredivisie has an extra place through the fair play league. Twente will get it if they don't make win the play-offs. If they do, the extra place goes to Excelsior who were relegated. De Graafschap and VVV go into the promotion/relegation play-offs with Eerste Divisie sides Den Bosch, Cambuur Leeuwarden, Willem II, Sparta Rotterdam, Helmond Sport and FC Eindhoven. FC Zwolle replace Excelsior.

    With things tied up at the top end of the Bundesliga, all eyes were on the bottom this week and big black clouds - metaphorically and literally - descended over Koln. Lautern were already down and they were joined by Koln who were thumped 4-1 at home by FC Bayern. Fans reacted by letting off smoke bombs leaving the pitch shrouded in thick black smoke causing the game to be called a few minutes early. Hertha BSC face a play-off to maintain their Bundesliga status as they beat ten-man Hoffenheim to leapfrog Koln. Greuther Furth sealed the 2.Bundesliga title after a 2-2 draw with bottom placed Hansa Rostock as Eintracht Frankfurt - also promoted - lost to Karlsruher, a win that gives Karlsruher a shot at survival in a play-off. The push for the promotion play-off place was a three-way affair with two sides facing each other, St Pauli beating Paderborn 5-0 at the Millerntor. It wasn't enough as Fortuna Dusseldorf drew 2-2 with MSV Duisburg to finish ahead on goal difference. St Pauli needed another five.

    The title is sewn up in Spain as well, so again we look down the table for action. Racing are down already, but the other two spots are still open. Sporting and Zaragoza both won while Rayo - in horrible form - Villarreal and Granada were all beaten and could all go. Sporting have it all to do - They go away to Málaga next week needing a win and a run of results to go for them - but that final relegation place is wide open. Granada are away to Rayo in what appears the pivotal clash, but Granada will be depleted after having two sent off at the end of their defeat to Real Madrid on Sunday as tempers boiled over with the Zaragozan referee.
    Valencia sealed third, but Unai Emery - as has been rumoured for some time - will be leaving the club. Mauricio Pellegrino will take over.

    Intrigue in Portugal surrounds the fate of União de Leiria. Having olnly raised eight players last week, they at least had 14 for the loss to Benfica this week as players who have been unpaid for some time decided to withdraw their labour. Leiria are done as a Primeira Liga side. The other relegation place is a straight fight between Feirense and Académica. Feirense need a win on final day and hope Académica lose. Anything else and they're gone. Estoril are promoted with one of Moirense and Desportivo Aves joining them.

    The gap in Turkey is down to one point, Galatasaray leading despite being held by Besiktas this week. Fenerbahce beat Trabzonspor to close the gap so it's all on next week's Fener/Gala clash next week. Manchester City's Yaya Touré bagged a crucial brace against Newcastle to leave his side ahead of United in the race for the EPL with a game to go while Chelsea won the cup. Shakhtar Donetsk completed the first part of what they hope is a double with a cup win over city rivals Metalurh. A draw on the final day of the league will seal that double. Still two games to go in France and little is decided. Any one of seven sides could still go down while the top three all won, so Montpellier still lead by three from PSG who are two clear of Lille. Lille go to Montpellier next week.

    Another big week awaits, the headline event being Wednesday's Europa League final between Athletic Club and Atlético Madrid in Bucharest. Atlético are the nominal home side and will wear the red and white stripes.

    No comments: