Real Madrid Take Full Advantage of Barcelona’s Slip Up

Thank you, Los Che. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. You put in an absolutely brilliant display against Barca on Saturday night. You deserved all three points but thanks to Monsieur Henry you only got one. You’ve tightened your hold on a Champions League spot and more importantly, you’ve helped re-ignite the title race.

Seven points. That was the gap. What was already going to be huge game at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan suddenly burgeoned into the single most important game of the season for Los Merengues. For the home side, it was an opportunity to get back some recently lost confidence and tighten their grip on third spot. Plus, ‘Judas’ was back in town. It promised to be an incredible evening in Andalusia.

It didn’t disappoint.

Seville got off to a flyer, scoring early on. However, they ended up learning a valuable lesson about football. As Yoda would say, “Thirty minutes of great football means not you will win. Battle for all ninety minutes you must. Hmmmm.”

This is what Real Madrid did. They battled. When they went one-nil down, they battled harder, seemingly galvanised by the goal. They battled as if their very existence depended on them winning. Which it did.

It was somewhat fitting that the player who would make the difference in battle for Madrid was their skipper, Raul. No one in a Real Madrid shirt fights harder than El Siete and when it mattered most, he delivered for his team.

A hat-trick, one just before half time and two in three minutes just past the hour mark, gave his side a lead they would not surrender. Is there anyone left who doubts his importance to Real Madrid now?

The ever humble captain said after the match, “We were aware that Sevilla would make things difficult for us, but games last 90 minutes and we knew we would have more possession as the match unfolded. That’s what happened. The team did brilliantly.”

He’s right. Madrid truly earned this victory. They may have grown accustomed to winning since Juande Ramos took over, but last night, they managed to do what they hadn’t been able to since the 2002/03 season – beat the Rojiblancos in Seville.

As for Seville, they’re looking very shaky indeed. Manolo Jimenez was out-coached and his team was out-played. I don’t want to speculate too much, but I wouldn’t be surprised in the slightest if Jimenez isn’t the coach of Seville FC next season. Too often he’s been found wanting in the big games this season. Laudrup is looking for a job. So is Schuster.

At this very moment, his team’s in a place I like to call ‘Struggletown’. No doubt about it. The form that got them into third spot has completely disappeared in the last month. They’ve now conceded eleven goals in their last three matches against Barcelona, Valencia and Real, and are winless in four. Another loss next week against Villarreal could see them tumble out the Champions League places.

Looking forward, Ramos said the blatantly obvious, “This weekend we are at home to Barcelona and the match is of huge importance for the league.”

No kidding. The win at Seville has cut the lead to just four points. A Superclassico win for Real next weekend would make it one. Defeat there, combined with promises to be a tough Champions League semi-final tie against Chelsea, could be enough to break the backs of the men from Catalunya and see the Liga title end up at the Bernabeu for the 32nd time.

Also See: Sulmaan Ahmad’s excellent article on the Madrid-Sevilla game and it’s impact on the La Liga title race.

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