SEVILLE SPAIN - JANUARY 26: Andres Palop of Sevilla reacts during the semi-final Copa del Rey first leg match between Sevilla and Real Madrid at Estadio Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan on January 26 2011 in Seville Spain. (Photo by Jasper Juinen/Getty Images)

Spanish La Liga: Sevilla Defeat Villarreal 3-2

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Sevilla Vs. Villarreal: 3-2 Full Time, Rojiblancos Prevail In Wild Match

Sevilla are now just outside of European places by goal differential alone, thanks to a good performance on Sunday night against Villarreal. The Yellow Submarine made it tough late with a couple of second half goals, but Sevilla were the better team for most of the night and did well to hang on to a 3-2 win.

The Rojiblancos struggled at the beginning of Gregorio Manzano's stint as their manager, but to his credit, they have improved considerably since the winter break and are now on the brink of getting back into Europe next season. For Valencia, a top four finish no longer looks like a certainty. They appeared to have a trip to the Champions League locked up weeks ago, but they now sit just six points in front of Athletic Bilbao.

After Ivan Rakitic and Alvaro Negredo scored two great goals for Sevilla in the first half, it looked like there was no way back for Valencia. They started the second half very well, though, and Carlos Marchena brought them back into the game with a great half volley goal in the 56th minute. This happened two minutes after Giuseppe Rossi came on for Nilmar, a move which made Villarreal look much better. However, Romaric of Sevilla quickly answered, finishing well with his left foot from 15 yards out, finishing a great flick-on by Negredo.

Rossi would answer with a fantastic left-footed shot of his own from outside of the box in he 73rd minute, but that would be the end of the scoring on the day. Rossi had a chance to equalize in the 77th, but the ball somehow bounced across the face of goal harmlessly and not into the back of the net when he hit the inside of the post. 

The match would turn into a physical and rather unsporting affair from that point forward, with lots of hard fouls and players attempting to manipulate the referee. Carlos Marchena was shown a yellow card in the 79th minute for a hard foul on Julien Escuede, and Romaric was shown yellow for his persistent harassment of the referee afterwards for not showing a red card. However, Marchena would eventually be sent off, picking up a second yellow card for another poor tackle in the 85th minute.

With Marchena suspended and Nilmar off form, Villarreal's upcoming fixture against Getafe is hardly a gimme. Sevilla should be able to win next week, as they face the league's last placed team, Almeria.


Sevilla Vs. Villarreal: 2-0 Halftime, Yellow Submarine Collapsing

Is it possible that Villarreal could actually manage to choke away their UEFA Champions League spot? They look like they're trying very hard to do it, as they're down 2-0 at halftime against Sevilla. After their 1-0 win against Real Zaragoza last week, it looked like Villarreal might be back on the right track, but what has gone on so far this afternoon suggests that they never really recovered from that 5-0 beating they took from Valencia.

The first goal was scored by January signing Ivan Rakitic on a fantastic free kick. Mateo Musacchio was shown a yellow card for committing a bad foul on Didier Zokora in the 7th minute, and on the ensuing free kick, Rakitic completely fooled Diego Lopez as the ball curled into the net. It was Rakitic's fifth goal in La Liga, and he's proven to be an incredible bargain signing so far.

Alvaro Negredo quickly doubled Sevilla's tally, scoring a great close-range chipped finish over Lopez after running into a fantastic through ball from Diego Perotti. Villarreal's defense was unbelievably slow on the sequence, as they were easily left in the dust by Negredo, despite the fact that he was calling for the ball five seconds before Perotti actually delivered it.

Villarreal's forward tandem of Marco Ruben and Nilmar has been very ineffective, and Giuseppe Rossi will probably be making an appearance off the bench in the second half, sooner rather than later. However, based on the Yellow Submarine's first half performance, he's unlikely to change his team's fortunes on his own.


Barcelona Vs. Osasuna: 2-0 Full Time, Lionel Messi Scores In Garbage Time

We've all seen this game a million times at this point. This is essentially every Barcelona game against a poor team ever, or at least the ones where the stars don't start. Basically, Barcelona got a goal in the first half and didn't do a whole lot, brought their stars on as second half substitutes, and Lionel Messi scored a goal in garbage time. You've seen that 50 times, right? I thought so.

The one cool and unique thing about this game was that David Villa scored to break a long league scoreless streak, taking his tally up to 17 goals in La Liga. Lionel Messi now has 31 goals in the league, because scoring less than 30 goals is for wimps and amateurs like David Villa.

With Barcelona winning only 2-0 in a game that they dominated against an inferior team while Real Madrid scored six against Valencia, we must ask: Are Barca the new Real? Are Real the new Barca?

This league nonsense was fun for a day, but let's get on to the big show. I can't wait for clasicos No. 3 and 4.


Barcelona Vs. Osasuna: 1-0 Halftime, David Villa Ends Slump

It's been much too long since David Villa scored a goal in La Liga, but the lethal striker has finally gotten back on the scoreboard, netting his 17th goal of the season. The fact that someone can play on the same team with Lionel Messi, score that many goals in a season, and have what is considered to be an extended slump is absolutely ridiculous, but that just tells you exactly how good David Villa and Barcelona are. 

His goal was assisted by Jeffren, starting along with Ibrahim Affelay in place of Pedro and Messi, who are being rested after Wednesday's Copa Del Rey match. Since Barcelona are playing Osasuna, this is hardly a problem. Incredibly, Osasuna have actually registered a high number of shots, but it would be pretty shocking to see them do anything but lose in this one. Currently, they're two points clear of the relegation places, so a lucky point would be massive if Osasuna could manage it. 


Real Madrid Vs. Valencia: 6-3 Full Time, Los Blancos Put On Master Class, Then Tap The Brakes

Well, that was fun, though it wasn't necessarily the best defensive display that you'll ever see. Real Madrid defeated Valencia 6-3 at the Mestalla today, in a truly bizarre match. Los Blancos lead 4-0 at the end of the first half, and it was well deserved. Valencia simply didn't show up to play, and they were completely torn apart by Gonzalo Higuain, who put together his best performance of the season. He added a fifth goal for Real just after halftime, and he ended the game with three goals and two assists.

Kaka was the other star of the show for Madrid, scoring two and setting up two in what was also his best performance of the season. Higuain and Kaka have both dealt with injuries this year and have not been automatic selections for Jose Mourinho at any point this year, but this performance will give them a big confidence boost going forward, and additionally, it will have Mourinho feeling better about his team's depth going into their UEFA Champions League tie with Barcelona.

After Madrid went up 5-0 in the second half, Roberto Soldado scored a well deserved goal for Valencia, as he was by far their best player to that point, in the 60th minute. Kaka answered two minutes later, and at that point, Real hit the brakes and Valencia eventually made the game look less one-sided than it was with goals from Jonas and Jordi Alba. Make no mistake about it, though. If Madrid wanted eight or nine, they would have gotten it.


Real Madrid Vs. Valencia: Halftime, Are Di Stefano And Puskas Playing?

Tommy Smyth, the color commentator on the American feed of this game, said that this looks like the Real Madrid team from the 1950's, featuring Alfredo Di Stefano and Ferenc Puskas. Though I've only seen highlights and read about these men and never seen a 90 minute game, from what I know about those players and the Real Madrid team of that era, I'm inclined to agree with Mr. Smyth's assessment. Real Madrid are absolutely destroying Valencia, and they're 4-0 up at halftime.

The score is no fluke, either. They're absolutely destroying Valencia, and they deserve their 4-0 lead. Honestly, it looks like one of those games where Real Madrid or Barcelona is playing one of those relegation battlers, but it's not. They're playing Valencia. You know, top four in the league? Used to have David Villa? Won a couple of titles under Rafa Benitez? That team. Oh, and they're doing at at the Mestalla.

This is so bad, the home fans might start doing the "ole!"s for completed Real Madrid passes.

Oh, if you didn't know, this is a second choice Real Madrid side against a first choice Valencia side. All of Cristiano Ronaldo, Pepe, Xabi Alonso, Marcelo, and Mesut Özil are on the bench. It's Esteban Granero, Karim Benzema, Lassana Diarra, Kaka, and Sergio Canales doing a lot of the damage, along with the brilliant Gonzalo Higuain, who is usually first choice when he's fully fit.

Higuain has a brace and two assists, setting up Benzema and Kaka for their goals. It's been an absolutely brilliant performance...dare I say, one that Di Stefano and Puskas would be proud of?


Real Madrid Vs. Valencia: Los Blancos Up 2-0 Through Gonzalo Higuain

Valencia have not come to play today. They're already down 2-0 to Real Madrid after a half hour, and both goals could have been easily prevented. Karim Benzema's opener came on a goalkeeper error, and this most recent goal, scored by Gonzalo Higuain, was also an absolute gift, scored on a defensive error. Valencia look completely out of sorts, and while a first choice Valencia team should be competitive with a second choice Madrid side in theory, that has absolutely not been the case so far at the Mestalla.

Jeremy Mathieu, Valencia's left back, was the guilty man on the goal. On a through ball that was too far for Higuain, he had every opportunity to either play a back pass to the goalkeeper or clear the ball for a throw-in. Instead, Mathieu was caught between ideas and did neither, letting the ball run into the penalty area, then trying to beat Higuain to keep possession. He failed miserably, touching the ball directly into the right foot of Higuain, and he finished with a first time shot.


Real Madrid Vs. Valencia: Karim Benzema Goal Puts Los Blancos Ahead

Real Madrid are giving a few of their superstars a rest, but the Galacticos are living up to their name early on, as the Madrid stars who haven't necessarily played a lot of big games for the team this season are tearing up Valencia early. They're now up 1-0 thanks to a 23rd minute Karim Benzema goal, and it's no less than they deserve for their fantastic play so far in this game.

Lassana Diarra, starting in place of Xabi Alonso, started the move by winning the ball in the center of midfield and spraying a ball wide right for Gonzalo Higuain to run onto. Higuain chased it down and put a great ball across the box, which Valencia goalkeeper Vicente Guaita misjudged. The ball went off Guaita's fingertips straight to Benzema, and he finished well.

Besides the three players mentioned above, all of Kaka, Sergio Canales, Esteban Granero, and Nacho are playing well. Madrid have had more chances so far, and both Juan Mata and Pablo Hernandez are struggling for Valencia.


Spanish La Liga, Round 33: Battles For European Places And To Relegation Fights Highlight The Weekend

Only six weeks remain in the 2010-11 La Liga season and while the title is all but decided, there are still plenty of intriguing races left for the final European spots and a frenzied battle at the bottom to avoid relegation. Several match-ups this weekend could go a long way in determining the fate of several clubs for next season. Real Madrid and Barcelona both face teams with something to play for, while the Spanish giants are coming off two derbies last week, including a 120-minute Copy del Rey final on Wednesday. The door could be open for Valencia and Osasuna to steal some key points. A Monday match between Zaragoza and Almeria, two teams in the relegation zone, could provide some intriguing entertainment as well.

Real Madrid vs. Valencia

Saturday, 12pm ET

The 2nd and 3rd place teams in La Liga play with very little on the line. There's virtually not chance of Valencia closing the 14 point gap to second, so it's all holding on to their six point advantage over Villarreal for the third automatic qualifying spot in the Champions League. Madrid's chances of winning the league are all but done, and between the hangover from winning the Copa del Rey and another date with Barcelona on Wednesday, there's every reason to believe Valencia could get a positive result in this match.

Barcelona vs. Osasuna

Saturday, 2pm ET

Fresh off a defeat in the Copa del Rey final, and a Champions League semifinal date with Real Madrid looming in the mid week, we might forgive Barcelona for not being completely focused against Osasuna. It could be a big chance for Osasuna to get points which could be vital as they scratch and claw to avoid relegation. Just how much Pep Guardiola decides to rest his star players could also play a big factor in how this match plays out.

Atletico Madrid vs. Levante

Sunday, 1pm ET

If Atletico want to play in Europe next season, they need to keep winning and put as much pressure as they can on Sevilla. Atletico has the easier run in to the end of the season, so despite not having the tiebreaker, it looks on paper like a spot in the Europa League is very much within reach.

Sevilla vs. Villarreal

Sunday, 3pm ET

Sevilla is in a battle to hold on to one of the two Europa League spots for next season. They are even on points with Atletico Madrid, but hold the tiebreaker. Villarreal are trying to stay in touch with Valencia for the final automatic qualifying spot for the Champions League. If they can't close the six point gap, they'll have to contend with a qualification match to make the group stages.

Real Zaragoza vs. Almeria

Monday, 3pm ET

This may not sound like a particularly flashy match-up, but both of these team sit in the relegation zone and if they have any hopes of surviving, they need to win. Two desperate teams fighting for three points could lead to some entertaining soccer.

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