By DAVE HOLAK
It continues to be the league Barcelona does not want to win, and if they're not real careful they may end up finishing 3rd in a table they should have walked away with. Unlike last season, when Madrid closed the gap at the end on Barca's late season slips, Barca can’t seem to take advantage of ANY Madrid miscues.
Barca closed ground 2 weeks ago on the first of Madrid’s consecutive losses, but the killer came when they went up on Real Betis 2-0 and lost 3-2, allowing Madrid to dodge a HUGE bullet. I’m starting to think the way you end up with Samuel Eto'o, Lionel Messi, Ronaldinho, Thierry Henry and Deco all on 1 team is to make a deal with the devil, but he in turn gets their ability to score.
On the Madrid side, you can’t say much but “go figure.” Certainly not the soccer legends of the past, and not necessarily the household names of the future, but they seem to be getting the job done. All I can say is thank God for Gabi Heinze. He has single-handedly kept them in game after game this season. Fabio Cannavaro may be the “superstar” but Heinze is the rock.
But perhaps the biggest change for me has been the play of Sergio Ramos -- pictured above -- this season. I don’t think the departure of David Beckham has left a big hole with the team (other then the $50 million in marketing revenue they lost!), but it has definitely changed the dynamic of Sergio Ramos’ play. He still makes runs from his right-back position and he still plays an offensive and aggressive defensive style, but I think without Beckham’s holding midfield play, Ramos has exposed Madrid’s defense to strong counterattacks.
So at the end of this past weekend and with 7 weeks left, Real Madrid maintains their 7-point lead on Barca & Villarreal. Even more amazing, after mounting a win over Barcelona back on March 1st and rerouting what was a sure slide into the middle of the table, Atlético Madrid has managed to find their way just 6 points back of 2nd place.