El Clásico and an infamous loser stumbling inexplicably on the run-in – The Guardian

IT’S ABOUT CLÁSICO TIME

KABOOM!!! That was the sound of the Spanish title race being blown wide open last weekend, when Sevilla beat Atlético Madrid. The reverberations of Marcos Acuña’s winner shook citrus fruit from the local orange trees, even going so far as to rouse the last remaining Queen’s Celtic fans from their slumber on the steps of the Catedral de Sevilla, where they’d been “sleeping it off” since that unfortunate Euro Vase final defeat at the hands of José Mourinho’s Dirty Porto almost 18 years ago. Hoots! Jings! Crivens! Help ma boab! It’ll be back to oblivion for them once they’ve drowned the sorrows generated by news of O’Rangers’ title win with a tsunami’s worth of the local hooch.

The tremors of Acuña’s potential season-changing strike were felt further afield, as fans of Barcelona and Real Madrid quickly realised Saturday night’s clásico had taken on even more significance. A win for Barcelona will take them two points clear of Atlético, who don’t play until Sunday. Should Madrid prevail, they’ll go level on points with the leaders, with just eight games left to play. Which, when you think of it is quite a lot of games, particularly when one of them is against Atlético. So maybe this game isn’t that important after all, eh? Eh? Oh.

It could end up quite the bottle-job from Atlético, who not so long ago were seven points clear of Barcelona having played two games fewer. Usually, at this point, The Fiver would attempt to illustrate our point by coming up with some sort of analogy featuring an infamous loser who had built an apparently unassailable lead in a high-profile race only to stumble inexplicably on the run-in, but we’re too busy studying the form for Saturday’s Grand National to think of one that is both timely and historically appropriate.

Suffice to say, while Atlético still hold their destiny in their own hands, the prevailing opinion in Spain is that they’re going to drop it. “It’ll be a tough game against a side who like to dominate the ball,” declared Madrid striker Karim Benzema, when asked if he thought the contest will be a tough game against a side who like to dominate the ball. “They’ve got a great goalkeeper and of course [Lionel] Messi, the player who does everything for Barcelona. We need to be wary of him because he’s so, so dangerous.” With their centre-back pairing of Raphaël Varane and Sergio Ramos both absent, Real ought to be wary and a little scared.

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QUOTE OF THE DAY

“He made it on to the pitch from underneath a large canvas, where he was hidden. The man made it into the stadium at 7am after getting through the security perimeter … it is clear he spent the next 14 hours hidden under the canvas in order to not be seen until he decided to make his move” – police underline the true commitment to the cause of one streaker who invaded pitch during Granada’s Big Vase defeat to Manchester United before being escorted away.

Dedication, earlier.
Dedication, earlier. Photograph: Fermin Rodriguez/AP

FIVER LETTERS

“Re: misadventures in refereeing (yesterday’s Fiver letters). When I was 16, I started reffing U-8 and U-10 matches in a town in rural Ireland. One Saturday morning started with my father’s workmate ‘effing’ me out of it because he disagreed about a clear goal (the ball had passed through the cheap net after it crossed the line) when his son’s team were about 15-2 behind. The morning progressed to an argument between two seven-year-olds, with one asking if the other’s mother had ‘made much on the street last night’, which was met with the swift retort that ‘at least my dad isn’t a kerb crawler’. This erupted into a brawl involving all the players and most of the parents. I switched back to Gaelic football the following weekend” – Paddy Reilly.

“Football ain’t got nothing on South African club rugby. In a previous career I used to be a journalist. I covered a few stories about rugby violence at club games. One however, stands out, and is luckily available in English: chaos as touch judge stabbed. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention said touch judge was stabbed in the head. With a flag pole” – Leon-Ben Lamprecht.

“I know The Fiver loves a good pointless thread, so can I add to the ongoing Oxo cube narrative (Fiver letters passim) by pointing out that it’s actually centripetal force balanced against gravity, not centrifugal force, that keeps satellites and Oxo cubes in orbit. At least that’s what I recall from my old O-level physics classes. If I’m wrong it just means more thrilling content next week, so everyone’s a winner, right … right?” – David Madden (and others).

“Re:” Zlatan Ibrahimovic as a character in the next Asterix film (yesterday’s News, Bits and Bobs). Egocentrix, surely?” – David Ede.

Send your letters to the.boss@theguardian.com. And you can always tweet The Fiver via @guardian_sport. Today’s winner of our prizeless letter o’the day is … David Ede.

NEWS, BITS AND BOBS

La Liga has found no evidence that Juan Cala racially abused Mouctar Diakhaby after investigating the events that led to Valencia walking off against Cádiz in protest.

Newcastle boss Steve Bruce says he would ban all social media abominations, backing all clubs boycotting them over racist abuse: “No social media, for me, would be the way forward.”

They may have provided another filthily slapstick performance in the Big Vase home draw with Slavia Prague, but Arsenal have some good news in the shape of in-demand striker Folarin Balogun preparing to sign a long-term deal.

Roma defender Riccardo Calafiori understands why an Ajax ballboy got the right funk on and hurled the ball at him as he ambled over to take a throw in the final seconds of their Big Vase win. “I have to admit that it would also have irritated me if I saw an opponent time-wasting in such a situation,” he mused. “I don’t say I respect it, but I get it.”

And Phil Brown is back, baby, taking the reins at Southend United again after Mark Molesley was sacked by the League Two relegation strugglers.

STILL WANT MORE?

Ten things, the Premier League … you know how it goes by now.

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