Eight games remaining. Eight points the gap. Jose Mourinho losing his 9 year unbeaten home record to Sporting Gijon and a fabulous gol by Miguel de las Cuevas. Barça solid in their 0-1 win at the Madrigal with Victor Valdes producing four brilliant saves (the last, with his leg from Santi Carzola in the last five minutes was as good or important as any he'll make this season) Blah, blah, blah. I know, it's Tuesday, you know this already.
It's hard to see Madrid coming back from this. Their four remaining away games are at Bilbao (this Saturday at 5pm), Valencia, Sevilla and Villarreal. Plus they have to play Barcelona in two weeks time. Barça's run in is comparatively easy save the Clasico and the derby with Espanyol. We're getting ever closer to the end and a third consecutive title for Pep Guardiola's side.
Saw all of the Villarreal game and was really happy to see Thiago Alcantara to play a full ninety minutes in the Xavi role in midfield. He did pretty well, though disappointingly there were no vaselina free kicks. I like Thiago a lot and have been impressed with his range of passing, his composure and movement any time I've seen him. After much dithering on his contract before Christmas he was finally signed to a two year deal which will presumably be renegotiated once he's had a proper run in the first team next season. Any such run will of course be dependent on the arrival (or not) of Cesc from Arsenal. With all this money from the Qatar Foundation burning a hole in Sandrusco's pocket it's difficult to imagine that this summer won't see another run bringing our boy home.
I'm in two minds about the whole Cesc situation. On the one hand he's brilliant, young and Catalan and is the natural heir to Xavi. He's progressed as far as he can at an Arsenal side that is allergic to winning things and he's good enough to walk into almost any side. Almost any side.
Cesc is great but he's not as good as either Xavi or Iniesta. Xavi is 31 and Andres is 26. Xavi probably has another three very good years in him and Andres is 26. Barça play a three man midfield and one of them has to be a holding player who can drop back to link with the central defence and break up play. It's Busquets, it's Mascherano, it's Rafa Marquez, it's Yaya Toure. It's not Cesc. So where does he fit? Well much like the Spanish midfield, he doesn't. He comes off the bench, he changes things, he's more direct, shoots more from distance, can play better off and in support of the forwards. He doesn't start. So why buy him? Romantic notions aside it really doesn't make sense. Plus he's under contract with Arsenal until 2014. They don't want to sell him. He'd cost upward of €40 million and to do what, sit on the bench or feature in some early season "well we've bought him so he has to play" games before being squeezed out. It'd be Titi Henry being shoe-horned into a front three along side 'dinho, Messi and Eto'o all over again. And we all remember how well that worked out.
You know where this is going. The man who should be wearing the number four shirt in the 2011/12 season is already at Barça. It's Thiago. He may not be quite there yet but he will be.
One last thing, a really good article on In Bed with Maradona on the Espanyol cantera, the other source of good futbolers in Barcelona. It's worth a read.