These runs are certainly hard on the legs but the momentum the generate is fantastic. It didn't just feel like we were playing a game every 3 days. In most instances, we were. As the dust settled, however, we put ourselves back into the Champions League again with a guaranteed top 4 finish and we have nearly clinched the La Liga crown for a second year in a row. In fact, our game against Barca to open the month could very well settle things. We continued our undefeated run in league play, although we drew 1-1 with Malaga and were lucky to do so. As a result, we maintained our 6 point lead over 2nd place Barca. We are 10 points ahead of 3rd place Real Madrid with a game in hand, and At. Madrid is 25 points back in 4th place.
The final dash to the finish line is upon us with the final four league games coming up in May. We face off against Barca (2), Real Madrid (3), Sporting (16), and Real Sociedad (13). Talk about polar opposites. We open with the other two title contenders and then close the month against two bottom feeders. As long as we don't lose to Barca we will be in good shape. A loss there will make our game against Real Madrid a lot more important that I'd want it to be. 8 points clinches the league crown.
As horrible as we looked against Zenit, we looked far better against Man United. We managed a 1-1 draw in the home leg that was low on scoring but high on competitiveness. That set up our trip to Old Trafford to play a game that would be a defining moment for us. Knowing we would have the odds stacked against us, we played defensive football.
We did everything to frustrate United's attacking efforts. We gave up the lion's share of possession but didn't allow many shots on target. Then in the 40th minute, it had to be Bueno to open the scoring. Replay here - http://youtu.be/tE9nTveLjKg
. He must have heard the questions rising about whether or not he could fire the team to CL glory or not! Then with the game very much still up in the air, Vadim Demidov heads one home from a corner kick for a 2-0 win that saw us advance to the semis with a 3-1 aggregate score!
Our opponents? Barca, naturally. Once again we opened with the home leg. This time, however, you could see the confidence flowing on the pitch. The score was 0-0 at halftime, but once again it was Demidov on a header to give us the lead in the 48th minute. Then in the 72nd minute, Thiago stuck a dagger into his former team to double the lead. And last but not least, Jano pops up off a BRILLIANT cross from Torje - http://youtu.be/iJGxKDS2PEE
to give us a huge 3-0 lead going into the away leg. I feel comfortable, but I know that anything can happen, especially if Barca decide to pile on the pressure. If we get the job done in the second leg, we'll face either FC Bayern or Juventus in the final.
No news from the Copa del Rey.
I thought I'd take a quick look at Bueno's stats to see how he's done against varying levels of competition. So while Bueno has averaged nearly the same goal haul at the continental stage as he has in league play, you can see that his overall performance does suffer a bit when playing against tougher competition.
League: 22(1) games, 16 goals, 5 assists, 7.41 avg
Cup: 8 games, 7 goals, 1 assist, 7.43 avg
Continental: 11 games, 7 goals, 0 assists, 7.33 avg