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Vamos: Jose takes a piggyback; Messi is the man whatever the continent

It’s all about Barcelona and Real Madrid this week, as they begin to break away from their rivals.

Messi celebrates scoring against Zaragoza.
Messi celebrates scoring against Zaragoza.

AFTER SOMETHING OF a stuttering start, La Liga has taken shape. In other words, Barcelona and Real Madrid have entered their own private duel.

Real remain three points clear of the champions after scraping through an exhilarating encounter with Valencia on Saturday night. They led by two goals twice at the Mestalla but Valencia and Roberto Soldado wouldn’t go away, and but for some exceptional goalkeeping from Iker Casillas, Valencia would have earned a deserved draw.

The win was the eleventh in succession for Real and that is the first time Jose Mourinho has had an eleven game winning streak as a manger. He could take the objects that rained down on him at full time from an irate home crowd safe in the knowledge that his blueprint for success at Real is beginning to really take shape.

They are devastatingly quick at the moment and are mirroring Barcelona’s aggression off the ball. Mourinho always maintains he does his best work with a team in his second year in charge and already he appears to be backing up that theory.

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Barcelona remain on Real’s coattails after a routine 4-0 win over Real Zaragoza on Saturday. Gerard Pique and Lionel Messi scored in the first half, while David Villa and a rare goal from Carles Puyol finished the rout.

Villa celebrated his goal with Messi, which should put an end to the rumours of them falling out. There was some doubt if the Argentinean maestro would play on Saturday night after playing for Argentina in Columbia only three days before. El Mundo Deportivo made the point that Messi scored in 37 degrees in Columbia and then in 13 degrees in Barcelona. Hot or cold, rain or shine, Europe or South America, Leo is the man.

Not everyone is happy at the Camp Nou though. The growing unrest of Eric Abidal has gone to the point where the Frenchman is increasingly likely to depart in the summer. A recent contract offer was dismissed and the growing rumours of Gareth Bale emerging as a target are no coincidence. The Welshman says he is flattered by the interest but he is happy at Tottenham. It will only end one way if Barca’s interest becomes concrete though. Bale left back with Alves at right back? Aren’t Barca strong enough?

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Villarreal had a big home win against Real Betis. A solitary Borja Valero goal was enough to separate the sides. The win sees the yellow submarine rise into the top half of the league for the first time this season, and they will hope to use it as a starting point for the rest of the season in the absence of Giuseppe Rossi.

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We leave with probably the happiest man in La Liga at the moment. Maybe he is getting old and he can’t burn down the sideline like he used to, but Jose can still celebrate. Here he getting a piggyback. Heaven knows what he will do if Real win the Classico.

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Paul Ring

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