Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : February 25th 2014 Contents A45
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MADRID---Real Madrid s long
wait to be back on top of the Span-
ish league is finally over. And it
wasn t all due to Cristiano Ronal-
do.The Spanish giant is in tremen-
dous form, sitting alone atop the
La Liga standings for the first time
since the 2011/12 season, when it
won the title.
Madrid is unbeaten in 26 games
--- its best run since 1988/89 when
it went a record 34 games unbeaten
--- before tomorrow s Champions
League match at Schalke, when
Ronaldo returns after serving a
three-game domestic ban.
Madrid s attack hasn t dipped
despite the Ballon d Or winner s
absence, with Gareth Bale shining
in a 3-0 win over Elche on Satur-
Madrid was in lethal form com-
pared with erratic efforts by its
closest challengers, Barcelona and
Atletico Madrid, who both trail the
Spanish leader by three points.
Madrid hasn t been alone on top
of the standings since closing out
its record 32nd league trophy in
May 2012. It took the lead over
Barcelona that season for good in
October, after the ninth round of
Confidence is high in the Spanish
capital with Barcelona and Atletico
following up impressive Champions
League victories with poor domestic
"We want to win every game,"
Bale was quoted as saying on
Madrid s website. "It s very impor-
tant to win and put pressure on
our title rivals."
Bale showed a glimpse of why
the Welshman is the world s most
expensive player by scoring from
a blistering long-range strike that
perhaps only Ronaldo or Lionel
Messi could emulate.
Coach Carlo Ancelotti has also
been masterful in turning around
Madrid s poor start, even having
to juggle the lineup in the buildup
to Elche with the team uncertain
of its appeal of Ronaldo s ban.
Ancelotti was left unimpressed
by the Spanish league s organization
in the matter.
"What has happened is unbe-
lievable, I still don t understand it
and I won t forget it," the Italian
manager said. "With Cristiano s
case somebody screwed up."
Ancelotti did not do the same
against Elche, while his rivals did
in their readings of opponents dur-
ing weekend defeats.
Barcelona followed up its 2-0
win at Manchester City with a 3-
1 loss at Real Sociedad, while Atleti-
co fell 3-0 at Osasuna after a hard-
fought 1-0 victory at AC Milan.
"We made a change after the
third goal but we really should have
done something after the second,"
said Barcelona coach Gerardo Mar-
tino, who had made several switches
to the starting lineup. "The decision
not to change was probably wrong.
It s obvious that rotating the squad
is a very nice option when you win."
Barcelona hopes to get fullback
Jordi Alba back for Sunday s game
against Almeria, while defender
Gerard Pique is expected to miss
the match due to a right leg injury.
Atletico has more pressure to
rebound, with Madrid making the
trip across town to the Vicente
Calderon Stadium on Sunday, just
weeks after routing its neighbor 5-
0 overall in the two-legged Copa
del Rey semifinal.
A defeat would leave Atletico six
points behind Madrid, and likely a
longshot to break the Madrid-Barca
monopoly with its first league tro-
phy since 1996.
"If we beat Madrid, the situation
will look very different," Atletico
back Juanfran Torres said. (AP)
Real's long wait over
LONDON---Manchester United will
enjoy the welcome distraction of
Champions League football this week,
taking on Greek side Olympiakos in
the round of 16.
It has been a difficult season do-
mestically with sixth-placed United
knowing that qualification next year
for Europe's elite club competition
only looks possible through winning it
this year. United performed impres-
sively in the group stage, beating
Bayer Leverkusen 5-0 away. Also
today, last year's runner-up Borussia
Dortmund travels to Russia to play
Zenit St Petersburg.
Tomorrow, Didier Drogba plays his
former club Chelsea in Istanbul, as
Galatasaray hosts the 2012 winner,
and Real Madrid plays Schalke in Ger-
Here are four things to know about
this week's round of 16 first leg action:
Wayne Rooney, who has signed a
contract extension to 2019, is set to
lead United's charge at Olympiakos
"Everybody wants to win it and
we'll try to do it," United manager
David Moyes said. "Teams don't want
to play Manchester United. I hope we
can play well enough to get through
this round and see what happens
January signing Juan Mata is not
available, having already featured for
Chelsea in the competition but
teenage midfielder Adnan Januzaj
provides an alternative. Marouane Fel-
laini, who had been out injured since
December, returned from injury in a 2-
0 win against Crystal Palace on Satur-
day and could play.
Olympiakos beat OFI 4-0 on Satur-
day but striker Marko Scepovic, who
scored a hat trick, is ineligible and fel-
low striker Javier Saviola was substi-
tuted after 33 minutes with an injured
left thigh and misses the game.
ZENIT ST PETERSBURG vs
Last year's runner-up Borussia
Dortmund has its first ever meeting
on Tuesday with Zenit St. Petersburg
on the back of a 3-0 loss against sec-
Midfielder Nuri Sahin dismissed
claims that the defeat could have an
adverse impact on the team.
"We won our very difficult Champi-
ons League group (with Marseille,
Napoli and Arsenal) so we can ap-
proach the last-16 stage with confi-
dence," Sahin said. "This defeat
against Hamburg doesn't change a
But Dortmund is without Sven Ben-
der, ruled out for 10 weeks with a
groin injury while Mats Hummels is a
doubt with a right-foot strain.
Zenit qualified for the knockout
stage in second place in Group G but
were some 10 points behind winner
Atletico Madrid. They won 2-0 in a
friendly on the weekend, with the
Russian Premier League on a winter
GALATASARAY vs CHELSEA
Chelsea goes to Istanbul to take on
Galatasaray after retaining its posi-
tion at the top of the Premier League
with a 1-0 win against Everton.
Defender John Terry, who scored
the winner in the third minute of stop-
page time, will be looking to nullify the
threat of former teammate Didier
Drogba in the first leg on Wednesday.
Drogba is highly regarded by
Chelsea fans, having scored the
penalty that won the Blues their first
ever Champions League title in 2012
with his last kick for the club.
Galatasaray also won 1-0 at the
weekend against rival Besiktas,
thanks to a penalty from midfielder
SCHALKE vs REAL MADRID
Schalke coach Jens Keller believes
the odds are stacked firmly against
his team being able to knock Real
Madrid out of the competition.
"We'll need a little miracle," Keller
said. "It'll be difficult but we're not
going into it to exchange jerseys."
They drew 0-0 at home to Mainz on
Friday, while Madrid won 3-0 against
Elche thanks to goals from Asier Illar-
ramendi, Gareth Bale and Isco.
Despite the difference in fortune for
the teams going into Wednesday's
game, Madrid's Bale is aware that
Schalke will be difficult opponents.
"We know that the Champions
League is a very tough competition,"
"We are ready, prepared and we be-
lieve that we can beat any rival. We
are going to Germany determined to
win and expect to do so." (AP)
Real Madrid's Gareth Bale, left, in action with Elche's Edu Albacar, right, during a Spanish La Liga football
match between Real Madrid and Elche at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid, Spain on Saturday. Bale
scored his 13th goal in Real Madrid's 3-0 victory. AP PHOTO
...as it goes top in Spain
wary of Olympiakos
LONDON---Susie Wolff will become the
first woman in 22 years to compete in a For-
mula One event during the upcoming season
as she chases a chance to race for Williams.
The 31-year-old Scot will take part in the
first practice session ahead of both the
British and German Grands Prix as part of
her expanded development driver role with
Wolff will take to the track at Silverstone
ahead of the British GP in July, having made
her full F1 test debut at the circuit last July.
Not since Giovanna Amati, who failed to
qualify in the 1992 Brazilian Grand Prix at In-
terlagos for Brabham, has a woman taken
part in an F1 event.
The last female driver to race in F1 was
Lella Lombardi in 1976. (AP)
Wolff gets rare chance for female driver in F1
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