By Tim Stannard
A pair of 1-0 wins in a week light the path for Real Madrid to win back-to-back LaLiga titles
With another clunk of the gears into third, and surge on the accelerator from Coach Zizou, Real Madrid are becoming the trundling dumpster truck you are stuck behind on a one-lane road up a long, long hill.
It may not be pretty to watch, but the truck is always going to get their first.
In terms of title rivals - and congratulations Barcelona, you are back in that group again - it's an ominous vibe with Real Madrid bouncing back from a troubled January to win the last five matches in a row in LaLiga and the Champions League with just the single goal conceded.
The form and feel of the team in February is very much the same as when Real Madrid came out of COVID-19 lockdown last season to grind their way with 'just-enough' performances to win LaLiga.
The latest victory of this year was a 1-0 win at Atalanta in a match that should have been a lot more troublesome for Real Madrid, considering nine first-team players were out including Karim Benzema.
However, an early red card for Atalanta and a late curled beauty from Ferland Mendy put Real Madrid in the driving seat in the Last-16 Champions League tie - slowly up the mountain - to avoid a whitewash of defeats for LaLiga teams in the competition.
Zinedine Zidane pointed out the simplicity of the logic for Madrid's win with the clinching goal coming in the 86th minute. "It's not a problem because we scored and we didn't concede," noted the French coach quite accurately.
While Real Madrid are three points adrift of Atletico Madrid in LaLiga having played one game more, the statistics show that the Rojiblancos are still the frontrunners. But the vibe of Real Madrid grinding out results even without the likes of the injured Benzema, Eden Hazard, Sergio Ramos and Dani Carvajal while Atletico have stumbled suggest that our beIN SPORTS tracking poll in the title race could be right to have Real Madrid at number one.
Real Madrid are back in action on beIN SPORTS on Monday against Real Sociedad at 3PM ET, an opponent more than good enough to blow Sports Burst's latest LaLiga theory out of the sand very quickly.
Messi stung by beIN SPORTS Ballon d'Or snub
Perhaps stung by only being in ninth place in the beIN SPORTS Ballon d'Or Power Rankings, Lionel Messi decided to take matters into his own hands by leading Barcelona to a 3-0 win over Elche in LaLiga with two goals, and back into the title race. Yep, you heard that right - back into the title race.
"The league is on!" declared Jordi Alba after a match where the fullback grabbed Barcelona's third. Although the recent Cadiz and PSG setbacks certainly put Barca in a bad light, the form in LaLiga has been solid for Barcelona. Good enough in fact to lift Barca into third, five points behind Atletico Madrid at the top with one game extra played. Just two points have been dropped in the past nine games.
Koeman said that spirits should be higher today in the Barca camp - "surely, having won today, (Thursday) will be different," and they will need to be with a humdinger of a match on Saturday for Barcelona with an away game against the only team in better form in LaLiga than themselves - Sevilla.
Sevilla vs. Barcelona is live on beIN SPORTS from 10:05AM ET on Saturday and the Sports Burst show will be looking ahead to the weekend and the lay of the land in LaLiga on Facebook at 12PM ET today.
Granada with chance to cause biggest Europa League shock
The Europa League returns on Thursday with the last-16, second-leg matches. 16 of them in fact, as the match day title aptly suggests.
The biggest shock of the round could well be the mighty Granada jettisoning Napoli from the competition. The LaLiga side are 2-0 up already with the return leg being held in Italy.
Meanwhile, a positive for Lille today against Ajax is that the French team might be able to focus on a very real chance to win Ligue 1 this season. The standings leaders have a second-leg match against Ajax in Amsterdam but are already 2-1 down in the game.
Top flight African soccer continues on beIN SPORTS today with the quarterfinals of 2021 AFCON U-20. Etienne Eto'o Pineda - son of the legendary Samuel - could lead the way for Cameroon against Ghana at 11AM ET followed by Burkina Faso vs. Uganda at 2PM ET.