By Tim Stannard
Focused Real Madrid take advantage of free time to close gap on Atletico as Barca chase Copa cars
With a brilliant, strategic move of high cunning and class, Real Madrid removed themselves from this season's Copa del Rey tournament back in January.
True, it had the local media having an attack of the vapors and calling for Coach Zizou's head to roll, but what seemed like a clumsy, lackluster slip-up against lower league Alcoyano was actually a grandmaster-style opening chess move to put Real Madrid back in with a sniff of the league title again.
It's still a sniff - a 'has someone made fresh coffee in the office kitchen?' sniff - but a sniff none the less after Real Madrid pulled back two points on Atletico Madrid's lead at the top of the table to five, although with Atletico having two matches in hand that could snap the gap back to eleven.
Real Madrid's Copa del Rey retreat enabled time in the schedule for Tuesday's 2-0 win over Getafe. Barcelona do not have that luxury. And nor do fourth-placed Sevilla for that matter as both teams are going full throttle today in a cup semifinal clash as the best chance of silverware this season. Indeed, the two teams will have to play twice with a second-leg semifinal in March.
If Zidane can order another masterly retreat in the Champions League against Atalanta, then Atletico Madrid's path to glory may not be so easy.
Real Madrid's secret plan to retain LaLiga continues on Sunday against Valencia from 10:05AM ET.
The Sports Burst show on Facebook Live at 12PM ET will peer into whether the title race is properly back on again.
Atletico will be facing Chelsea in Romania
Speaking of Atletico Madrid...and the Champions League...and these unfortunate times we find ourselves in for good measure.
The announcement was made on Wednesday that the team's upcoming Last-16 Champions League first leg clash against Chelsea will now have to be played in Bucharest, Romania rather than Madrid due to COVID-19 restrictions on international travel between certain countries in Europe at the moment.
Atletico and Chelsea won't be alone in this change as Manchester City's tie against Borussia Moenchengladbach and Liverpool's tie at RB Leipzig have both already been moved to Hungary due to restrictions in place in Germany.
PSG start Coupe de France defense against Caen
There has been a lot of kerfuffle around PSG at the moment and three megastars of soccer - two of them actually play for PSG.
While Neymar and Kylian Mbappe are rumored to be signing new deals with the club - and having a competition to praise each other in the media - PSG is embroiled in a transfer saga over Lionel Messi.
That saga was upped a little with France Football published a cheeky front cover with a grinning Lionel Messi in a PSG jersey - 'nothing to do with us', was the message from Mauricio Pochettino on Tuesday - as the Barcelona press cried 'harassment.'
It was then pointed out that had at least 50 front covers have been published by the complaining newspaper, Sport, that had the very-PSG Neymar on the front cover, predicting a return to Barcelona.
En Francia han recopilado 55 portadas de periódicos de Barcelona sobre Neymar y su imposible vuelta al Barça. No me parece el caso de molestarse por una de Messi en France Football... pic.twitter.com/KZShgcTZTZ— Filippo Ricci (@filippomricci) February 9, 2021
Anywho... PSG are actually in action today in a Coupe de France match against Caen at 3PM ET. What's more that is straight off the Mighty Lille playing today at Dijon in another cup clash at 1PM ET. Both will need to follow the path begun by Lyon who crushed Ajaccio 5-1 on Tuesday.