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Barcelona pulls away, Man United moves up
by Paul Kennedy, April 5th, 2011 12:02AM

TAGS:  england, germany, italy, spain, uefa champions league


[EUROPE TOP 10] Top-ranked Barcelona has pulled away in La Liga and remains on course for the triple. The prime attraction in the UEFA Champions League quarterfinals is the meeting of Manchester United and Chelsea in a rematch of their 2008 final. For the latest Soccer America rankings ...

1. BARCELONA. Everyone was pointing to the April 20 Real Madrid-Barcelona clasico to decide the 2011 La Liga race, but it's now all but over. Barca's 1-0 win at Villarreal coupled with Real Madrid's shock 1-0 defeat to Sporting Gijon gave the defending champion an eight-point lead over its Madrid rival with eight games to play. Barcelona can focus its attention on Wednesday's Champions League quarterfinal against Ukraine's Shakhtar Donetsk (TV: Fox Soccer Plus, 2:30 pm ET). The Villarreal win was quite impressive considering Barca started the game with a half a dozen first-team players out of action or on the bench to start the game. For the Shakhtar game, Barca may have to use Sergio Busquets in the middle of the backline alongside Gerard Pique.

2. REAL MADRID. The Merengues were perfect at the Bernebau Stadium -- 14 wins in La Liga, four in the Copa del Rey and four in the Champions League -- before losing at home to Sporting Gijon, 1-0, on Saturday. Real Madrid was playing without star Cristiano Ronaldo, who is expected to return for Tuesday's Champions League game at home to Tottenham (TV: Fox Soccer Channel, Fox Deportes, 2:45 pm ET) after being sidelined by a leg muscle strain for two weeks. Also back in the Madrid squad are Brazilians Kaka and Marcelo.

3. MANCHESTER UNITED (up 2). After back-to-back losses in five days -- 2-1 at Chelsea and 3-1 at Liverpool -- United has recovered to beat Bolton Wanderers (1-0) and West Ham (4-2) to open up a seven-point lead over Arsenal (which has a game in hand) and a 10-point lead over Manchester City with seven games to play. Next up: Chelsea Wednesday in the Champions League (TV: Fox Soccer Channel, Fox Deportes, 2:45 pm ET). United has not won at Stamford Bridge in nearly a decade.

4. AC MILAN. The Rossoneri are out of the Champions League, but they are on course for their first Serie A title in seven seasons. Their 3-0 win over Inter Milan left them three points ahead of second-place Napoli and five ahead of Inter Milan. Pato Alexandre scored twice for Milan, which was playing without leading scorer Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who was serving the second game of a two-game suspension for punching an opponent. Antonio Cassano, who scored the third goal in the 90th minute, will miss Milan's next game at ninth-place Fiorentina Sunday after receiving a yellow card for taking off his jersey to celebrate his goal and a second card in stoppage time.

5. BORUSSIA DORTMUND (down 2). Dortmund's lead over second-place Bayer Leverkusen has been reduced from 12 to seven points in the Bundesliga as Leverkusen has run off four straight wins. But Dortmund picked up a big win on Saturday when it came back after going a goal down to Hannover 96 in the 57th minute to win, 4-1. Paraguayan Lucas Barrios led the way with his team-high 12th and 13th goals of the season.

6. ARSENAL. The EPL title is slowly slipping out of the grasp of the Gunners, whose 0-0 tie against Blackburn was their third consecutive draw, following a 0-0 tie with Sunderland and a 2-2 tie with West Brom. Coach Arsene Wenger blamed the drought on a lack of focus. "You could see that mentally the focus, the mental energy level was not good enough," he told Arsenal TV Online. "You have to force the pace a bit more and show more determination to score a goal, and we couldn't. What we do is to first analyze what happened, why, and then prepare for the next game."

7. CHELSEA (down 2). With little chance of retaining their title in the EPL, the Blues have turned their attention to the Champions League, where they will be out for revenge for their loss to Man United in the 2008 final. The big concern for Chelsea is its frontline quartet of Didier Drogba, Nicolas Anelka, Salomon Kalou and Fernando Torres, who have scored just three goals in their last nine games. Torres has yet to score in game games since coming over from Liverpool in an $80 million deal.

8. MANCHESTER CITY (down 1). City, which had lost Chelsea, 2-0, a week earlier, moved back into third place in the EPL ahead of Chelsea when it crushed Sunderland, 5-0, on Saturday. Its lone hope for a trophy this season is in the FA Cup, where it faces Man United in the semifinals at Wembley on April 16. City was knocked out of the Europa League by Dynamo Kiev.

9. TOTTENHAM (up 1). Spurs knocked off AC Milan to advance to the quarterfinals, but injuries make the London club a heavy underdog against Real Madrid. Star Gareth Bale is a question mark with a hamstring injury, while the defense is decimated by injuries to Alan Hutton, Ledley King, Jonathan Woodgate and Younes Kaboul. William Gallas, who has played well for Tottenham since coming over from Arsenal last summer, is also uncertain with a knee injury.

10. INTER MILAN (previously unranked). Inter's hopes of winning Serie A for a sixth straight season are all but over, but it remained alive in the Champions League thanks to its comeback series win over Bayern Munich. Inter lost the first leg, 1-0, and trailed at one point, 2-1, in the second leg before rallying to win, 3-2, and take the series thanks to its two away goals. It became only the second team in Champions League history to advance in a knockout series after losing the first leg at home. Inter will be the favorite when it opens its quarterfinal series against another German team, Schalke 04, at home on Tuesday (TV: Fox Soccer Net, 2:45 pm).

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