Good Weekend, Bad Weekend

With Manchester United and Arsenal both winning the Premier League title race got that little more interesting whilst the all-Premier League FA Cup semi-finals should be tasty if Wembley can get the pitch in order. Probably the result and match of the weekend came at the Bernabeu as Real Madrid leapfrogged Barcelona in La Liga in dramatic fashion.

Good Weekend

Paul Scholes: The Ginger Ninja scored his 100th Premier League goal and what a crucial strike it was. Without Wayne Rooney Manchester United looked flat at Molineux and if Wolves had taken their chances, Sir Alex Ferguson’s side would have lost ground in the title race.

The hype around Scholes has been dampened due to the incredible form of Ryan Giggs but the 35-year-old has scored some massive goals this season. The opener at West Ham, the only goal at Besiktas and although fortuitous, his equaliser in the San Siro could be the turning point of the tie. He has already scored more goals this season than the past two combined.

With his contract up at the end of the season United are now believed to be preparing a new deal. Scholes even gave a rare TV interview after the game. (Watch here.) With players like John Terry and Ashley Cole hogging the headlines for all the wrong reasons, Scholes truly is a treasure of English football.

(Manchester United are 2.50 to win the Premier League.)

Arsenal: Nicklas Bendtner did his best to scupper Arsenal’s hopes of returning to the top of the table with one of the worst striker’s performances you will ever see but Theo Walcott impressed (match highlights here) as the Gunners maintained their title challenge.

Arsene Wenger’s side have a far easier fixture list than Chelsea or Manchester United with only the match at Tottenham and home game against Manchester City looking even vaguely tough. A win over Porto is a must, the momentum and desire following Stoke and Aaron Ramsey’s horror injury needs to be continued on Tuesday night.

(Arsenal are 3.50 to win the Premier League.)

Portsmouth: Fratton Park produced a wonderful atmosphere on Saturday lunch time as Pompey saw off Birmingham to secure another trip to Wembley, to perhaps face former boss Harry Redknapp. Avram Grant has done an impressive job and Pompey could well be a team to avoid in the coming weeks for other Premier League sides as belief and confidence are now sky high.

Chelsea: Now clear favourites to secure the FA Cup again, the Blues dominated a tricky Stoke side that had dumped Arsenal out the competition in round four. Much of the post match attention has once again fallen on John Terry and whilst his celebration will grate with many, there is a real chance he could replicate Lee Bowyer and perform impressively when under great personal pressure. Chelsea face West Ham (1.22 to win) and Inter Milan (1.59 to win) , both at home, in their next two matches which are now massive.

Bolton: Back to back wins over Wolves and at West Ham have lessened the pressure on Owen Coyle and Bolton should now escape the drop. It will be a victory for fan pressure and good football if the Trotters stay up with games to spare this season.

Everton: Two disappointing results at Sporting Lisbon and Spurs were quickly forgotten as the Toffees routed the Tigers with a display of fine attacking football. Mikel Arteta came to the fore with a brace and the Spaniard deserves nothing less after a grueling return from long-term injury. David Moyes’ side have left it too late but it is easy to understand why he will look to keep this side together in the summer rather than bring in new players.

Martin O’Neill: It is often said that once the players cross the white line a manager has no control over what happens. At half-time though, bosses earn their corn and much like Manuel Pellegrini on Saturday night, Martin O’Neill inspired his troops to secure their place in the FA Cup semi-finals after a shocking first half display. Special mention should also be given to John Carew who got over his Carling Cup disappointment with a fine hat-trick.

Newcastle: Their 6-1 win over Barnsley may have been aided by a pretty poor decision to send off Luke Steele even though there were two defenders covering, Newcastle are now eight points clear and showed once again they are too good for the Championship.

(Newcastle are 1.25 to win the Championship.)

Guti, Rafael van der Vaart & Manuel Pellegrini: On the evidence of Saturday night’s win over Sevilla recent rumours linking Jose Mourinho appear well wide of the mark. Manuel Pellegrini’s double substitution introducing Guti and Rafael van der Vaart at 2-0 down to Sevilla was a masterstroke that could well have swung the title Real Madrid’s way.

Los Blancos held their nerve to eke out a dramatic victory after Barcelona had drawn at Almeria despite the best efforts of Lionel Messi. Cristiano Ronaldo (match highlights here) and Gonzal Higuain in particular were excellent against Sevilla and the home side fully deserved their dramatic win. After failing to progress to the quarter finals of the Champions League for five seasons, Wednesday’s match against Lyon (1.27 to win) is huge for Pellegrini and his side.

(Real Madrid are 1.90 to win La Liga.)

Mallorca: Their 3-0 home win over Sporting Gijon saw them leapfrog Sevilla into the final Champions League spot. The third best home team in La Liga with the fourth best attack, Mallorca have a real chance of securing a place in the premier competition in Europe.

Palermo: Five wins in seven games have lifted them up to fourth and it looks like being an intriguing battle for a Champions League spot as the side who play in pink can realistically catch Roma in third. Fabrizio Miccoli scored a fine winner to see off Livorno and the diminutive forward has now scored four goals in four games.

FC Twente: Steve McClaren’s side rode their luck at RKC Waalwijk but after PSV lost at NAC now have a two point lead at the top of the Eredivisie.

Liedson: Crashed home four goals in the second half of Sporting Lisbon’s 4-0 win at Belenenses. An unlikely top goal scorer at the World Cup in South Africa?

For the bookies in Ligue 1: There were no less than five 1-1 draws in the top French division over the weekend.

Bad Weekend

West Ham: It seems that we can’t go a day without hearing from West Ham’s new owners – Messrs Gold and Sullivan. Unfortunately results are hard to predict on the pitch and the Hammers are mired in a relegation battle after a surprise home defeat to Bolton.

To make matters worse, Gianfranco Zola takes his side to old club Chelsea and then Arsenal in their next two Premier League games. If The People is to be believed, the diminutive Italian has problems with the owners and if the Hammers do survive it could well be despite Gold and Sullivan.

Zola’s job was put into perspective by bringing on Kieron Dyer early in the second half against Bolton. Perhaps the Eastenders have been run so badly for so long that relegation is inevitable. Portsmouth’s position and Burnley’s horrible form should at least give them cause for optimism.

Hull: The Tigers were spanked good and proper at Everton with a horrible performance that was summed up by Richard Garcia’s own goal that could well grace a number of own goal and gaffes DVDs.

Tom Cairney’s fine volleyed goal may give something for Hull fans to be positive about, a clash with Arsenal next week could well be another heavy defeat for Phil Brown’s side.

Burnley: With such a dismal away record of one point in total this season, Burnley did well to come away from the Emirates with a respectable scoreline although they probably have Nicklas Bendtner to thank for that. One can’t help thinking that Brian Laws is unlikely to keep The Clarets in the Premier League.

Wolves: The sight and sounds of Mick McCarthy after another defeat where his team have impressed is becoming a regular sight this season. Wolves can stay up but at this level you have to take your chances.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic: After countless warnings from Pep Guardiola the big Swede was sent off for an off the ball incident at Almeria. Undoubtedly a class act, the knives will be out for Ibrahimovic if Barcelona don’t reclaim the La Liga title or the Champions League.

(Barcelona are 1.80 to win La Liga.)

Malaga & Xerez: Nine yellow cards and two reds in Xerez’s surprise win at Malaga.

Goals in Serie A: The top three all failed to score in what had looked like mouthwatering clashes between Roma and AC Milan and Inter Milan and Genoa. Goalless draws are now what Serie A needs to rehabilitate its reputation as a slow and dull league.

Fiorentina: Are now well off the pace in 10th in Serie A having picked up just one point in their last three games. The Viola need to get back to winning ways on Tuesday against Bayern Munich in the Champions League.

Bayer Leverkusen: Neverkusen failed to take advantage of Bayern’s 1-1 draw at Cologne with a feeble display at Nurnberg, one of the worst sides in the Bundesliga.

(Leverkusen are 6.50 to win the Bundesliga, Bayern Munich are 1.25.)

Lyon: A 0-0 draw at 19th placed Boulogne was not the result needed to catch Bordeaux or good preparation for a visit to the Bernabeu.

(Bordeaux are 1.42 to win Ligue 1, Marseille are 5.00, Lyon 5.50 & Montpellier 11.00)