The race for the Bundesliga scoring title will most likely come down to the final matchday as Mario Mandžukić scored his 18th Bundesliga goal of the season in a 2-0 win over Eintracht Braunschweig on Saturday to tie Robert Lewandowski atop the Bundesliga scoring chart. The former Dinamo Zagreb striker came off the bench in the 73rd minute and scored 12 minutes later after beating a Eintracht Braunschweig offside trap and racing past the defense to smash in the second and final goal of the match. Mario should get the start against Real Madrid in Champions League on Wednesday.
Photo: REUTERS/Morris Mac Matzen
If Super Mario and Lewandowski go dry in the next four weeks, Ivica Olić might be right up there with them as the former Dinamo Zagreb striker scored his 13th Bundesliga goal of the season on Saturday in a 3-1 win over Hamburger SV. Ivica started and played 82 minutes in the win. The 34-year-old striker was once again in the right place at the right time in front of the goal to get a foot on Naldo’s shot and rediect it in to the back of the net. His goals might not be pretty or outside the box, but the former HSV striker just knows where to position himself and has quick reflexes to get the job done.
Ivica Olić goal
PHOTO:REUTERS/Morris Mac Matzen
Ivan Perišić is also starting to turn it up with just 50 or so days before the World Cup. The Croatian international started and played the full 90 minutes for Wofsburg in the win. Ivan opened up the scoring in only the second minute of play after sprinting down the center to get past the HSV defense and beat the goalie to smash the ball into the back of the net. With the win, Wolfsburg still find themselves one point back of Bayer Leverkusen in a fight for the final Bundesliga Champions League spot.
Ivan Perišić goal
PHOTO:REUTERS/Morris Mac Matzen
Ivo Iličević started and played 86 minutes in the Hamburg loss. The German born Croatian scored his second goal of the season in the 58th minute of play but it was little too late as Hamburg will need to snap out of their funk if they are to remain in the Bundesliga next season. The only side never to have been relegated from the Bundesliga are now closer to breaking that proud record than ever before. Milan Badelj remains sidelined for Hamburg because of injury.
Ivo Iličević goal
Ivan Rakitic and his Sevilla side gained three critical points in the hunt for Champions League on Sunday, as they finished on top of Granada by a score of 4-0. Rakitic started and was brought off in the 78th minute with his side comfortably ahead. He completed 43 passes and created one chance in the match. With Athletic Bilbao falling to Barcelona, Sevilla are now just three points out of fourth place in La Liga. Sevilla’s next three games will be season defining. Sandwiched between their Europa League semifinal matches against Valencia is a chance to move into fourth place against Bilbao next weekend. Sevilla have taken 27 out of a possible 30 points in their last ten matches to make an improbable run at Champions League.
After their Copa Del Rey triumph midweek, Real Madrid and Luka Modric were not in action over the weekend. The first leg of their Champions League semifinal tie against Bayern Munich is on Wednesday.
Photo: Southampton FC
Dejan Lovren played the full match Saturday as Southampton couldn’t find the back of the net in a scoreless draw with Aston Villa. Southampton maintained ball possession for 68% of the match and only allowed Villa one shot on goal. Lovren received a ‘7’ grade from SkySports.com as he put on a “superb display.” Another week, another solid game from Lovren. This is his first season in England. Could he possibly be moving to a top 4 club next season if the price is right?
Dejan Lovren (#5) wows teammates with nutmeg this week in training
Nikica Jelavić got the start and played 70 minutes for Hull City as they lost to a much better Arsenal side 3-0 Sunday afternoon. Jelavić was a threat up top for Hull but only managed one shot on goal in his time on the pitch. Hull are still safe with the loss as they remain six points away from the relegation zone.
Niko Kranjčar returned to the QPR lineup Saturday after nearly missing a month due to injury. Kranjčar played 83 minutes in a 1-0 loss to Leicester City, who will be playing in the Premiership next season. He picked up a yellow card just before halftime, and although he should be making the trip to Brazil, is not expected to see much of the pitch.
Darijo Srna and Shakhtar dodged a huge bullet on Saturday as they came back to defeat city rivals Metalurh 2-1 from the Donbass Arena. After Shakhtar bombarded Metalurh with shot after shot in the first half to no avail, the visitors found the back of the net in the 49th minute to break the scoreless deadlock. Shakhtar, knowing they would need a victory to keep their title shot in sight, fought back with a goal from Krivtsov in the 56th minute to tie the game. Srna would supply the assist on the match’s winning goal six minutes later, whipping in a free kick from the right side which was headed in by Luiz Adriano. Eduardo came into the match in the 72nd with little to do his his 20 minutes. As of right now, he should be considered Croatia’s #3 striker, behind Mandžukić and Olić. Shakhtar have control of top spot in Ukraine once again as Dnipro lost on Sunday.
Both Domagoj Vida and Ognjen Vukojević played the full match for Dynamo Kiev in their 2-1 win over Vorskla Sunday. Vorskla led 1-0 the entire match but Denys Dedechko was sent off in the 73rd minute with his second yellow card. That’s when Dynamo turned it up, scoring twice inside the last 10 minutes to take all three points. Dynamo remain seven points behind leaders Shakhtar with the win.
Ivan Strinić and Dnipro missed a golden chance to press for the Ukrainian title and a Champions League berth as they lost to Chornomorets 1-0 Sunday. They now sit three points behind Shakhtar with a game in hand. Ivan Strinić got the start but only played 68 minutes as Nikola Kalinić came of the bench in the 35th minute. It will be a dog race down the final four matches of the season in Ukraine.
Danijel Subasic and AS Monaco were victorious in a 1-0 match against Nice on Sunday. Subasic made three very impressive saves in the game as he earned clean sheet #13 on the season. The match was won in the fifth minute with an incredibly smooth Dimitar Berbatov chip. Monaco remain second in Ligue 1, all but eliminated from title contention.
Berbatov Goal: 0:50, Saves: 2:00, 2:35, 2:50
Vedran Corluka played the full match for Lokomotiv Moscow on Saturday as they won 2-1 over Terek Grozny. Corluka picked up a yellow card in the 89th minute, his eighth of the season, and was not at fault for Grozny’s goal. Corluka will miss their next match due to yellow card accumulation. Lokomotiv remain one point behind Zenit St. Petersburg at the top of the Russian Premier League.
Stipe Pletikosa and FC Rostov play Volga Nizhny on Monday. A win would move them into seventh in the Russian Premier League.
PHOTO: Reuters/Alessandro Garofalo
Inter Milan are officially out of the Champions League running but could find themselves with one of the two Serie A Europa League spots. The Italian Giants put on a stellar performance against Parma on Saturday and registered a 2-0 win. Former Dinamo Zagreb prospect, Mateo Kovačić, started and played 90 minutes in the win. Mateo played well as a central defensive midfielder and committed only one foul. Hopefully, Mateo gets 90 minutes in the final four matches to prep him for the World Cup.
Croatian bad boy, Marko Livaja, is making headlines once again. The former Inter Milan striker could be in a lot of trouble with his club Atalanta after insulting fans following his substitution in Saturday’s Serie A 2-1 defeat at home to Verona. Livaja was subbed out seven minutes into the second half and was subject to insults and jeers by some sections of the home crowd and the former Hajduk Split prospect reacted angrily. After responding to some of the fans, Livaja took his anger to facebook later in the evening, with Livaja responding to remarks by saying : “Come with me to Croatia, Italian bastards. See you in Zingonia(club’s training complex). ” Atalanta have yet to comment but reports in the Italian media claim the incident could seal the 20-year-old player’s departure from the club at the end of the season.
Igor Bubnjić and Josip Radošević looked on from the bench as Udinese and Napoli split the points in a one all draw. Ivan Kelava was not on the roster sheet for Udinese. Tin Jedvaj failed to see action as Roma clinched a Champions League spot with a 1-0 win over Fiorentina. Ante Rebić missed out for Fiorentina because of injury. Šime Vrsaljko looked on from the bench as Genoa lost 2-1 at home to Cagliari.
Bayern München at Real Madrid(Champions League), Tavriya at Shakhtar Donetsk,
Valencia at Sevilla(Europa League), Dnipro at Hoverla, Dynamo Kyiv at Chornomorets,
Everton at Southampton, Hull City at Fulham, Monaco at Ajaccio, Werder Bremen at Bayern München, Freiburg at Wolfsburg, Fiorentina at Bologna, Napoli at Internazionale, Osasuna at Real Madrid, Lokomotiv Moskva at Krasnodar,
Hamburger SV at Augsburg, Udinese at Torino, Genoa at Atalanta, Sevilla at Athletic Club, Anzhi at Rostov, Dynamo Kyiv at Metalurh Donetsk, Dnipro at Metalist,
~Ante Kvartuč and Denis Svirčić reporting from sunny Southern California, Zach Gilfix reporting from Minneapolis, MN