Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Real Madrid Closes on La Liga championship, David Villa


Real Madrid isn't just chasing the LaLiga title today, it's in hot pursuit of Valencia stud David Villa. Real Madrid Talk reports that Ramon Calderon is offering 35 million pounds for the Spain striker.

Villa is coveted on many fronts, including Champions League finalists Manchester United and Chelsea. TotalClubFootball reports that Real began its pursuit by offering cash and a combination of players including Julio Baptista, Esteban Granero and Ruben de la Red for Villa, who has already turned down an offer from Tottenham.

Villa is 26, and has made 30 appearances for Spain, scoring 13 times. He scored three times in the 2006 World Cup and displaced Raul. In 96 LaLiga matches, he's potted 52 goals.

It's tough to get a read on whether Villa is intent on staying in Spain, or taking a similar route as fellow Spain striker Fernando Torres and heading for the Premier League. Torres was immense for Liverpool and clearly the best acquisition of the offseason. Liverpool led the Premier League for the first quarter of the season before dipping to its customary fourth place. Also customary was Liverpool's deep run into the Champions League, losing in last week's epic semifinal to Chelsea.

Torres scored 23 Premier League goals, third best in the league, 32 in all competitions. Liverpool broke the bank to get him, ponying up 26.5 million pounds. Villa apparently will command more, and the expectations on him will be at least similar to those heaped upon Torres.

Real Madrid, meanwhile, hosts Barcelona today (4 p.m. ET live on GOL TV) and can wrap up its second straight domestic championship. The Classico doesn't have the shine it should given Barca's poor form of late; will the Catalans find some pride and play for a result today? It's been a rough go of late. Frank Rijkaard is all but out at Barcelona. Reuters is reporting that Pep Guardiola is in the wings to take over for Rijkaard, who won two championships and a Champions League trophy during his tenure at Barca.

Real has been in cruise control for a while in LaLiga. It leads by 10 points over Villareal, while Barca is 14 points back in third. Read has won five of its last six, tying once. Its last defeat came March 23, ironically enough, to Villa's Valencia team, 3-2. Raul is the team's leading scorer with 17 goals; Ruud VanNistelrooy has 12 and Robinho 10.

Barca, meanwhile, beat up on Valencia last weekend 6-0, but that was its first win in five games, and its first in LaLiga since March 23.

All the pegs are in place for a glorious week for Real Madrid; a second straight championship and David Villa--not bad for a week's work.

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