SPORT – Rampant Real Break Barca Unbeaten Record
It was a fantastic start to the year for Real Madrid, as they broke Barcelona’s Spanish record for consecutive matches unbeaten in all competitions. The record had been set by Barcelona last year and had stood at 39 matches. However, it has only taken Real Madrid 10 months to break that mark with the record breaking game being a pulsating 3-3 draw away from home against Sevilla in the Copa del Rey. It was a match marred by controversy as Sergio Ramos was targeted by some sections of the home support for abuse on his return to Seville, his home city. With 80 minutes gone it had seemed as though Real would be destined to share the record with Barca as they trailed Sevilla 3-1. However, Real were awarded a penalty in the 83rd minute which Ramos coolly slotted away, Ramos then seemed to incite the crowd by raising his hands to his ears in front of the Sevilla Ultras. Karim Benzema then equalised deep into injury to give Real the result they needed to break the record.
The joy of setting a new record of 40 matches unbeaten was short-lived for Real though, as they then lost their next game in the league to a Sevilla side looking to avenge their cup elimination. Two goals in the last 5 minutes gave Sevilla a 2-1 win, including a Sergio Ramos own goal coming just days after he had riled up the Sevilla crowd. The month was to take a further turn for the word for Real just 10 days later as they were eliminated in the Quarter-Final by way of a 4-3 aggregate defeat by Celta Vigo, ending hopes of a Real treble of La Liga, Cup, and Champions League glory. They have since got their league campaign back on track with wins over Malaga and Real Sociedad and remain 4 points clear of both Barcelona and Sevilla at the top of La Liga, having also played a game less than their rivals.
While Real fans lament their cup exit, across the city, Atletico Madrid celebrated progressing to the Semi-Final with a 5-2 aggregate win over Eibar. With the league seemingly out of reach for Atleti this season, it seems likely their focus will shift towards Europe and the cup. Their league form has continued to be inconsistent with 2 victories and 2 draws this month. Atletico find themselves 10 points behind their cross-city rivals in the league having played a game less than Real.
The third Madrid side, CD Leganes, will visit the Camp Nou for the first time in their history on 19th February. It will be another day to remember for the cucumber growers of Leganes in their first season in the top-flight. Although fighting a relegation battle, Leganes, who are 17th in the table, will be optimistic of maintaining their place in La Liga. The clash with fellow relegation strugglers, Sporting Gijon on 12th February will be a crucial game for the Madrid side.
February also brings us the return of the UEFA Champions League with both Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid in action this month. Real restart their bid to become the first side to retain Europe’s premier competition since AC Milan in 1990 by welcoming Napoli to the Bernabeu on 15th February for the first leg, before travelling to Naples on 7th March for the return fixture. Meanwhile, Atletico will travel to face Bayer Leverkusen for the first leg on 21st February.
Stepping away from football, this month also sees the return of the Six Nations Rugby Championship and although Spain are still some way off the level required to enter the tournament, they will begin their attempts to qualify for the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan. The Rugby Europe Championship represents the second-tier of international rugby in Europe. Like the Six Nations, the Championship also contains six nations; Georgia, Russia, Spain, Romania, Belgium and Germany. With Georgia having already qualified for the World Cup, Spain will be hoping at the very least to secure themselves a Playoff spot against a side from Oceania, with qualification on the line. Spain play the majority of their home games at the Estadio Nacional Complutense, right here in Madrid and will be aiming to capitalise on the experience of qualification for the Olympic Rugby Sevens tournament in Brazil to qualify for their second Rugby World Cup.