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3
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Liverpool and Arsenal set for showdown

50-50 Challenge
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Liverpool and Arsenal set for showdown

50-50 Challenge
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By ESPN Staff

Ramos happy to close in on Barca

Real Madrid coach Juande Ramos admits it is a "nice" feeling to finally see his side rewarded for one of their Primera Division victories by taking a chunk out of Barcelona's lead at the summit.

Madrid's 4-2 win over Sevilla continued their remarkable form under Ramos which has seen them win 17 of 19 league games in total since he took the reins in December, and of the last 54 available points they have taken 52.

It is a stunning run of success, but unfortunately for them Barca have been in similarly devastating form and Pep Guardiola's side had won seven successive games heading into last weekend's fixtures, meaning Madrid have not been able to close the gap on their arch rivals for most of the last two months.

However, that situation changed over the weekend as Barca where held to a 2-2 draw at fourth-placed Valencia on Saturday night, and Madrid responded 24 hours later by downing third-placed Sevilla at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan to close to within four points of the pacesetters.

When asked how it felt to have finally cut the gap to Barca, Ramos said: "Nice. We've won a lot of matches, picking up 17 victories overall, but we've not been able to close on them and at times it makes it hard for you when you don't see any results for the work you are putting in."

Madrid now have another great chance to put further pressure on Barca when they host the Catalan outfit at the Bernabeu this weekend.

If Barca had beaten Valencia this weekend and Madrid lost at Sevilla, Guardiola's men would have won the title with a win at the Bernabeu, as they would have been 12 points clear with just four games to go and boasting a better head-to-head record against the capital club.

That is no longer the case though, and Madrid now have the chance to be just one point adrift and gain revenge for their 2-0 defeat at the Nou Camp in December - the only league loss suffered under coach Ramos.

"There are five games remaining, a lot of points, and on Saturday we have a home game against Barcelona where we are going to play a very important game," added Ramos, who was making his first return to his former club yesterday since leaving Sevilla for Tottenham in 2007.

It was looking like being an uncomfortable evening for Ramos as his side went a goal down after 16 minutes and might easily have found themselves 4-0 behind by the 20-minute mark as hosts Sevilla created a series of good chances.

However, Madrid gradually settled down and a quickfire hat-trick by captain Raul either side of half-time saw the visitors go 3-1 up. Marcelo then completed the scoring in stoppage time after Sevilla winger Diego Capel had pulled a goal back with 10 minutes to go.

"The first 20 or 25 minutes have clearly been Sevilla's, but the latter part of the first half was ours," said Ramos. "I think that the key thing was scoring our first goal just before the break.

"The second half was totally controlled by us. In the situation we are in, our chase of Barcelona, the only thing worthwhile is a win and we've gone out to get that. We are happy and now we wait for next week's game."

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