West Bromwich Albion
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Real Betis
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Liverpool need a slice of fortune


Real put road form on the line vs. Dortmund

Five Aside

Why Bayern need a good result at PSG


The gardening Adonis

Few of us like Mondays but The Fifth Official does, for it brings with it a chance for him to point the finger and laugh. Here he pulls out the pretty, the puzzling and the downright pig-ugly from the past week in football.

Freedom of Madrid

This weekend, I have largely been holidaying in Madrid - a welcome break from the painful saga that has become the Roonatic affair - and with one foot planted neatly on Spanish soil, all thoughts of wet Wednesdays in Wigan, Crouchy doing the robot and Blackburn playing cloud football kindly evaporated from my mind.

My travels did, however, invoke a large, roly-poly shaped slice of nostalgia, as I came face-to-face with (well, within half a mile - the cheap seats at the Bernabeu are a decent train ride from the pitch, you know) the bronzed Adonis himself, Cristiano Ronaldo. He seems pretty comfy with his new gig as pumped-up prince of Madrid, largely because Jose Mourinho seems to have afforded him licence to do whatever the heck he wants, as long as he pops back to defend the odd corner.

The boy even got a hefty round of applause from the adoring faithful for replacing a divot he'd created when fluffing a completely unnecessary back heel, and thanks to his spot of gardening he just happened to be 30 yards ahead of Racing Santander's defence when Gonzalo Higuain broke their brittle offside trap and crossed for him to tap in.

Just the four for Ronaldo then, and six for Real. Quite a stadium, too. The fans serenaded Jose - singing "We're going to win the league like this" - and so immersed was I in the Spanish way of life (plenty of beers at lunchtime followed by a hefty kip) that it wasn't until I returned on Sunday I learned the Roonatic had signed for five more years.

Roon's in the pink

When I left the country, the Roonatic was still only at defcon three in operation "add another £100k a week to salary" and the tabloids were awash with tales of the impending demise of one of Britain's once-great clubs - their star player at war with their highly decorated manager, accusing the Yankee owners of being tightwads.

But it seems Shrek has played a strategic blinder, something we all thought was way above his mental pay station, because - hey presto - there he is supping pink champagne in Dubai with his wife (I wonder why she repeatedly chooses to forgive multi-millionaire Wayne Rooney?) celebrating the fact the Glazers found him an extra bundle of cash before, presumably, pledging to splash out big dollar on the great and good of world football next summer.

Quite what the striker has done to deserve his bumper contract is hard to fathom given that he was woeful during the World Cup, berated England fans for booing one of the worst performances by a national side in history, has just one United goal to his name this season and seems to have developed a habit for besmirching himself and the club in the nationals. While he was soaking up the sun, Javier Hernandez was showing him how it is done, with two tidy finishes, and a decent attitude to boot.

And if the whole tawdry saga wasn't distasteful enough, it was played out in a week that saw the UK's coalition government slash and burn public spending, estimating that over half a million people could lose their jobs in the coming months and years. A sign of how football, more than ever, operates in its own, decadent bubble of reality.

The Kev and Andy show

It's the sitcom we never knew we wanted but now we can't live without The Kev and Andy show - devised by magistrates after Carroll was arrested on suspicion of assaulting a teenage girl and filmed on location in Newcastle. What could be more enchanting than a cheeky Scouser and a blundering Geordie cooped up in the same mansion, getting under the feet of Mrs Nolan and her sisters (if she's got any). It's like a working class version of Friends.

The reason Andy is bedding down at the Toon skipper's house is due to some rather unsavoury off-field events, the like of which Andy seems to be familiar with despite his fledging career. And an already frosty atmosphere round the brekkie table may well have turned poisonous after Andy's pride and joy (a 4x4 complete with chrome number plate and games console) was torched on Kev's drive during the week.

The roomies put their soap opera lives to one side at Upton Park, though, as they both grabbed a goal in Newcastle's win, though the joy on their faces was probably due to the fact that Handy is excused from his titchy room in Kev's palace on matchdays, meaning they could finally have a break from each other. Their delight will be nowt compared to Mrs Nolan's, though, as she finally got in some much needed 'me' time.

But it's not all sweetness and light, seeing as Andy is due in court again on Monday morning.

Welief for Woy

Liverpool fans must have forgotten that days like this exist. A hard-fought victory over a limited, one-dimensional side; their star striker looking vaguely interested and scoring for once; and their manager happily basking in the glow of three points all the while pointing between the pitch and the club's new owners in the stands screaming: "See what I just did? I did that. We won!"

A shred of normality was what all of Anfield had hoped for after recent events and it duly arrived with the sight of Jamie Carragher putting one in his own net off his face. You could almost hear the Kop let out a relieved sigh at the sight.

If the new owners were expecting a Hollywood introduction for their first home game, they will have been left sorely disappointed, though. There were no fireworks, no scantily clad cheerleaders, no brass band - just an old bloke warbling a rendition of You'll Never Walk Alone before the game. Still, it had the desired effect and three points duly followed. Next task on Woy's to-do list? Emerge from the bottom three.

Cesc on the brain

Despite eight years in the country, Cesc Fabregas has clearly never heard the phrase 'one swallow doesn't make a summer' after he flung out some mildly inappropriate claims once Arsenal had disposed, rather clinically, of Manchester City's ten men on Sunday.

Calmly stating that the Gunners would have won even if City had "15 players" completely belittled the fact that City had ten men for the majority of the game after Dedryck Boyata's hack on Marouane Chamakh resulted in a deserved dismissal.

Even though it was Cesc who was most vociferous in a gaggle of red shirts demanding a red card from Mark Clattenberg in the aftermath, he seemed to have instantly forgotten the fact. Claiming few teams can live with Arsenal's tempo is a bit rich given City were a man light, and that West Brom seemed to do a decent job of it a few weeks back at the Emirates.

However misplaced, at least his enthusiasm may pep up his team-mates in the weeks to come. We can all agree that Arsenal in full flight are worthy of a watch, but here's another phrase for your notebook Cesc: 'Don't run before you can walk'.

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