Player: Dimitar Berbatov (Manchester United FC)
Sir Alex Ferguson hailed his Bulgarian striker's "special qualities" after his third hat-trick of the campaign helped earn United a 5-0 win against Birmingham City FC on Saturday. Those exploits took him to third in the ESM Golden Shoe rankings, but his work for the week was not yet done. Trailing 2-0 against promoted Blackpool FC on Tuesday, United scored three times in the closing 18 minutes – Berbatov with the first and third – to win and go five points clear at the Premier League summit.
Team: SO Chambéry
The FA Cup resumes this weekend in England after a third round full to the brim with upsets, but still nothing to beat the exploits across the Channel of Chambéry in the French Cup. Having already eliminated AS Monaco FC in the previous stage, the fifth-tier outfit defeated another Ligue 1 side, Stade Brestois 29, on penalties in the round of 32. "I can't find the words," said defender Fabien Tissot. "It was complicated when we went behind, but we knew we couldn't give up."
Goal: Karim Benzema (Real Madrid CF)
Having struck the decisive blow against RCD Mallorca in the Liga on Sunday, the France striker was at it again in the first leg of the Merengues' Copa del Rey semi-final against Sevilla FC. Picking up the ball midway inside his opponents' half, the 23-year-old slalomed his way through a host of despairing lunges before slotting calmly into the net for the only goal of the game.
Quote: Attila Polonkai (Videoton FC)
"I would give us eight out of ten if we win the title; we get nine if we qualify for the UEFA Champions League group stage, and ten if we get any points there."
The Hungarian First League leaders refuse to get above their station.
Gazumping a rampant FC Barcelona to any honour is no mean feat. Josep Guardiola's side have displayed an insatiable appetite for goals this term and their record is bettered by only one side – F91 Dudelange of Luxembourg. Indeed, their goal average of 3.66 per game positively dwarfs Barça's 3.2. Next stop, UEFA Champions League success.
Day release: Tomasz Kuszczak (Manchester United FC)
Sir Alex Ferguson is not a man who bows easily to demands. For his second-string goalkeeper, though, the legendary Scot was prepared to tear up his usually stringent rule book. Kuszczak was allowed to attend a Friends of EURO ceremony in his home town of Wroclaw on Tuesday, the same night United came up against Blackpool. "Sir Alex Ferguson gave me permission to go to Poland," he said. "That doesn't happen very often and it shows how important an event we are talking about."
Telltale ringtone: Michał Probierz (Jagiellonia Białystok)
Jagiellonia went into the winter break with a three-point lead atop the Polish First Division, but their ambitions extend far beyond domestic success. Coach Probierz continues to make all the right noises – "we are ready to make history and win the league" – but it is the sound emanating from his mobile phone which tells the real story. The 38-year-old admits to having had the UEFA Champions League anthem as his ringtone, suggesting that it is Europe's premier club competition that he truly yearns for.
Late-goal masters: Valencia CF
Valencia striker Aritz Aduriz admitted "you definitely celebrate with more intensity when you score the winning goal in the last seconds" after his 90th-minute decider against Málaga CF sealed his side's fifth straight Liga victory. Three of those wins have come in the dying embers of the game, prompting Aduriz to admit his side would "prefer not to suffer so much". Better late than never, though.
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