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Bayern collar title but underdogs have their day

Published: Friday 12 April 2013, 8.51CET
This week's highlights include the new German champions, a right-back's wonder goal, Spanish football's Mark Cavendish, double-vision in south London and a stadium leak to savour.

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Published: Friday 12 April 2013, 8.51CET

Bayern collar title but underdogs have their day

This week's highlights include the new German champions, a right-back's wonder goal, Spanish football's Mark Cavendish, double-vision in south London and a stadium leak to savour.

Team: FC Bayern München
Borussia Dortmund deserve an honourable mention after their Lazarus act at home to Málaga CF, but it is impossible to ignore their domestic rivals – for the second successive week. A 1-0 win at Eintracht Frankfurt on Saturday wrapped up Bayern's 23rd German title with a record six games to spare and they are on course to smash other Bundesliga marks for most points and wins and fewest goals.

Yet they will not be satisfied with that. A fifth European Cup is in the offing and, having been so painfully denied on home turf by Chelsea FC last year, they are doubly determined. Wednesday's 2-0 victory against Italian champions Juventus, completing a 4-0 aggregate triumph, underlined that desire. "We are Bundesliga champions, but we still have other goals," was the ominous comment from coach Jupp Heynckes, who retires at the end of the season.

Player: Éric Abidal (FC Barcelona)
The biggest ovation during Barcelona's 5-0 defeat of RCD Mallorca on Saturday was not reserved for hat-trick scorer Cesc Fábregas or two-goal Alexis Sánchez but the introduction of Abidal. When the France defender replaced Gerard Piqué in the 70th minute at the Camp Nou, the 33-year-old stepped onto the field for his first appearance since undergoing a liver transplant on 10 April 2012.

"Football is my life and I didn't want to finish without playing again," Abidal said. "I didn't want to leave like that and I fought to come back."

Goal: Matthew Lowton (Aston Villa FC)
The relegation trap door was creaking further open for Villa as they looked to have clinched a draw from the jaws of a deserved victory at Stoke City FC on Saturday, when an 87th-minute corner was cleared to Lowton, 25 metres out. The right-back controlled on his chest and, with defenders advancing, struck a majestic volley into the top corner.

"I don't think you will see a better goal in Europe let alone anywhere else than Matt Lowton's," said Villa manager and former Dortmund midfielder Paul Lambert. "The technique, chest control and volley were outstanding." Christian Benteke's added-time effort sealed a 3-1 win that dragged Villa out of the relegation zone, and pulled Stoke ever closer to it.

Numbers: 6 & 7
Barcelona became the first club to reach six consecutive UEFA Champions League semi-finals on Wednesday when they eliminated Paris Saint-Germain FC on away goals. The previous evening, Real Madrid CF survived a scare at Galatasaray AŞ to seal their own progress, meaning that José Mourinho has now guided teams to the last four seven times – matching Sir Alex Ferguson's record.

"We're still the last cyclist in the peloton, but we're right up on the tyres of the rest of the pack. It starts here and it's all about who has the best sprint finish. We're out of intensive care and up on the ward now. They've taken us off the life support machine and we're breathing for ourselves at last."
RC Deportivo La Coruña coach Fernando Vázquez mixing his metaphors after a third successive win lifted his team off the foot of the Liga and within a point of safety. He returned to the game in February following a six-year hiatus.

Chant: "Are you Palace in disguise?"
As sung by fans of English second-tier side Crystal Palace FC to visitors Barnsley FC after a clash of playing strips meant the latter had to borrow their hosts' away kits. Relegation-threatened Barnsley claimed a much-needed 0-0 draw.

View: Stayen Stadium
We have all been there. A match is in full flight but, with your bladder full to bursting, you can wait no longer. You wait for a throw-in then run for the toilet, as best you can given the circumstances. The relief is rapturous, but heaven turns to hell when you hear that telling cheer and the drumming above your head – you have missed a goal.

It is no longer a concern for supporters of one Belgian second-division side. K. Sint-Truidense VV are in the process of modernising their Stayen Stadium home and, as part of the renovations, the men's toilets in a new stand are being built complete with windows at face height. "Peeing fans will not miss a single goal," promised site manager Peter Onkelinckx.

Progress: Albania and Faroe Islands women
The road to the 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup in Canada opened up in Vilnius and Ta 'Qali over the last week as Europe's preliminary round set the qualifying process in motion. Four teams earned progress to Tuesday's qualifying group stage draw and among them were the Faroe Islands and Albania, the first time either nation has advanced through a round of a FIFA or UEFA competition at any level.

Albania were contesting their first women's competition and the team's record since their debut friendly 18 months ago now reads played seven, won six and drawn one. "It is a historic result," said Armand Duka, president of the Football Association of Albania (FShF).

Last updated: 04/12/13 5.57CET