Team: AC Sparta Praha
FC Steaua Bucureşti's 1-0 home defeat by FC Vaslui in Romania set the stage on Friday night, and Czech First League leaders Sparta did not miss their cue, winning 3-0 at home to neighbours SK Slavia Praha to establish their position as the last unbeaten side in any 2013/14 UEFA top division. Back in November, there were a host of teams who had made great starts, but gradually they fell by the wayside to leave only Steaua and Sparta. Now Vítězslav Lavička's squad are closing in on a 36th national title, and midfielder Borěk Dočkal is determined to do it in style. "I cannot see any reason why we should lose a game," the 25-year-old told UEFA.com. "We know we are the only ones who can spoil it, but I believe we are strong enough to finish the job."
Player: Gonzalo Higuaín (SSC Napoli)
It was hard not to read a deeper significance into the Argentinian international's first hat-trick for the club he joined from Real Madrid CF last summer; Sunday's treble came against SS Lazio, the same side against whom Diego Maradona had registered his first hat-trick for Napoli some 29 years earlier. Having failed to score in his previous four Serie A games, the 26-year-old Higuaín put Napoli 2-1 up from the penalty spot early in the second half. With the visitors down to ten men, Higuaín then twice dribbled past defender Diego Novaretti to beat goalkeeper Etrit Berisha, making it 3-1 and finally 4-2. However, 'El Pipita' was eager to downplay the Maradona parallels. "I played like I always do, only this time the ball went in," the forward said.
Goal: Munir El Haddadi (FC Barcelona)
Barcelona beat SL Benfica 3-0 in the first UEFA Youth League final on Monday; the scoreline was hard on the Eagles, but they knew their luck was out when El Haddadi hit the target from the halfway line for their third goal. "I wanted to pass to my team-mate, but then I saw the goalkeeper off his line so I tried to lob him and it went in," said the 18-year-old attacker. "All of us have had enriching experiences from this competition," noted Benfica coach João Tralhão. "Obviously we would prefer to learn from a victory ..."
Quote: Gareth Bale (Real Madrid CF)
"I came to Madrid to win titles and I hope this will be the first of many" – Bale wrapped up his first career trophy in style with a spectacular 85th-minute solo winner in the 2-1 victory over Barcelona in Wednesday's Copa del Rey final in Valencia.
The first six rounds of the new Kazakh Premier League season have been startlingly low-scoring; goals have been registered at an average rate of 0.82 per game, with just two of the 12 teams involved managing an average of more than a goal a match. "I believe that as the weather gets warmer, the goals follow," former FC Kairat Almaty, FC Astana, FC Atyrau and Kazakhstan Under-21 coach Kairat Aymanov told UEFA.com.
Injury: Giuseppe Zinetti (Torino FC)
Alessio Cerci's solo run and sensational shot provided a superb climax to Torino's Serie A home game against Genoa CFC last Sunday, when his side went 1-0 down six minutes from time but managed to win with two added-time goals. The second was a strike worth celebrating, but 55-year-old goalkeeping coach Zinetti clearly got a bit carried away, leaping off the bench with such uninhibited joy that he managed to tear his Achilles tendon. "For the first time this season we had our full squad available and now we have lost Zinetti," joked coach Giampiero Ventura. "If we are getting injured just jumping out of our seats, we really are getting old."
Victory lap: Conny Pohlers (VfL Wolfsburg)
The all-time leading scorer in UEFA women's club competition, forward Conny Pohlers announced she will retire at the end of the season, having won the UEFA Women's Cup or UEFA Women's Champions League with three clubs – 1. FFC Turbine Potsdam, 1. FFC Frankfurt and Wolfsburg – scoring 48 goals in the process. "I have always been at the right place at the right time," she said. "Wherever I played I won trophies." The 35-year-old will now look to be a lucky charm to future generations in a new role at Wolfsburg. "I might even play for the reserve team if I miss playing," she added. Wolfsburg visit Potsdam in their UEFA Women's Champions League semi-final first leg on Saturday, with Pohlers two strikes away from the first competition half-century of goals.
©UEFA.com 1998-2016. All rights reserved.