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Bayern, Real, Lyon closing in on domestic glory

With so much focus on the English Premier League and its dominance of the Champions League, I wanted to switch gears and take a look at some of the other leagues in Europe.

We start in Germany, where FC Bayern München took their first step towards a treble with a win in the DFB Pokal (German Cup) final against Borussia Dortmund. The win was a record 14th win in the competition for Bayern and set up a likely domestic double. Having just swept Dortmund aside less than a week ago by a 5-0 scoreline, one might have expected a similar rout to be on the cards but Dortmund gave Bayern a good fight before losing in extra-time. Luca Toni was again the hero for Bayern scoring both goals and taking his total to 35 in all competitions. Bayern are currently 10 points clear at the top of the Bundesliga and unless they suffer a major collapse, look to be a good bet to returning to Champions League football next season. What remains to be seen is if they will return as UEFA Cup winners. They face FC Zenit St. Petersburg in the first leg of their semi-final this Thursday (April 24th).

Moving to Spain, Real Madrid can wrap up a second consecutive La Liga crown with a win next weekend against Athletic Bilbao and if both Villareal and Barcelona drop points in their matches. Barcelona do not look set to poise any threat and will be in tough this week against Manchester United in Champions League semi-final action. Real will be focused on winning the league again and even without strike partner Ruud van Nistelrooy, captain Raul has been finding the net on a regular basis.

In France, Girondins Bordeaux fought through a water-logged pitch to record a 1-0 win at strugglers Toulouse on Sunday. The win leaves Bordeaux four points behind Olympique Lyon. Lyon, chasing a seventh successive title, won 2-1 at Racing Strasbourg on Saturday and have 71 points ahead of Bordeaux on 67 with four matches remaining.

In Portugal, FC Porto wrapped up the league title two weeks ago with five games left as they had an unassailable 18-point lead (now stretched to 20) over Vitoria Guimaraes. They won the title with some style, crushing Estrela Amadora 6-0 at home to claim their third successive Portuguese league title. Perennial Champions League competitors and biggest rivals, Benfica, are struggling this season in fourth place currently 24 points back of Porto. Benfica are only four points back of Vitoria for second-place but with only three games to go are not making up any ground. They lost again at the weekend, to FC Porto by a 2-0 score. Lisandro Lopez scored twice for Porto to increase his tally for the season to 24 goals. Benfica, without a win in the last three league matches, ended with 10 men after midfielder Augustin Binya received a second yellow card in stoppage time.

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