Inside Spain: Jude Bellingham twist, Barcelona crisis and Arsenal target reveals desire to play in Spain

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Inside Spain is a weekly instalment brought to you by Football España, providing an insight into all of the major stories coming out of the rich and intense climes of La Liga and beyond.

Just 24 hours, what a difference a day makes. It looked as if the title race was over when Real Madrid drew 1-1 with Atletico Madrid in the Madrid derby last Saturday, failing to overcome ten men after Angel Correa was sent off controversially. However Barcelona’s 1-0 defeat to Almeria on Sunday night meant that they actually reduced the gap to seven points, ahead of the two facing each other in the first leg of the Copa del Rey semi-final on Thursday night.

The atmosphere at Real Madrid has improved dramatically since, with renewed optimism they can track Barcelona down. That is despite their disgruntlement at the ‘FIFA Best Awards’. There was much discussion about the fact Vinicius Junior was not nominated for the best XI, while Karim Benzema posted a list of his achievements during the voting consideration period after Lionel Messi won.

Messi has bigger things to worry about. His wife’s cousin owns a supermarket in Rosario, Argentina, his home city. It was peppered with gunshots on Wednesday night, with the perpetrators leaving a threat for Messi in the process.

Meanwhile top target Jude Bellingham is no longer guaranteed to be the star that Real Madrid pursue this summer. Bellingham’s high price tag is considered prohibitive by Real Madrid and their competition, which has caused them to look for alternatives.

Jude Bellingham is frustrated with Borussia Dortmund’s hard line on his sale.

Ahead of Thursday night’s El Clasico, Barcelona’s issues go far beyond just a poor couple of performances. Pedri’s injury has been headline news, as the impact of his absence became evident: Xavi Hernandez’s win rate falls from 90% to 57% without him. Without Ousmane Dembele, it was going to fall on Robert Lewandowski to lead the team, but he will miss the next two weeks too, with a thigh injury.

His long-term replacement and Arsenal target Vitor Roque did at least admit that he would love to join Barcelona this summer, but Gunners fans should not lose hope, as money talks. Meanwhile Osasuna beat Athletic Club 1-0 in their first leg of the Copa del Rey semi-final, as they look to pursue their first ever trophy. They were inspired by Moroccan starlet Ez Abde, on loan from Barcelona, who scored this stunning solo effort.

Down in Andalusia, Sevilla are after Manchester United defender Victor Lindelof. Their crosstown rivals and United’s next opponents in the Europa League, Real Betis, received awful news this week as Nabil Fekir tore his anterior cruciate ligament. He will miss the rest of the season. Further south, Cadiz are attempting to get the entire league suspended. After a clear offside decision was missed in January, they feel they have a case for negligence, and have taken the matter for the Court of Arbitration for Sports, hoping to get the final minutes of that game replayed with that goal disallowed.

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