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Soccer Break Thursday

March 17, 2011

SOCCER-CHAMPIONS/So Real Madrid finally broke their last 16 jinx and made the Champions League quarter-finals for the first time since 2004 with a solid home performance against Olympique Lyon. Can’t imagine anyone left in the draw would like to face Jose Mourinho’s men when the last eight and semi-final draws are announced on Friday.

Which team would you want? Managerless Schalke 04? Real are divided on that given they would then face former striker Raul. Or Ukraine’s Shakhtar Donetsk? Tottenham Hotspur would appear to be another one of the weaker teams left but at this stage of the competition any side is a threat.

To focus on Real, there are many talking points. Marcelo’s opening goal clearly settled the home support while there is no doubting Mourinho’s effortless ability to succeed.

In Wednesday’s other match Chelsea coasted through against FC Copenhagen, little surprise there. However Fernando Torres was again left waiting for his opening goal at the London club after coming on as a substitute in the 68th minute.

While English teams lead the way in the Champions League with three representatives, in the Europa League Liverpool and Manchester City have an uphill battle to make the quarter-finals. Scotland’s Rangers are also in with a chance but must beware the away goals rule.

Elsewhere in the Europa League, former winners (of the UEFA Cup before it became Europa League) Porto take a 1-0 away leg win to Portugal while Zenit St Petersburg must try and overturn a 3-0 defeat at Twente Enschede.

Ajax Amsterdam and Paris St Germain must also make up for first leg defeats against Spartak Moscow and Benfica respectively.

Something a little different to finish up on. Heard of NFL wide receiver Chad Ochocinco, the Cincinnati Bengals player whose surname is Johnson but because he wears the number 85 he changed his surname to the Spanish words for eight and five?

Well if you haven’t then read this. You could be seeing him in the United States league MLS soon.

Switching sports is notoriously difficult as former NBA player Michael Jordan discovered when he tried baseball in the 1990s.

Going back a few more years, the Compton brothers both played for Arsenal and were talented cricketers, though Leslie never played test cricket while Denis did but was less successful in football. Oh and Arsenal snuck into our blog again.

Discuss all these topics and other stories in world soccer on the Reuters Soccer Facebook page. And please feel free to send us recommendations for your pick of the day’s stories.

Picture: Real Madrid’s Marcelo celebrates scoring against Olympique Lyon during their second leg round of 16 Champions League soccer match at Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid March 16, 2011. REUTERS/Felix Ordonez

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