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Real bristling with confidence before Champions League semi

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In our latest Monday Spanish soccer post, Mark Elkington in Madrid looks at the state of play ahead of Wednesday’s Champions League semi-final between arch rivals Real Madrid and Barcelona, Diego Forlan’s relegation to the bench at Atletico Madrid and the curse of the balls on the pitch.

Real bristling with confidence before Champions League semi

Last week’s dramatic King’s Cup final victory over Barca has provided a palpable boost to Real coach Jose Mourinho and his players and they romped to a 6-3 win at third-placed Valencia on Saturday despite resting several key squad members.

Barca, by contrast, laboured to a 2-0 success at home to Osasuna, one that nonetheless preserved their seemingly unassailable eight-point lead over Real at the top of La Liga with five games left.

However, their problems were compounded by injuries to Gabriel Milito and Maxwell. With Carles Puyol, Eric Abidal and Adriano already on the medical list, coach Pep Guardiola has a severe defensive headache.

Good Soccer Break Friday

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NBA/It’s Easter weekend but there’s no rest for the world’s football players with another hectic schedule of matches.

To bring you up to date with all of the major European leagues, read our Serie A, Ligue 1, Premier League, La Liga and Bundesliga previews ahead of the next round of matches.

Solbakken’s Copenhagen may be undone by own strength

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 SOCCER-CHAMPIONS/By Philip O’Connor

 It was as if Stale Solbakken’s winning machine had been taken by the moment.

Crowned champions minutes before kickoff by Odense’s failure to beat Nordsjaelland, they quickly fell behind to lowly Lyngby.

RSL will miss their ‘Rasta passer’

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SOCCER/

There is a rare air of jubilation around Major League Soccer after Real Salt Lake managed to come away from the first leg of their CONCACAF Champions League final away to Mexican champions Monterrey with a 2-2 draw but it is tempered by the loss of their best player for the return game.

MLS commissioner Don Garber took to twitter to post ‘Congrats RSL! Well done’ and many fans of other MLS teams have been quick to applaud the result. In many ways, this year’s run to the final by RSL has been taken by the league and its supporters as a validation of their status in the game.

Soccer Break Thursday – Mourinho wins. Again.

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SOCCER-SPAIN/CUPJose Mourinho and winning appear to go hand in hand after the colourful Portuguese coach delivered at the first time of asking in Wednesday’s King’s Cup final.

All the more significant was beating Barcelona for the first time as Real coach, which sets up a fascinating double header in the Champions League semi-finals on April 27 and May 3.

from Photographers' Blog:

Goodbye to hell

In the second half of the 2010-2011 Turkish football season Galatasaray moved to its new home ground in Istanbul, the Turk Telekom Arena, a 52,000-seat multi-purpose stadium replacing the Ali Sami Yen Stadium.

The fate of the legendary Ali Sami Yen Stadium is now sealed.

Ali Sami Yen stadium in Istanbul 2010. REUTERS/Sevim Sen

The demolition of Ali Sami Yen, one of the most iconic venues in Turkish football and the home to one of the three oldest Istanbul football clubs Galatsaray for 47 years, started last week. For almost half a century, the yellow-and-red lions hosted their rivals in this temple with the slogan "welcome to hell". The stadium played host to victories against European giants FC Barcelona, A.Bilbao, AC Milan, Real Madrid, E.Frankfurt, and a historic victory against Neuchatel Xamax. Most notably it was the scene of Galatasaray’s triumphal UEFA Cup campaign in 2000.

Soccer Break Wednesday

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SOCCER-ENGLAND/Aren’t Manchester United supposed to be peaking at this time of the season? That’s what all the Red Devils supporters will be asking themselves and their friends on Wednesday after the 0-0 draw at Newcastle United.

Penalty or no penalty at the end when Javier Hernandez went down in the area? And more importantly, will United go on and win the title? Wednesday’s Premier League games involving Arsenal at Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea at home to Birmingham City will be decisive.

Soccer Break Tuesday

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SOCCER-ENGLAND/CUPShort and sweet today with little news on Monday and plenty of action to look forward to this week.

Manchester United will look to stretch their Premier League lead against Newcastle United on Tuesday, though will their Wembley antics distract them? ‘A hole lot of trouble for United’ read one headline.

One down, three to go…..

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SOCCER-SPAIN/CLASICOIn our latest Monday post on Spanish soccer, Mark Elkington in Madrid reviews the first of four games in three competitions in 18 days between arch rivals Barcelona and Real Madrid and takes a look at surprise La Liga package Levante.

One down, three to go

Real Madrid and Barcelona achieved their primary aims in Saturday´s 1-1 “Clasico” draw, the first of four titanic clashes between the arch rivals in 18 days.

Soccer Break Monday

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SOCCER-SPAIN/CLASICOReal Madrid 1 Barcelona 1. Pictures of the teams suggest they were both pleased with the result but you would imagine Barcelona came away the happier side. Though Real were down to ten men for almost the entire second half so must be relieved not to have lost.

Who gained the upper hand then from the first of four clasicos between last Saturday and May 3? Wednesday will be an interesting affair in the King’s Cup final, a one off match as opposed to the two-legged Champions League semi-final.

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