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Real suffering Ronaldo-dependency in their pursuit of silverware

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Mark Elkington in Madrid on Real’s over-reliance on Cristiano Ronaldo

SOCCER-SPAIN/Jose Mourinho´s chances of repeating last season´s treble winning campaign with Inter Milan at Real Madrid depend, in part, on him breaking the side´s reliance on the world’s most expensive player, Cristiano Ronaldo.

The 26-year-old Portugal forward has netted an impressive 34 goals in all competitions this season, 24 of those coming in La Liga, but it´s when he doesn´t score that the problems arise.

Ronaldo has run into a barren patch of late, only scoring twice in Real´s last seven league matches, both in the 4-1 home win over Real Sociedad.

They have dropped seven points in that time, in the 1-1 draw at Almeria, a 1-0 defeat at Osasuna and last Saturday´s 0-0 draw at Deportivo Coruna.

Arsenal fans must keep their faith in Wenger

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Mike Collett in London on why Arsenal fans should back their manager

SOCCER-ENGLAND/CUPArsene Wenger is the most successful manager Arsenal have ever had, but unhappy fans have very short memories and incredible as it may seem, some Arsenal supporters were calling for his head on Monday.

Irate listeners to radio phone-ins and message boards posters vented their frustrations at Arsenal’s failure to end their six-year trophy drought after they lost 2-1 to underdogs Birmingham City in the League Cup final at Wembley on Sunday.

Soccer Break – Monday edition

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SOCCER-ENGLAND/CUPHello and welcome to Reuters Soccer Blog’s new daily digest where we’ll recommend some of the best stories on the internet for you to read over morning coffee/afternoon tea/cocktails (depending on your time zone).

Where better to start with a look at Birmingham City’s last-gasp win over Arsenal in the England’s League Cup final, the drama of which is depicted in our photo of the 89th minute goal that left the north Londoners still yearning to end that trophy drought.

Falcioni takes tough choice

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Rex Gowar in Buenos Aries on a tough decision taken by Boca Juniors’ new coach.

FALCIONI


Boca Juniors coach Julio Cesar Falcioni has taken a brave decision leaving Juan Roman Riquelme out of his team for this Saturday’s home match against modest All Boys.
Boca lost 4-1 at home to Godoy Cruz in their Clausura championship opener two weeks ago with Riquelme in the team and won 1-0 at Racing Club last weekend without him.
However, to focus solely on the results is to oversimplify a serious problem for any coach in charge of a squad that includes a gifted player like Riquelme and more so if he is at Boca and even more still if he is new.

Marvellous Marseille fans keep singing through the pain

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SOCCER-CHAMPIONS/I had been told the Stade Velodrome had a great atmosphere and after the constant noise the Marseille fans made in Wednesday’s 0-0 Champions league draw with Manchester United, I have one question – what would it be like if the stands had roofs?

Despite the dire match, the supporters at either side of the ground never stopped chanting and banging drums for a second. If the Velodrome wasn’t open to the elements I can only imagine that the noise would be even louder and give the home side an even bigger advantage.

Barcelona beset by injuries at crucial stage

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SOCCER-SPAIN/Like many of Europe’s biggest clubs, Barcelona find themselves at a crucial point of the season, with their hopes in two of the three competitions they are contesting in the balance.

Worryingly for fans, Pep Guardiola’s side have been hit by a rash of niggling injuries to key players at a highly inconvenient moment.

Not quite a feast of football in tasty Lyon

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SOCCER-CHAMPIONS/It was my first trip to Lyon to see Tuesday’s Champions League clash with Real Madrid and though I knew what to expect on the field given the Spanish side’s troubles here in the past, I had no idea what the city or its famed cuisine would be like.

In the end, the food in one of France’s gastronomic centres probably outshone the fare on the pitch although it was a decent game with both sides fighting for every ball in the cold and the rain.

Real Madrid battle French demons and knockout round jinx

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SOCCER-SPAIN/Olympique Lyon’s Stade de Gerland has proved to be something of a graveyard for Real Madrid’s European ambitions over the last decade.

The nine-time European Cup winners travel there for a Champions League last-16, first leg on Tuesday with an abysmal record to look back on from previous visits – three defeats, no goals scored and six conceded.

Forget the “purists” – Barcelona’s passing has an end game

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SOCCER-CHAMPIONS/Having previously confessed to the heresy of being largely bored by the style of Spain’s “beautifully crafted” triumphs in the European championship and World Cup I went along to the Emirates on Wednesday fully primed to observe another dose of “football for the purist” guaranteed to keep me safely in my seat.

However, even with six of the World Cup-winning side in their side, Barcelona are not Spain and, to my delight, I saw a display of passing with purpose rather than the all-too-familiar passing to go nowhere and there were plenty of “on your feet” moments as they ripped holes in Arsenal’s defence.

Will Arsenal get past Barca at the Nou Camp?

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SOCCER-CHAMPIONS/Arsenal did a lot of things right in Wednesday’s fine 2-1 comeback win over Barcelona, not least finishing more clinically than their La Liga visitors, but it would be a big surprise if Barca were as generous in the return leg on March 8.

World Player of the Year Lionel Messi, who netted all four goals in a 4-1 demolition at the Nou Camp last season to give Barca a 6-3 aggregate victory, missed at least two golden chances at The Emirates and Spain forward Pedro was also guilty of profligacy.

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