Reuters Soccer Blog

World Soccer views and news

Soccer Break – Thursday edition

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SOCCER-SPAIN/Good day to you all wherever you may be, and let’s start with some advice from Barcelona defender Dani Alves about his teammate and arguably the best footballer in the world, Lionel Messi.

The fast-passing Catalans snuck past Valencia last night, while over in Germany Raul was making the headlines for scoring the goal that sent Bayern Munich crashing out of the German Cup in the semi-finals.

Could the end be approaching for coach Louis van Gaal?

In other European action, Ligue 1 leaders Lille progressed to the semi-finals of the French Cup, and are being tipped for a domestic double.

News on the owl-kicking footballer is that he is being banned and fined.

And to finish, both sides of the story following Aston Villa’s 3-0 FA Cup defeat to Manchester City.

Sunderland’s Bruce can’t lecture Bent about loyalty

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SOCCER-ENGLAND/Much-travelled Sunderland manager Steve Bruce either has a very short memory or the biggest brass neck in football but either way his claim that his club had been let down by Darren Bent’s disloyal move to Aston Villa takes some swallowing.

“It’s hugely disappointing and the players, our supporters and the club as a whole have every right to feel massively let down,” he complained after Bent’s transfer.

Aston Villa’s Bent buy will flummox O’Neill

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SOCCER-ENGLAND/

If eyebrows were raised when Aston Villa decided to spend up to 24 million pounds on striker Darren Bent then former manager Martin O’Neill’s forehead must have been pinned to his living room ceiling when the news broke on Tuesday.

The absurdity of the switch lies not in the inflated figure or Bent’s abilities on the pitch and in front of goal, but in the timing of Villa chairman Randy Lerner choosing to dig deep into his pockets.

Houllier should be perfect match for Villa

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SOCCER-FRANCE/A tricky start to the season in which manager Martin O’Neill left before a ball was kicked, midfielder James Milner joined Manchester City and the club limped out of the Europa League, Aston Villa were in need of steady hands. Gerard Houllier should be just the man.

The 63-year-old Frenchman, who won five trophies with Liverpool and three French league titles, has swapped his job as technical director of the French Football Federation (FFF) for the Villa hot seat and brings a wealth of experience with him.

Referees wrestling with a problem they can’t solve

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SPORT SOCCER WORLDHow many teams will leave the World Cup happy with the refereeing? If it’s more than one I’ll be surprised as those “crucial” decisions seem to attract criticism only when teams lose.

The dissection of officials’ performances has become the staple of post-match interviews in recent years as, with one or two honourable exceptions, managers let rip (having had the benefit of replays from half-a-dozen angles of course).

Best. Premier League. Ever… ?

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The Ballon d’Or shortlist was announced on Sunday, but what about the Ballon de Plage? Liverpool’s inflatable nemesis must surely get a category of its own in the end-of-season awards.

Sunderland’s absurd winning goal at the Stadium of Light was symbolic not just of Liverpool’s woes but of a season that just keeps rattling along in ever more gloriously unpredictable style.

Johnson can provide home comfort Liverpool need

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Last season, Liverpool dropped too many points against teams from the bottom half of the table and finally it cost them that long awaited title.

It may well be, then, that the signing of the impressive, energetic Glen Johnson at full-back turns out to be a more significant bit of transfer business than the much criticised decision to sell Xabi Alonso to Real Madrid.

City’s spending spree makes sense in battle for fourth place

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There’s been a fair bit of speculation, here and elsewhere, about whether Manchester City could actually win the Premier League title but a more realistic goal is a top four finish. That being the case, the summer spending spree seen by some as being brash and uncoordinated is actually very shrewd.

Look carefully, and what City have managed to do, with the recruitment of Gareth Barry from Aston Villa and Emmanuel Adebayor and Kolo Toure from Arsenal, is to weaken two of their rivals for fourth place.

Liverpool display authority of old to reopen title race

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Liverpool reopened the Premier League title race with a 5-0 win over Aston Villa that must have thrilled Anfield, while leaving fans wondering why they haven’t seen similar displays all season.

This was exactly the sort of performance the occasion cried out for. Manchester United’s 2-0 defeat at Fulham, following on from the Old Trafford debacle, had left the door ajar, and Liverpool duly barged it open with another display of absolute self-belief.

Galaxy rewarded by playing hard ball over Beckham

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So often in the past we have seen transfer deals go through simply because the player asks to leave. Clubs fear the players won’t play to their full potential if their wish is denied so they cave in and take the transfer fee.

But recently, some clubs have started fighting back against player power and have been rewarded.

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