Reuters Soccer Blog

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from Left field:

And Porto will play…..Europa League draw provides some stardust

There was the usual hushed silence and then sudden intake of breath heard in Nyon on Friday, though not for the Champions League Round of 16 draw but the first two ties of the Europa League Round of 32.

Holders Porto will play mega-rich Manchester City, they were the first two names out of the little plastic balls when UEFA general secretary Gianni Infantino was finally able to open the second after Davor Suker had tried and failed, and Ajax Amsterdam will take on Manchester United.

So what about the Champions League draw? Well, here it is in full:

Olympique Lyon v APOEL Nicosia

Napoli v Chelsea

AC Milan v Arsenal

Basel v Bayern Munich

Bayer Leverkusen v Barcelona

CSKA Moscow v Real Madrid

Zenit St Petersburg v Benfica

Olympique Marseille v Inter Milan

Some first legs will be played on Valentine’s Day, so gentlemen start making your excuses. Mind you, AC Milan v Arsenal, Napoli v Chelsea, Olympique Marseille v Inter Milan and Bayer Leverkusen v Barcelona aside, the above matches are by no means the most mouthwatering.

What do you make of the two draws? And do you think Manchester’s two powerhouses will field strong teams come February next year when they begin their Europa League quests?

from Mark Meadows:

Real’s psychological barrier key to Barca’s 3-1 win

By Drazen Jorgic

Annoyingly for Real Madrid coach Jose Mourinho, the supposed plot line of  El Clasico on Saturday did not follow the script. The much-anticipated power shift from Catalunya to Madrid did not take place and his team are back to the drawing board as far as playing against Barcelona is concerned.

Mourinho blamed bad luck for the loss, as you would expect, but a lot of the press have zoomed in on Real's psychological barrier when it comes to facing Barca.

Champions League predictions

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Well the first round of Champions League group results were fairly predictable, except for Trabzonspor winning at 2010 champions Inter Milan of course.

Here’s my attempt at predicting the scores in this week’s action. If you agree or disagree then please leave a comment below. Don’t worry, registering takes about five seconds.

Champions League kicks off but is there only one winner?

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Can any team steal Barcelona’s Champions League crown this term?

The easy answer is no.

They were so strong last season that even the final against a good Manchester United side was a stroll.

This term Pep Guardiola’s men have strengthened, if that was possible, with the additions of Cesc Fabregas and Alexis Sanchez so it is hard to look past them and their silky skills.

La Liga’s great divide

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The red carpet was out in the VIP lounge at the Bernabeu last week and four immaculately-dressed Emirates air hostesses helped usher in the dignitaries as Real Madrid presented a new sponsorship agreement with the Dubai-based airline.

No financial details were given, but the five-year deal will no doubt further boost the coffers of the world´s richest club by revenue.

Xavi’s Wembley tears turn to triumph

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In our latest post on Spanish soccer, Iain Rogers in Madrid muses on the brilliance of the peerless Xavi and Real Madrid’s decision to hand more power to coach Jose Mourinho at the expense of sacked director general Jorge Valdano. 

Xavi’s Wembley tears turn to triumph

Lionel Messi rightly grabbed most of the headlines for his latest European masterclass in Barcelona’s 3-1 Champions League final humbling of Manchester United on Saturday.

Soccer Break Monday – Manchester united?

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A united Manchester after both football sides won major honours on Saturday? No chance. Both City and United will parade the streets in open-top bus parades, just a week apart.

Read here for a roundup of all things European football over the weekend, during which titles were won, tears were shed, and more trophies were dropped.

Soccer Break Thursday – How to stop Barca?

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Just another night of footballing action and another trophy for the all-conquering Barcelona, who on Wednesday clinched their third successive La Liga title despite a laboured 1-1 draw away to Levante.

Manchester United will be hoping a similarly weary Barcelona turn up at Wembley for the Champions League final on May 28, hopefully having themselves recently won their top domestic honour, the Premier League.

Soccer Break Wednesday – Money buys success

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Cash, dollars, bucks, dough, call it what you want, it paves the way for football clubs to be successful.

On Tuesday the bank-rolled Manchester City outfit reached the Champions League qualifiers for next season and could even secure an automatic berth if they pip Arsenal to third place in the Premier League. That would be a real kick in the guts to Arsene Wenger, who has barely spent anything in comparison to City since he took over the North Londoners in 1996.

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