Reuters Soccer Blog
World Soccer views and news
Back in December, when the draw for the first knock-out round of the Champions League was made, Liverpool could be forgiven for feeling pretty pleased with the prospect of renewing their acquaintance with Real Madrid. How different things look now.
Back then, Liverpool were top of the Premier League, six points ahead of a Manchester United side facing a fixture pile-up and struggling for form. Real Madrid, in apparent disarray after sacking coach Bernd Schuster, were 12 points behind Barcelona, having just lost 2-0 to their arch-rivals.
Now, Liverpool have all but conceded the title to United, while Real Madrid, inspired by Juande Ramos, have won nine league games in a row to give Barcelona plenty to think about. True, Real remain seven points behind Barca, exactly the same margin by which Liverpool trail United, but Ramos’s side will go into the tie bristling with confidence, while their opponents fight just to keep their season alive.
There are at least a couple of other uncomfortable facts for Liverpool to consider as they prepare for a first European Cup meeting with Real since the final in Paris in 1981.
Barcelona look unstoppable this season but did Sporting Gijon coach Manolo Preciado tempt fate when he said it was crazy to think La Liga was not already in the bag?
Pep Guardiola’s team swept aside Sporting 3-1 on Sunday to make it 10 consecutive league wins.
The deadline this year is February 2 given January finishes on a weekend so there is a little extra time for some late deals.
The names mentioned by the media as City’s current transfer targets represent a lack of imagination reminiscent of the post-title winning days at Blackburn Rovers, when Jack Walker’s millions were spent on players like Lars Bohinen, Billy McKinlay and Garry Flitcroft in a futile bid to build a team capable of challenging for the Champions League.
Eighteen years ago today, on Dec. 16 1990, a 19-year-old midfielder made his debut for Johan Cruyff’s Barcelona dream team in a Primera Liga match against Cadiz.
Pep Guardiola, who picked up a yellow card that day as the Catalans won 2-0, has come a long way since then, carving out a distinguished career both for Barca and the Spanish national side before taking over as coach at the Nou Camp from Frank Rijkaard at the end of last season.
Has new Real Madrid coach Juande Ramos picked up where he left off at struggling Tottenham Hotspur?
You might very well think so after a glance at the 2-0 scoreline from Saturday’s “Clasico” at the Nou Camp.
Saturday’s El Clasico between Barcelona and Real Madrid and Sunday’s clash between Juventus and AC Milan both have real tradition and a zest which Europe’s nouveau riche clubs can only dream of.
The 16 teams that reached the Champions League first knockout round were again the usual suspects expected to go through. The group stage of Europe’s premier club competition unfolded rather predictably after a few early shocks.
Ten of the teams qualified for the same stage last season while the other six include twice winners Juventus, who returned with a roar after a two-year absence, as well as former finalists Panathinaikos and Atletico Madrid.
Chatting with Real Madrid fans outside the Bernabeu ahead of their Champions League match against Zenit St Petersburg on Wednesday, the overwhelming attitude expressed was one of relief that the club was rid of Bernd Schuster.
Tuesday’s surprise appointment of Juande Ramos to replace the moody German has raised hopes that a change in management will give the team a boost and help them get their faltering season back on track.
Brazilian Ronaldo was huffing and puffing after his short cameo in Morocco on Monday against a Zinedine Zidane XI and now he is seriously considering retirement.
“I don’t know if I will continue playing or retire. I still haven’t taken a decision,” he told Gazzetta dello Sport. “There is no rush. I could decide tomorrow or in a month. I really don’t know.”