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Ten Cate’s sacking could be blessing for Barcelona

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Ten Cate holds the European CupHenk Ten Cate’s sacking by Chelsea won’t make the headlines that greeted the departures of Jose Mourinho and Avram Grant, but it could be significant in Spain as well as in England.

Ten Cate, the 53-year-old Dutchman, was little known in Barcelona when he was appointed as Frank Rijkaard’s assistant in 2003. He soon won a reputation as a hard taskmaster in training and a disciplinarian when it came to man management. He was also praised as a clever tactician but he was content to keep a low profile in the media.

When he left to take over at Ajax in 2006, after the Champions League final win over Arsenal, a few columnists noted how Barcelona would miss him, but it’s fair to say his exit was hardly mourned by the public.

They certainly miss him now.

There’s an article on the El Mundo Deportivo website this mourning noting his departure from Chelsea and just about every comment says the same thing — Please, please, please can he come back to Barcelona.

Should United sell Ronaldo after Champions League final?

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Cristiano RonaldoThe speculation in Spanish newspapers in the build-up to the Champions League final is all about Cristiano Ronaldo and the chances of him signing for Real Madrid next season (see Marca, for example).

The feeling in Madrid seems to be that if United beat Chelsea here in Moscow tonight, the ludicrously talented Portugal winger could leave Old Trafford thinking something along the lines of “My work is done here…”

Friday afternoon question: Is Guardiola the man to revive Barcelona?

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Guardiola reacts during a news conferenceAfter a second consecutive season without any silverware — and a humiliating 4-1 drubbing by arch-rivals by Real Madrid into the bargain – Barcelona have tried to stem the rising tide of criticism of the club by announcing that former club captain Pep Guardiola is to take charge of the team at the end of the season.

It’s quite a gamble.

Over the past two seasons, Jose Mourinho, Arsene Wenger, Marco van Basten, Juande Ramos and Ernesto Valverde have all been mentioned as possible replacements for Rijkaard, but the club have rejected the tried and tested contenders and gone for old boy Guardiola, whose coaching experience amounts to nothing more than a single season in charge of the club’s reserve team Barça B.

Struggling Henry slips down the pecking order

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A dejected Henry

According to a poll on Facebook, strikers Nicolas Anelka and Karim Benzema are favourites to be in France’s 23-man squad for Euro 2008 in Switzerland and Austria.

95.8 per cent of the Facebook addicts who drew their own list think Anelka should be included, 95.7 believe Benzema also has to be in the squad for June’s tournament.

Manchester United 1 Barcelona 0 – your views

A great European night following the dull first leg last week but did Manchester United deserve to win over all?

They were negative in the 0-0 draw at the Nou Camp and defended deep for long spells on Tuesday after Paul Scholes’ rocket had given them the lead.

Vlog on the pitch – reaction to Cristiano Ronaldo’s penalty miss

In our clip above, Cristiano Ronaldo says “football is like that sometimes” following his penalty miss in Manchester United’s 0-0 draw at Barcelona in Wednesday’s Champions League semi-final first leg.

Our vlogonthepitch duo, Owen Wyatt and Jon Bramley, wonder whether the Portuguese maestro was a bit too relaxed in taking the spotkick and a bit too relaxed about missing it. Will it turn out to be crucial in next week’s second leg?

Snore draw or interesting tactical battle?

The neutrals have no doubt. “Flop. Fear wins at the Nou Camp” was Gazzetta dello Sport’s view from Italy of the 0-0 draw between Barcelona and Manchester United in Wednesday’s Champions League semi-final first leg.

Cristiano Ronaldo’s early penalty soaring well wide of the goal summed up the whole night, with Barca pressing hard but failing to find that extra bit of inspiration to break the deadlock.

Vlog on the pitch – Do semis offer last chance for Rijkaard and co?

Has it reached the stage where a Champions League semi-final is not enough to safeguard a coach’s job?

Avram Grant, whose Chelsea side visit Liverpool in their first leg on Tuesday, is under pressure despite his team stil having an outside chance of the Premier League title.

Who should Barcelona sign to replace Ronaldinho?

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Kaka reactsThere’s speculation in Marca today that if AC Milan do complete a deal to sign Ronaldinho at the end of the season, they might be prepared to let Kaka move to Real Madrid.

That got me thinking about what the other knock-on effects might be, and especially about whether Barcelona would feel obliged to sign another big-name player as a replacement.

Ronaldinho to Milan — a perfect fit or a rescue mission too far?

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Ronaldinho sitsA Ronaldinho move to AC Milan now just seems to be a matter of time, after the club and the player’s agent both announced that personal terms have been agreed.

“There is a general agreement with the player,” Milan chief executive Adriano Galliani said on Saturday. ”Now a deal has to be reached with Barcelona. Give us time.”

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