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Soccer Break Thursday

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SOCCER-CHAMPIONSGareth Bale. The dashing Welsh winger primed to scare the living daylights out of England on Saturday. Injured. Did anyone else hear that collective sigh of relief from England fans today?

But what about Tottenham Hotspur fans. Are you worried your star man’s recent struggles with injury could hamper your club’s Champions League quarter-final chances against Real Madrid?

There are of course plenty of qualifiers this weekend so read our preview for all the latest.

Anna on the Italian Soccer Serie A has picked what she reckons might be Italy’s team to play Slovenia in Friday’s Euro 2012 qualifier having spied on Cesare Prandelli’s training sessions. Read more here.

Bojan, Canales suggest La Liga no longer a teenage wasteland

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SOCCER-SPAIN/Lionel Messi hogged most of the headlines thanks to his wonderful hat-trick at Tenerife, but it was the performances of a pair of teenagers who had pundits, coaches and team mates purring following the weekend’s La Liga action.

Barcelona’s Spanish forward Bojan Krkic has been around for a while –- he made his first-team debut in a friendly in Egypt in 2007 -– but all three of Messi’s goals came from passes supplied by the 19-year-old and coach Pep Guardiola was effusive in his praise.

Barca put the boot in over Bojan’s beautiful goal

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Barcelona were so proud of the slick passing move that led to Bojan Krkic’s second goal during the 2-0 win at Almeria on Sunday that they have published all the statistics surrounding the strike.

In the 53rd minute, Xavi won the ball and gave it to Lionel Messi which was the first step in an uninterrupted 37 pass move that lasted one minute 49 seconds, the league leaders said on their website.

Bad times return to Camp Nou

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Henry takes a breatherOn Sunday night, after five years of calm, Barcelona fans finally exploded. The white handkerchiefs — a common way of showing frustration in Spain’s stadiums — were out, against the club president, the coach, the players … anybody involved in what seems set to be a second straight trophy-less year.

More precisely, Sunday’s exhibition was against the perceived apathy of millionaire players who appear to move ever more slowly, as if they weren’t in the match at all.

Should Rijkaard have his parachute ready?

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Rijkaard hugs BojanIt was just like old times for me covering Frank Rijkaard’s press conferences either side of Barcelona’s Champions League win over Schalke, as another Dutch coach got the Louis van Gaal treatment from the media.

I was based in Barcelona when Van Gaal finally called it quits at the end of his first spell at the club and listening to the Catalan press and radio hounding out the former Ajax man was at times almost painful.

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